DJ Harvey Harkens Hokies' DBU Legacy

Breaking down the film of what the California import brings to Virginia Tech's secondary.

DJ smiles for a photo in the Hokies's locker room during a Virginia Tech visit.

Virginia Tech's defensive brand is identified in-part by the lone corner shutting down the boundary side of the field. The NFL has recognized the Hokies' propensity for taking undervalued high school recruits and turning them into valuable professional commodities. In recent years, three-star cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Brandon Facyson, and Greg Stroman have all developed into productive NFL corners. Now, Virginia Tech features two of the most well regarded corners in the ACC, with Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller both potential candidates for the 2021 NFL draft.

The spotlight on Farley and Waller presents a pathway to the field for a skilled incoming freshman recruit. Chatsworth, CA cornerback DJ Harvey heard the call. The 247Sports Composite rates him as a 3-star (0.8869) and the 28th overall cornerback in the country. The 5-11, 166 pound Harvey is a refined cornerback with all the physical skills to be proficient at man and zone coverage, even as a freshman. Harvey gets in and out of breaks quickly, has flexible hips to change direction and great explosion to close gaps. Harvey also has excellent ball skills and does a wonderful job of finding and high-pointing the football.

Harvey's most impressive attributes are great bend and quick hips.

On this out and up, Harvey plays man coverage with an inside leverage technique. Harvey disguises the technique pre-snap by positioning with his left (outside) foot forward. As Harvey starts his backpedal, he turns his butt to the middle of the field and plays the receiver inside-out.

When the receiver plants to cut out, Harvey's back faces directly towards the middle of the field. Harvey plants on his left foot and stays right in stride with the receiver cutting to the sideline. Then, the receiver turns back up the field. Harvey plants his right foot and, with his back now facing the opposing end zone, turns to close on the receiver. So often, Tech corners playing this technique get beaten on the second break and give up separation. They then have to close the gap and don't have time to turn and find the football. Harvey stays right on the inside hip of the receiver without allowing any significant separation. As the receiver reaches up, Harvey pivots and high points the football for a spectacular interception. This is the type of big time change of direction and flexibility I have not seen out of a Virginia Tech cornerback commitment since Kendall Fuller.

Kendall Fuller's only weakness in his high school film was his ability to close when separation already existed, for example in an off-man or zone coverage. On the play below, Harvey played a softer coverage, again with inside leverage.

When the receiver breaks outside, Harvey plants off his left foot, closes the space, and gets both hands on the football to score a pass break up. During fall camp of Facyson's freshman season, he made a similar play during a public scrimmage I attended. That play had me out of my seat. Harvey plays his technique well, and has the explosion to get out of his backpedal and make plays.

If zone coverage is emphasized more under first-year defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton, Harvey demonstrates that he can be a dangerous threat sitting back in a zone watching the quarterback. On this pass, Harvey dropped into a deep third in a Cover 3. Harvey was responsible for the area from the left hash mark to the sideline.

After an excellent chuck by the linebacker to force the tight end to the inside on his release, the tight end runs a deep out. Harvey mirrors the tight end to make sure he remains between the tight end and the sideline without the tight end threatening Harvey's cushion vertically. When the tight end cuts outside, Harvey reads the cut and jumps the route. Staying sound in his outside zone technique allows Harvey to see the quarterback and maintain proper positioning on the tight end. Matched with Harvey's reaction time and ball skills, the poor decision by the quarterback ends up as a Harvey touchdown.

Harvey's ability to plant and attack back inside from an outside leverage technique takes away some of the easy inside breaking routes. When a corner plays outside leverage, he should have help from the safety or linebacker if the receiver runs an inside route. However, the prevalence of RPO quick slants often pulls the inside leverage out of position, providing for seemingly easy completions.

Above, Harvey plays outside leverage. He explodes out of his plant when the receiver breaks inside and he closes the gap and makes a play on the football. The tip generates an easy interception for Harvey's late arriving safety help.

As with any recruit, Harvey has components of his game that he needs to work on too. He is quick in small areas, but doesn't appear to have big time long speed. His aggressiveness jumping short routes coupled with average speed causes him to use his hands a little too much when he guesses wrong, as evidenced on this double move.

He aggressively jumps the stutter step by the receiver. As Harvey turns to bail, he chucks the receiver with both hands. While this is often necessary in man coverage to prevent a big play, it also brings a potential pass interference into play. I like the aggressiveness, but he has to bump a little more subtly.

Harvey's film didn't have much work against the run, but what was shown revealed a need to get stronger and more physical. On the play below, Harvey maintained proper outside leverage to spill the quarterback back into the defensive pursuit coming from the middle of the field.

While he does his job, and plays in an area with a reputation for producing excellent football players, I would like to see a player with his athleticism shed that blocker more assertively and finish the play. Weight room strength gains will help with that process.

Similar to former Hokies corners Macho Harris and Deangelo Hall, Harvey mentioned he's open to play offense and special teams to contribute sooner.

"They want to put me everywhere that they can to put me in a spot to succeed," said Harvey. "If that's playing safety, or playing offense, or playing special teams, doesn't matter. They want to do whatever they can to get me on the field. If that means I play nickel my freshman year, then safety my sophomore year, then corner my junior year that's fine as long as I can succeed and help the team."

Harvey brings several attractive qualities to special teams, particularly as a punt returner. In his highlights, he demonstrates a north-south running style. He gets up the field quickly, and uses his quickness in tight spaces to flip the field, instead of taking higher risk attempts to change direction or run wide (which usually result in the loss of field position more often than generating big gains).

While I love Harvey's potential as a punt returner, he also needs to be better at fielding the punt. In several highlights, he allows the football to hit the ground before he fields it off the bounce. In college, catching the ball in the air (fair catch or not) does more to positively impact field position than anything else a punt returner can do. He will need to field the ball more consistently in order to have an opportunity to make magic happen on special teams.

Harvey is also a very proficient receiver. His ball skills combined with his quickness getting of his breaks make him a strong route runner on short and intermediate routes from the slot.

It will be interesting to track if Harvey is ultimately used on offense. While he certainly has the ability to contribute, I see him more as a reliable possession receiver operating from the slot (if he concentrated on offense), rather than someone who can potentially change a game with a limited number of offensive snaps. Given how high his value is as a corner, I believe the staff will ultimately focus on him being a dominant every-snap corner instead of a gadget offensive contributor.

After reading this, it should go without saying that along with Mattheus Carroll, Harvey is my favorite commitment in the Hokies' 2021 class thus far. Harvey provides Virginia Tech a lockdown corner who can potentially take away a full third of the field against a single receiver. After the Hokies have recently turned a series of corners with little experience into potential NFL prospects, Harvey presents Justin Hamilton with a polished product to refine and showcase.


Love the film. Excited to see him in Maroon and Orange.

He does a very good job playing the ball, almost like he's the receiver, not just chasing the receiver. Looks to be a great addition to DBU, but now we need to get the follow through commitment, and enrollment. 🀞

If French's excited about this one, he must be good.

A couple of those plays remind me of Hosley. He just plants and attacks the ball so fast.

Yep, that second clip looked A LOT like Hosley.

Leonard. Duh.

Hosley and pre-injury Facyson. I will go to my grave believing Facyson healthy had more upside that Kendall Fuller. And I thought Kendall was terrific. Facyson was that good before he had the first injury. He was still excellent, but never got back that explosive break on the ball.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I agree. He was almost more impressive his freshman season than Kendall, and had a nose for the ball.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Let me fix that for you. He was almost more impressive his freshman season than Kendall, and had a nose for the ball.

Troo. Pretty sure he led the nation in INTs for the first half of the 2014 season.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Interceptions are one of the most useless stats in football. And even more so over a small sample period like half a season.

Turnovers are useless?

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

I think he means as a means of measuring an individual player. Picks can be pretty random, just by being in the general vicinity of a play you could luck into one if the ball takes a bounce off the receivers hands. I agree that having a nose for the ball is a skill in itself though,

Sometimes. PBU's are definitely a more telling stat, and Facyson had 8 that year and a lot more in his later years.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Yes, it's basically meaningless for concluding anything about a player's talent level.

First off, luck plays a large role in most turnovers. But most importantly, interceptions are a function of being targeted and QBs being pressured. If few passes come your way, you're not going to get many picks. Fumble recoveries are not a function being run at (unless you're Cody Grimm).

I believe Facyson had 4 ints in his first 5 games largely because he was an unknown quantity and the known quantity options elsewhere on the field (Fuller, Fuller, Jarrett) were even worse for opposing offenses. He had 1 interception in the remaining 45 games at VT.

Did he drop off that much that his int rate decreased almost 50-fold? Or did other teams stop going right at him as much? Or were there other better options for the opposition to target? Or did luck just not fall his way?

He had 4 ints because he had the best push off his backpedal of any corner I have seen at VT as a freshman. He sat back in diamond zone to the field and jumped routes. He could be aggressive because he had a senior free safety who was a swing corner (Bonner),an excellent nickel in Kendal Fuller, and a solid front that allowed the FS to stay in coverage. If you go back in the archives, I did some cool write ups showing how Bud would triangle the coverage to Facyson's side and allow him to keep his eyes on the ball, very similarly to how Bud used Hosley. Don't discount's Facyson's play. Before the first leg injury, he was a completely different player. The guy we saw after the injury (who was still good enough to start in the NFL) was a shell of that freshman version.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I disagree. Even at his best as a frosh, Facyson was not as skilled a football player as Fuller.

Facyson was that good before he had the first injury. He was still excellent, but never got back that explosive break on the ball.

Happy to see this kid build a few years of NFL experience, and start 4 games last year.

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

Looks explosive and has good movement and change of direction. looking forward to him playing when we have football again in 2 or 3 years...

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
β€œI served in the United States Navy"

That was very exciting to read. Thanks French.

"The Big Ten is always using excuses to cancel games with us. First Wisconsin. Then Wisconsin. After that, Wisconsin. The subsequent cancellation with Wisconsin comes to mind too. Now Penn State. What's next? Wisconsin?" -HorseOnATreadmill

Clemson has proven that being grabby/stabby when beaten (clip e) is worth it. As I highlighted after the national championship game, AJ Terrell grabs/stabs and pulls on receivers jerseys on damn near every play, much like the legion of boom, they operate under the understanding that if you do it constantly the refs won't call it every time. The result is that the best pass defenses in the NFL usually lead in penalties, but still probably commit way more than were called. Which I'm fine with as all rule changes seem to favor the offense at the expense of the defense. Clemson's been doing this as well during their CFP level run. I haven't watched a Clemson game in five or six years where their corners weren't constantly interfering with receivers, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, but it works.

Especially with college rules, I'd rather take the 15 yards on an out and up than a 60 yard TD any day.

T Gray coached guys up to be very hands on. With there being no actual penalty flags in practice, it was very annoying.

Gobble Till You Wobble

I don't doubt how much it'd piss me off, but I can see how it prepares a receiver for the BS an in-game opponent will do. *Cue Narduzzi salt*

Great write-up. Any concern with him being 5-11? I know we'd all love 6-2 DBs, but 5-11 seems like he might get bullied?

He's average height for NFL CB. Size in the secondary is a big deal, but having sticky coverage and being a half step closer really helps close that difference quickly. He might still have a little bit of growth left, but even if he doesn't I wouldn't be worried as we've seen good success with bigger and smaller corners. Waller is 6'1" and Farley is 6'2", but Kendall is 5'11", Kyle 6'0", Hosley 5'10", Flowers 5'9", for instance

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Kendall is 5'11", Kyle 6'0", Hosley 5'10", Flowers 5'9",

It's not a shock to us these guys are in the NFL, or had long NFL careers, but when I mention this to non-Hokies, they get wide eyed. We have a reputation to uphold, and NFL scouts are well aware of it.

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

I mean, if he was the exact same package and 6'1, even better. But, Darelle Revis is 5'11 and he was one of the best of all time. Plus, we don't know his wingspan. With his ball skills, he will be tough to throw jump balls over.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Despite the 6-7 year trend of putting a premium on tall corners in the NFL draft, and extending into recruiting evaluations now, the advanced stats on NFL corners each year show that most of the best coverage guys are still under 6'0. Most corners fall in that 5'10-6'1 range. I believe the NFL average height for corners is 5'11 and change.

Length is usually more important than height also. A 5'11.5 corner with 3 inch longer arms isn't at a physical disadvantage in coverage in comparison to a 6'1 corner with shorter arms.

Yep. Wingspan and body control matters more than height. He has great body control. I don't know the wingspan measurement. So, we will see. No prospect is a sure thing, but I sure feel good watching his tape.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Interesting points. Thanks for clarifying.

the advanced stats on NFL corners each year show that most of the best coverage guys are still under 6'0

Can you cite the data here?

Top 25 CB's in the NFL in 2018 per PFF

(2) Desmond King, (3) Chris Harris, (4) Kareem Jackson, (6) Jason McCourty, (7) Kyle Fuller, (9) Bryce Callahan, (10) Johnathan Joseph.

That's 7 out of the top 10 listed under 6'. I got tired of looking up each player on pro football reference after 10, but I know many in the rest of the top 25 are under 6' as well.

Not to say that PFF is the be all end all of player ratings, but these lists tend to feature the same people in varying order depending on the rating system so the overall point I think is relevant.

Edit: Also, I'm not sure exactly how to go about finding the more specific citations for my original point, because they were mostly tweets, over time, that I've seen from some of the analytics guys I follow. It would be quite a task to try and find each individual tweet from over the years.

Seems like a real team player. Welcome aboard!

I'm just here to sling some legs

Great write up, as always (thanks)!

Excited to have someone that may be ready, early. Do we think his lack of size / physical presence is a liability, as I recall the best of Foster's lock-down corners could put people on the ground consistently. And that has been the criticism on Farley somewhat. Is he ready to stick his hat in there and put a QB / Jet Sweep guy down at the LOS?

I think there is a variation. Foster has been his best when he has had smart corners who play their technique. Roc Charmichael was a guy who was small and wasn't a dynamic athlete, but was smart, competitive, and played his technique well and he was very effective. Not all of Bud's corners were super physical. I don't think anyone would call DeAngelo Hall or Jayron Hosley great tacklers.

This is a very limited view, and not all defenses require corners to do much support in the run game. The Hokies have (especially with the corner blitz from the boundary with the rover rotating over the top), but this may be a completely new look. We won't know until we either get some access to scrimmages or they play games (which I think will be the spring.)

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Not a tape expert but this kid looks like he is going to be a big time player.

Thanks French. I appreciate the write up as I know you spent entirely more work on that than most people realize. Good work!

I hate rude behavior in a man. Won't tolerate it.

I think he has a bright future.

OT: does every hollywood dropout end up filming high school games in California? Those clips seem to be a notch or two better quality than I am used to.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

Farley's support will be open after he declares for the draft after this season. I feel better knowing a guy with Fuller, Facyson, and Hosley comparisons will be competing for it. Welcome aboard DJ!

I am not sure what to do with my hands now

Reminds me of a mix of Deion Sanders and Champ Bailey