BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech has established an early pecking order at defensive tackle.
The Hokies have started Jarrod Hewitt and Dashawn Crawford in the first two games with a rotation of Norell Pollard, Mario Kendricks and Rob Porcher coming off the bench.
Crawford, Pollard and Kendricks are part of Tech’s 2019 signing class. Crawford is a transfer from Jones County (Miss.) Junior College while Pollard and Kendricks are both three-star true freshmen out of Florida.
The other two defensive tackles from Tech’s 2019 signing class — Jaden Cunningham and Josh Fuga — haven’t played this season, but defensive coordinator Bud Foster hasn’t ruled out using them in the coming weeks.
Cunningham has been dealing with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue running across the bottom of the feet that causes severe pain.
“He finally just got out of the boot,” Foster said. “I did like Jaden [in fall camp], he’s a hard spot in there.”
The junior college transfer was first-team all-conference last season at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College with 25 tackles, five for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Cunningham had to play catch up in the weight room after being one of the final 2019 signees to arrive on campus over the summer.
“We’ll see where it goes, if he can get back and play, if not he gets another year in the weight room and condition,” Foster said. “He didn’t come in, in great shape from junior college and getting eligible, but I like his potential. I like him as a person. I like his strength in there and size and he had a good understanding [of the defense] before he got hurt.”
Fuga has been healthy, but Foster wants him to have a little more time to develop. The three-star signee (247Sports composite) played at Freedom High School in Woodbridge. The freshman can play up to four games this season without burning a year of eligibility.
“Josh physically at the point of attack would be OK, but he’s still a guy that his mind is tying up his feet a little more than those other two and he’s not playing quite as fast even though he has similar abilities,” Foster said.
Foster would have preferred to give all three true freshmen more time to develop, but the Hokies' depth at defensive tackle has been hit hard by attrition in recent years, with Cam Goode, Xavier Burke and J’Bril Glaze leaving the program.
“We are playing with two [true freshmen] right now, but they just got to continue to work every day and understand the work ethic it takes at this level to be consistent,” Foster said. “They can take a false step in high school and run around a block and dominate a guy. Here that can’t happen. … There’s so much potential in there that we haven’t even reached yet or come close to scratching, so I’m excited about how they’re working and where we’re going.”