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August 11, 2008

Chancellor's new role to solidify Tech secondary

By: Jimmy Robertson

Kam Chancellor was one of the few Tech football players who actually went home for the first summer session.

The prevailing thought might be that he went home and spent some time relaxing, recharging before coming back to Blacksburg for the second summer session to begin preparations in earnest for the 2008 season.

But his time back in Norfolk was anything but a vacation.

The 6-foot-4, 224-pound junior worked for Pepsi during that time period. This wasn’t part of an internship, but rather, a manual labor position. He woke up early and bounced from store to store, stocking shelves and making sure they looked neat. Then once he got his paycheck, he only kept a sliver of it.

“I’ve got to look after my family,” Chancellor said. “My mom’s had some tough times.”

As expected, he refused to shirk his offseason responsibilities, working out daily at Mount Trashmore, a city park in Virginia Beach. That type of sacrifice has endeared him to both his teammates and his coaches. But it comes as no surprise. When Tech’s staff asked him to move to safety this past winter, he told the coaches to put him wherever it benefited the team the most.
The rover-turned-safety flourished at his new home this spring, and he not only anchors Tech’s 2008 secondary, but he also anchors this defense. Without him to get everyone lined up in the proper position, Tech’s vaunted defense would be as dysfunctional as today’s Congress.

“I thought I had a good transition to safety,” Chancellor said. “I liked the move. I like being in control of our defense and getting everything set up. You can put the blame on my shoulders if something goes wrong.

“I thought it was the best fit for me personally, too. I’d like to think I have good range and can tackle. I can do all that at safety and still be the leader of the defense.”

Chancellor, who started all 14 games and finished with 79 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery last season, is one of two starters returning in Tech’s secondary, joining Macho Harris. Tech lost two integral parts in cornerback Brandon Flowers, a second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, and steady safety D.J. Parker, the man whom Chancellor replaced.

 Harris, a senior from Highland Springs, Va., ranks as the best athlete on the team. An All-ACC player a year ago, he tied for the team lead with five interceptions and led the team with 16 passes defensed. For good measure, he added a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Harris may be pulling double duty this fall. Tech’s staff worked him at receiver for most of spring practice to take advantage of his playmaking skills, and given Brandon Dillard’s season-ending Achilles injury, Harris may need to play even more at receiver than originally anticipated. How that will affect his play on defense remains to be seen.

Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray set about finding another cornerback this spring, and Stephan Virgil, a 5-11, 186-pound junior, came out of spring practice in the top spot at field corner. He lacks top-end speed, but makes few mistakes.

“He’s got a great work ethic and has good cover skills,” Chancellor said of Virgil. “He can make a tackle. He just hasn’t had a chance to prove himself yet.”

Rashad Carmichael, a 5-10, 190-pound redshirt sophomore, and Cris Hill, a 5-11, 183-pound redshirt freshman, also figure in the mix at the two corner spots. Carmichael has the tools, but wasn’t as consistent as he needed to be this past spring. Hill only needs experience. He could be the next great Tech corner.

Depth could be an issue at safety behind Chancellor. Tech came out of spring with Matt Reidy and Ron Cooper as the back-ups there. Reidy is a smart walk-on who has sompe experience playing on special teams. Cooper, a 5-10, 189-pound junior, is a walk-on who had a great spring and summer. Gray also could give Davon Morgan a few reps at safety. Morgan played the position last season before being moved to rover before spring practice.

“We just need to get some chemistry and get our rotation down,” Chancellor said. “We’re young, but as long as everyone knows the game plan each week, we’ll be alright. We’ve just got to work together.”

Having a smart, talented guy like Chancellor back there makes up for a lot of inexperience. And he can’t wait to get this season started.

After all, playing football sure beats stocking shelves.



17 Kam Chancellor (6-4, 224, Jr.) – Big and physical; fast and smart. Adjusted to a new position with ease this spring. Covers well for a guy his size and isn’t afraid to bring it against the run. Should have a terrific season.
23 Matt Reidy (6-1, 217, r-Jr.) – A walk-on who makes plays and understands the position. Should see plenty of time on special teams again this fall.
34 Ron Cooper (5-10, 189, Jr.) – A walk-on who has played his way into the mix at safety.


1 Macho Harris (6-0, 194, Sr.) – Maybe the most gifted athlete on the team. Has an uncanny ability to make plays. Not a force in the running game, but is a ball-hawk as a corner. An all-conference caliber of player.
21 Rashad Carmichael (5-10, 190, r-Soph.) – Has the physical tools. Needs to play with better technique and more consistency.
81 Jacob Sykes (6-0, 189, r-Fr.) – Young player making the transition from receiver to corner.


22 Stephan Virgil (5-11, 186, Jr.) – Has a nice feel for the game. Not blazing fast, but is smooth and his knowledge of the game enables him to play faster.
9 Cris Hill (5-11, 183, r-Fr.) – Has great speed and ball skills. Still needs to get stronger. A player who gets better with every rep.
15 Eddie Whitley (6-0, 179, Fr.) – Young prospect who has impressed in the early going.