Wide receiver Isaiah Ford of Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida signed his letter-of-intent to play for the Hokies this morning. He's rated a 3-star prospect by Rivals.com and 4-star recruit by 247Sports. Ford is a former Louisville commit who reopened his recruiting process after Charlie Strong took the Texas job.
Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal wrote the following about Ford on January 5, 2014 after he decommitted from Louisville.
The Florida Class 3-A Player of the Year had 37 catches for 719 yards and 12 touchdowns and accounted for 1,067 all-purpose yards and 17 TDs last season, according to stats on the Tampa Tribune website. He had 102 rushing yards and two TDs on nine carries in Trinity Christian's victory in the state finals.
Ford is also a talented basketball player and was planning to join U of L's team as a walk-on.
Trinity Christian head coach Verlon Dorminey told The Courier-Journal on Saturday that Ford would probably end up at Virginia Tech, which has also invited him to join the basketball team as a walk-on.
Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer is expected next week to visit Ford, who has already made his official visits to Louisville and Virginia Tech.
The first thing that pops off the tape is his initial quickness off the line of scrimmage. His reaction to the ball being snapped and first stride may be the quickest I have ever seen on a prospect film. He is at full speed almost in his first stride, and combines that quickness with a wicked shoulder fake to beat press coverage. Ford's ability to get to full speed so quickly makes him tough to press, as if he beats the press he is several strides behind the defender before they even have time to react.
Against "off coverage" (man or zone), he still has excellent straight line speed but his route running mostly appears to be go routes, slants, and sluggos. He will need to make sharper cuts, but in lieu of those so-so routes he has an outstanding change of pace, where he appears to be going full speed, and when he threatens a defender's cushion he can change speed and go by them. His high school team seems to like utilizing him on jump ball go routes in the end zone and he has great timing on when to jump and go catch the ball with his hands at its highest point. It seems obvious that a receiver should "catch with their hands" but the Hokies never were able to establish a deep threat who could win a jump ball, and perhaps the most promising receiver on the roster (Josh Stanford) has a habit of letting the ball get into his chest. I look for guys to snatch the ball with their hands.
Ford also appears to be very versatile. His high school team aligns him as a motioning flanker, a slot receiver, and a true split end. At the end of the season, he was even used often as a wildcat quarterback. As offenses have become more multiple, each position requires different strengths. For the Hokies, a split end (on the line of scrimmage, often on the boundary) has to beat press coverage, run solid routes against bump and run and man coverage, and is usually a bigger body. Those receivers must be adept blocking on screens, running slants, posts, go routes, and curls. The flanker (off the line of scrimmage) is usually quicker and isn't as good at getting off press coverage. Flankers usually get free releases and often run crossing routes over the middle, and for Loeffler they will usually be the receiver in motion. The slot receiver usually is the quickest receiver in tight space, and is looked to be a fearless player who can get open in zones normally manned by linebackers. Ford is used in all three roles. He has highlight plays as a runner on jet sweeps (even throwing a pass off of a rocket sweep reverse pass). He threatens safeties vertically (imagine him running the same route as Kalvin Cline in the Sun Bowl) from the slot, and he beats both press and off coverage on slants and go routes from split end.
Besides his route running being improved, I would like to see Ford add a bit of size. He is listed at 6-2, 177 pounds. In Loeffler's offense, he will need to block (I didn't notice any plays with him blocking on the highlight reel) and the extra size and strength will help. That may hamper his initial efforts to get immediate playing time, especially with four experienced receivers returning ahead of him and several other talented freshmen in the mix for playing time, but of the current group of verbal commitments only Cam Phillips looks more polished in his receiving technique than Ford. He has a bit of that Eddie Royal look to him, and I don't throw that comparison around lightly.
He could also contribute as a punt returner. I was impressed with how quickly he got up field on punt returns, and instead of running away from guys, he runs right into tight spaces and go through the seams. That is critical for a punt returner, as it is rare where the slow developing wide alley opens up for long returns anymore. Ford's speed and assertiveness could make him a contender to play right away, especially given how poorly the Hokies returned punts in 2013.
It's possible Ford ends up as a two-sport athlete at Virginia Tech. He's a gifted basketball player too.
Welcome to HokieNation Isaiah Ford!