HokieNation was surprised when, late in the recruiting process, quarterback Chris Durkin switched his commitment from Michigan State to the Hokies. Durkin is a 6-foot-3-inch, 230 pound quarterback prospect who played high school ball at Ursuline in Youngstown, Ohio. He was a late target for Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Without stepping foot in Blacksburg, Durkin changed his commitment because Loeffler indicated he would have the opportunity to compete for playing time early in his career.
At points throughout the 2013 season, the Hokies were dangerously thin on the offensive line. Against Alabama, Virginia Tech only dressed six offensive linemen with any collegiate game experience, along with true freshman Jonathan McLaughlin. Depth improved with the return of Mark Shuman, and the transition of Alston Smith and Wyatt Teller from defensive to offensive line. However, the Hokies never needed to test those new guys when the game was on the line as none of the starters suffered an injuries serious enough to miss a game.
The safety position in Bud Foster's defense has a storied history, filled with unique athletes that could both cover man-to-man and play close to the line of scrimmage in run support. Since the graduation of Willie Pile, the Hokies have had a series of heady safeties that were solid in coverage, but didn't produce the interceptions and turnovers that some of the great Hokie safeties of the 90's had a reputation for producing. Even Kam Chancellor, who dominated the Super Bowl with his run support, did not generate many interceptions while a Hokie. The current pairing of Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner had a tremendous season serving as a safety net for the Hokies young corners. Jarrett also excelled in run support, while Bonner functioned well as a deep centerfield player and a serviceable cover man on the opponents third and fourth receivers. Both have operated essentially without competition as a series of recruiting failures left Torrian Gray with only inexperienced freshmen to spell both players. While Jarrett likely has an NFL future at free safety, the safety group as a whole lacks elite playmaking ability.
It seems like HokieHaven.com is backing off their report a bit; the one I originally cited in my post below. The first report of his commitment remains on the front-page of their website, although they've posted a second update behind their paywall. The teaser is, "Today, VT got a commitment from 2015 CB Mook Reynolds (right) after its junior day, though as he explains to HokieHaven.com, his recruitment might not quite be over."
Virginia Tech secured a commitment from 2015 defensive back DuWayne Johnson this evening. The Hokies were hosting recruits during their first junior day of the 2015 cycle. He's rated a 3-star prospect by both Rivals.com and 247Sports from Washington, D.C. (H. D. Woodson).
To All 2014 Virginia Tech Signees:
First of all, congratulations! We here at Thekeyplay.com community are thrilled to have you aboard, and think you have really made the best choice possible. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, HokieNation, are all anxiously awaiting your arrival.
I realize that the transition from high school superstar to collegiate freshman can be challenging, and thinking about all of the forthcoming changes is probably quite intimidating. Lucky for you, I'm here to lay out some of the basics. You see, I've been to college, I've been to college quite recently in fact. I know the do's, the don'ts, the ins, the outs and really most of the things that you'll want to do, but probably shouldn't. I'm basically like a combination of Tinkerbell, Van Wilder and Jimmy Turk.
By now, the news that defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi won't be on Virginia Tech's football roster this fall has probably sunk in for Hokies fans. But a look to 2015's targets renews hope for a top-flight defensive lineman.
Stonewall Jackson (Manassas) junior Tim Settle — all 6 feet, 3 inches and 305 pounds of him — is a blue-chip recruit. According to the 247Sports Composite rank, he's a 5-star prospect and the No. 3 DT in the 2015 cycle.
He played about 60-percent of the Raiders' defensive snaps as a three-technique tackle and the remainder as a five on the outside edge.
Two years ago, Settle's speed opened eyes in the pass rush. Last season, his size helped anchor Stonewall's rush defense.
For a brief moment, I want to take off my hat as a Thekeyplay.com columnist and speak casually, as someone who has been a fan of the Virginia Tech program since 1993. This National Signing Day has not been as peachy as the Virginia Tech Sports Information Department will characterize it. It has not been as disastrous as the doom and gloom crowd will make it out to be.
I am as frustrated as any Virginia Tech fan. For the Hokies to be a true NATIONAL power, they have to not only own the Commonwealth of Virginia in recruiting, but they have to compliment those recruits with critical need players outside of the Commonwealth. This year, the Hokies pilfered the Maryland player of the year (Cam Phillips), Pennsylvania's Gatorade Player of the Year (Andrew Ford), one of the best running backs from the Keystone state in the last decade (Shai McKenzie), and need players at linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line, and defensive line. Over the last decade, rarely has the Hokies recruiting footprint been stronger outside of the Commonwealth. And, I am convinced that this class has more READY TO PLAY TOMORROW players than any class in recent memory. In my opinion, Shai McKenzie, Marshawn Williams, Holland Fisher, and C.J. Reavis all have every physical tool to be All-ACC players early in their careers. Many more have the ability to be All-ACC talents if they stay healthy and are developed properly by the end of their careers.
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.
Raymon Minor of Benedictine College Preparatory (Richmond, VA) signed with the Hokies this morning. Minor, who stands 6-foot-3-inches tall, and weighs approximately 215 pounds, is rated as a 4-star prospect by both Rivals.com and 247Sports. He's an athlete who projects to play whip or backer, but is skilled enough to play wide receiver or even H-Back for Tech. According to Benedictine coach Greg Lilly, Minor had more than 20 scholarship offers, including Ohio State, Clemson, and Miami.
While it was disappointing Brady Taylor de-committed from Tech in favor of Ohio State, it is easy to forget that Virginia Tech still has a #FabFive coming to Blacksburg. Braxton Pfaff, a 6-5, 305 pound right guard, signed with Tech last February and deferred his enrollment. Pfaff also needed shoulder surgery and the delayed enrollment gave him an opportunity to rehab an injured shoulder.
Pfaff was the Hokies highest rated offensive line recruit in the 2013 class according to Rivals.com (slightly outranking 2013 starting left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin). At Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Pfaff was a do-everything guard. He excelled at both zone blocking and pulling out in front of Coach Frank Rocco's pro style power leads and counter treys. Pfaff also joins the Hokies as they look to replace team leader and coaches second-team All-ACC guard Andrew Miller. The Hokies only experienced right guard (Brent Benedict) spent most of 2013 at right tackle with Mark Shuman and Alston Smith got limited work on the left side. Pfaff's preferred position is right guard.
Early enrollee Shai McKenzie might be the most intriguing recruit in Tech's 2014 class. McKenzie is a 5-11, 215 pound running back from Washington, Pennsylvania—a suburb of Pittsburgh. He put up astronomical numbers at Washington High School before tearing his ACL early his senior season. As a junior, he nearly eclipsed Rushel Shell's WPIAL single-season rushing record with 2,689 yards and 42 touchdowns. As a senior, McKenzie rushed for 647 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged a whopping 37.4 yards per score during his junior year which climbed to 46.2 yards per touchdown last season. By all accounts I've read, McKenzie's rehabilitation of his knee injury is progressing well. After committing to the Hokies over the hometown Pitt Panthers, Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Since suffering the injury, McKenzie has had surgery and rehabilitation. He said trainers have been impressed with his progress and he expects to be ready for the start of the 2014 season." Enrolling early will give McKenzie full time access to the Hokies physical therapy and rehabilitation team.
Up until now, Whit has been an outsider with a view. His Virginia roots provided him an understanding of the history and tradition of Virginia Tech athletics, but not the minutia of day-to-day operations. By his own account, every employee has a blank slate, and he'll begin the job with no preconceived notions. He's going to put forth the effort to take the vitals of the entire department via one-on-one meetings without a timetable, but rather a sense of urgency. "We're not going to change just for the sake of change," Whit said.
That's a logical, methodical, and intelligent way for Whit, or any new CEO, to begin his or her tenure. He'd probably get more of a roar from the fan base if he came in and immediately shook some things up. However, his plan for due diligence is prudent. Competent bosses don't try to fix problems they don't understand. Furthermore, aside from Tech's recent skid, the athletics programs have flourished more than floundered under Jim Weaver. Whit may not have to drastically change the way Tech does business.
For the last three seasons Derrick Hopkins, James Gayle, and J.R. Collins have been comfort food for the Virginia Tech football program. Each was leaned upon heavily early in their respective career to contribute significant snaps in lieu of veterans in the two-deep. Now, Foster and Charley Wiles will again try to address questions about depth along the front line. The defensive end position features a group of young, talented, but unproven defensive ends behind returner Dadi Nicolas, and the defensive tackle position is down to three scholarship players for spring practice with Kris Harley's departure from the program and the movement of Wyatt Teller and Alston Smith to offensive line.
Editor's Note: Mark Trible is going to cover recruiting among other subjects for Thekeyplay.com. Mark's a lifelong Tech fan, now sports editor of FauquierNow.com with a weekly column on TheSportsFanJournal.com. Follow his work by liking his Facebook page. -- Joe
It didn't take long for Briar Woods Coach Charlie Pierce to point to junior wide receiver Brandon Polk's most valuable asset.
"He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the U.S. Army underclassmen combine," Pierce said. "He's a very dynamic player, very explosive.
"He has the ability to turn any play into a big play."
Polk is one of Virginia Tech's targets in the 2015 recruiting class. Recruited by Aaron Moorehead, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound wideout has also received offers from Stanford and UVa. among others.
The Virginia Tech football program finds itself at a crossroads. For the first time since Tyrod Taylor's senior season, HokieNation is uncertain of the future at the quarterback position. Mark Leal may end up winning the starting job in 2014, but ultimately Scot Loeffler will be measured on his quarterbacks.
Loeffler secured verbal commitments from two highly regarded class of 2014 quarterbacks, Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin. Loeffler also pursued David Cornwell (Alabama) and Jacob Park (Georgia). The first quarterback to sign with Tech was Cedar Cliff High School's (Pennsylvania) Andrew Ford. Ford, is a 6-3,193-pound lefty thrower. He's rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and a 4-star recruit by 247Sports. He was also selected as an Elite 11 quarterback. As a senior, he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania.
In the wake of recent events, what with a new AD and the KeyPlay baby showing up yesterday, I thought it would be prudent to rejoin our Hokies in 2036 to check in on the state of the program.
On this warm September day, it is Head Coach Shane Beamer's fifth season in charge and he is yet to fully replicate the success of his predecessors. Head Coach Bud Foster retired after winning his third national championship, and he will be honored at halftime today in the Frank Beamer Terror Dome, a retractable roofed, on campus dome seating 114,000, built with the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by AD Whit Babcock. The dome was named for the two time national champion coach and Frank's only disappointment is that they did not meet his request to accommodate a 1/2 mile race track inside.
The Virginia Tech basketball team lost again. The Hokies' record sunk to 8-10 Wednesday after falling to Wake Forest 77-83. That's the same Wake club that previously dropped 17 league road games in a row. Yes, the Hokies lost in Cassell Coliseum. Yes, they've now lost the last game that they will probably be favored in this year (Tech was a two point favorite). And also, yes, this may signal that it will be tough for Tech to win another game this season.
Piling on is easy at this point, but I just figured we'd start there then move on, because what happened during said loss is what I really want to write about.
The 2014 Virginia Tech football schedule has been released. Thursday night football will once again happen in Blacksburg, and all is right with the world. Spoiler alert, there are two weekday games scheduled in the 'Burg.
Aug. 30: William & Mary — Tech opens with a cupcake. The emphasis is on cake. This is the correct decision as no form of cake can be wrong.
Sept. 6: at Ohio State — Tech will be a decided underdog, but home-and-homes between major programs make college football fun.