The transfer market is all the rage these days. More and more college athletes are leaving their original schools and looking for greener pastures, in search of playing time, a bigger spotlight, etc.
Virginia Tech is no different. Players leave every season, usually looking for a bigger role and a chance to showcase their talents. These transfers are generally announced after the season or after spring practice, when a player’s role on the team is clearer and more defined. But this week, two Hokies left the program and announced their plans to transfer.
Linebacker Rico Kearney and wide receiver Sean Savoy took to Twitter to announce their decisions. Kearney made his reason quite clear, writing, “I just don’t feel like I was given a fair shot to showcase my talent.” Savoy didn’t delve into the details of his decision.
There are multiple parts of these announcements that I’d like to address, so let’s hit on them individually.
Attrition is normal, but the timing isn’t
Players leave every season at every school. Given Savoy’s spot on the depth chart at receiver, it isn’t particularly surprising that he’d decide that another school might offer more opportunity. Kearney has shown a bit more promise of late, but linebacker is one of the few positions where the Hokies have depth.
However, the timing of these departures should raise questions. Virginia Tech is mired in a four-game losing streak and the program is on the verge of losing to Virginia for the first time in 14 years. Oh, and Tech has to win two more games to become bowl eligible for the 26th year in a row.
And yet, two players are deciding that they’ve had enough. Instead of sticking things out through tough times and trying to make an impact, Kearney and Savoy and removing themselves from the situation.
I’m not going to sit here and bash two young men for making decisions that are aimed at bettering themselves. I want these guys to lead successful lives. But one has to wonder, what does quitting on the team say about them? Or, what does it say about the program?
Maybe there are underlying circumstances. Maybe Kearney and Savoy were unfairly treated and the two could no longer handle the toxicity? Could anyone blame them for jumping ship then? Of course not. Remember, two players left the program earlier this year — defensive tackle J’Bril Glaze and offensive lineman D’Andre Plantin.
We’ll likely never know the circumstances surrounding their departures, but their decisions to leave just days before Virginia Tech’s showdown with their in-state rival says something. We just don’t know exactly what. Something isn’t right.
The on-field impact should be minimal
Neither Kearney nor Savoy have been tremendous contributors this season. Kearney showed out vs. Boston College with 18 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, but didn’t do much outside of that game. Virginia Tech should be stable at linebacker, as both Rayshard Ashby and Dax Hollifield have earned the starting linebacker positions for the time being.
Savoy played well vs. North Carolina, catching six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. But like Kearney, Savoy struggled to make a consistent impact. Virginia Tech has begun to solidify their top receivers, with Damon Hazelton, Eric Kumah, Hezekiah Grimsley and Tre Turner pushing themselves to the top of the rotation.
In terms of impact on the field, the losses of Kearney and Savoy shouldn’t hamper this team anymore than the team already is. It takes away from some of Tech’s depth moving forward, but the losses aren’t significant.
Early returns on the 2017 class are mixed
Virginia Tech’s Class of 2017 was the first class that truly had Justin Fuente‘s hands on it. Fuente recruited those players for roughly a year and it’s really the first class he could take ownership of.
Kearney and Savoy were both members of that class. Kearney redshirted last season and though Savoy looked stellar in the first half of 2017, he hasn’t been able to regain that level of play since.
Four members of Virginia Tech’s 2017 class are now gone from the program. Kalil Pimpleton left the team prior to the end of the 2017 season and Glaze left Virginia Tech in April 2018.
Despite some glaring early misses, some of Tech’s 2017 class has already made a significant impact. Defensive end TyJuan Garbutt has played well after being thrust into the spotlight this season, totaling 6.5 tackles for loss and a sack in limited playing time. Tight end Dalton Keene is in the middle of his second year as a starter and has 18 receptions this year for three touchdowns.
Wide receiver Hezekiah Grimsley started towards the end of last season and has been a mainstay in the lineup since. Rayshard Ashby has cemented himself as one of Virginia Tech’s best two linebackers and Oscar Bradburn has successfully held down the punting job since enrolling.
Several other 2017 members are in positions to make an impact. Caleb Farley and Bryce Watts are in their first year starting and have flashed potential. Nathan Proctor is working himself into the starting rotation at defensive end and Dylan Rivers began the year as a starter before getting hurt.
Virginia Tech’s 2017 recruiting class has the chance to be a solid foundation for Fuente’s program, but it’s simply too early to tell how things will shake out. More time is needed to get an accurate representation.