Justin Fuente Gives Recruits a Field-Level View of Spring Practice in Latest Visitor Weekend

With practice in full swing, the Hokies gave dozens of recruits an up-close look at spring drills last weekend.


Normally, when Justin Fuente wants to make a big show of offering a prospect on a recruiting weekend, he follows Frank Beamer's lead and calls them up to his expansive office.

The spacious suite certainly makes an impression on any visitor, with its plethora of windows providing the head Hokie with a view of everything from Lane Stadium to the team's mammoth practice facility.

But with spring practice underway when the latest crop of high school prospects swung through Blacksburg on April 1, Fuente decided to mix things up a bit.

With 2019 DE Brandon Smith of Mineral, Va.'s Louisa County HS in town for his second visit to Tech, the head coach decided to lead him out onto the practice field to give him some good news, even as the team's drills continued.

"I was expecting for the visit to keep on going, and then maybe he'd have us getting pulled into his office privately," Smith told The Key Play. "I didn't know he'd pull me out onto the field with everyone else there."

Smith says Fuente told him "right then and there" that the Hokies would be offering the 6'3", 210-pound prospect, and every one of the 25 prospects in attendance got a chance to see it happen.

"He seems like a really good coach that players will want to fight for and play for every game," Smith said. "Just an all-around laid back person."

Meanwhile, some of the Hokies' other assistants took advantage of the adjacent practice as well. Even as the team's running backs worked through drills, Zohn Burden took a few minutes to explain to RB Ronnie Walker of Hopewell (Va). HS exactly what he was seeing.

"We were out on the practice field, so he gave me the terminology of how they call plays and stuff," Walker said. "It was fairly easy, and they run a lot of the same stuff that the offense I play in now does, so it'll be easy to catch onto it."

2018 WR Dillon Spalding of Lorton, Va.'s South County HS also came away impressed with an offense that looks "all very similar to my school," based on "its tempo and the style." Same goes for 2019 OT Darrian Dalcourt of Baltimore's St. Frances Academy, who thinks he'd be immediately "comfortable" in such a system.

"We run a no-huddle offense, so it wouldn't be too different to do something like that," Dalcourt said.

But beyond its speed, Walker said he got a good feel for how the offense makes use of running backs, and he took note of "a lot of run plays, and a lot of passes out the backfield too."

And given the team's uncertainty at running back moving forward, Burden seems to think Walker — who's rated a 4-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite rankings — could prove to be a perfect fit for the offense's unique demands.

"They said the ability to have great playing time and the ability to play early, it's just right there in front of me," Walker said. "(Burden) was saying that I have that breakaway speed, that ability to run touchdowns 70 yards from the goal line, just have the ability to go all the way and not be stopped by anyone."

Spalding says he got a similar pitch about how he could fit into the offense, though the Hokies seem to be focusing less on his size and more on his 6'2", 205-pound frame.

"They want bigger receivers that can go up and get it, and that's what I can do," said Spalding, who's also rated a 4-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Dalcourt said OL coach Vance Vice was a bit less specific about his interest in the OT. But considering his 6'4", 290-pound size and an early offer from Michigan, it's not hard to guess why the Hokies might be mulling offering Dalcourt.

"Coach Vice said he looked at my film, and in all film he looks for something special, and with all the recruits there, that's what they had," Dalcourt said.

As for Smith, he says Bud Foster and company are interested in his "athleticism" since that means he "could play multiple different positions." Though he largely plays defensive end now, he said he might be a bit more flexible if he ends up attending Tech.

"(Foster) said I could make a big difference on that side of the ball, go sideline-to-sideline and make plays," Smith said. "And I could also play between the tackles and be able to drop back in coverages on slot receivers and tight ends."

That versatility, and the team's current work to build depth at defensive end, means Smith is also hearing plenty about the chance to play early.

"They said I could be able to play from freshman year," Smith said. "It really shows the hard work and all the sacrifices that I'm making are paying off."

But, for now, Smith isn't planning a return trip to Tech just yet to learn more about his most recent offer, saying he still needs to consult with the coaches to find the best possible time to visit.

Meanwhile, Walker says he could try and make it to the team's spring game on April 22, as could Spalding. But Walker acknowledges that it might be hard to make that date work, since he has an Opening workout the day after, so he may simply head to "another practice" instead.

Dalcourt is looking a bit farther down the line still, to a certain big game close to home at FedEx Field.

"They wanted me to come to a game, and they play in D.C., so that might be something I head up to see," Dalcourt said.


I love getting these glimpses into the recruiting weekends, thanks for the write up.

Also, I'm excited about all of the possible receivers we could pick up this class (Turner, Brown, Chatman, Mitchell, etc) but my number 1 is Spalding. His tape looks like he can do everything, catch in traffic, high point the ball, strong stiff arm, and I didn't see it in the video link above, but one of his hudl films shows him block a guy for about 40 yards on another teammates TD, and a few other impressive blocks. He seems like the total package and I think Fuente would have a field day with him.

I agree that Spalding should be number 1 on the big board for WR

1-0 every week

Tre Turner or bust as the number 1 receiver we target in this cycle. Kid will be a star in college on the outside, he has great body control, great speed and route running, good hands and will fight for the ball in coverage. Must get!

Definitely. Don't even know if spalding is in the coaches top group honestly.

You're the second person in a couple weeks who has said something along those lines, just wondering why people are saying this. I'm fine if it's true, I trust Fuente to choose his recruits, just wondering why this is a rumor.

I am definitely not a recruiter and have no expertise in evaluating talent, but if I ignore the stars and rankings and just watch their tape, I get more excited about what I see from Spalding. Not disrespecting Turner at all, I think he would also be a great addition. Ultimately I hope we land both.

Spalding looks like a more natural receiver, but Tre has the is more athletic WR to get YAC. Which Fuente is all bout. Spalding's stiff arms make a nice highlight reel, but I don't see those working against college competition. Are you watching Tre's sophomore or junior tape?

I think the two could complement each other, but I think Fuente's offense might favor Tre

Tre Turner sounds like a stud. You mention all of those positives and failed to mention that the kid is 6'4".

I'll gladly take Spalding too. I don't know much about him...just that he is pretty highly rated and from VA. I'd be happy with another body at WR (6'2", 200lbs already).

Hopefully we get James Mitchell too. He is just down the road and sounds like a very solid prospect. Speaking of...he is visiting this weekend. Jamal Elliott is also.

Devon Hunter in town this weekend too. I'm sure he'll be in their ears

I'm a big fan of Spalding -

"That man was violating a city ordinance, and I was just doing my duty to enforce it." - Mike Curtis

"..because anytime you go upside a man's head, or a woman's, they have a tendency to blink their eyes.." - Deacon Jones

This is an underrated comment

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

Me too. Swimming to Cambodia, anyone?

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Was it mentioned somewhere that Spalding might be playing another sport ?


Golf, no tennis

'Its easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat,
but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat'

Get your foot off the boat!

"It's always great to beat UVA, that makes us all smarter and better looking for a couple days".

You'll get nothing and LIKE IT!

You're playing golf and you're gonna like it

Another great insightful writeup Alex.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

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Awesome write up Alex ! Great insight

Didn't Quinn Carroll visit this weekend too? His brother Collin was a long snapper for the Hokies (and just an awesome guy) and Quinn's one of the top OT prospects. I'm hoping his brother wants a legacy and steers him to the good guys.

Indeed he did. Alex reached out for an interview, but unfortunately he did not get a response back.

Hopefully he gets back to Alex and it gives him an excuse to do another article. Great stuff as always.

These are real cool stories. Hopefully our recruiting keeps getting better.

CJF continue to amaze me.. he sees, and he gets. The future is very bright.

As someone who's from Central Virginia, I'm really excited to see a kid there get an offer from Tech. I know Louisa always had a powerhouse program when I was in high school, so the kid must have talent. Let's hope he chooses us over LOLUVA.

I am the heartbeat of Blacksburg. A fortress built out of stone but made with champions.

Great writeup Alex. It is content like this (and the fact that the member count was 459), that finally got me off the fence and got me to join The Key Players Club. I figured being able to be #460 was a sign I should join. Keep up the great recruiting analysis and hopefully some of these recruits will be in orange and maroon in a couple of years.

Welcome to the club.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club