Is this the week Ronny Vandyke takes over at whip LB? (UPDATE: Beamer says he’ll be first whip on the field)
Vandyke, a redshirt freshman, was elevated to first-team whip linebacker on the depth chart of Frank Beamer‘s personal website in an update Tuesday night, moving ahead of senior Jeron Gouveia-Winslow. UPDATE: Beamer said Vandyke will be the first whip on the field this week because he brings “a little more quickness to the position.”
The change came after defensive coaches were available for interviews Monday, but defensive coordinator Bud Foster was complimentary of Vandyke’s play then while saying he wanted to see more out of Gouveia-Winslow, who hasn’t returned to his pre-foot injury form of 2011.
“We just want to develop another guy down the road, because we’re going to lose a couple guys there [next year],” said Foster, who called Vandyke an ideal fit for the position in the spring.
“So if we can play Ronny, we want to play him and kind of rotate him in there a little bit. GW, I still trust him, but he’s got to play at a high level all the time. And he did that last year before his injury, and I haven’t see him get back to that yet, to be honest with you.”
Nevertheless, Foster said at the time his order was still probably Gouveia-Winslow, then Vandyke, then Alonzo Tweedy.
Based on recent production, Vandyke would seem like the more appropriate play. According to Beamer’s website, Vandyke had 24 plays against Bowling Green, with two tackles, one assist, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. Gouveia-Winslow got nine plays and had one quarterback hurry.
For the season, Gouveia-Winslow has 21 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and four quarterback hurries, playing perhaps his best game to date in the opener against Georgia Tech (11 tackles) but being average at best since. Vandyke has three tackles, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hurries.
A switch might make sense considering the opponent. Coaches have long said the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Vandyke is the best athlete they have at the whip position, while acknowledging the physical limitations of Gouveia-Winslow. Cincinnati is a team full of athletes on offense, one that will challenge the Hokies on the perimeter on the ground.
“He’s a player,” Beamer said of Vandyke after the Bowling Green game. “He’s full-speed. He’s athletic. He’s tough. It means a lot to him. I think you’ll continue to see him on the field.”
Vandyke has shown flashes of what he can do in limited playing time. His most memorable play this year was a block on Kyshoen Jarrett‘s punt return for a touchdown against Pittsburgh that took out two would-be tacklers, a taste of the physicality coaches like so much.
The issue with Vandyke, however, is experience.
“The only way he’s going to get better is we’ve got to get him on the field more in game situations,” Foster said. “You can get it out here in practice, but until you get out in game situations, it’s totally different, when you’re playing and it means something. You can have do-overs in practice. You don’t get any do-overs on Saturday. That’s where he’ll need to continue to get better. But he’s going to continue to get better.”