Back when the Hokies offered Brandon Smith in April 2017, the then-sophomore already boasted an impressive frame at 6'3" and 210 pounds.
The Mineral, Va. standout played mostly defensive end at Louisa County HS, and even a year ago, he impressed Justin Fuente enough to earn an in-person offer at a spring practice.
By the time he returned to Blacksburg for a second spring visit on March 17, Smith had grown extra two inches and added five more pounds. All of a sudden, he says Bud Foster started envisioning him filling some very big shoes at a slightly different position.
"He sees me kind of with the measurements of Tremaine Edmunds," Smith told The Key Play. "As far as play style, he's excited to see just how much I'll develop when I get to the next level."
Given the youngest Edmunds' status as a potential first-round draft pick, Smith says that sort of comparison blew him away. But, plainly, Foster is not alone in his assessment of Smith's potential, particularly with another year to develop.
Though Smith started his recruitment as a relatively unheralded player from a Central Virginia school not typically known for producing top prospects, he's since become one of the top recruits in the country. Not only is he rated a 5-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite, but that ranking has dubbed Smith the top player in Virginia and the 19th best player in the entire country for 2019.
The Hokies were just the second team to offer Smith (close on the heels of UVA, coincidentally enough), and he plainly hasn't forgotten Tech's early interest. Since earning his offer last spring, Smith says he's visited Blacksburg several times as he considers whether to stick with the in-state power or look at one of his 28 offers around the country.
This time around, Smith says he didn't have much competition for attention, with just "seven or 10" other recruits on campus. That gave him more of a chance to spend some quality time talking about Virginia Tech's academics, not to mention with Fuente and Foster.
"I enjoyed the trip, got a chance to sit in with the players in a few of the meetings and just got a chance to see live practice," Smith said. "And I got to talk with some academic people... that was the only thing that was really different from my other trips."
Naturally, he spent some one-on-one time with Fuente, and he remains impressed with the head Hokie's passion.
"I really like him," Smith said. "Just the way he comes off, he really cares about players. Even though I'm not one of his right now, I really can tell he really cares about your development on and off the field."
But Smith says his main tour guide for the trip was Foster, who spoke with "throughout the day."
He also got a chance to watch Tech's "fast paced" first spring practice, so he kept a close eye on the man who could become his defensive coordinator (and even position coach) someday. Despite Foster's gruff demeanor, Smith says he was surprised to find that Foster wasn't prone to any histrionics on the practice field.
"He didn't do a lot of yelling; just teaching, really," Smith said. "I just took in how they were using their time, and what drills were they doing the whole time."
With his return trip to Tech already fading in the rearview, Smith says he's now planning to embark on ambitious swing through Big Ten country. For his spring break in the first week of April, he's hoping to visit Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State, all in one fell swoop. Then, on April 19, he expects to take an official visit to Texas A&M.
After that, however, Smith isn't sure what his future might bring. He says he doesn't have any set dates for cutting down his list of top schools — he also has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and USC to consider, after all — nor does he have any timetable for making a decision.
"I've got to talk with my parents, mentors, people like that," Smith said.
But Smith did say he was interested in getting back to Tech, and the Hokies seem more than willing to welcome him back any time.
"They were just saying, 'Let us know when you feel like you want to come back and we'll definitely arrange something for you,'" Smith said.