2014 is shaping up to be an elite recruiting year, and while most of the focus has been placed on the one-in-a-lifetime group of elite defensive linemen coming from the Commonwealth, the Hokies are quietly setting the table for a secondary that could help them return to the elite of the elite in college football.
The defensive backfield was a huge weakness for the Hokies in 2012, and while individual players had significant struggles early in the season, improved pass rush coupled with experience made the unit proficient in the final three games of the season. Still, even with that improvement, depth is a huge concern as true freshmen Donaldven Manning, Davon Tookes, Donovan Riley, and Desmond Frye were not ready to make a significant contribution.
All those players have upside that will show itself with experience, but the Hokie coaching staff was dilligent in efforts to bring top-end talent into the secondary. Holland Fisher, an elite athlete playing linebacker, committed to Virginia Tech early in the recruiting cycle, and then wowed scouts at a series of summer camps where he played exclusively at safety. Alabama made a hard run at Fisher, who projects to be a rover in a similar ilk to Kyshone Jarrett, but all indications are that he will remain a Hokie.
Virginia Tech then added a crown jewel in Kendall Fuller, who plays a very different style than Kyle Fuller. Kendall is a prototypical boundary corner who can play both an inside eye press technique (forcing the receiver to take an outside release through contact at the line, then having the hips and speed to turn and run) and an outside eye cover 1 technique looking at the quarterback and reading his eyes. He is a ready made polished man-coverage corner who will only need time learning the nuance of the Hokie 4-4g, zone-robber, and zone blitz coverages to become a major contributer. The Hokies also landed a high three-star safety in Charles Clark, whose film is focused on offense, but you can tell is a very good athlete with a serious mean streak even when playing QB.
2014 is shaping up to be a banner group as well. The Hokies have already landed a commitment from Florida cornerback Javon Harrison. Harrison committed to VT very early, and both Joe and I were very impressed with his sophomore film, where he demonstrated explosive speed, the abilty to attack the ball at it's highest point, and toughness (through his effort blocking.) When Rivals released their 2014 rankings, Harrison is listed as a four star, and it is easy to see why. With Harrison's ball hawking and instincts, it is easy to envision him complimenting Kendall Fuller as a play-making field corner.
The Hokies also have targeted lock down corner CJ Revis from Thomas Dale High School south of Richmond. Revis is a former teammate of Desmond Frye and Hokie commit DJ Reid, and is considered the top prospect in Shane Beamer's Richmond recruiting area. Things look very positive for his recruitment.
I have said for the last few months that while Virginia Tech was able to be a dominant team in the ACC, their recruiting on defense was very weak. The Hokies often had to scramble to fill holes with players whose flaws were sometimes hidden by the system, but those flaws almost always were exposed against well-coached elite offenses. Now, the Hokies have an opportunity to field a secondary with a five star corner in Fuller, four star safeties with Fisher and Jarrett, and four star depth corners in Revis and Harrison. When you add the potential defensive line (can you imagine a Luther Maddy-Kris Harley-Wyatt Teller-Ricky Walker-Derrick Nnadi defensive tackle rotation to compliment a Dadi-Nicolas-Corey Marshall-D'Shawn Hand-Ken Ekanem-Vincent Mihota end rotation?), I can just envision Bill Lazor wetting himself while devising a check down route to soft tailback.