As Vance Vice and the rest of the Hokies plot out the future of the offensive line, Virginia Tech's coaching staff is increasingly looking to add a bit of southern twang to the group's meeting room.
The Hokies successfully convinced both prospects to make the trip up to Blacksburg for Tech's first spring practice of the season on March 17, and both say they consider the Hokies among their top teams, so far.
Plainly, the feeling is mutual.
"They want to win a national championship and they said I was one of their guys to do it, so I guess that's why they keep coming after me," Simonds told The Key Play.
Similarly, Hudson says the Hokies view him as "exactly what they're looking for," and national recruiting observers clearly agree with Tech's evaluations of the pair. Hudson is rated a 4-star (0.9189) prospect by the 247Sports Composite ranking, and boasts offers from Alabama, Notre Dame and other top programs.
Simonds is rated a 3-star (0.8739) prospect by the 247Sports Composite, and has a Bama offer of his own — he even earned rave reviews at Nike's "The Opening" regional camp held at his high school on March 25.
2019 OL Riley Simonds (@simonds_riley9) of Buford (GA) is a massive guy. Showed good balance/strength with a solid base. He was impressive today. @buford_football @BufordProspects pic.twitter.com/ALDwhnTZCc— Matt DeBary (@MattDeBary) March 25, 2018
Accordingly, the spring visit was a big chance for the Hokies to leave a lasting impression on the duo. While both had visited Blacksburg before, it was each athlete's first chance to get a glimpse at how the Hokies handle practice.
"Things were kind of slower than normal because it was just their first day, so they did a lot of walking through stuff and going over stuff, getting it corrected before they put pads on," Simonds said. "So it was very fast, but also very laid back since it was the first practice."
Hudson says he even got up in time to see the team's 5:30 a.m. conditioning session the Friday before the first practice, all the while taking in just how Justin Fuente runs his offense.
"I really like the style of offense they run there, it has a little bit of everything in it," Hudson said. "They're not a pass 100 percent of the time or run 100 percent of the time offense, they kind of take what the defense gives them and use what they have very well."
Both players said they also kept a close eye on Vice, the man who'd become their position coach if they chose Tech. Hudson says he sat through some of the position group meetings and "really enjoyed how he explained things very well" to his proteges; Simonds even got a familiar vibe from Vice as he watched him manage practice.
"He's kind of like the offensive line coach at my school and I like that," Simonds said. "He doesn't yell a lot, but if he has to, he yells. He's kind of stearn when he has to be, but lenient when he doesn't have to be."
But Hudson says Fuente was the coach who most impressed him over the course of the weekend trip. He got a chance to sit down with Fuente, Vice and several other members of the staff for lunch at a dining hall, and he remembers really clicking with the head Hokie.
"I love the style he coaches with, the whole attitude at the program he's kind of carried on there," Hudson said. "And as a person I like him a lot, I feel like I relate to him as a person as well as from coach to player. I really got to know him (that) weekend, I feel like we really connected and I feel comfortable with him."
Hudson added that he even spent time with track and field coach Dave Cianelli over the course of the trip — Hudson is considering joining Tech's track team as well, as he throws both discus and shot put these days in high school.
Clearly, Hudson's all-around versatility is part of why the Hokies are so interested in him.
"They said I'm one of the top priorities for them, especially in my class," Hudson said. "When I get there, they said I'm a pretty versatile offensive lineman, I can pretty much play from tackle to tackle, guard, center, whatever. Kind of whatever they need."
At 6'4" and 292 pounds, Hudson certainly is well on his way to having the requisite size to play all over the line. He says he's played a little bit of everything in high school, and that could prove to be good preparation for his time at Tech.
"They were just saying how they're going to put the best five on the field," Hudson said. "The way they explained it to me, if I'm one of the best five, I shouldn't be held and not be on the field just because I'm behind somebody else not in the top five at the same position. Wherever i'd be needed that season, I'd play."
Simonds says the Hokies were similarly open to playing him anywhere on the line, though he's likely bound for somewhere on the interior — he currently stands at 6'3" and 300 pounds.
"They just like me as a player," Simonds said.
As for his recruitment, Simonds says things "very open right now," but the Hokies have pole position.
"They're at the top right now," Simonds said.
But he still wants to take a visit to Alabama, possibly in the coming days, as well as to Florida and Florida State before making his decision. Simonds also plans to return to visit for a Tech game this fall, though he's not sure which one just yet, then commit once his senior season ends.
"I'll probably decide in December, after our state championship, just focus on the last year of high school," Simonds said. "I don't want to get recruiting out of the way exactly, so I'll be going over my decision during the season, but not a lot. Probably after the football season."
Hudson is eyeing an even more aggressive schedule of visits. For his spring break this week, he plans to swing by Florida, LSU and Ole Miss for return trips, in order to meet new members of the respective coaching staffs at each program.
"Hopefully after that trip I'll be able to get to Blacksburg again and hopefully make my decision relatively soon," Hudson said.
Indeed, he says the Hokies are "pretty much my leader right now." But he's waiting to make his commitment until he can make absolutely sure that he's not missing anything elsewhere.
"I'm starting to get a little bit more of an idea now, starting to eliminate some schools and focusing on the schools I'll be visiting one last time before making that decision," Hudson said. "Hopefully, after this trip, I'll feel more comfortable with it and be sure about it."