By hanging 36 points on Liberty, 49 on Boston College and 54 on ECU in their first three games at Lane Stadium, the Hokies managed to score 35 points or more in each of their opening trio of home games for the first time since 2005.
That sort of early scoring proficiency is a big reason why fan optimism is skyrocketing about the beginning of the Justin Fuente era (and a big reason why the team is 3-1 heading into its bye week), but that quick success also looks mighty impressive to the bevy of recruits the team's invited to Blacksburg in September.
While past years have featured some particularly rough home performances in the early going — Tech's back-to-back losses to ECU and Georgia Tech in 2014 stand as fine examples of this phenomenon — this new season has given visitors plenty to admire on offense.
2018 TE James Mitchell of Big Stone Gap, Va.'s Union HS made the trek to Tech to see the Hokies play the Eagles, a game that's often proved to be a defensive affair over the last few seasons.
That was not the case at all this time around.
"They showed that they can hurt you on offense," Mitchell said. "They've got some athletes on the outside and some good backs back there and they can score just about anytime. They've got an explosive offense."
That's probably just the sort of description from recruits AD Whit Babcock had in mind when he hired an offensive guru like Fuente, particularly when coming from an athlete like Mitchell. Though he plays TE primarily, the coaches seem to think the 6'4", 210-pound junior could easily slide into the hybrid role Bucky Hodges currently occupies, and they tried to focus his attention accordingly.
"As far as my role, they just told me to watch Bucky," Mitchell said. "They said that was kinda what I could do if I came there, Bucky's role."
The coaches made a similar pitch to 2018 WR/DB Naim Muhammad of Hyattsville, Md.'s DeMatha Catholic HS, giving him a shot to watch fellow DeMatha alum Cam Phillips against ECU in his first ever visit to Tech. But while he says he found the offense "just incredible," including Phillips' 55-yard TD, it was the efforts of Greg Stroman that really stood out.
"That punt return, I really liked that, because I'm a returner also," Muhammad said.
2019 WR Jacoby Pinckney of Roebuck, S.C.'s Dorman HS was watching Phillips and Isaiah Ford closely as well, and considering that the pair combined for 172 yards, he had plenty to keep an eye on.
"They set their wide receivers up to make plays," Pinckney said. "That's what a receiver likes, getting a one-on-one opportunity to make plays. I liked that. It really stood out."
Pinckney may be young, but the 6'3", 192-pound receiver is already hearing from WRs coach Holmon Wiggins that he could be the one getting those playmaking opportunities sooner rather than later.
"Coach Wiggins said now he wants to start speeding things up, so I'll do what I've got to do," Pinckney said. "If I come up there, I'd be able to play early because they need some receivers, some mature people that can play early in their careers, and I think I'd fit into their offense after watching that game."
Pinckney has yet to earn ratings from most of the major recruiting services (though 247Sports grades him as a 4-star prospect), but the Hokies have been interested in him for a while now. Tech offered him at a camp this summer, giving him a quality chance to meet Fuente for the first time.
"When I came up to camp I actually talked to him for a good 30, 35 minutes, and he's a cool guy, down to earth," Pinckney said. "He'll give it to you straight, I like his coaching style. He's a real good person."
Pinckney got another chance to chat with Fuente on this trip, in addition to Wiggins and OC Brad Cornelsen, but he said it was his first chance to experience a game in Lane that really stood out.
"It was a great entrance to the stadium, I didn't think it would get that loud," Pinckney said. "But it was loud."
Mitchell said his recruitment's followed a similar pattern. After earning an offer in March, he visited for both a spring practice and the team's vaunted Blacksburg Bash, giving him a chance to get acquainted with Fuente.
"Just a good guy, cares about his kids," Mitchell said. "And he's a real good football coach, what he did at Memphis was pretty remarkable, so you can tell he was a good football coach as well."
But the BC game was Mitchell's first visit for a game as a recruit (his first trip to Lane came when he was just a kid, though he can't remember exactly when that was).
"I loved it, I mean playing in front of those fans every home game, you love that," Mitchell said. "It was a really great experience. Just everybody getting into the game, they've got a great fanbase."
For Muhammad, in his first trip to Blacksburg of any kind, the atmosphere was similarly impressive.
"It was great, a great experience, I loved the game, I loved everything about Virginia Tech," Muhammad said. "It was a good atmosphere, it was very live, everybody was cheering, upbeat, it was something."
Yet unlike Mitchell and Pinckney, Muhammad is still hoping for an offer from the Hokies, and he said the weekend provided another chance for him to chat with Wiggins (his area recruiter) about that prospect.
2017 DE Zion DeBose of Spencer, N.C.'s North Rowan HS found himself in a similar spot last Saturday. He's also angling for a Tech offer, making his first visit for a game after camping with the Hokies back in January.
"I loved the atmosphere and the fans were crazy, as soon as you walked in you could see all the orange and just hear them chanting and things like that," DeBose said. "The coach and the players in pregame, the energy they brought, I just loved it."
DeBose is currently committed to Appalachian State, but he said both DL coach Charley Wiles and James Shibest, his area recruiter, said they're "still interested and serious about me."
The offense might've been the prime focus in his visit for the game against ECU, but DeBose got a good long look at Bud Foster's defense and came away impressed.
"From a defensive end standpoint, they run a lot of 4-3, and that's what I'm running now in high school, so I can really fit in and really relate to that type of system and the way they do things," DeBose said. "It depends on how much weight I put on whether I end up at outside linebacker or defensive end, but from a DE standpoint, I could really see myself in that type of system, so it's a blessing. I could really see myself right there."
Indeed, DeBose said a Hokies offer could prove quite meaningful in his recruitment.
"If they shot me an offer, it'd be pretty serious," DeBose said. "I've done research on the school, they've got my major, they're not far away from home, the program is pretty good. They fit all the categories to what I'm looking into a school for, so it'd be pretty serious, it'd be a nice one."
He noted that Wiles and Shibest told him that "they've got it on their planning calendar to come down here and watch me play" as they mull extending him an offer, but he'd relish the chance to come back to Blacksburg. DeBose said he originally hoped to come down for Tech's Thursday night game against Miami, but with a game the next day, he might have to postpone another trip for a bit.
"If I sit down with my parents and they're in the mix and they mess around and they offer, then I may look at them for an official visit, but as for catching games, I really don't know the next time I'll be back down in Blacksburg," DeBose said.
Mitchell is also uncertain about a date for his next visit since he has trips to Virginia, Notre Dame, Clemson and Duke all on his agenda. But he did say the staff assured him that "I could come back for any home game I wanted."
Meanwhile, Muhammad is hoping to set another visit date "very soon," while Pinckney is set to see the Hokies again next week, albeit in a different context.
He'll be heading to Chapel Hill on Oct. 8 for UNC's matchup with Tech, with another trip to see South Carolina square off against Tennessee set for the end of the month — not coincidentally, VT, UNC and USC are the three schools he sees "standing out" the most right about now.
But once the winter rolls around, he wants to get back to Tech in February to start studying up on the whole school.
"My mom wanted to do the campus tour, but they didn't really have time to do that," Pinckney said. "So I'll be back down for a junior day in February to see the campus and the dorms and talk about their education and stuff, grades."