Bryce Watts was never a highly successful player at Virginia Tech. That much is undisputed. But Watts still had time and room to grow, and there was still a chance that Watts would develop into a solid and consistent contributor.
That certainly won’t happen at Virginia Tech, now that Watts has decided to rival North Carolina. Watts entered the transfer portal on May 31 and announced his decision to transfer to Chapel Hill just nine days later.
Watts’ decision seems questionable, given that the prevailing thought was Watts was leaving Virginia Tech to get closer to his family and on-the-way child, whom he made public on March 10. In his transfer announcement, Watts wrote, “my decision to transfer is not due to any negatives regarding the coaching staff; I had every opportunity afforded to me and I’m incredibly thankful for that.” Alas, Watts has ended up at one of Justin Fuente’s least favorite institutions.
Instead of breaking down Watts’ decision to attend North Carolina, let’s instead focus on what’s left of Virginia Tech’s secondary, specifically at cornerback. Here’s who is on the roster right now…
- Jeremy Webb (R-Jr.)
- Caleb Farley (R-So.)
- Nadir Thompson (R-Fr.)
- Jovonn Quillen (Sr.)
- Armani Chatman (R-Fr.)
- Jermaine Waller (So.)
- Nasir Peoples (R-Fr.)
- Nyquee Hawkins (Fr.)
- Brion Murray (So.)
Virginia Tech could still add a transfer, but for now, this is what the Hokies have to work with.
Of that group, the ones with the highest ceilings are Jeremy Webb and Caleb Farley, two long and athletic guys who have some experience to rely on. However, Webb is coming off of two major injuries over the last year and a half, and Farley’s lack of polish and refinement at cornerback was exposed several times last season. Tech needs Webb and Farley to take the mantle at corner, but there’s no guarantee that will happen.
Behind them, there are questions upon questions. Can Nadir Thompson recover from the leg injury he suffered his senior season of high school? Will Jovonn Quillen be able to play above replacement level and be more than a special teams star? Can Armani Chatman, Jermaine Waller or Nasir Peoples breakthrough after a full year in the program? Will Tech give Brion Murray a look on the outside, instead of whip/nickelback?
Ultimately, there’s no way to know until fall rolls around. Until then, all we know is that Virginia Tech’s secondary is a major question mark, given the unit’s struggles in 2019. The Hokies allowed 48 pass plays of 20 yards or more, placing them well outside the top 100. Tech picked off just seven passes last season (tied for 102nd in FBS) and two of those were by non-defensive backs.
If the Hokies are going to return to the 8-10-win standard that the program holds itself to, the defense needs to dramatically improve. The defense isn’t going to dramatically improve if the secondary doesn’t improve, and Watts’ dismissal may either help or hurt that endeavor.