A seventh-year senior is a rare sight in college athletics. Not only do specific circumstances have to happen in order for a player to reach seven years in school, but a player entering his sixth or seventh season generally isn’t a sought-after commodity.
Justus Reed is the exception. The 6-foot-3 and 270-pound defensive end has been through just about everything, including two football programs and two season-long injuries. Reed played this past season at Youngstown State and after being granted another year of eligibility, Reed is transferring to Virginia Tech.
Reed’s journey wasn’t supposed to detour to Blacksburg. As a three-star recruit in the Class of 2014, Reed signed with Florida and redshirted his first season in Gainesville. He played in just 11 games over the next two seasons and missed all but one game of the 2016 season due to injury. Reed transferred to Youngstown State and after totaling five sacks in 2017, he missed all of 2018 due to injury.
Twenty-nineteen served as Reed’s revenge. He dominated at the Division II level, finishing with 12.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in a full season. There isn’t a lot of public film on Reed, but here’s footage of Reed’s performance vs. Howard last season.
At 270 pounds, Reed is bigger than every defensive end on Virginia Tech’s roster. He has the best track record of success and production as well, albeit at a lower level of competition. Reed will definitely play this upcoming season, but what kind of role will he serve?
Virginia Tech has plenty of bodies at defensive end but not much production. Emmanuel Belmar and TyJuan Garbutt, Tech’s starting defensive ends, combined for just five sacks in 2019. Jaylen Griffin registered just 2.5 sacks last season off the bench. No other returning defensive end on the Hokies’ roster registered a sack last season.
Reed might solve that issue. Expecting Reed to be an explosive pass rusher that recreates his 2019 stat line from Youngstown State is foolish. But that doesn’t mean Reed can’t be a reliable contributor at a position the Hokies have struggled to field for several seasons.
Reed’s presence creates quite the competition. Tech’s two-deep at the position figures to be settled, though Eli Adams and Zion DeBose could break into the top group. Reed and Belmar are the most experienced of the foursome, while Garbutt may be the most athletic. Griffin looked good off the bench in the early portion of 2019 but faded down the stretch.
Finding production at defensive end is critical. The Hokies haven’t had an explosive pass rusher since Ken Ekanem and the position has been plagued by injuries and inexperience since Ekanem’s graduation in 2016. Creating pressure off the edge would go a long way in Justin Hamilton revamping this Hokies’ defense.