Virginia Tech Hokies’ Top 10 Returning Players in 2024 Include Kyron Drones, Bhayshul Tuten

    Brent Pry wants to get the Virginia Tech Hokies back to the glory days, and his top returning players should take a step in that direction.

    Let’s start with a fact. When the Virginia Tech Hokies are at their peak, Enter Sandman is the undisputed best entrance in college football. Brent Pry wants to get his team back to its glory days, and their top 10 returning players for 2024 could start that process.

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    Virginia Tech Hokies’ Top 10 Returners in 2024

    Analyzing the returning players at every school is a difficult task in the transfer portal area. As such, we’ve included transfer-portal athletes on each team’s roster page to open spring camp in addition to the rostered players from last year.

    10) Cole Nelson, DE

    Back in the day, Virginia Tech thrived thanks to a tough-as-nails defense that swarmed the football. Pry and his staff knew that in order to return to the good times, the defense needed to step up first. We saw that first step last year.

    The Hokies were a top-25 team in tackles for loss and sacks last year, and they return much of that production in 2024. Cole Nelson recorded 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last year, and the senior from Johns Creek, Georgia, looks to top those numbers this season.

    9) Mansoor Delane, CB

    With the front seven largely set for the year, the pressure falls on the secondary to make plays defending the pass. Fortunately, the Hokies have a strong returning group that finished 10th in havoc rate, according to CFBData.

    Mansoor Delane put together a solid sophomore season in 2022, so there was pressure on his shoulders to repeat that success in 2023. While he didn’t make the All-ACC teams list, he’ll make a strong case to do so this year. He finished fourth on the team with 54 tackles and added another interception to his resume.

    8) Ali Jennings III, WR

    All it took for the Hokies to get sick of facing Ali Jennings III was one game. During the 2022 season, Jennings and Old Dominion stunned the Hokies thanks to his five catches for 122 yards. When he entered the transfer portal last offseason, his new team knew they didn’t want anyone else to get him.

    Unfortunately for the Hokies and Jennings, he missed most of the season with an injury, playing just two games in 2023. His return gives the passing attack a certified deep threat who can stretch the field, and the offense should be electric with most of the key players back.

    7) Pheldarius Payne, DT

    If you’re looking for an underrated defensive line heading into the 2024 season, the Hokies are a great choice. They return multiple starters along with plenty of depth behind them, and this group wreaked havoc last year.

    Pheldarius Payne came to Blacksburg from Nebraska after two seasons where he didn’t reach his potential. Given a fresh start with the Hokies, he posted a career-best 31 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and four sacks. His return gives this defense a disruptive force up the middle, which helps with the linebackers needing to find depth.

    6) Keli Lawson, LB

    The team leader in tackles returns, and Keli Lawson takes on more of a leadership role with Alan Tisdale gone. He recorded 80 tackles and seven tackles for loss last year and hopes that someone around him will step up to fill Tisdale’s role.

    MORE: 2024 ACC Weekly Football Schedule 

    Lawson and the linebackers have the luxury of a deep defensive line in front of them. This should make for easier reads and tackles on the ball carrier, leading to a defense that makes life difficult for their opponents.

    5) Dorian Strong, CB

    What a bounce-back year for Dorian Strong. After a strong freshman campaign in 2021, Strong rode a roller coaster in the two years following. The talent was there, but injuries and inconsistent play hurt his performance. Last year, he rediscovered his game, and it was a massive year for the senior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

    Teams weren’t shy when testing Strong, but that didn’t faze him. He expected it after the previous two seasons and made the most of his opportunities by intercepting a career-high three passes.

    He also had a career-high 25 tackles and eight passes defended and returns for what could be a special season for his team.

    4) Da’Quan Felton, WR

    If there’s one area the Hokies must improve, it’s the passing attack. This group finished 97th in passing last year, but there are many reasons why fans expect that to improve in 2024. A talented group of pass catchers return, and leading receiver Da’Quan Felton leads that charge.

    Felton averaged 17.6 yards on just 38 catches and took eight passes to the end zone last year. He’s joined by Jennings, Jaylin Lane, and the Gosnell brothers (Stephen and Benji), and that’s a good foundation for improvement.

    Pair that with the Hokies’ solid rushing attack, and the offense should thrive more frequently this year.

    3) Antwaun Powell-Ryland, DE

    One thing that Pry’s staff has done well so far is identifying impactful transfers and getting them to campus. Antwaun Powell-Ryland cashed in his potential last year, leading the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Teams must plan for him more this year, but he’s fortunate to have depth around him where teams can’t key on him too much.

    2) Bhayshul Tuten, RB

    The 23rd-best rushing attack in the country returns its top three rushers from last year, meaning we could see this group get better in 2024. Bhayshul Tuten bet on himself when he transferred from North Carolina A&T, and the Hokies saw enough to give him a shot.

    It was a slow start for Tuten, as he rushed for just 104 yards in his first three games with his new team. He found his groove against Marshall and Pitt, rushing 33 times for 197 yards in those two games and catching nine passes for an additional 82 yards and a touchdown.

    With Tuten back alongside Kyron Drones, the rushing attack is in good hands. Backup Malachi Thomas also returns, giving this team a quality option when Tuten needs a breather.

    1) Kyron Drones, QB

    When the season began, the Hokies had a quarterback battle between Drones and Marshall transfer Grant Wells. While Wells initially won the job, Drones quickly took over when Wells struggled in the loss to Purdue. The former Baylor transfer took his opportunity and ran with it.

    KEEP READING: 2024 ACC Power Rankings

    Drones finished the year with 2,085 touchdowns with 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also ran for 818 yards and five touchdowns, and his dual-threat abilities will put stress on opposing defenses again this year.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!


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