Bryce Watts’ Absence Highlights Virginia Tech’s Cornerback Problem

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.

5 thoughts on “Bryce Watts’ Absence Highlights Virginia Tech’s Cornerback Problem”

  1. Ricky

    Thanks for the article. We dont need a player like Watts who clearly lacks integrity-plus he was NEVER a proven player. His loss will only open up a scollie for a much more talented player.Everytime I watched Watts last season he was seemingly either beaten in pass coverage or trying to arm tackle a back who was running past him.

    Plus what “shenaningans” did our buddy Mack Brown pull at UNCheat to get him there?

    Go HOKIES!

    1. I agree, can’t wait for big play tr e to hand him a stick of butter before he is Toasted. My question is tampering on Uncheats part?

  2. Ricky,
    I think you gave your article the wrong title. Perhaps it would be better stated as: “Bryce Watts Presence Highlights UNC’s Cornerback Problems . Tech will miss him simply because he has some experience and would have added some degree of depth. However, his suggestions that he was leaving to be closer to home also highlight a lack of credibility on both his and UNC’s parts.

  3. I could be wrong but isn’t UNCs DB coach a former UNC great that played in the NFL? Maybe he wanted to be coached by what he considered to be a much better DB coach than Mitchell? Notice I said by what he considered. Not saying Bly is a better coach. But it crossed my mind.

  4. At the end of the day him transferring isn’t a big deal. I think he knew his days as a starter for Tech were numbered so why not try another School. Moving forward I’m more concerned with the D-line then I am with who replaces Watts. The fact is once Trevon Hill was dismissed our pass rush virtually disappeared. Even the most talented of corners can only cover but for so long so we have to find a way to get decent/consistent pressure on the QB next season. Otherwise the secondary could struggle all over again and that would be truly heartbreaking.

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