Readers of DullesDistrict.com will remember the end of the 2018 recruiting cycle, when Dax Hollifield was on the fence about where he was going to play football.
Despite his affection for Stanford and affinity for North Carolina and South Carolina, nothing outweighed Hollifield’s love for Bud Foster and Virginia Tech. As a four-star prospect, I was thrilled to see him signing up to play in the maroon and orange.
But as Hollifield enters his fourth season in the program, we haven’t quite seen that caliber of player just yet.
If it’s ever going to happen, this is the season.
Hollifield was the victim of the hype that surrounded him, as well as poor depth at both linebacker positions. He and Rayshard Ashby were in their first and second seasons respectively, and were already the best linebackers on the roster.
While Hollifield has always been better suited to play mike, or middle linebacker, he was a better option as an outside linebacker than Ashby. And so started Hollifield’s career of playing out of position.
Oddly enough, that first season was Hollifield’s best. Over 12 games, Hollifield made 62 tackles and registered eight tackles for loss. His production has slipped since, as Hollifield has made just 6.5 tackles for loss over the last two years.
But the situation has since changed.
Ashby, who’s been Hollifield’s battery mate for the last three seasons, is gone. Hollifield is now moving back inside, where he ideally would have been all along, with Alan Tisdale taking over outside linebacker full-time.
It’s a far better situation than years prior, especially when you consider Ashby’s precipitous drop-off last season. Hollifield can now keep his responsibilities closer to the box, limiting tests of his top-end speed against offensive weapons on the edge. Hollifield now has Tisdale beside him, who is one of the most versatile defenders on the team.
Moving Hollifield inside and putting an athlete next to him was the ideal scenario all along, but 2021 is the first time that move was really feasible. Hollifield and Tisdale are now the two best linebackers on the team, something I don’t think you’ll find anyone debating.
Virginia Tech’s defense needs to flip the script and find an identity. Poor linebacker play has played an integral role in the Hokies’ defensive decline. Now is the time to change that.
Dax Hollifield - no pun intended - will be in the middle of it all.