BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech defensive lineman Corey Marshall’s return to the team last week won’t include a return to the field this year, if all goes as planned.
Coach Frank Beamer announced Tuesday that Marshall will redshirt this season and move back to defensive end, where he could be a starter the next two years, after playing defensive tackle at the start of training camp last month.
Marshall, who would’ve been a junior this fall, took a three-week leave from the program for personal reasons last month. Defensive line coach Charley Wiles called Marshall’s absence “a disciplinary action” when the Dinwiddie, Va., native returned to practice last week, but Beamer has declined to discuss any details about the situation.
“You don’t ever know about injuries, but I think with Marshall, get him back out to defensive end, which is a position he likes to play,” Beamer said Tuesday. “He’s a guy who’s got a lot of talent. I think he’s got a future after Virginia Tech, myself. . . . I think overall, where we are in the season, where our whole football team is, where he is, I think that’s the best plan for him and us.”
Marshall had 39 tackles and 4.5 sacks over the past two seasons, but his playing time might have been sporadic this year given the plethora of talented defensive linemen the Hokies have at their disposal these days.
After sacking East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden seven times and collecting three interceptions on Saturday, Virginia Tech is tied for second in the country in total defense, passing defense and sacks. The Hokies also collected 17 sacks over the final four games of last season.
Senior defensive end James Gayle was named ACC defensive lineman of the week after his two-sack performance and Beamer raved about how senior J.R. Collins is playing “lights out” opposite Gayle. With senior Tyrel Wilson hobbled against the Pirates, redshirt sophomore Dadi Nicolas tallied 28 points on 14 plays on the defensive film review, Beamer noted on his weekly radio show Monday night.
The presence of so many ends is what convinced defensive coordinator Bud Foster that Marshall would be better served providing depth inside this season.
But the Hokies have been pleasantly surprised by the progress of freshmen defensive tackles Nigel Williams and Woody Baron through three games. Both have held up well in place of starters Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy while Marshall was not with the team.
Beamer noted all that depth “shows up” against teams like East Carolina and Marshall, which run fast-paced offenses. Linebacker Tariq Edwards mentioned the impact Virginia Tech’s defensive line has simply by keeping opposing blockers away from the defensive backfield.
Last week, the Hokies even moved redshirt freshman Alston Smith, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, over to guard because of the clogged depth chart along the defensive line going forward. Earlier this season, Virginia Tech also moved highly touted freshman Wyatt Teller from the defensive line to offensive tackle.
“It’s like we have eight starters,” said Collins, who leads the Hokies with three sacks this year. “When our D-Line is out there, no matter if it’s the starters or the backups, you have a lot of guys that are hungry that want to get after the quarterback.”
Note: Virginia Tech announced Tuesday that former All-Met linebacker Devin Vandyke (South County) suffered a torn ACL against Western Carolina on Sept. 7. Vandyke, a redshirt freshman, will be out for the next six to eight months and won’t participate in spring practice. Vandyke’s older brother, Ronny, was supposed to be Virginia Tech’s starting whip linebacker this fall before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury during preseason practice.