Defensive Line: The Next Generation

Powell brings edge speed, while young defensive tackles look to gain experience for 2024. An 11-play, 1900-word film study of three important pieces along Virginia Tech's defensive front.

Antwaun Powell-Ryland (No. 52) engages in a practice rep during Virginia Tech's fall camp. [Virginia Tech Athletics]

As fall camp gets underway, one critical issue for the Virginia Tech coaching staff is improving defensive line depth. With three seniors in the two-deep at defensive tackle, the Hokies' cupboard looks bare beyond this season. While the transfer portal delivered a much needed edge rush option in Virginia product Antwaun Powell-Ryland, the defensive tackle holes have not been as easy to fill. J.C. Price will need to develop two rising redshirt freshman defensive tackles to help secure Virginia Tech's future at a crucial position.

Powell-Ryland comes home

The brightest of the new faces is defensive end Antwaun Powell-Ryland. Recruited during Justin Fuente's tenure, the former 247Sports Composite 4-star (0.9251) signed with Florida out of high school. After three seasons with the Gators, he opted to return to the Commonwealth for his final two seasons of eligibility.

At 6-3, 242, Powell-Ryland has a very similar skillset to Tyjuan Garbutt. His best trait is his explosive twitch to squeeze down the line on the backside of a play.

On this variation of an outside zone, Florida State wham-ed the tight end against the grain to the boundary to freeze the boundary edge, Powell-Ryland (No. 52). Quarterback Jordan Travis (No. 13) rolling to the boundary was intended to freeze Powell-Ryland, but the Gators have a scrape exchange on the play. Powell-Ryland crashed inside while safety Trey Dean (No. 0) flashed forward to become the backside edge and contain any option or bootleg.

Powell-Ryland's closing speed was on display. He turned flat down the line, beat the tight end to the inside, and stuffed the running back right in the hole. Similar to Garbutt, he has an electric first step and can fly flat down the line with some of the best I have seen on tape over the last year.

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