Quick Reaction and Analysis of a Wild National Signing Day

National Signing Day certainly turned into a festival atmosphere for Hokie fans, with tons of positives coupled with some negatives to give both the most ardent homer and the most disaffected crumudgeon plenty to talk about.

The Hokies were able to secure two of their top three remaining targets in multi-talented athlete Joel Caleb and bruising defensive end prospect Ken Ekanem. Meanwhile, Koren Kirven disappointed Hokie fans by joining Nick Saban's NFL machine down in Tuscaloosa. Finally, the Hokie blogosphere and twitterverse went crazy as MARGINAL linebacker prospect Ja Wand Blue decommitted and headed down to the Harvard of the South in Coral Gables.

Despite these ups and downs, I think most Hokies are very satisfied with the recruiting haul, which addressed some areas of need while adding additional depth to strength areas, especially the defensive front seven (where the quality of recruiting had dropped tremendously following Jason Worilds signing.) Shane Beamer and the other young coaches have made a positive impact, and hopefully the Hokies can continue to make inroads out of state while building a fence around the top Virginia prospects.

A quick analysis of the day's highlights:

1) Kirven has the build and skillset to be a dominant two gap defensive tackle, which makes him even more dangerous in a one gap scheme if he learned the system. At the same time, if I was a defensive tackle with NFL dreams, I look at the Hokies (who only have two defensive linemen, not one; Jason Worilds and Darryl Tapp; playing in the NFL right now. Worilds just moved to OLB) versus Alabama, which has an NFL style multiple defense and a proven track record of creating ready made NFL talent under Nick Saban, coupled with the fact that the Hokies have four returning defensive tackles with starting experience (only one of which is a senior next year), a four star in Kris Harley who redshirted, and several other depth players. I thought Alabama was a sensible choice. Now, it will hurt if he becomes a star (and Nick Saban is a good enough coach to make it happen), but Kirven's decision didn't devestate the Hokies plans like Stephone Anthony's decision (prior to us learning that Tariq Edwards could play a little better than Jake Johnson and Lyndell Gibson.)

2) Don't fret Ja Wand Blue deciding to pursue his dream of being an Academic All American at the U. I watched a significant amount of highlight tapes of Blue. I have a rule of thumb on high school highlight reels. If I can't tell who I should be watching with my own eyes, then he isn't an exciting prospect. Blue looked like a decent athlete trying to play football instead of a good football player. He played with high pad level. He isn't instinctive or aggressive flowing to the football, and his tackling technique consists of him being a strong guy and grabbing and tossing guys. As a former offensive lineman, Blue is the kind of kid that you love to drive block on, if you can catch him. I think Laurence Gibson can catch him. CHOOO CHOOO big boy.

3) Joel Caleb is coming to Virginia Tech to be a wide receiver, but his entire highlight film is him playing QB (popgun arm). He looks like an outstanding athlete with great straight ahead speed. He isn't very shifty, but he has what looks like a top speed and then an extra burst. Watching him run a QB zone-read looks just like DJ Coles running a WR screen. Their body types are identical, and Caleb is defintely faster and more elusive. I could see him returning kicks right away, and even playing some Wildcat QB after Logan Thomas departs. Unlike Blue, when you watch the film you know who you are supposed to be watching without an arrow.

I have no idea if he can catch or tackle (no film of him doing either), but I guess the Hokie staff thinks they will be weaker when Coles, Roberts, and Davis leave than they will be in the defensive secondary. The kid defintely has five star tools. Can he pick up the nuance of the receiver position (route running, timing, catching the ball at the highest point, site adjustments?) The Hokie coaching staff doesn't have the best track record of making talented athletes better as receivers, so let's keep our fingers crossed. He has the ability to be a star wherever they put him, but can they polish his game? I'd love to see him as a ballhawking rover if he can tackle.

4) I had the opportunity to see Ken Ekanem play against Hayfield this year, and I have been able to watch a lot of film. He is a tweener OLB/DE who will defintely be an end in the Hokie system. Ekanem moves all over the field, and has an explosive first step. He has great shoulder lean (the ability to use the edge of the shoulder pad as a fulcrum point to change your passrush angle and turn into the QB without being pushed too far upfield. He plays with decent pad level and reminds me of a more explosive JR Collins. He also could play tight end in a pitch and is probably right now a more polished receiving tight end than any returning Hokie.

What does he need to work on? There are two holes I see. One, in person, he looked like he didn't have a really great motor. He worked his tail off on the pass rush and one playside runs, but when the play went away from him, he didn't work really hard to get across. My other concern is his hand play. He used his speed and shoulders to get off blocks and pass rush. He keeps his hands low instead of using them to shed blockers. That won't work against top level competition (Stephen Friday never did learn how to use his hands to shed a block.) Still the Hokie staff doesn't need Ekanem to step in right away, so hopefully both he and Jarontay Jones/Woody Baron can develop and be devestating bookends down the road.

5) Oh Matty Ports. Unethical, unsubstantiated reporting only serves to kill your own aspirations. Silly goose.

Comments

Curious on your thoughts

about Jarontay Jones I know he played on a very talented HS team with 7 or 8 D-1 kids but watching his film he was one that I thought didn't need an arrow to find on the field and seemed to have that motor and finishes every tackle

UVA: Jefferson's biggest mistake

@pbowman6

I think Jones, Ekanem, and Baron (along with Corey Marshall) can all be studs at defensive end. Jones isn't as impressive physically as Ekanem, but he defintely has a motor. Baron's motor is ridiculous. He was a 20 sack a year guy, and the teams Brentwood Academy usually plays are well coached and have good athletes. He dusted everyone.

The biggest question I have with this group of defensive linemen is simple. Who steps up as an edge rusher who can get to the QB without bringing the backer? Gayle is ok, but he isn't disruptive every drop back. Wilson doesn't get the edge. McCray looks like more of a strongside end. Who gets the QB?

I WANT THIS! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAwkgSUabQQ

Viva El Guapo

Corey Moore

He was such a f'ing stud. If any of these prospects can perform at HALF the level Moore did, we'll be in good hands.

Classic VT Football

It's what I want too!

#Hokies

Unheralded Recruits

I want to know yours or anyone's thoughts on some of the guys we gnabbed that may seem a little more under the radar. It may be a stretch but even disregarding Alston Smith's pedigree he seems to be a big boy with some natural athleticism. If he's half of what his dad was I'd be excited.

I wont go into detail about the guys I think are more "diamonds in the rough" but I'd like to see if anyone else agrees. My personal list of who to watch contains: Joshua Stanford, Donaldven Manning, Augie Conte, Abbott, Der'Weon Green, Dakota Jackson and Adam Taraschke.

Is Manning unheralded? seems like people have been pretty excited about him.

Stanford strikes me as a diamond in the rough type. I think Sherman is a really good at developing lesser touted kids and I think he'll be a star

"I promise you I will keep getting back up as long as you keep pushing forward." -Michael Brewer
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

Not 1 but 2

Davion Tookes film is pretty outstanding he looks like he has all the tools to be another great corner here in the 'Burg. I think if he could put on about 20 pounds he is a multiple year starter here. I would also say that could also depend on the younger (Kendall) Fuller. Overall though he has that play making ability that we have gotten used to seeing from our corners. He knows what to do when he does get his hands on the ball and had the kind of speed you just can't coach. I am really exited about him.

Win one for the Beamer...

NSD n00b

Yeah, so this was the first time I really got caught up in the National Signing Day hoopla.

It was pretty fun to watch the feeds come in and could only reflect on these high school seniors jumping into a pretty big pool of awesome. I had no such prospects at their age so can only live vicariously through them.

I wish them all the best and look forward to seeing them fulfill their Hokie dreams (and ours) with lots of "W"s. ^_^

get some dum-dums!

I have heard lots of good things about Manning, but I have not had a chance to watch film on him. One of the reason's that I don't want Kyle Fuller playing whip or safety is that the defense is tailored right now for the corners to be the playmakers, and the returning corners don't strike me as playmakers. If Manning can step in and play the same way Hosley did, then I would not be so apprehensive about Fuller changing positions.

Viva El Guapo

Manning has some serious potential

Though I am not as adept at watching/analyzing film and picking out anything outside the offensive line (because I was a center in HS- that and watching LB's), the film I've seen on Manning is very interesting. Though selected highlights, I saw a DB who could adjust to the ball well when it was in the air (much more so than many HS DB's) and can tackle well in space. Also, Manning is incredibly physical off the line and can stay step-for-step with the receiver. He also doesn't do my pet peeve, which is not look for the ball when its in the air: he plays the receivers eyes incredibly well (at least on his highlight film- wanna see some negative stuff as well if it can be found). Downside is he takes risks at times, particularly when giving receivers a major cushion. On the second play of the reel, he adjusted well to an under-thrown ball; however, that pick was on the QB- looked like the receiver had DM beat clean to the pylon. Overall, I think he has a very unique raw potential which obviously needs to be coached up well, and our Defensive staff is just the one to do so. As I said earlier, I feel Manning could be the next great Hokie DB. He reminds me of not only a young Brandon Flowers but also a very, very, very raw Darelle Revis- incredibly physical off the line, smart ball skills, great at adjusting, and can freggin tackle. Also his footwork looks soild but I only caught glimpses of it in this reel. Only thing he lacks is height; however, if he can cover, he can cover and that is always what I want to see.

Film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwE7mGYk5xE (Donaldven Manning- VT Commit Highlight Reel)

Virginia Tech '08
Fordham University (NY) '11, '12

Twitter: @duffmanhokie
PSN Handle: duffmanhokie1568 (NCAAF '12, NHL '11, Battlefield)

Hokies, NY Rangers, NY Jets, NY Mets (sigh), USA Hockey, Richmond Renegades (R.I.P)

Nice read Duff! I will watch the video. With his slight stature, he will have a hard time pushing around big ACC receivers initially. I am very hopefull. If he pans out and the Fuller kid comes to VT, that could be a nasty defense in 3 years.

Viva El Guapo

Gracias

Thanks French- I am hoping Fuller IV comes in and really solidifies this backfield as well. The height is a bit concerning but I have confidence that Bud and Torian will know how to counter (I say that now but we shall see). This defensive backfield, with some tweaks, could be something special.

Virginia Tech '08
Fordham University (NY) '11, '12

Twitter: @duffmanhokie
PSN Handle: duffmanhokie1568 (NCAAF '12, NHL '11, Battlefield)

Hokies, NY Rangers, NY Jets, NY Mets (sigh), USA Hockey, Richmond Renegades (R.I.P)

He can overcome his height deficiency

Deangelo Hall was 5'10"
Brandon Flowers was 5'9"
Jayron Hosley was 5'11"

While he is short, I trust our coaches 100% when it comes to cornerbacks.

I agree

I think he can and will- I share your opinion on Bud and Torian 110%.

Virginia Tech '08
Fordham University (NY) '11, '12

Twitter: @duffmanhokie
PSN Handle: duffmanhokie1568 (NCAAF '12, NHL '11, Battlefield)

Hokies, NY Rangers, NY Jets, NY Mets (sigh), USA Hockey, Richmond Renegades (R.I.P)

Just watched the film on Manning. I would like to see how he has matured. My initial thoughts really focus on his run support. He certainly looks eager to tackle, tackles low, and wraps his arms strong. He looks very similar to Kyle Fuller when making tackles.

I thought it was difficult to evaluate him on that film as far as pass coverage. One pick was on a bad underthrow, and another seemed to be a play where the deep in was open, and the QB threw it 3 yards behind the WR (right to Manning.) He certainly looks like he wants to make plays and cause turnovers, so he will fit right in, and while it is tough to see how physical he is at the line preventing a release, he is stride for stride with the receivers on deep balls.

Viva El Guapo

Physicality

Yeah unfortunately the video isn't great showing any preventions of release but that seemed to be a point on some of the recruiting boards that he was strong off the line against receivers. I will keep my eyes open for anything else and get it to the boards.

Virginia Tech '08
Fordham University (NY) '11, '12

Twitter: @duffmanhokie
PSN Handle: duffmanhokie1568 (NCAAF '12, NHL '11, Battlefield)

Hokies, NY Rangers, NY Jets, NY Mets (sigh), USA Hockey, Richmond Renegades (R.I.P)