Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler started his week Monday by finishing with a career-high 17 tackles against Georgia Tech, a nationally televised performance that resulted in a wave of congratulatory texts and tweets from the Oakton native’s friends and family members.
The next day, Tyler was named ACC player of the week and was later called “the best player on the field” once defensive coordinator Bud Foster watched the film.
All of which means Tyler’s starting job could be in jeopardy in the coming weeks. Huh, you ask? Well, with linebacker Tariq Edwards on the mend and seniors Bruce Taylor and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow in the mix, too, the Hokies have an abundance of linebackers these days.
“We know it’s gonna happen at some point and we all want to play, so we’re all gonna come out and we’re all gonna keep getting better,” Tyler said this week. “We’re all gonna push each other to get better and whatever happens, happens. I’m gonna keep preparing like a starter because I am right now. And until Coach Foster says otherwise, I’m gonna keep playing like I’m the starter.”
Foster expressed doubt that Edwards, who returned to practice this week, would even be able to return to the lineup in time for Virginia Tech’s road game at Pittsburgh on Sep. 15. But he has already started planning for the time when he’ll have one starting linebacker too many.
Foster said this week he would likely go with some kind of rotation, similar to the one he used in 2004 with linebackers Xavier Adibi, Vince Hall and Mikel Baaqee. But in regards to Tyler, Taylor and Edwards, Foster said prior accolades won’t trump current performance when it comes to the future starting lineup.
“We’re gonna put the best guys on the field. If [Tyler] is playing best, he’s gonna be starting. I don’t care if you’ve got a fifth-year senior or who it is,” Foster said. “We’re gonna play the guys that give us the best chance to win and right now he’s one of the guys who’s one of our better 11 football players.”
This week against Austin Peay, Foster is looking to get some of his depth players in the game. Taylor suffered an ankle injury that made him “just adequate” on Monday night, according to Foster, and the coach will start redshirt sophomore Chase Williams at the backer position Saturday in hopes of giving Taylor rest.
As for Tyler, he’ll get a second consecutive start at middle linebacker and indicated he’d be willing to move to a different linebacker position if it meant remaining in the lineup.
But he joked this week that Monday’s standout performance wasn’t even the most prolific tackling night of his career. That distinction belongs to a game during his junior year at Oakton High when coaches told him he had 36 tackles against Robinson, including 21 in the first half.
It’s also the lone highlight video Tyler sent to Foster when he was trying to become a walk-on at Virginia Tech back in 2009.
“This is gonna sound terrible,” Tyler said with a smile. “but I didn’t even play the last eight to 10 minutes of the game, too.”
Note: I will not be at Saturday’s game against Austin Peay, but check back here Monday for reaction and a look ahead to the Hokies’ first road game of the year at Pittsburgh.