It was a peachy Friday on the recruiting trail for the Hokies. Defensive end Cole Nelson opted for Virginia Tech over finalists Illinois and Indiana. The connection the Johns Creek HS (Georgia) product made with the d-line coaching duo of Bill Teerlinck and Darryl Tapp plus defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton helped put the Hokies over the top.
He noted it was a blessing to receive tutelage from not one, but two defensive line coaches.
"Coach Tapp, he played in the NFL, and then Coach Terrlink, he also coached in the NFL. So both of the coaches know exactly what they're talking about."
The planned business major made a family visit to Tech a few weeks ago, his only trip to campus, and was able to check out Pamplin College of Business, Lane Stadium and the football practice facilities.
"I love the area," said Nelson. "It's a true college town."
Tech was also able to connect him with the business school's faculty and staff and that left an impression on him.
"They got me on a virtual visit and I was able to talk to a few people on the business side," said Nelson. "They gave me and my family a lot of information about the Pamplin School of Business."
"It is a forty-year decision and not a four-year decision," he added.
Virginia Tech has certainly honed in on lengthy defensive ends that can get after the quarterback, and Nelson is no different. He mentioned an early role as pass rush specialist.
"They'll pick out one of the weakest links on the offensive line and I'm going to come in on third down situations," said Nelson.
Johns Creek head coach Matt Helmerich described Nelson, who also plays tight end, as a big kid that can run.
"At 6-3, 240 pounds, he's our fastest player on offense," said Helmerich.
"He's got an 80-inch wingspan, 80, 81, like 80-and-a-half, something ridiculous. His arms are so long, he's got the biggest hands I've ever seen in my life. I brought him out for track last year, when I took over the track program, his sophomore year. I brought him out for the discus thinking he's perfect body type, and he ends up making it on to our 4x1 team and being one of our faster kids. He's just a phenomenal athlete."
Nelson, who trains with former Georgia standout and NFL d-end Marcus Howard, has the range, physical gifts and athleticism to play with his hand in dirt or space. Johns Creek plays a multiple defensive scheme, 3-4 or 4-3, in which Nelson moves along the front and has either one- or two-gap responsibility.
"We usually put him to the field because he's so long, so quick," said Helmerich. "We expect him just to cut off that alley, the speed to the field, and be an edge-setter. He's pretty good at recovering. If he gets inside, he's got the speed to make it up and get back outside and set that edge."
"I'm able to stop any tackle or tight end from trying to zone block or reach block me," said Nelson.
Nelson is a 3-star SDE (0.8466) per the 247Sports Composite, but according to Helmerich, he wasn't infatuated with recruiting rankings or camps.
"If it came between missing a weight workout or workout with his trainer, versus going to the UA camp or Rivals camp, he's gonna workout," said Helmerich.
As a junior on a senior-laden squad, Nelson earned captain's honors. That responsibility included a first for Helmerich.
"He came to us last year as a staff and said, 'Coach, we need to step it up with our after-practice punishments'. Some kids were getting out of line and he didn't think the coaches were taking care of it well enough," he said with a chuckle. "So he wanted to run it. Mid-season to the end of the year last he did our after-practice punishments, and ran that. The kids listened to him, and nobody said anything to him. Whether it's up-downs or extra running or whatever, he did it, stayed after practice every day, and ran that last year. I've never had a kid do that before. I've never seen any leadership like that before. He doesn't say much, but when he talks, people listen, kids listen."
Helmerich summed it up as, "He's not only a once in a decade type of player, he's a once in a decade type of kid."