VTF Countdown: #41 Derek DiNardo

by JustinC on July 21, 2013 · 2 comments

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41 VTF Countdown: #41 Derek DiNardo

With 41 days until Virginia Tech faces Alabama in the Georgia Dome, we turn our attention to no. 41 on roster Mr. Derek DiNardo.  Touted as a savvy, instinctive, and intelligent athlete out of high school, DiNardo has yet to really catch on at one position.  He began his career at tight end before moving to rover for a season.  However, the following spring he moved to WHIP linebacker and has been there ever since.  With limited depth at the position, DiNardo has enough trustworthy qualities to make him an asset.  Unfortunately, most of his snaps this season will likely come on special teams.

The Breakdown

Height: 6’0”
Weight: 214 lbs
Position: WHIP Linebacker
Year: R-Junior
High School: Cox High School

High School Career

There are a lot of players that aren’t highly recruited that have sensational high school careers.  DiNardo is a great example of that.  He won the Beach District Offensive Player of the Year award as a senior after rushing for 900 yards and 17 scores from the quarterback position.  Defensively, he was stout as well, posting 36 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions in his final season.

Despite those efforts, DiNardo never saw his recruitment take off with only limited interest from several FCS programs.  The Hokies swung through with a walk-on offer and DiNardo quickly accepted.

Reasons For Excitement

High Football IQ:  DiNardo’s father was a longtime coach at William and Mary and I could see Derek following in those footsteps when his career is over with.  He’s a high intelligence kid that has to use his football smarts to overcome a lack of tremendous foot speed and athleticism.  I think that’s why he’s found a home at WHIP linebacker, which requires a player to have a high football intelligence.

Likely Backup: The WHIP depth chart has Ronny Vandyke at the top and three walk-ons behind him. Although, I expect Dahman McKinnon to factor in eventually, the Hokies may choose to go with a steady option in DiNardo as the backup this season.  Of course, if anything were to happen to Vandyke, I would think Tech would alter their defense by bringing Kyle Fuller to whip and letting one of our young corners play the field corner position.  That would be the optimal lineup with no Vandyke.  So, backup is a relative term in this case.

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Causes For Concern

Lacks a Next Gear:  Most players enter college in 1st or 2nd gear.  It takes them a little while to kick it up into 3rd gear and actually start contributing in a meaningful way.  By the time you’re a junior, you should be in 4th gear.  To me, DiNardo is a guy that’s been stuck in 3rd gear for a year or two and I’ve been waiting for that shift to 4th where he can become a guy that could fill a backup role at WHIP.  While he is the likely backup at WHIP linebacker, I don’t think Bud Foster would call on him against an Alabama, Miami, or UNC just yet.  He needs to hit that next gear before that happens.

Struggles to Get Off Blocks:  If there’s one concern I have it’s that DiNardo, at just 214 pounds, isn’t strong enough to shed blocks at this level.  He’s really free safety sized trying to play a linebacker role.  Of course, Cody Grimm was roughly the same size and played well back in 2009.  But, Grimm was a good athlete that graded out well at the NFL combine.  I don’t think DiNardo is quite at that level athletically.

What to Expect in 2013

The first depth chart of the year should leak out sometime in the next week and WHIP linebacker is one of the positions I’m interested in seeing how things stack up.  Vandyke did enough good things this spring t retain his position at the top but he wasn’t as flashy as I had hoped.  Behind him, there’s a lot of mix and match.  DiNardo is a good fit due to his ability to cover.  He had eight interceptions as a sophomore in high school so he has good hands.  Josh Trimble is a bit more of an inside linebacker but he covers and runs well.  He’s similar to Alonzo Tweedy in that regard.  Then Quinton Taylor is a freshman that hasn’t showed what he can do yet since he’s bounced around from position to position.

DiNardo is going to factor in on special teams but it’s hard to say where he’s going to factor in on the defense’s depth chart.  He could be the backup at WHIP or he could be third or fourth on the depth chart there depending on how much effort McKinnon put into his offseason workouts.  Needless to say, this is a big fall practice for him if he wants to cement himself in the two deep for his final two seasons.  The opportunity is there, it’s up to him to make it happen.

Bottom Line

When DiNardo announced for Virginia Tech, I thought the Hokies were going to get a future starter.  So far, things haven’t progressed the way I had hoped but there’s still time for that to change.  DiNardo is a savvy player and one that can help this team, even if it is on special teams for another season.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

fernleyhokie July 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

Anyway you could include the hometown after the high school? You include it in the write up some times but not always. I was an out-of-state student so not overly familiar with all the high school names on East Coast, plus would be cool to see how many VA and non-VA players there are.

But love the profiles. Look forward to them every summer.

Reply

JustinC July 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

I’ve had a couple people ask about that so I’ll add it in. But, I have articles published through next week so I’ll add it in for the final 29 or so I have left to write.

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