The Hokies have cooled off a bit on the recruiting trail after an especially hot June, but that doesn't mean that their recent momentum has gone unnoticed.
Virginia Tech hosted a hefty gathering of recruits and commits of all ages from July 28-29 for a big cookout, a summer tradition in Blacksburg, giving the coaches the perfect chance to take the temperature of the younger generation after they made waves with a half dozen commitments in just one month.
The program's since slipped in the rankings a bit, and took a big hit in losing prized 2019er Cam'Ron Kelly, but that's done little to change the energy recruits noticed on campus.
"A lot of guys are jumping on board and getting to believe in what Coach Fuente and the staff is doing at Virginia Tech and starting to realize that we're coming," 2019 OT commit Bryan Hudson, out of Georgetown, Ky.'s Scott County HS, told The Key Play. "It's starting to be a pretty special thing, not that it ever wasn't, they're just jumping on board now and we're looking pretty good."
2021 RB Evan Pryor of Cornelius, N.C.'s Hough HS says he got much the "same sense" as Hudson when he returned to Blacksburg: "They're getting a lot of momentum," he said.
And Justin Fuente seems plenty keen on keeping that momentum going.
"He's pushing the commits and people who want to come there, to come there," said 2020 S Cameron Roseman-Sinclair of Charlotte's Myers Park HS. "Because he's building a lot right now and trying to change, to go get a national championship there sooner, real soon."
By all accounts, Fuente feels pretty confident about how Tech's future roster is filling out, one position excluded.
"He said they need a running back, they have every other position right now," said 2020 RB Blake Corum of Laurel, Md.'s St. Frances Academy. "But they need a running back."
But that's not to say the coaches were all business over the course of the weekend. Without the pressures of the season to worry about, the summer cookout has long provided the staff a chance to show off their personalities a bit more and spend one-on-one time with recruits, and this late July weekend was no exception.
Roseman-Sinclair says TEs coach James Shibest even joined some of the high schoolers in attendance for some pickup hoops — with some mixed results.
"He's got a couple moves, without hurting himself," Roseman-Sinclair said with a laugh.
Roseman-Sinclair, who's rated a 4-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite ranking, also got to spend some quality time with new safeties coach Tyrone Nix, who only joined the program in mid-June.
"He told me I'm a really versatile guy, who can play nickel, strong and free, that I'm a dude that can come in and impact the game at any moment," Roseman-Sinclair said. "I like him a lot, he's a great guy. Ever since I've met him, he's been straight up with me. He's kept it real from the jump with me. He shows that he cares more beyond where I commit, just for me as a person."
Pryor got the same sense from talking with RBs coach Zohn Burden, noting "he makes it about more than football." But when it comes to the on field stuff, Burden was similarly excited about Pryor's potential, even though he's still so young.
"They've really been looking for a back that can win one-on-one matchups and is versatile, and they think I can bring all that to the table," Pryor said.
Hudson says the coaches put on the full court press for players like Pryor who have yet to commit to Tech, but that was hardly a bad thing. He says the cookout was a perfect chance for the 2019 commits on hand to "start to get chemistry a little bit."
"This was the first time that we'd gotten together all in person," Hudson said. "I knew a few of them before like (offensive linemen) Jesse (Hanson) and William Pritchard, but other than that, we've gotten to talk to each other a little bit through text message and Twitter, but this was pretty much the first time that we've gotten together. I feel like we're getting to have that bond pretty quick...I know it's a year away, but it's starting to feel just right around the corner."
It seems the weekend was impressive enough to get some of the other uncommitted prospects on campus thinking about potential futures in Blacksburg as well.
"I love Virginia Tech," said Corum, a Warrenton native who's rated a 4-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite. "It's home for me. I have a lot of family members, friends that love Virginia Tech, go to every game. I like Virginia Tech a lot...it's a great campus. I'd love to play for my home state."
Corum says he wants to visit Southern California and Wisconsin at some point soon, to compare to previous trips to schools like Nebraska, Michigan, Clemson, and South Carolina, but he hopes to commit before his senior year arrives.
"I'll take a few more visits, then sit down and see," Corum said. "I've been to quite a few schools, but Virginia Tech is definitely up there on my list."
After highlighting Tech's need at the position, Fuente could plainly find himself with more running backs than he knows what do with.
"It's very traditional, somewhere I'd love to play, where you have the whole city and community around you, very supporting," Pryor said. "It's just a good vibe and a lot of nice people around."
Roseman-Sinclair even named the Hokies as his leader immediately after his trip to Tech, largely on the strength of his comfort with the coaching staff (which, he notes, includes "one of the best defensive coordinators").
"It's a defensive school, and more, it's a DB school," Roseman-Sinclair said. "With a guy like Coach Nix as my safeties coach, it'll bring a lot for me, knowing that he's a guy that's put multiple guys into the league and can bring me to that next level...It factors in a lot, knowing it's really a DB school that puts a lot of products in every year."
It helps, too, that he has his teammate, 2019 WR commit Elijah Bowick, in his ear to sing the Hokies' praises.
"I talk to him every single day," Roseman-Sinclair said. "It helps a lot, especially because he can tell me more how he vibes with them, what he feels about the program as he comes in and how they treat him."
Like Pryor, Roseman-Sinclair hopes to return to Blacksburg for the Notre Dame game, which is shaping up to be a huge recruiting weekend for the Hokies.
Hudson has that game on his calendar too, though he's hoping to "get to as many as I can." He's already eyeing the home opener against William and Mary, the Miami game and even the Thursday night matchup against Georgia Tech, as it falls on his high school's bye week.
The 4-star prospect has continued to pick up interest since committing to Tech this April, but he says he's planning such a robust slate of Blacksburg visits because he still has no interest seeing anywhere else.
"As long as everything goes good and there's nothing drastic going on in Blacksburg, that'll be the only place I'll be visiting," Hudson said. "Since I've already given my word to them, I don't think it'd be right to go to other places, so that'll be the only place I'll be going."