Truth be told, Virginia Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles didn’t think Corey Marshall could be a defensive end. He didn’t think the lineman was athletic enough to play in the Hokies’ scheme, that he’d fill out and settle in at tackle.
“He’s proven me wrong,” Wiles said.
Marshall, now a sophomore, is opening some eyes this August, adding close to 20 pounds this offseason, still moving fast and not letting his mind tie up his feet. He’s worked as a co-No. 1 with J.R. Collins at one of the defensive ends spots and is a candidate to shuttle between end and tackle this year, depending on the situation.
“I say that was one of the best weeks of practice I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Marshall said. “That’s not an understatement. … I went off, for lack of a better term.”
The combo lineman from Dinwiddie was one of the last big gets for Jim Cavanaugh when he was on the recruiting trail. Injuries up front thrust him into action as a true freshman. He played in all 14 games, starting once at tackle against Miami with Antoine Hopkins out, and finished with 13 tackles and three sacks, fine numbers for a freshman.
But he knew he had to get bigger. Though listed at 250 during winter weigh-ins, he said he played closer to 240 last season. Bigger offensive lines were able to push him around as a result. Now Marshall is approaching 270 pounds, while retaining the quickness he needs to play end.
“I don’t know how I can oversell it,” Marshall said of the weight gain.
“He’s looked very explosive. So strong,” Wiles said. “I just love the way he practices. I love how hard he practices. It’s important to him.”
Now it’s a matter of finding a place on the defensive line. James Gayle and Collins are both got mention on the All-ACC teams last year and are entering their junior years, although Collins opened the door a bit by being late to a team meeting in the first week, giving Marshall first-team reps. Tackle is just as crowded, with Luther Maddy pushing Antoine Hopkins for time next to Derrick Hopkins and Kris Harley vying for snaps too.
But Marshall’s value is in his versatility. He played both tackle and end in high school, did the same last year and figures to do so again this season. He’d prefer end, which is where it looks like he’ll end up the most this year. Wiles gave an estimate that if Marshall plays 40 snaps a game, 30 could be at end and 10 could be at tackle.
Marshall has gained Wiles’ trust in that regard.
“Last year I think it was one of those things where he wanted to keep those guys for trust reasons,” Marshall said. “That’s how I felt personally. For trust reasons he kept those guys. He trusted me at tackle, but what I wanted to do this year is for me to be able to switch me in and out and for me to be able to seamlessly make that transition and not give up anything. Be productive and just keep that going.”