After a staff shakeup at UNC, a top out-of-state cornerback prospect is opening up his recruitment and giving the Hokies another look.
No, it's not 2018er D.J. Crossen (though the Greensboro, N.C. standout did return to Blacksburg last week). This time around, it's Donte Burton of Lawrenceville, Ga.'s Central Gwinnett HS hitting reset on his recruitment, with Justin Fuente and company in hot pursuit.
"I'm just looking, exploring my options to see what I have out there," Burton told The Key Play. "And Virginia Tech is definitely a school I will be thinking about, because UNC, at first they lost the coach that recruited me (former DBs coach Charlton Warren), then they lost their defensive coordinator, Gene Chizik, and stuff's up in the air right now. So I'm just exploring my options."
Like Crossen, Burton was committed to UNC for quite a while — he offered Larry Fedora his pledge last July — but he changed his mind on April 13.
That decision came just a few days after his very first trip to Tech's campus on April 1, though he says he's been thinking about the Hokies for months now. In particular, one big win for Tech in some monsoon conditions stuck out to the CB.
"I knew Virginia Tech, they were known for their defense, and I play defense, so that was a big plus on that end," Burton said. "And then I saw Virginia Tech, they beat UNC, and I was like, 'Oh dang.' So then I was really ecstatic about how they reached out to me and emphasized that I was a player of the caliber to come out there and play with them."
Burton says OL coach Vance Vice took the lead in his recruitment right away, and all of Tech's coaches had some "big things" to say about Blacksburg. Accordingly, he decided to see things for himself when the team invited dozens of prospects to take in an early spring practice.
"I thought it was a really nice campus," Burton said. "It was big, but everything seemed within range, so it seemed like you didn't need to go too far to get where you needed to be."
Like the rest of the two dozen or so recruits on hand, Burton got a field-level view of just how Fuente runs practice, and he came away especially enamored with how the head Hokie was "just having a good time with everybody that was out there."
"I got to see all the coaches and players just jumping around, having a good time out there in practice, how they do their day-to-day routine, how the players do their thing," Burton said.
He says he paid especially close attention to how CBs coach Brian Mitchell ran his drills and "one-on-one periods" for the DBs, to try and understand just how his prospective position coach operates.
"I feel like he's a coach that lets you have fun and play your game, but then he's a teacher and he teaches you when you make mistakes," Burton said. "I just feel like he could be a good coach for me."
Burton says Mitchell spent plenty of time with him during the day, and made one thing perfectly clear; the Hokies have some big needs in the secondary. Mitchell told Burton that "they're taking two safeties and two corners" in the 2018 recruiting class alone, and they won't be afraid to play those youngsters early.
"They feel like I have a great chance of playing early because a lot of guys there are leaving and going on to do bigger, better things, so that really opened my eyes to see I could be able to play as a true freshman," Burton said.
But the Hokies don't simply see Burton as a warm body — he says they raved about his fluid technique and believe he has the "speed and quickness to play at a high level." He's currently rated a 3-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite rankings.
"They see me as being a corner and a lockdown corner that can take on the one-on-one challenges in man coverage," Burton said. "And they see me as a corner that can be versatile, and their defense is very versatile, so they see me as a great fit for the program."
Likewise, Burton thinks he'd fit perfectly in just such a role, since he feels "man-on-man coverage is one of my specialties."
And though he has trips to West Virginia and Pitt on the docket for the coming weeks, Burton is already planning another trip to Tech now that his recruitment is wide open once more.
"I'm not sure on an exact day, but I know I'm gonna be coming back up there soon," Burton said.