Justin Fuente and his offensive staff may be the hot commodity in Blacksburg, given their novelty and quick success, but it seems the Hokies' longtime defensive assistants haven't lost their ability to find some common ground with recruits.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster and defensive line coach Charley Wiles may not be young and hip like Fuente and the rest of his staff, yet some of their top targets on the defensive line for the 2018 and 2019 classes are connecting with them just fine.
Take 2018 DT Cam Goode of D.C.'s St. John's College HS, for example. In his first visit to Tech for an early April spring practice, he got to see just how Foster and Wiles have their own distinct tactics for relating to recruits that are just a third of their own age.
"Coach Foster, he came up to me and tried to be all bulky, like 'Hey, I need you here,'" Goode told The Key Play during "The Opening" regional camp at Centreville HS, while mustering his best impression of Foster's gravelly voice. "Coach Wiles is a lot more relaxed. He's an open guy, someone I can connect with."
Indeed, he says Wiles isn't afraid to show off his softer side, particularly when it comes to showing off some of Southwestern Virginia's amenities.
"He's legit, he sends me a lot of pictures of him fishing with his son, so I like him a lot," Goode said. "Somebody I could be coached by."
For others on the same visit, like 2019 DE Brandon Smith of Mineral, Va.'s Louisa County HS, it was the pair's decades of defensive expertise that really stood out.
"They know what they're talking about, so when they come to me and tell me that I'd fit in their program, it really means a lot to hear that from big-time coaches who have been doing what they're doing for so many years," Smith said.
2018 DE John Morgan of Hyattsville, Md.'s DeMatha Catholic HS visited Tech two weeks later, but he got the same sort of impression from Foster and Wiles.
"That lunchpail D, you can't go wrong with it," Morgan said. "(Wiles is) probably one of the best D-line coaches in the country. The knowledge from him is one of the tops in the country."
Morgan was especially impressed with the "great chemistry" among the whole staff. He got a chance to see the team scrimmage on his trip, though with a bevy of injuries plaguing the defense in particular, he's well aware he wasn't seeing the squad at full strength.
"Right now, I know they've got some guys hurt, like 99 (DE Vinny Mihota), so it's just a building process right now," Morgan said. "But I think they'll be one of the top teams in the ACC."
But the flip side of seeing the team without some of its top defensive line talents is that Morgan got a taste for just how badly the Hokies are hoping to build depth at the position, and Foster and Wiles weren't shy about selling the prospect of early playing time.
"It's a really high chance (to play early), me coming in as one of the top prospects, and they're looking for me to make a contribution," Morgan said.
Specifically, the coaches envision the 6'2", 236-pound prospect (who doubles as a tight end for DeMatha on occasion) filling the sort of role Ken Ekanem once occupied as a "stand-up rush end."
"I really like that, with their defensive line, they switch things around, the D-ends can drop and stuff like that," Morgan said. "So I think being an outside linebacker or D-end would be a good role for me."
And with a prominent DeMatha alum already on the team in WR Cam Phillips, Morgan is hearing plenty about Tech's potential from more than just the coaching staff.
"Cam's told me great things, and he's one of the guys that's been in my ear for a minute now, giving me really good advice and thinking about coming there," Morgan said.
Goode doesn't have quite the same high school connection to Tech, but he also liked what he saw from Tech's defensive line during his time at practice.
"Just seeing the way they practice, it kind of reminded me of my school, how we move around and do stuff, so I liked that a lot," Goode said.
But Goode also used the visit to get his first look at the rest of campus, beyond just the football side of things.
"The campus is beautiful — that limestone they've got everywhere, that's legit right there," Goode said. "I liked how the academic advisor talked to me the whole time, it wasn't just coaches. It was the academic adviser with me, side-by-side and I got a good feel for things."
Goode says he spent some quality time with Fuente as well, and while the head Hokie may not have been quite as gregarious as Wiles, his focus on family clearly earned Goode's respect.
"He is an intense guy, but he's actually a great guy and very down to earth and family first, and I like somebody that appreciates family first," Goode said. "He's just a special guy. Special team, and he has a new job to replace Frank Beamer. To be the guy to replace him, you have to be honored."
Goode was hoping to head to the spring game to get a taste of the gameday atmosphere at Tech, but a last-minute trip out of town meant that he had to change his plans. Accordingly, he's doubling down on visits, with plans to watch the Hokies open the season against West Virginia at FedEx Field (since "that's right down the street from me" and then catch Tech's first home against Clemson since 2011.
"I just want to see what they do on gameday, so I can get a real good feel there," Goode said.
For his part, Smith is planning to go for "summer camp and for a game" to "get to see the campus more and build a relationship with the coaches." Morgan is also hoping to return to Tech "sometime this summer" as he makes one more round of visits before his high school season starts.
None of the three recruits see a decision coming up in the immediate future, but Goode is certainly thinking about the Hokies plenty right about now.
"Virginia Tech is most definitely a top five contender, and I look forward to moving forward with my recruitment with them," Goode said. "Just want to build more relationships and stronger relationships."