Another Piece of the Puzzle: How Cole Nelson Fits in Hokies' New D-Line Scheme

Virginia Tech added a 3-star defensive end to its 2021 recruiting class last week, and his skill set and film helped shed more light on Tech's new look defensive scheme.

Nelson (right) trains with former UGA standout DE Marcus Howard. [Marcus Howard, @Mhoward38]

As Bill Teerlinck and Darryl Tapp continue to reform their defensive line to fit Virginia Tech's new defensive scheme, it's evident their vision identifies a different archetype of defensive lineman as compared to the Charley Wiles/Bud Foster era. The next piece of the puzzle slid in last week when the Hokies landed a commitment from Georgia defensive end Cole Nelson. The Johns Creek product's head coach Matt Helmerich noted Nelson was 6-3 and 240 pounds with an 80 inch wingspan in an exclusive interview with The Key Play. He's the latest in a string of defensive end commitments where length, north-south short burst speed, and power at the point of attack was prioritized over twitch, bend, and lateral movement.

I am excited over Nelson's prospects. Virginia Tech desperately needs defensive edge players who can fit a gap, then shed a block and ultimately find the football. Foster tasked his defensive ends to twitch, set the edge, and use lateral movement to make plays when unblocked. Teerlinck's defensive ends will play north-south, penetrate, all with expectation to beat blocks rather than jam them up.

Nelson fits that role. He consistently stands up his blockers, extends to shed blocks, and finds the football. He isn't reliant on beating a block cleanly. If he's contacted by a blocker, he can win those battles. On the play below, the right tackle attempted to reach Nelson with a zone block.

Nelson gets into the right tackle, and shadows his inside shoulder. Nelson extends his arms and works to the right tackle's outside shoulder to force the play inside. Once the running back commits to cutting inside, Nelson crosses the right tackle's face and makes the tackle. He does all this while playing almost entirely on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage.

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