Kyle Fuller being selected by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the NFL Draft helped Virginia Tech build upon its reputation as DBU. The Hokies return two sophomore cornerbacks with elite potential in Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson, while highly recruited safety prospects Holland Fisher and C.J. Reavis join the program this fall. With this strong foundation in place, Coach Torrian Gray has been hot on the recruiting trail looking for the next generation of terrific Hokie defensive backs.
2015 Recruiting Cycle
Like the rest of Hokie Nation, Northern Guilford (Greensboro, North Carolina) standout Mook Reynolds took notice of the Bears drafting Tech's Kyle Fuller 14th overall in the NFL Draft.
"That pretty much reassured my decision, it made me feel really good about my decision," Reynolds told me Friday afternoon.
Mook made a verbal commitment to the Hokies in early February, but that hasn't stopped other schools like Notre Dame and Tennessee from pursuing him.
What does he tell other suitors?
Defensive tackle Eric Whitehead originally planned to commit on May 30th, but decided to end his recruitment a bit early on May 3rd. He verballed to Tech then and give Charley Wiles a birthday present in the process. The 6-1.5, 295 pound run stopper from Indianapolis, Indiana (Lawrence Central) looks to fill a need at tackle along Bud Foster's defensive line. Eric was generous enough with his time to answer the questions you all came up with.
Phoebus standout Harry Lewis was the Hokies' second defensive line commitment of the 2015 recruiting cycle (Michael Barnett verballed, but decided later to open up his options). Defensive tackle and end are two positions of need the Virginia Tech coaches are looking to address this recruiting class. Lewis' verbal, and the one from Eric Whitehead a week later, has Tech positioned well to replenish talent along the defensive line.
It Been A Great Recruiting Process, I Enjoyed Every Second Of It. I'm Proud To Say I'm A Hokie— Eric Whitehead Jr. (@bms_whitehead) May 3, 2014
Eric had originally planned to commit on May 30th, but accelerated his timeline. I spoke with him a few minutes ago, asked him why he sped up the process, and he told me, "When I first got the offer I really wanted to commit then, but decided to wait. ... I always wanted to go to Virginia Tech, so it was never a question".
It wasn't long after Rocky Mount, North Carolina native Houshun Gaines arrived in Blacksburg for his first visit on April 5th that he received his scholarship offer from the Hokies. Coach Charley Wiles, Houshun's primary recruiter, had a bit of a surprise for him.
"When I got to Virginia Tech for the junior day, he [Wiles] told me that after I got signed in for registration and everything he wanted me to meet somebody.
"He ended up taking me down to Coach [Frank] Beamer's office. Me and my dad, we sat down in Coach Beamer's office with Coach Wiles sitting there, and Coach Beamer actually extended the offer to me."
It was a moment Houshun won't soon forget.
Defensive lineman Harry Lewis committed to Virginia Tech this afternoon. Lewis informed Thekeyplay.com's Mark Trible of his decision. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Hampton, Virginia (Phoebus) product finished with 60 tackles and 11 sacks last season. Lewis is rated as a 3-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite. Cornell Brown was instrumental in securing Lewis' verbal pledge.
Felton Davis III didn't catch many passes last year for Highland Springs High School's football team.
He knows the number of grabs - 18. He knows the yardage amount - 466. Of course, he knows the touchdown total - 10.
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound target also understands his abilities can't be defined by statistics alone. He loves another part of his game, a dimension that opened eyes in his recruitment.
The way Phoebus Coach Jeremy Blunt tells it, his team needed inspiration. Rival Denbigh High had the ball on their own 10-yard line. Blunt spoke to his team during timeout.
His junior star defensive lineman Harry Lewis made a guarantee.
"I called the timeout and got the guys back in control," Blunt recalls. "Harry looks at me in this tough game and looks me right in the eye. He says, 'I'm gonna make a play, coach.'"
Deshawn McClease is a three-year starter at perennial powerhouse Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake.
He rushed for more than 1,600 yards and scored 30 touchdowns last season in the Tigers' multiple-formation, quick-paced offense.
Coach Richard Morgan kept him games during empty sets as a slot receiver.
McClease also blacked out during a 54-yard touchdown run in the 2011 state title game.
But last weekend, the 5-foot-9 back did something a little different. He served as unofficial tour guide to other recruits on a visit to Blacksburg. It only made sense — it was his fourth or fifth time at the school.
Frequently on the recruiting trail, buzz words pop up. They are thrown around carelessly in an effort to sum up a player as quickly as possible.
When the word is "athletic" and the young man is Hopewell High's Darrell Taylor, there's no room for hyperbole.
I caught up with Lawrence Central (Indianapolis, Indiana) defensive tackle Eric Whitehead about his recruitment. The 6-1.5, 295 pound 2015 cycle prospect visited Virginia Tech for the first time on Saturday and went home with a scholarship offer. How did Eric feel about the offer? "I was speechless. I didn't know what to say."
Usually each weekday morning Leesburg, Virginia resident Nick Johns travels about an hour-and-fifteen minutes to Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. "It's a tough commute, but you get used to it."
Yesterday However, the 2015 quarterback took a trip to Blacksburg, his first since visiting for the Maryland game last season. Nick told me he has scholarship offers from Maryland, Virginia, and N.C. State, but Virginia Tech has not offered as of yet.
"I'm still waiting [on an offer from Tech], I was kind of expecting one today.
"Coach Loeffler came to watch me throw about a month ago, Coach Loeffler and Coach Moorehead. He said he was impressed. He wanted to get me down to school, and he wanted to pick my brain apart and see what I knew, see what I need to work on, and see how I had been coached up these past 3 years. I thought I impressed him a lot, our relationship is going to continue, and hopefully I pick one up soon."
Like last recruiting cycle, there's elite defensive line talent in the Commonwealth of Virginia for 2015. Six-foot-three, 295-pound, Thomas Dale defensive tackle, tight end, and right tackle Darvin Taylor is a blue chip prospect that the Hokies are trying to land to bolster the interior of their defensive line. As of right now, Darvin has 19 scholarship offers and according to his father, Darvin L. Taylor, he's visited nine different colleges over the past year-and-a-half, including visiting Tech 3 or 4 times. Darvin and his family plan on visiting Tennessee, Clemson, and Virginia Tech this spring/summer before he commits.
Darvin told me last Friday he'll chose to play in a, "Place that kind of feels like home ... a place that I could see myself living for four to five years."
Additionally he's looking to play for a position coach that's, "More like a father figure, not like a friend." Someone he can trust.
At the end of his junior season, 6-foot-3 tight end Tanner Karafa earned new responsibilities.
When Ashburn's Stone Bridge High School lost a linebacker due to injury in the playoffs, Karafa got the call.
There wasn't much time to learn how to play outside linebacker.
"We put him on the edge and told him to go get the football," Bulldogs Coach Mickey Thompson said. "He came up with a lot of amazing plays, but didn't know how to make many reads.
"You can't just go to linebacker and play."
Last Sunday evening I spoke with 6-1, 160 pound H.D. Woodson defensive back DuWayne Johnson. Johnson committed to the Hokies on February 8th while attending a Virginia Tech junior day event.
Although, he didn't intend on giving his verbal while on the trip. "When I went down there, I had no idea... I didn't plan on committing when I was in town. It just happened."
On Tuesday night I talked to 6-2, 290 pound defensive tackle prospect Aaron Crawford (Stone Bridge) about his recruitment. In addition to Virginia Tech, Virginia, Old Dominion, Maryland, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Duke have offered Aaron a scholarship. He's leaning towards pursuing something along the lines of a business or economics degree in college.
Aaron last visited Blacksburg on February 8th for a Virginia Tech junior day. He said of the trip, "It was great." He was able to spend time with Bud Foster and Charley Wiles. Aaron said of Coach Wiles, "He's a great guy, feel like he really knows what he's talking about." Aaron plans on returning to Tech again during the spring, and he'd like to commit right before his senior season at Stone Bridge begins.
I spoke with 6-3, 240 pound defensive end / outside linebacker Ricky DeBerry on Saturday morning. The 2015 cycle prospect was on his way to Charlottesville for a recruiting event. Ricky's played defensive end for the last two seasons at St. Christopher's School (Richmond, Virginia). "I normally don't play defensive end. My coach asked me to play there because he didn't necessarily trust anybody else in that position, and he asked me to play that for him the last two seasons. I normally play outside linebacker, sort of a pass rusher hybrid."
Over the course of our conversation DeBerry made it clear rushing the passer, whether it's at end in a 4-3, or OLB in 3-4 is extremely important to him and what he wants to do in college. His favorite pass rush moves are the swim and side scissors. He told me Virginia Tech is recruiting him to play defensive end.
Former Rockbridge County High School football coach Jason White wasted no time pointing out his exception to the recruiting process.
After all, who could lose sight of 6-foot-6, 295-pound junior Austin Clark?
"You almost have to work your tail off to get kids looks," the nine-year head coach said. "With Austin, it's never been a problem of that.
"He got his first offer from UVa. the spring of his sophomore year, which is about a year ahead of schedule."
Clark holds offers from 15 Division I schools. The polite Lexington, Va.-native politely explained which way he leans.
I had the pleasure of speaking with 6-2, 280 pound 2015 center / offensive lineman Brian Chaffin from Charlotte, North Carolina (Charlotte Christian) about his recruitment. Brian is considering Virginia Tech as well as scholarship offers from Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina State, UNC, UNC Charlotte, Mississippi State, Cal, Northwestern, and Marshall. Brian told me he's going to take as many visits as he can to the schools that have offered him, do his due diligence, try to narrow his list of schools in May before making his decision in June. Because Brian's answers were insightful and detailed, I'm posting this Q&A style.