National Signing Day has come and gone. Despite Jawand Blue accepting Miami's last minute scholarship offer, and Korren Kirven deciding to head to Tuscaloosa, a place where he'll be able to achieve his goals, the Hokies closed strong, something the coaching staff struggled to do in previous years. They inked a class of 28 players including seven All-Americans (most since '07).
Josh Oglesby graduating, David Wilson entering the NFL draft and Tony Gregory's knee made tailback a position of need for this class. Virginia Tech's dedication to running the football makes them an attractive destination for young ball carriers. Beamer Co. took advantage of this, sold early playing time, and brought in five fresh faces. The Hokies are at their best running the ball when they have a diverse backfield, and each player has a different skill set. I believe this class provides that.
Drew Harris is a big bruising back who is probably best visualized as a combination between Darren Evans and Kevin Jones. Harris injured his knee his senior year of high school, so that's something to keep an eye on.
Let's get this out of the way, J.C. Coleman is a small back (5-7, 170). However, anything he may lack in size he makes up for with speed, field vision and the ability to quickly change direction. He's a straight up playmaker, zig-zagging all over the field. Coleman is already enrolled in the spring classes.
Coach Cav described Chris Mangus as a "speed merchant". It's an accurate description. 90% of Mangus' highlights are of him running past the pack for six. He's not a shifty runner, but that's not a bad thing. He makes and early move, then rapidly accelerates downhill.
Jerome Wright is going to get a chance to compete for playing time in the backfield. He went from home schooled, to being named "Sleeper of the Year" by The Roanoke Times. After watching his film, what stands out to me is he runs very well between the tackles, and has great hands coming out of the backfield. At 6-1, 220 he has the body size to be moved to another position.
Trey Edmunds can play on either side of the ball; tailback or linebacker. He's said he'll play wherever the team needs him, and the Frankinator eluded to the possibility of him going both ways by designing packages specifically for him. On my high school team I had a friend who wasn't taller than 5-11, and couldn't have weighed more than 180 pounds after two after trips through the Main Hing Buffet line. He played spot duty at running back, and started at nose guard (2nd team All-State). He could have played any position on the field. Height and weight withstanding, that's who I compared Edmunds to in my mind. They're both football players.
The Hokies took five receivers this class, anticipating the graduation of Dyrell Roberts, Marcus Davis and D.J. Coles after this season. Der'Woun Greene is from the 757 (held a UVa offer) and played quarterback in high school. He's got great speed and athleticism, and the coaches believe he has good enough hands to play receiver. Joel Caleb is another player that's going to transition from quarterback (defensive back) to receiver. He's got a big body, 6-3 215, and Cav describes him as "impressive on that field". He's talented enough to see playing time as a true freshman. Thomas Smith is 6-4 and Cav described him as a "stud" and "big target" over the middle. Mark Irick is another tall (6-4), but thin (185) receiver. He attended the same high school as stud South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery. Cav says he's a good route runner and can go up and get the ball. Josh Stanford had a breakout senior year that quickly made him an attractive prospect at the back end of the recruiting cycle. Prior to signing day he committed to Tech over TCU, and kept his word after a late UCLA offer. He can move around the field, and I think he's going to be the steal of the class on offense.
Tech only landed one quarterback this cycle, Brenden Motley. They wanted two. Originally TJ Millweard was committed before changing his commitment to Arizona State, then finally signing with UCLA. The Hokies also made a run at Pennsylvania QB Skyler Mornhinweg, who ended up signing with Florida. Motley is a local, from Christiansburg, VA. He didn't put up gaudy passing stats in high school (951 yards, 12 TDs senior season) primarily because Christiansburg runs a run first Wing-T scheme. However, he's extremely athletic (rushed for 646 yards and 13 TDs senior season) and the coaches believe he has the tools to become a quarterback at the collegiate level. Depending on how he develops, and how the depth chart shakes out, he could be moved into the defensive secondary.
Only one tight end signed with Tech in 2012, because it's already an extremely deep position. Cav compares Dakota Jackson to Chris Drager and Jeff King. Really that's all anyone needs to know about his potential.
None of the offensive lineman in this class are "studs". Adam Taraschke, Augie Conte and Jack Willenbrock aren't polished off and ready to play. However, they're not expected to be. Curt Newsome has said in the past it takes most of his linemen three years of conditioning and learning the system to see significant playing time. Expect the 2013 class to make the o-line a priority and take up to five prospects.
Defensive line is currently one of the deepest positions on the roster. And Tech keeps adding depth, bringing in six new players at either end or tackle. Personally, I think this strongest position we recruited, it's full of athletes and good bloodlines. Ken Ekanem can really get after the quarterback and his versatility to play standing up will allow Foster to be creative with him. Seth Dooley is 6-5 and was athletic enough to play inside linebacker his senior year of high school. That's a great frame to build on. Cav says Alston Smith is every bit of his listed 6-3, 270. He's going to beast in our strength and conditioning program, and being able to work one-on-one with his father is a bonus. Cav was very impressed with Nigel Williams' hands and how he used them to shed blockers and rush the passer. The way he bends his body reminds him of Noland Burchette, but faster. French's already gushed over Woody Baron, and Mr. Tennessee looks like one hell of a get. Jarontay Jones is another terrific pass rusher. He's got great awareness of where the quarterback is, and he crashes down the line and pursues very well. He'll be a terror off the end once Gentry bulks him up.
At backer Cav compared Deon Clarke to Xavier Adibi. That's high praise. Clarke can run, and nothing stands between him and hitting the ball carrier. I'm excited to see this kid on the field. Devin Vandyke is another terrific inside backer that just flies through gaps on his film. He's got speed, and a nose for the football. Dahman McKinnon was recruited to play Whip. Cav says he's a guy that doesn't leave his feet, and he has a great sense for timing his blitzes.
In the secondary the Hokies were fortunate to bring in four guys. It seems like Donaldven Manning was offered a scholarship by every major school in the south. He's already enrolled at Tech and will play spring ball. He's athletic, can lock down a receiver on his own, and has a very realistic chance to play as a true freshman. Davion Tookes is another cover corner that Cav compares to Manning and Hosley. He blocked six punts in a single high school season. I expect him to contribute immediately on special teams, and be in the mix for playing time at corner. Desmond Frye will start out at free safety. He seems comfortable playing in space, can hit, and attacks the ball when it's in the air. Donovan Riley is a big corner at 6-0, 190. However, I don't think he projects to any specific position in the secondary as of right now. He's an athletic player and I'm sure the coaches will have a better idea where to play him after they've seen him on the field.
And that's it, another new class of Hokies. Getting to Blacksburg is only the first step. While all of these kids are incredibly talented, and have the ability to be stars at Tech, they've been competing against inferior high school competition. Now they'll be up against, at worst, their equals, and in most cases their superiors. We'll know where we stand once they're on the field. Either way, welcome to HokieNation!