Last July, 2018 DB D.J. Crossen of Greensboro, N.C.'s Dudley HS took two visits to Blacksburg in as many weeks, and seemed awful high on the Hokies.
With one of Crossen's teammates committing to join the 2017 class in QB Hendon Hooker, and two friendly faces from his home state already on campus in Adonis Alexander and Mook Reynolds, the young DB certainly had plenty of reasons to lean toward Virginia Tech.
Instead, Crossen decided to end his recruitment early and commit to UNC in mid-August.
But once DBs coach Charlton Warren decided to leave Chapel Hill for the same position with Tennessee in mid-January, Crossen started to have second thoughts. A week later, he decommitted from North Carolina, putting one of the Hokies' top DB targets for 2018 back on the market.
"I just felt like I didn't take my time like I should have," Crossen told The Key Play. "With the DBs coach leaving, that was a big part of it too because he was a main reason for me committing to North Carolina, so I just really wanted to re-evaluate everything and make sure I was doing the best thing for me."
That loss for UNC could certainly prove to be Tech's gain, and it would seem that Justin Fuente and company have not been shy about reaching out to Crossen now that he's opened things back up.
"Virginia Tech has really been recruited me hard," Crossen said. "They've been texting me, calling me more, and I've been planning to visit up there more often as well."
Crossen said it's largely been a full court press from Tech's staff in the wake of his de-commitment, with "pretty much every coach" on the Hokies taking some time to let Crossen know they're still interested. That includes Fuente himself, who Crossen says texts him and DMs him on Twitter all the time.
But he's also taken care to develop close ties with his would-be position coaches in Blacksburg, Brian Mitchell and Galen Scott. Though Crossen says the Hokies "predominantly see me as a corner," they're still open to him playing "really any position" in the secondary.
Accordingly, he says he works mainly with Mitchell, and Crossen feels he's developed "a fantastic relationship" with him.
"He talks to me a lot, and actually gives me pointers about how to play better in high school," Crossen said. "So we have a great relationship, but so do me and Coach Scott."
Indeed, he doesn't expect he'll end up at safety if he comes to Blacksburg, but he isn't ruling anything out just yet.
"I told both of them, 'Wherever you want to put me, I'll do it,' if that's the place that I land at," Crossen said.
But Crossen suspects that sticking at cornerback could also afford him the surest chance to earn playing time quickly. With Reynolds and Alexander potentially set to depart Blacksburg by the time Crossen would arrive on campus, and the Hokies signing just a single corner in the 2017 class, the 2018er thinks he could easily slide into a prominent role right away.
"They really just tell me that the veterans they have now like Mook Reynolds and Adonis Alexander, they're gonna be gone, they're gonna graduate, so I could be a real big factor for them in playing early, possibly as a true freshman," Crossen said.
Crossen stressed that he considers the opportunity to get on the field a "major factor" as he weighs each program pursuing him, but he's hardly eliminating any school that "wants me to redshirt or play behind somebody."
Instead, he has a different standard he wants each program to meet.
"Honestly, I look more for who's going to develop me more as a player," Crossen said.
Luckily for the Hokies, Crossen's taken note of their proficiency in that department, particularly when it comes to putting DBs in the pros.
"That's a major factor too because of the tradition they have," Crossen said. "I feel like once you have a tradition set in stone, including Bud Foster developing defensive players, that's a major factor."
Now, the Hokies are working to ensure Crossen returns to Blacksburg to reacquaint himself with campus after his time committed to UNC. First, he'll be visiting for junior day events at programs like Tennessee and UVA (and he's fresh off a trip to Duke to see the Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels in basketball).
Once he gets through those events, he expects he could end up at Tech this spring to see what he's been missing in Blacksburg.
"Me and Coach Fuente are getting together about that, he wants me to come down for spring ball and stuff like that," Crossen said.