It’s pretty crazy that college football is coming to a close. It seems just like yesterday that Christian Page and I were talking on Cover 1 | The Draft Podcast about the Big Ten season kicking off. Now we’re starting to close out the season and as we start preparing you every day with a draft prospect or a team need, I wanted to get in a few weeks of scouting notes.
What good is talking about players if you don’t have an idea of who they are or where they came from? I don’t know about you but I like to read the menu before I place an order at a restaurant.
After 14 weeks of college football, there’s plenty to get into. Florida QB Kyle Trask might win the Heisman and Alabama WR Devonta Smith has been the best player in the country that isn’t a quarterback. But let’s do one thing at a time and that’s by starting with the Virginia Tech offense.
The running backs
The best skilled player on the Hokies offense is Khalil Herbert (RB 21). Herbert, much like the offensive players at Virginia Tech were transfers. For him, he transferred from Kansas and has turned into a 1,000 yard rusher for the Hokies. Despite not seeing him play in a bowl game this winter, you will find Herbert in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl. He’s not going to win with his long speed or lateral quickness but at 5-9 and 212 pounds, he wins with his thick lower body and running style that resembles a cannonball. Look for him to run through defenders and not around them. He suffered a hamstring injury earlier in the season so that’s worth monitoring through the draft process.
Khalil Herbert is a Kansas transfer at 5-9 212 pounds with thick lower body & a running style that resembles a cannonball. At times, he'll try to bounce runs to the outside but with limited lateral quickness, he can get stopped.— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) December 9, 2020
Here he looks B-gap, bounces & runs over the CB. https://t.co/zyIoXkPby4 pic.twitter.com/PF0vfvCuh9
Herbert isn’t the only talented running back for the Hokies. Next is Rhaeem Blackshear (RB 6). He might not be listed as the starter and he’s only run for 247 yards this season, but when the ball is in his hands, he looks fluid and makes plenty of defenders miss in space. Previously, he played for Rutgers and had 14 starts for the Scarlett Knights. He’s primarily played behind Herbert for much of the season at Virginia Tech. The redshirt Junior could return to the Hokies for another season but if you’re looking to jump into his tape, I’d suggest the game against Duke where he had 15 carries and showed off the shiftiness that he possesses.
Offensive line is a ball of clay
Shifting our focus to the offensive line, it’s an interesting group. They’re a bit underrated despite lacking some consistency. For starters, their best player in the trenches is Christian Darrisaw (LT 77). In 2018, he was one of only nine offensive lineman to start as a true freshman that season. He’s gone on to start 33 games for the Hokies. At 6-5 and 314 pounds, Darrisaw looks the part of a left tackle at the next level. He knows how to utilize his length in both pass protection and in the run game. He displays strong grip strength and has the obvious strength needed to redirect defenders or take them off their initial path.
One key area for Darrisaw is to stay healthy. As a freshman, he hurt his right ankle and had battled all season through it but it was certainly a nagging injury. Meanwhile, injuries have piled over to this season. He’s missed two games this year due to an undisclosed injury and then limped off against Clemson with a left leg injury. If he can stay healthy, he could easily be in the conversation as a first round offensive tackle.
Lecitus Smith (LG 54) on the pull and gives a nice pop on the LB. Not exactly sure how fluid he is in space but I think with more time this types of pulls could become even better. https://t.co/CGo1wiN7cO pic.twitter.com/nhZXgPri9j— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) December 9, 2020
When watching the Hokies offensive line, there’s a few other names worth monitoring. For starters, Lecitus Smith (LG 54) has been a consistent contributor next to Darrisaw. Despite Darrisaw getting all of the praise, Smith does a lot of dirty work on the interior and is an important part to the success of Darrisaw. That being said, Smith is worth watching with his 6-foot-3 and 320 pound frame.
He has a thick lower body and plays fairly stout against stronger defensive linemen. He does a nice job with his pad level, keeps his hands inside and has the ability to steer defenders away from the hole on combo blocks or one-on-one matchups. I haven’t seen a ton of him in space but when I have seen him pull, he does show plenty of pop behind him that makes defenders stop like a deer in headlights. Smith is a redshirt junior that could declare for the 2020 NFL Draft and if he declares, he’s got mid-round potential with some tools that just need some sharpening.
Lastly, just keep tabs on Brock Hoffman (C 76) for the Hokies. He’s a redshirt junior and could easily return for another season. I’d suggest that he does but he’s got some tools that it wouldn’t be surprising to see some teams try to shape him. That’s because he’s a ball of clay right now. At 6-3 and 317 pounds, Hoffman is a versatile interior offensive lineman that transferred from Coastal Carolina. He started all 12 games for them and was their first true freshman to start at center since 2003. That being said, he moved to right guard the following season and started all 13 games there. With the Hokies, he’s moved back to center and had some flashes against Duke.
Hoffman shows the ability to snap-and-pull but not only does he move well in space, he can redirect defenders away from the hole. This gave running backs such as Herbert and Blackshear to cut cleanly upfield. Meanwhile, I noticed that Hoffman showed some nice aggressiveness and even got in the head of some defenders after the play. That type of play will never be frowned upon from me.
This team was centered around cornerback Caleb Farley entering the season. Once he opted out and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, all eyes moved to the offense and rightfully so, there’s some talent there. As you can see from the running backs to the offensive line, this is a Hokies team worth watching despite having a 4-6 record.
Later this week, I’ll drop some more scouting notes that include Alabama’s Mac Jones and Devonta Smith. For more, follow me on Twitter @RussNFLDraft.