Top 10 returning players at Virginia Tech led by LB duo Dax Hollifield, Alan Tisdale

The top 10 returning players at Virginia Tech are led by the linebacker duo Dax Hollifield and Alan Tisdale under new head coach Brent Pry.

A new era for the Virginia Tech Hokies is ushered in by their top 10 returning players in 2022. Under new head coach Brent Pry and transfer QB Grant Wells, the Hokies should be able to lean on their defense this fall. Thanks in large part to their returning strength at linebacker — Dax Hollifield and Alan Tisdale — this Hokies team should be able to limit many college football offenses.

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Top 10 returning players at Virginia Tech

We’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team — we’ll deal with transfers later — from Air Force to Wyoming, from Miami to Hawaii, and all in between. Here are the top returning players to Virginia Tech.

10) TyJuan Garbutt, EDGE

Coming for the quarterback off the edge in 2022 will be TyJuan Garbutt for the Hokies. Garbutt is an incredibly strong defensive end who understands how to utilize his leverage and upseat tackles on his path to the quarterback. He’s no slouch in run defense or with his tackling ability, but Garbutt excels when he’s able to pin his ears back and get after the passer.

9) Kaleb Smith, WR

Taking the mantle as the top receiving target in Blacksburg, Kaleb Smith hauled in 260 receiving yards and two touchdowns last season. Utilizing new quarterback Grant Wells’ ability to hit receivers open with anticipation, Smith should be counted on to put up big numbers due to his ability to naturally separate. Smith has underappreciated size and terrific hands.

8) Armani Chatman, CB

Virginia Tech returns a bevy of talented players on defense, especially in the secondary. Armani Chatman is back to stymie offensive passing attacks on the outside for the Hokies. Chatman has 15 career pass breakups and even more forced incompletions in his coverage. He’ll blanket any receiver in his coverage area and limits completions incredibly well.

7) Silas Dzansi, OL

The wily veteran of the group, Silas Dzansi has played four offensive line positions over the past four seasons in Blacksburg. He started games at right tackle, left tackle, and left guard with spot right guard duties in a pinch. His versatility is unmatched on the team, but he’s at his best when he’s protecting on the perimeter and able to use his length to stop pass rushers.

6) Dorian Strong, CB

The strength of the Hokies in 2022 will certainly be their defense, notably their returning members in the secondary. Dorian Strong is back after two years of locking down receivers in a talent-laden cornerback room. Strong offers great size and plenty of length on the boundary as he limits throws in his coverage both at the catch point and after the fact.

5) Kaden Moore, G

Keeping the middle clean for Wells and Co. on offense will be Kaden Moore. Virginia Tech’s right guard is back after breaking through as a true freshman a season ago. Moore has terrific strength and a better anchor in pass protection. He rarely gets pushed back, and when he does get to move in the running game, he’ll pancake defenders in a heartbeat. Moore is one of the better up-and-coming stars in college football.

4) Nasir Peoples, S

With a ridiculous 51 solo tackles from his boundary safety position, Nasir Peoples showcased his incredible sideline-to-sideline ability in 2021. He broke out in a big way last year, finishing with 88 total tackles, three pass breakups, an interception, and multiple forced incompletions in coverage. Peoples roams free and closes space in the blink of an eye.

3) Chamarri Conner, S

Though he could’ve entered the 2022 NFL Draft, Chamarri Conner is back in Blacksburg for one more season. Conner returns to pair with Peoples and form one of the nation’s top duos at safety. He’s a brute enforcer who specializes in coverage. When he’s called upon, however, Conner can show off. He’s a talented blitzer around the edge and runs the alley like a linebacker.

2) Alan Tisdale, LB

A massive man with impressive speed, Alan Tisdale returns to the linebacking corps that undergoes a schematic switch for 2022. Tisdale, at 6’3″ and 228 pounds, is the enforcer of the Hokies’ defense. He covers well against the pass while presenting issues for linemen to even attempt to block him with his speed and strength. Tisdale is an efficient tackler with a great all-around game.

1) Dax Hollifield, LB

The anchor of a changing defense, Dax Hollifield returns for one last season at Virginia Tech as they switch to a traditional 4-3 scheme. Hollifield’s leadership and knowledge of the defense will be pivotal as the team transitions under new head coach Brent Pry. He’s as experienced as they come with 37 starts and makes the most of every opportunity, whether in coverage or against the run. Hollifield covers a ton of ground, going sideline to sideline easily. He may be at his best in coverage with four career interceptions, but he certainly is no slouch in any defensive facet.

Honorable mention players returning to Virginia Tech in 2022

  • Da’Wain Lofton, WR
  • Nick Gallo, TE
  • Malachi Thomas, RB
  • Parker Clements, OT
  • Norell Pollard, DT
  • Josh Fuga, DT

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