Since my last recruiting update a lot has happened on the field. We started out 0-2 and dead in the water (not the way any of us would have dreamt) and essentially playing our way out of the picture for the nation's elite recruits, including the top in the state Curtis Grant and undoubtedly the best Commonwealth prospect since Percy Harvin in 2005. So were these two losses too much to overcome on the recruiting trail? Keep reading to find out.
Well yes, in a way the 2 early losses were too much to overcome. We will not have the class of my dreams and we will not even have one of our better classes over the last 10 years unless we sign 4 of the top uncommitted players on our board. However, since those 2 early losses we have racked up 9 straight wins, and in some cases played our way back INto the picture for some very GOOD recruits.
However, despite our 9-straight wins, not very much has happened off the field on the recruiting trail. The Hokies have only gotten commitments from 4 prospects (one is technically a holdover from last year's class that didn't qualify and prepped in Justin Taylor) since my last update. Although the Hokies have lost very little on their board, they have also not made much headway, as none of these four commits are over a 3-star rating (and only one is a SOLID 3-star in James Farrow), and another appears to have been a good faith signing to try and secure a commitment from QB prospect Marquise Williams. This aggravates me because of the lack of scholarships we have left and the number of good prospects left on our board, as well as my doubt about Marquise as a college passer.
Certainly a lesson to be learned is that if you take yourself out of the national championship picture in the first two weeks (which we have done for the last 4 years), much like heartbroken fans (P.S. can we not go back to the days of 6-0 or 8-0 before losing and at least give ourselves SOMETHING to be proud of before our hearts are broken?) it makes it hard to keep elite recruits' interest.
So here are some things to keep an eye out for on the recruiting horizon
- On December 18th LB prospect Travis Hughes (#3 on my list) will make his decision on local TV in the Hampton Roads area at a local restaurant. I am so pumped about this I have it in my calendar on my iPhone, and if he commits I will probably be compelled to do 10 straight standing backflips just like David Wilson. You know what? I'll be so excited I'll do 11!
- Tech QB prospect Marquise Williams (#11b on my list) is a December graduate, which essentially indicates he will commit before the end of the year to avoid not enrolling in the spring semester and be in spring practice for whatever school he commits to.
- Stephone Anthony (#6 on my list) has officially announced that we will be getting one of his 5 official visits. We need to make a big splash with him as he still lists us as 2nd on his list to Florida, although things might change with an Urban Meyer exit. Anthony recently told a Rivals affiliate the stability at Tech is what he most admires. He remains our top contingency plan at outside linebacker for Curtis Grant.
11a. Everett Golson 6'0" 170 lbs. QB Myrtle Beach HS, Myrtle Beach, SC (STATUS: COMMITTED TO UNC)- Watching this kid's highlight tape was a revelation for me. When he committed to the Tar Heels in February, I knew by looking at his stats alone that they had their future at QB. You can make the argument that high school stats are not a good predictor or determinant of college success, and I would concede that in many cases you would be right. But much like Daron Evans' 61 rushing touchdowns in his senior year alone, Golson's 3,570 passing yards and 44 TD's to only 10 INT's wowed me. Oh yeah, and I forgot, those were his stats when he was a HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE! I hope that got your attention.
Everett is rated by Rivals.com as a high 3-star prospect, and the 20th ranked QB in the 2011 class, although I vehemently disagree with that lowball of a ranking. That would have him basically on par with Hokie commits Ricardo Young and Mark Leal from last year's recruiting haul (#'s 21 and 28 respectively). One of Everett's videos of the Elite 11 QB camp shows him holding his own against Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert and Jacory Harris. If I had run into this kid's tape sooner and then heard him say that he would take visits (see below), he would have ended up second on my list only to Curtis Grant (and maybe even ahead of him based on our need at QB). That's how strongly I feel about him. After watching his tape, I cannot see him being the 20th rated QB by Rivals on signing day, so expect him to make a significant push. Either way, as the Virginia Tech program proves, recruiting rankings aren't all they're cracked up to be. Trust me, North Carolina could care less what ranking he is as long as he puts on Tar Heel Blew (not a typo).
Everett throws a perfect deep ball, and that's one of the things that really intrigues me about him. The number of high school quarterbacks that can make the throws he makes can be counted on one hand. He is listed as a dual-threat quarterback, but I think that he's a runner out of necessity, much like Marcus Vick. Everett really reminds me a lot of the latter Vick from his junior year, both as a passer and a runner...which is to say in one word: POLISHED. I don't know why people don't remember this (probably because they choose not to because of his boneheadedness), but passing-wise, Marcus Vick was the best quarterback we've had in the last 15 years. Everett can be every bit as good and better (since he is unlikely to get kicked out of school for legal trouble)...than our best true quarterback of the last 15 years. That's saying something.
Originally I wasn't going to include Everett on my list because of his verbal commitment to UNC (which I will admit still appears strong, so it's really a fat chance that we will pry their future at QB away from them), but then I watched a camp video where Everett admitted that he would still take visits and go through the motions to see how it played out. Especially now with the NCAA investigation into the football program at UNC, I couldn't admit it was over and not include him. So while you may have to file this one under the Lloyd Christmas "So you're telling me there's a chance!" or the Lieutenant Frank Drebin and his partner Ed Hocken schtick about O.J. Simpson's character Nortberg, "They have him in the intensive care ward at Our Lady of the Worthless Miracle," and "The doctors say he has a 50/50 chance of living...but there's only a 10% chance of that," you still have to believe! Please believe!
11b. Marquise Williams 6'3" 216lbs. QB Mallard Creek HS, Charlotte, NC (STATUS UPDATE: COMMITTED TO UNC)- Marquise wins the award for the most awkward looking football player I have ever seen hands down. His speed is hampered by how he runs. When he runs, his legs move side to side a from the knees down with a lot of wasted motion. Hopefully that's something coaches can iron out at the next level, but usually there isn't that much difference in changing your form and bad tendencies in how you run by the time you get to college. Marquise is listed as a Dual-Threat quarterback, but although he is probably a little bit faster than his listed 40 time of 4.73, he will not be able to consistently elude defensive players in college.
However, I am concerned a lot more about his passing game. His release is the most disconcerting thing about him. He gets a lot of sidearm motion in there and does not release the ball over the top. I think this accounts for some of his accuracy issues and his inconsistency in throwing the deep ball, because he doesn't have a lot of leverage since his arm is only 3/4 cocked. I sure hope this is something our coaches can work on or fix, but if they don't, I'm not confident at all in his ability to run an offense on the next level.
He throws a pretty good deep ball, but his accuracy needs to be improved. He has a tendency to put a lot of air under his throws. He throws A LOT of jump balls for his receivers where they have to make the play AND box out the defender and play a little defense to make sure they and not their opponent come down with the passes. That's a big no-no. He is sometimes very erratic, putting the same type of throw in different places, so his receivers can't know where he consistently puts a certain throw. This is accuracy issue amplified over short distances.
This kid is going to have A LOT of unforced fumbles in the backfield because he pats the ball with his left hand several times before he throws it, often on the move. Some quarterbacks do that for the rhythm or the feel, but Marquise goes haywire with it and does it almost like he requires it to make the throw. He reminds me a lot of Greg Boone coming out of high school in a smaller body.
Marquise is our best QB prospect left on the board according to Rivals, who has also recently promoted him to a 4-star prospect and the #10 ranked quarterback in the class. I don't know how, but maybe there is something I'm missing in every single video of his. We have to beat out UNC, Michigan, LSU and NC State to get him. I'm not that high on him, but with the addition of his HS WR to our class, all bets are on us to win his services. I expect Marquise to commit to the Hokies in the next couple of weeks.
11c. Lafonte Thourogood 6'3" 224 lbs. QB Ocean Lakes HS, Virginia Beach, VA- Shuffles his feet too much, never truly getting set in the pocket. He also takes too wide of a stride forward when releasing the ball, which dips his upper half during the throw and is responsible for a lot of his passes that end up low or short. Lafonte has a lazy release, especially on short throws, waiting too long to get the ball out of his hands and letting go after the opportune high-release point, also causing a lot of low passes. Certainly he will NEVER be the most accurate QB in Virginia Tech history.
He has a tendency to get locked onto one receiver and not make any of his check-down reads. He has also yet to develop a consistently good deep ball. He often underthrows a receiver on the fly. Either one of two things could be the culprit for this problem. 1. Lafonte's inconsistency with his release and his low release point cause his throws to fluctuate, or 2. Because Lafonte actually doesn't have the arm strength as of yet to complete deep passes. I hope it's the first.
Lafonte's strength is actually throwing on the run, where he becomes exponentially more accurate. College coaches are going to have to figure out what he does differently on the run and try to replicate it when he's still in the pocket. In fact, college coaches are going to have to do A LOT of work on Lafonte's game before he sees the field, especially in the accuracy and release departments, which may go hand-in-hand.
As a runner, Lafonte is not necessarily explosive, but instead evasive. He is not a juke left, juke right, juke all over the field kind of runner. He seems to have the Denver Broncos' old mentality under Mike Shanahan which is cut once and get upfield. He has good agility, and is an overall good runner, but not GREAT. He's like a bigger Bryan Randall, and is unlikely to truly effect college games with his legs unless it's scrambling when a play breaks down.
It has been said that the Hokies are in a two-team race for Lafonte's services along with West Virginia. If Marquise Williams commits to us like I think he now will, I think Lafonte has to at least consider going somewhere else, and the possibility exists that the Hokies would pull their offer. If that happens I'd say our chances take a hit. But I'd be surprised not to see Lafonte ending up in Blacksburg.
11d. Michael Nebrich 6'1" 190 lbs. QB Lake Braddock HS, Burke, VA (STATUS: COMMITTED TO UCONN)- Michael is a player that really flew under the radar. Proof positive, I hadn't heard of him until watching his tape a couple of days ago. I came away IMPRESSED! He is listed as having 4.44 speed, but I think that's unlikely. Michael seems to have elusive getting away from D-linemen, but nothing near his listed speed. The 40-time has not been confirmed by anyone at a camp Rivals attended. He looks like more of a 4.55-4.6 speed guy. Still that's good for a QB.
Believe it or not, for a guy with that speed, I am most impressed with Michael as a passer. That's right, you heard me right. Micheal has PERFECT mechanics in both his dropback and his throw. He has a ridiculous amount of zip on his ball. One such example is when he was flushed right, evaded two tacklers and as he was getting hit threw a strike over the top of a defender to his receiver's outside shoulder near the back LEFT corner of the endzone. WOW!
He has an EXTREMELY good arm and pinpoint accuracy. His ball is thrown with so much velocity and such a tight spiral that he can continually thread the ball into tight coverages. His deep ball is among the best I've ever seen for a high school player. What is the MOST impressive thing is his poise. He is incredibly poised for a HS QB. Out of all 4 QB's, I would rank him 2nd only behind Golson. Unfortunately, with what looks like a strong commitment to UConn and little interest from our end (at least from what I've heard) we are unlikely to end this sleeper/late-bloomer (which is usually our specialty). UConn will be getting a future 3,000-yard passer and NFL player. I'm THAT confident about this kid. I'd give us a 10% chance if we were to ever offer, but short of losing Williams AND Thourogood, the Hokies are unlikely to go this route.
12. Corey Marshall 6'2" 239 lbs. DL Dinwiddie HS, Dinwiddie, VA (STATUS: COMMITTED TO VT)- I'm going to be the first one to go out there and say I'm not the biggest fan of Marshall's on the field. Off the field, he seems to be a terrific person. He is articulate, bright, well-reasoned and has an infectious smile. He's the kind of guy you like rooting for, and the kind we can be proud of having in this program even if he never sees a down. Of course the likelihood of that is pretty slim since he is such a highly-rated high school prospect.
In case you're not familiar with the name, Marshall is a four-star prospect on Rivals.com, and is ranked the #7 player in the state and the #20 defensive end nationally. Scout.com ranks him as the #17 DT nationally. So already you see there is some debate over where he will play when he takes the field. Personally, I'm split, but I'm more inclined to believe he's a DT...which is why I have some doubts about him. He's a tweener. If you saw his size numbers at the top, you should know that is small for an interior D-lineman. In FBS football, that's also a little on the small side for an exterior D-lineman. So there is cause for concern. However, like most Virginia Tech football players, through the strength and conditioning program, we make men out of boys, and the good news is that Marshall has some room to grow out on his frame.
I think that Corey is much like former Richmond area D-lineman and current Hokie John Graves. John is undersized at DT and as a result, has struggled at times with the physicality of interior O-linemen. Many people think John is just a one of a kind amazing player, but I still have yet to see it. I'm sure he gives it his all, and he has been good, but not at the level people give him adulation for. I think Corey may end up being that same player. He is a little too slow to be a pass rushing defensive end, and a little too weak to be an interior DL=John Graves.
Scout.com does this cool thing where they list a players' major strengths and weaknesses on their player page, and I really think they nailed all but one thing about him. Under his strengths, the first is intensity/effort. Watching his highlight tapes, I completely agree with them. You hear pundits and analysts all the time talking about teams wanting DL's with a motor that never stops. That is this guy. In fact, I think that is what endeared him to the Virginia Tech coaching staff, and allowed him to be ranked so high. His other strengths according to Scout are his quickness off the ball and his strength (literally). I do like his quickness off the ball, especially off the edge. He seems to get a good jump, and sometimes that equates to him completely going by an O-linemen and into the backfield. Having that good jump allows him to speed rush or to bull rush as he catches the O-lineman off-guard. BUT, the thing I disagree with is his strength. I think it is VERY GOOD for a HS football D-lineman, and is VERY GOOD even for a player his size. But start plugging him into the equation against 6'7" 300 pound O-linemen with long arms, and he is more or less rendered ineffective if he can't beat the guy around the outside untouched (which is about 5-10 percent of the time AT BEST). That's where Scout correctly identifies a problem that I saw in his highlight tape when he was playing DT. He has a hard time disengaging or shedding blocks that offensive linemen put on him. This was exponentially increased when he was at DT. So thinking that his troubles would not exponentially increase at the college level is, well, incredibly stupid. Scout also says that he needs to improve his techniques and moves, which I can also attest to. Every great DL has at least one move that makes him unstoppable. Marshall doesn't have this move yet, or any move that I could see. He is VERY raw, and it will be awhile before he sees the field, especially with our young and deep DL crop.
13. Donovan Smith 6'5" 270 lbs. OT Owings Mill HS, Owings Mill, MD- Despite his slight frame, Donovan is an absolute BEAST at Tackle. He is plenty strong, and is a MASTER at keeping oncoming defensive linemen engaged. He has the agility to move with defenders laterally as they try to get by him. BUT, he gets absolutely abused by a defender who knows how to use a jab step to the outside to set him up for the inside move, and then bull rush him to the inside. BUT, I wouldn't be too worried about inside moves as the problem arose at a 1-on-1 OL vs. DL camp, so with the help of an O-line and a non-stationary QB (a dummy was used in place of a real QB as is the practice at these camps), I don't know how much we should make of this. Unfortunately we don't have much of a chance with him, as he has more or less eliminated us already.
As is obvious for his weight at tackle, Donovan will need to add bulk on the next level, but it shouldn't be a problem for him as he is built like a WR on a tackle's frame.
Losing out on Landon Turner and Kiaro Holts to UNC and not really having a chance on Cyrus Kouandijo made this get all the more important. But, it looks like at the end of the day we are coming up short in that department this year. This bird has flown the coup and will most likely be a Nittany Lion or a Terrapin.
14. Kris Harley 6'2" 265 lbs. DL Warren Central HS, Indianapolis, IN (STATUS: COMMITTED TO VT)- Kris was one of our earliest commitments of the 2011 recruiting class. He is a product of Warren Central H.S. in Indianapolis, Indiana. If that school sounds familiar it's because Darren Evans came out of there. It is also the school of UNC commit and former Tech prospect Kiaro Holts. There are several other kids our coaching staff is looking at from there over the next couple of years (including this year) but nobody that really blows me away, and we're likely talking about invited walk-ons who are getting a look because of the face time they've gotten with the VT coaches and just the added benefit of one of their teammates signing with us. It's one of the oldest tricks in the recruiting book, but to get a younger brother who is better than his older brother to commit to you, sometimes you have to take the older brother, even if he's not quite good enough. What's 1 scholarship if you land the star? The same is true for extended family (i.e. cousins) and teammates.
Harley is a good get for us as he's the #219 ranked prospect in the nation by Rivals and the 20th DT. He has an uncanny knack for blowing plays up in the backfield. However, this is mostly on run plays as he is not a polished pass rusher at the moment. He seems to use the team's blocking against it, by getting such a good push that he backs the linemen into the holes and the running back is forced to lower his head and go it alone without a hole up the middle or kick it outside.
His explosion off the line is really superb. He moves like a defensive end in the open field, and given his size, he may be able to play any position on the defensive line like Corey Marshall. He is particularly good at shooting/filling gaps and in pursuit. However, to be able to compete on the defensive line consistently on the collegiate level he really needs to be able to disengage from blocks easier. Some of this will come with technique training that he will receive, but some of it is dependent on how much bulk he can add to his frame and still be effective. Those two things are both equally important, and finding a balance of bulk/power and quickness will be the challenge for him.
15. Cyrus Kouandijo 6'7" 322 lbs. OT Dematha HS, Hyattsville, MD- Cyrus, the brother of Arie Kouandijo (The 15th ranked offensive tackle in the nation a year ago who committed to Alabama) is a load on the field. Cyrus is now rated the #2 offensive tackle nationally and the #10 overall player. He is a VERY LONG LONGSHOT to come to Tech since we haven't even officially offered him a scholarship yet. Many recruiting analysts say that Cyrus' frame is so lean that he could put on 30 pounds comfortably on the college level. I'd tend to agree with them after watching his highlight tapes. They also mention that he has the build of an NFL tight end and not a high school tackle. This kid's body fat has to be under 10%! Despite this, he is an INCREDIBLY dominant physical blocker. This especially evident in the run game, as he seals his man off to the play.
Cyrus also has the motor that allows him to get second level, which is something that I love. Also whether it's a run play or a pass play, Cyrus has the ability both with his length and strength to keep you at bay. Once you are engaged with him, you stay engaged with him, there is no second option. He has a tremendous amount of pancakes based on how quickly he gets lift and comes off the line. He's very quick and agile for someone his size.
As for a decision, Cyrus has been VERY quiet to the point of frustration for recruiting analysts. Some project that he wants to join his brother Arie at Alabama. Others say he wants to go his own path and go to Penn State, Pitt, Maryland, Iowa or UVA. Those are really his leaders at the moment, but the order is up for debate. For the Hokies to land him, they'd have to make an almost impossible push and then get some help in the way of other teams over-signing and filing their boards, which is unlikely if they have a guy like this left on the board. Although this bird has waved bye-bye as well, it's still nice to dream about.
I hope you enjoyed this Part 3 of the Virginia Tech Football Recruiting Guide for the class of 2011. Look out for the rest of this series on GobblerCountry.com which will conclude with Part 5 right before National Signing Day. Also, check out the Hokiehaven.com 2011 Target Board. However, you must be a Rivals.com member to see this.