Versatility Key to Rebuilding Virginia Tech Secondary

For the Hokies' new faces at defensive back, flexibility and a willingness to tackle are key ingredients to their success. 13-play, 2,500-word film breakdown of newcomers Derrick Canteen, Antonio Cotman and Mose Phillips III.

Derrick Canteen pressures the quarterback in a 45-38 upset win over JMU. [Georgia Southern]

As Virginia Tech's disastrous 2022 season wound down, it was abundantly clear that Tech's secondary lacked two key ingredients. First was a stabilizing depth corner who could spell an inexperienced Mansoor Delane and a limited Armani Chatman without disastrous consequences. Second was versatility in the secondary requisite for Brent Pry to call defensive pressures from all angles.

A critical measuring stick for the success of this offseason is finding defensive backs who can address these issues. Some, such as freshmen Dante Lovett, Braylon Johnson, and Cameren Fleming, are potential long term answers at safety and corner with major upside, but won't enroll until after spring practice concludes. Spring ball affords transfer Derrick Canteen and two freshmen safeties, Mose Phillips III and Antonio Cotman, the opportunity to gain experience and find a role in the secondary.

Experience via the transfer portal

While a healthy Dorian Strong and Mansoor Delane are a formidable cornerback duo, the 2022 season demonstrated how critical depth and flexibility at corner was lacking. When Strong was injured, that lack of depth was exposed repeatedly by opposing offenses, particularly when the Hokies attempted to use a third corner as a nickelback. Enter Georgia Southern transfer Derrick Canteen. The 5-11, 194 redshirt senior was a third team All-Sun Belt corner, which was interesting because he didn't play a traditional outside corner in either of the games I reviewed. Canteen aligned in a nickel/SAM linebacker alignment to the wide-side of the field almost exclusively against Old Dominion and James Madison.

Canteen is an experienced and competitive player. The Georgia Southern coaching staff used him very similarly to how Bud Foster used Kyle Fuller before he matriculated to corner. Canteen was expected to play press man to man coverage against slot receivers one snap, and the next he may have set the edge in the box.

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