Once a "Backup Plan" for 2017 LB Dylan Rivers, Justin Fuente Helps the Hokies Pull Off a Major Flip

Thanks to plenty of persistence, the Hokies flipped one of the state's top recruits away from Penn State.

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Justin Fuente may have been the talk of the college football world when he arrived at Virginia Tech, but he started things off a bit behind the eight ball with Dylan Rivers.

The Hokies had long been in pursuit of the highly rated linebacker from Stephens City, Va.'s Sherando HS, hosting him for a bevy of visits to Blacksburg back when Frank Beamer was still running the show. In particular, Bud Foster put on the full court press with Rivers, yet Beamer's departure still left the talented LB unsure of how he might fit in Blacksburg.

"With Coach Beamer leaving, I committed to Penn State, and we kind of parted ways a little bit," Rivers told The Key Play. "But Coach Fuente really took me under his wing."

Indeed, Bill Hall, Rivers' head coach at Sherando, said he noticed that "things got a little fuzzy" between his star pupil and Virginia Tech immediately after Beamer's retirement, leading to his November 2015 commitment to the Nittany Lions. Nevertheless, he gives the Hokies (and Fuente in particular) immense credit for never giving up on Rivers, and he believes that tenacity helped lead Rivers back to Tech in the end.

"The first open recruiting period last year, the very first day they were allowed to get out into schools, Coach Fuente and Coach Foster came here," Hall said. "And I think Coach Fuente did a good job in terms of asking to build a relationship with Dylan. At the end of the day, Dylan could make a decision, but he wanted to just have an opportunity to have a chance to get to know him, for Dylan to get to know what Coach Fuente and the program was going to be about, and Dylan was open to that."

Yet Hall cautions that Rivers' decision to flip to the Hokies just a week and half before signing day was hardly some "snap decision," but rather "a culmination of a lot of things."

At first, Hall pushed Rivers to merely develop a "backup plan," and the Hokies positioned themselves well to earn that sort of consideration.

"That was kind of my advice to Dylan, 'Make sure you have a backup plan so that if something were to happen at Penn State, if there would be a reason that you wouldn't go there, what would be your backup plan?'" Hall said. "It was initially something that wasn't very comfortable for him, but if something were to happen in the world of college football the way it does, the staff is let go or moves onto another place, you don't want to be caught without other options. And so Tech was his other option."

From afar, the Hokies gave Rivers plenty to think about. Even as the Nittany Lions assembled their own breakout season, Rivers couldn't help but notice how Fuente managed to turn around the Hokies.

"I haven't been around football much, I didn't even like football growing up, I just started liking it when I got good at it," Rivers said. "So I didn't really understand the difference between a winning season and a losing season, good coach or bad coach, what it takes to perform and transform a team to become a 10-4 team, 10-5 team, a bowl-type team in the first year. I heard he did that at Memphis, and then he came (to Tech) and he said he was going to do it and he did it. So that was pretty impressive if you ask me."

And all the while, Fuente made an effort to reach out to Rivers and his family on a regular basis.

"He was very, very genuine with my mother, he was kind and genuine with me and he was just the right fit for me," Rivers said.

But Rivers says Foster's decision to stay in Blacksburg was a huge part of why he was even willing to hear Fuente out in the first place.

"We regained that relationship and it was big to me that he was loyal to his word," Rivers said. "He's always been honest with me, and I really appreciated that. That was one of the big reasons I committed, his honesty."

Hall certainly noticed that the two developed some pretty strong bonds through the process, even after the "uncertainty during the transition scared Dylan a little bit."

"Those two have a special relationship in terms of the trust they've built up in each other and being consistent with each other, and I think that's been built over time," Hall said. "I think Dylan appreciates the type of man he is and the type of character he possesses and trust he puts in him moving forward."

Based on all those factors, Rivers ultimately decided to take an official visit to Blacksburg in early December and give the Hokies one last shot to woo him in person.

"It was nice to sit down and eat with them, talk to them, not just about football but about life, what goes on after football," Rivers said. "Just have those conversations you need to have in order to commit to a big university like that."

With signing day approaching, Rivers felt increasingly conflicted. James Franklin certainly helped make Penn State an attractive option, but Rivers found himself compelled to stay in his home state.

"I just had to step back," Rivers said. "Coach Franklin is a great man, he treated me really well throughout the process, but I had to step back and think about what I wanted. Penn State is a tremendous school for football, the tradition is great there, but it just wasn't the right fit for me. It's a great school and I encourage all recruits to go there and give them a chance, but it just wasn't for me. When I step on Virginia Tech's campus, it feels like home. I know the surroundings, I've been there a lot, I like being there, it's in my home state, and that was a big deal to me.

Rivers took his official visit to Happy Valley on Jan. 20, and by then, he felt he knew what he had to do. He told Penn State's coaches about his plans to de-commit, and announced his flip on Jan. 22.

"It was really difficult, and a kid with his type of character, he didn't take that lightly that he'd already committed to another place," Hall said. "But that backup plan I think, in the end, became more appealing for him."

Based on what he's seen from the pairing of Fuente and Foster in the early going, Hall felt completely comfortable in Rivers making that call.

"One of the things I always look at is the stability in the program," Hall said. "There's a lot of stability with Coach Fuente now there and Coach Foster continuing on his tradition, but also believing in what Coach Fuente's doing, and the marriage of those two, and the strength of that. Obviously that's very appealing, and you'd like for your players when they go away to be with someone throughout their entire time. Someone who will not only nourish their football and education experience, but then as people, changing from kids into men, so obviously there's a lot of stability there and Dylan believes in that."

Now, Rivers is busy plotting out what his future could look like in Blacksburg. Chiefly, the Hokies told him that they view him as their heir apparent to Tremaine Edmunds, and he looks forward to following in his footsteps.

"They want me to come in and learn from him, get on the field a little bit so I'm ready to play my sophomore year," Rivers said. "Obviously, I'm going to have to work for that, and I'm going to have to reach some goals in order to overcome what I have so far and get on the field. Obviously that's the set plan, so I don't know what will happen, but that's the goal."

Hall thinks he can thrive in that sort of role, given his immense athleticism.

"He can play inside the box or outside the box, and I think that's the nice thing about Coach Foster, with his expertise, he sees what strengths Dylan has and he can use those to the team's advantage," Hall said. "Dylan brings a lot of things off the edge, but he also has a lot of experience inside the box. That'll be up to Coach Foster and those guys, but I think they see him as being both inside and outside."

But even with that high praise and his lofty star ratings, Rivers doesn't plan to simply waltz into Blacksburg unprepared.

"I've been working, trying to get conditioned so I can run with those guys when I get there," Rivers said. "I know I probably won't be able to, but getting on campus and getting conditioned and getting ready to go for summer camp, that's the biggest deal right now."

Comments

Excellent write up as always Alex! Very interesting to see how unfamiliar he was with football growing up.

Chiefly, the Hokies told him that they view him as their heir apparent to Tremaine Edmunds, and he looks forward to following in his footsteps.

"They want me to come in and learn from him, get on the field a little bit so I'm ready to play my sophomore year,"

I've been saying this on here for months, and most of my comments about this have gone ignored. Tremaine is gone if he has another season like last year. Not trying to be the wet towel on the 2018 hype train, but this is good for recruiting (especially linebackers) in the long run. That said, I definitely was picturing Rivers as a Mike.

Nothing wet towel about it. I'd want all our players to have breakout seasons and to jump early - since that'll hopefully get us more talent that we can sell early playing time.

Tremaine already had his breakout season this year . Next year he will only get better but great to see us getting great LB recruits to help recruit better in future

Not trying to be the wet towel on the 2018 hype train

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate, and hetzers gonna hetz

His size and frame will has NFL scouts drooling. 6'5" is crazy compared to our past LBs at his spot.

While he doesn't say it specifically it sounds like he's ok with possibly redshirting his freshman year. I know it must be hard but I love when a big time recruit has the humility to take a good attitude about redshirting. I remember Tim had a great attitude and it profited him greatly.

Sometimes I like to leave off the /s just to mess with people.

Great article. Goes to show that flips aren't necessarily the result of a last minute snake oil sales pitch, bribery, or other shadiness.

Again, I think Whit and the hiring committee made the best possible hire for Tech.

Goes to show that flips aren't necessarily the result of a last minute snake oil sales pitch, bribery, or other shadiness.

Of course, you know, when the flip doesn't go our way. Then it's def $EC issues.

/S

It's a coping mechani$m for a lot of people.

Excellent article. Getting Rivers really added to this class.

Yeah, quality recruits really streamed in this past year

Here lies It's a Stroman Jersey I Swear, surpassed in life by no one because he intercepted it.

I really hope we get Dax Hollifield. They could be awesome together.

got offers from fsu, bama and lsu over the last few days. going to be a battle.

Probably didn't hurt that Dylan's dad is Coach Foster's kid brother.

#thisishome

Leonard. Duh.

Seriously. I looked at that picture and was like 'we cloned a younger Bud!?"

That's coach hall not his dad

Stick it in

Coach Hall is Dylan's dad and Coach Foster's little brother? This shouldn't have been a flip, this should've have been a slam dunk.

Leonard. Duh.

To risk kicking the hornets nest, I think the Rivers flip is a bigger story from the 2017 cycle than the Capehart drama.

"I mean, you know, fuck them, but good for them." -Too Druck to Funk

I can't imagine anyone would disagree with you.

Hokies United l Ut Prosim

Easily

That's like saying "To risk kicking the hornets nest, I think Justin Fuente was the better first year coach from the 2016 season than Scott Frost (UCF)."
Sure, someone might disagree, but the only people who would put up a fuss are doing so from a very narrowly constrained point of view (in Capehart's case, recruiting a specific school) and you're not going to get much of that here anyway. So, kick away...

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

A lot of the Cape outrage was just people not wanting to lose momentum. I think most everyone would have picked Rivers if given the choice between the two given how our linebacker play was suspect the past few years.

Outspoken team cake advocate. Hates terrapins. Resident Macho Man Gif Poster. Distant cousin to Dork Magic. Frequently misspells words.

So, what you're saying is, "The biggest 5 stories for VT recruiting in 2017 are..."

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I lost it laughing. This is the wittiest comment I've ever seen on TKP. I don't understand how this has been posted for nearly 1.5 hours and isn't green.

Twitter me

I don't understand how this has been posted for nearly 1.5 hours and isn't green.

I blame Chris Beatty.

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I love that we got Rivers and hope he will be a star in Blacksburg. What I love even more is what his coach said about Fuente, Foster, and the program as a whole. I think the image the coach painted is exactly what you want your program to be, stable and effective.

Rivers could certainly play backer- given that Beckett moved to mike, it could be possible that Beckett plays mike and Rivers at backer when Tremaine moves on, possibly next year. Ashby is there at mike. Kearney at backer- Artis and Hollifield as top targets down the road.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Isn't Dax a Mike? If so then it seems Foster's dream would be a Dax/Rivers combo.

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

Are you insinuating that opposing offenses will have to cross the perilous River Dax?

Actually I'm implying that after they somehow are successful Walkers over the Settle Hill then they must try to Ford the Dax Rivers all while the Hunter is targeting them. They will need a Mihota amount of luck to survive. If it were me I'd Motuapoopoo my pants.

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

This is probably the best thing I have seen on here to date

Opponents will have few Gaines and much Payne, while hokie fans will have Fullwood.

I already forgot the recruits that got away. I look forward to Dylan and other talented recruits that joined Hokienation. The future is bright!