Size and agility make Rafferty a top-flight offensive line target for Virginia Tech

The Hokies seek to add the Gonzaga OL to their 2018 recruiting class.

Rafferty poses on an unofficial visit to Tech with OL coach Vance Vice (left) and head coach Justin Fuente (right).

Aidan Rafferty entered the 2016 season a first-year varsity starter at left tackle.

By February, he owned offers from major Division I schools.

The 6-foot-6, 290-pound lineman thrived last year for Gonzaga College HS in the nation's capital. He did it with the agility that made eyes at close to 20 programs open wide.

A basketball and rugby player much of his life, Rafferty possesses physical traits ideal as a blocker on the end.

"A lot of times you get big kids who are stiff," Eagles' coach Randy Trivers said. "They may have the big frame but not the feet or they have the stiffness where they can't really sink their hips or have the bend in ankles and knees.

"With Aidan, he can redirect and go in another direction. From a physical standpoint, he's sort of what you like and what you're looking for."

In Gonzaga's pro-style, multiple-set offense, Rafferty took to his spot just fine.

"I am pretty patient on my punch and pretty good at staying in front of my defender with my feet," the 18-year-old self-evaluated. "I'd like to say that I haven't developed all my skills yet and can be adaptable to all these schemes."

He's visited Blacksburg three times and while no timetable is set for his commitment, he likes what Virginia Tech offers.

"They're a hard and tough football team so they pride themselves on the toughness of the players and also the academics there, too," Rafferty said. "They pride themselves that it's student-athletes, guys that are going to class and taking valuable majors and can succeed after college in life."

A strong student who also garnered interest from Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale, Rafferty's stayed grounded through the recruitment process.

Trivers is aware of the type of athlete he has at his disposal. He's also quick to point out the character his somewhat late-bloomer boasts.

"He's a guy that you can really mold him from a strength and conditioning year-round, he can really take off," Trivers explained. "He's a really well-rounded prospect when you look at the intangible things and the off-the-field stuff. He's a very mature kid.

"You're not looking for a high maintenance guy who you're going to have to twist and prod to get to class. You can't be asking, 'Is he going to be serious about getting his degree?' You don't have time for that."

In the hyper-competitive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, Rafferty sprung onto the scene. The league – which is filled with stellar edge defenders – awarded Rafferty second-team honors.

Physical prowess, intangibles and the ability to rise above in a crowded group of talented players does justice to Rafferty's portfolio.

However, it's the idea of what he could become that projects him as a top-flight prospect. The 247 Composite ranks him as a 3-star recruit, No. 45 among the nation's tackles.

The Hokies' staff told Rafferty they see him as a tackle and a likely redshirt candidate.

"I think it's always better for a prospect if he can be a tackle, that's generally the more premium position in terms of blocking on the edge," Trivers said. "Then he can jump down and play guard, it's always easier than if you ask a guy to move out and play on the island.

"I think most people that are recruiting him are looking at him as a tackle prospect with the thought that, 'Hey, he could play inside, too.'"

Trivers expressed a desire to sit down with the teen he affectionately calls "Big A" and whittle down his offer list to a handful of serious contenders.

Virginia Tech does have a connection to Trivers. The former coach of Northwest in Germantown, Maryland sent Ike Whitaker and Justin Young to play for Frank Beamer.

Young, who played defensive line for the Hokies, furthers the ties to Rafferty. He's the Gonzaga offensive line coach.

"I think Virginia Tech is a heckuva place," Trivers said. "I would think it has a great chance to continue to be in that conversation as far as the potential to be a place where Aidan lands.

"... I think they're a serious contender. I think Aidan's in a situation where he's in a discovery phase and mode right now. This is a time in May when there's a tremendous amount of traffic coming through our institution, people evaluating him and kind of jumping in on his recruitment. I think as we continue thru this month he's going to keep his mind and heart open."

That's exactly what he did as he entered the school as a 6-foot-2 freshman. He waited his turn and fell in love with the sport that will soon take him to the next level.

"I like the mental toughness you have to have to go back play after play and sometimes do the same thing and every time you're fighting against someone essentially," Rafferty said. "You have to be able to dominate the guy across from you.

"You've got to prove yourself every time you play."

GOBBLES

Tech redshirt kicker Brian Anderson is another Trivers product out of Gonzaga ... The coach's ties to VPI go back to the late 90's, one of his mentors and former coaches at the College of the Holy Cross was Tony Ball, a former Hokie assistant ... He's still close with Ball, who now coaches running backs at Louisiana Tech ... "I've had a long-lasting relationship with Bud Foster and coach (Charley) Wiles, guys who were with coach Beamer so long. You know guys like that who have such loyalty and love for coach, when they're doing a bang-up job for coach Fuente and embracing him as they move forward and honoring the traditions that coach put in place, it's clear they're doing some really, really good things ... I'd be lying to you if I said the new staff, that I know exactly how they take care of players. But the guys who bridged the transition from that staff to this staff are excited, optimistic and as positive about what's going on now as they've ever been. I think that shows the integrity of coach (Fuente) and his values, what he stands for and what he's trying to do with the program. It's certainly worthy of that type of trust from high school coaches saying hey, this is the type of program we feel good about our kids going to not only because of winning bowl games and all that but because you're kid's going to be loved," Trivers said of his relationship to Tech ... In rugby, Rafferty plays second row ... "In the scrum, we're the guys behind the props that essentially push the whole scrum. On out of bounds plays, we're the guys who lift the jumpers up to get the ball," Rafferty said ... Athleticism and speed while on the move isn't only valued by schools, but Rafferty himself ... "I like the movement of the offensive line with the spread, it's nice," he said of Tech's offense. "I enjoy running out on screens and zone blocks ... but it's always fun to get a pancake block on a run play." ... On his time in Blacksburg, Rafferty added: "I like the atmosphere of the school, all the kids walking around you can tell they enjoyed it. I also like the campus, facilities there and definitely the coaches ... My first impression (of Fuente), I'd say that he's a devoted coach who knows what it takes for his team to win, definitely." ... A Kensington, Maryland native, Rafferty enjoys English as his favorite subject but isn't yet sure what he'll choose as a major ... "I like that the creative aspect of it. It's not just reciting facts or dates, stuff like that ... I probably like writing better than reading. I'm probably best at either (writing) like a descriptive essay or a short story," he said.

Comments

Great write up Trib... I like this young man's mindset and potential. His frame is big and athletic now but a year in our S&C program will make him beastmode. Hope he picks the good guys.

"Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth."

Please....please! Can we have nice things?Go OL!

Where is Lawson?!

I like where Fuente has gone with his O-line recruiting, as in past the D-line meeting room.

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

Question for those in the know, how easy is it to evaluate a HS lineman's talent? I know Gonzaga plays some serious competition, but is this guy ever really lining up and showing his best or is a 3* saying "he's probably gonna pan out well."

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

According to recruiting panel on XM college radio it's by far the hardest group to recruit for.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

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I figured as much. At that point, you're so much bigger at the high school level unless you are elite. You can just maul defenders.

Putting out a French signal on this one if he has a moment to school me.

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

On the plus side, being in the WACA he definitely lines up against higher caliber competition and has done very well. I also love the fact that the connection into that league is extending beyond Dematha to include Gonzaga and it looks like St. Johns as well.

Lets GO!!!!

Great article, Mark! Thanks!

Love to see the OL recruits. It has been the weakest part of the tech program for over a decade. It is part of the reason our historically dominate run game has gone away. I curse the Bunny Hop!!!

I wouldn't say that the talent we brought in was lacking. Starting with Newsome, the line coaching was abysmal. I think we did a bit better than we should have because we had players who were talented enough to make up for the less-than-stellar coaching.

The amount of attention Hokie O-linemen have gotten from the NFL has been surprising good. I remember some statistically bad O-lines (RMFW, Logan Thomas years) and many graduates were getting NFL tryouts.

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

Didn't mean to imply the recruits were lacking. Newsome drove our O line program into the ground and the rotating coaches hasn't been a big help since. I liked Stacy Searels and the direction the coaching was going. Still up in the air about the new O line coach.

Still up in the air about the new O line coach.

For reals, when is Fuente going to abandon his outdated loyalty approach and just kick Vice to the curb? /s

But in all seriousness, French, have you sent CJF your resume?

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 good o-line makes a decent QB look like a Heisman candidate. Just think what he can do for an exception QB! We can start drooling!!!

Would love to hear french's thoughts on him, being an ex lineman and all...

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“I served in the United States Navy"

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The bat signal has gone up. French, whereyatman?

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

I am also very curious to see French's take. I was excited to get a good OT from the WCAC. I have heard some good things about him from guys I know affiliated with that league. I will be watching him this fall against the big boys at Dematha and St Johns. I will say....his tape from the Opening DC was ....how do I say it.....dreadful. Was getting worked in one on ones. I know that is not real football but....wow...not good....

I think he is more of a developmental guy. He is a good athlete and has good feet. My red flag is a big one- if you watch his highlights, he hunches a bit and his feet freeze when he delivers a blow. That is a mental block where a player feels like he can deliver a stronger blow by bracing, when the reality is that you are much more effective running through the defender. This slight pause negatively impacts his blocking angles, which means he loses leverage on some of these blocks. He also has a tendency to hunch his shoulders a bit pass blocking (bends neck and shoulders are high and rolled forward. This leans his weight forward and can make him susceptible to a push-pull and swim move at tackle. If he is at guard, he can get away with it, provided he has good vision to hand off a DT and pick up a stunt.

I think he is a guy who, like Conte, starts out at tackle and as he gains strength and size he will eventually move down to guard. He has the feet that, if he can break that habit of bracing himself, that he can thrive in a zone blocking scheme. He is a good developmental prospect and is an example of the staff targeting guys who fit the scheme that can be developed.

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

God, I have so much to learn.

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

OL is the hardest thing to evaluate. But to me, that is the red flag. The good OL I played with and evaluated were always guys who understood how to run through, not to, contact. I was a late bloomer (I didn't play organized football until 9th grade) and when I started, I braced myself at contact so I wouldn't get pushed back and the habit haunted me until I stopped playing 8 years later. Especially with zone blocking, the premium is maintaining contact and staying engaged, and at the DI level the backs are good enough that they will run to daylight. If you stop your feet at contact, it is so much easier for a defender (especially a talented one) to get off the block and make a play.

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

I appreciate your keen eye and insight.

Luckily, he will most likely have a red shirt year to get those bad tendencies drilled out of him.