Oh Hokie Nation, how I wish I came to you bearing great news on the recruiting front. After our embarrassing 40-12 loss to Stanford in the Orange Bowl, our top-two running backs declaring early for the NFL Draft and rumors about Bud Foster's departure to become a head coach (which have momentarily been quashed), I wish I had some sort of pick-me-up for you all. Alas, it's not coming. Woe be us Hokies. So much like the 2011 Hokies will have to pick up the pieces of our South Florida disaster to start the year, inside I will be discussing how much we can actually salvage out of this recruiting class in this fourth installment of Virginia Tech Football Recruiting Guide for the class of 2011.
(I'm going with the bad news first and getting it out of the way, because there's more of it and it's bigger news)
- 12/18 BY FAR the most painful, Travis Hughes (a 4-star LB #3 on my list) committed to UNC
- 12/20 Drew Owens (a 3-star TE and #24 on my list) committed to South Carolina
- 12/22 Demetrious Nicholson (a 4-star CB who was #7 on my list) committed to UVA
- 12/23 Alonzo Russell (a 3-star receiver that we coveted that was under the radar until late, much the same way Jarrett Boykin's recruitment went) committed to Toledo
- 12/26 Marquise Williams (a 4-star QB and #11b on my list) announced that he was firm on his commitment to UNC after speculation that he might defect to Tech.
- 1/08 Donovan Smith (a 4-star OT and #13 on my list) committed to Penn State
- 1/14 Demontevious Smith (a 2-star ATH and #34 on my list) committed to Georgia Tech, despite having a visit scheduled with us on 1/21 (I actually don't REALLY consider this bad news at the moment, as we are short on scholarships and I feel like we're just reaching to fill out a class...which ALWAYS affects your program negatively, but I will reserve judgment for when I watch his highlight tape next week).
- 1/14 Kevin Grooms (a 3-star ATH and #31 on my list, who will probably play RB according to reports I've read) committed to Miami. In a breaking development though, according to this ACC All-Acess article by Norm Wood, after Charley Wiles flew to Florida to have an in-home visit with him, he agreed to follow through on his scheduled visit with us, although he has said he is firmly committed to Miami. He is apparently curious about our running back depth chart now with the early-entry of Williams and Evans.
- And last, but certainly not the least painful, Dominique Terrell (a 4-star ATH who was #5 on my list, and who many (including myself) believed to be favoring us until mid-December) did not even schedule a visit on our campus. Basically, if you're short on the uptake, it means Mr. Terrell will be taking his talents elsewhere.
- 11/27 Lafonte Thourogood (a 3-star ATH and #11c on my list who is projected to play QB for Tech) committed to Tech after a visit.
- 11/27 Michael Branthover (a 2-star K and #32 on my list) committed to Tech, although he may not have an offer other than to be an invited walk on with a chance to be greyshirted, (which just basically means they will withhold his scholarship until the spring of 2012) during his visit.
- 12/13 Michael Holmes (a 3-star RB and #23 on my list) committed to Tech.
- 12/21 Kyshoen Jarret (a 4-star CB and #18 on my list) finalized his de-commitment from Pitt by committing to Tech. To date Kyshoen is our highest-ranked commitment on Rivals.com.
- 1/5 Darius Redman (a 2-star TE and #27 on my list) de-committed from Virginia and switched his commitment to Tech.
- 1/7 And if you could consider this good news (I consider it a joke), Demetri Knowles (a ZERO-STAR WR and #35 on my list) committed to Virginia Tech over his only other offer...WHICH WAS LIBERTY!!! Granted stars aren't everything, and Rivals.com as well as everyone else makes mistakes, but if you have zero-stars THIS late in the recruiting process, you are not a serious Division I football prospect. Oh yeah, and this guy's not a greyshirt. Nope, you read that right, we straight up offered him a scholarship. I hope I'm wrong. I hope I'm SOOOOO wrong and I end up meeting this guy and he laughs in my face. So Demetri Knowles, if you're reading this, here's your motivation.
- And last but certainly not least, Stephone Anthony (a 5-star LB and #6 on my list) is visiting on 1/21. He is our top uncommitted prospect (which isn't saying much) and is the key that will likely decide how we view this recruiting class. Is it a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE recruiting class? Or is it an average haul? He is the only remaining uncommitted Tech prospect with an offer from the Hokies according to Rivals.com, so it's safe to say if we don't get him, we're closing up shop (short of invited walk-ons, possible greyshirts or maybe just last minute offers out of necessity). The good news is almost EVERY committed player in this class will be on campus with him that day. That is one very well-planned out visit date by the Hokies coaching staff.
And I guess this kind of qualifies as good news, as three members of the class of 2011 have already enrolled at Virginia Tech. Those three are Justin Taylor (whose name you may not recognize as he has not been included in any of the recruiting articles because he was originally a 2010 pledge who prepped), Caleb Farris (who was also a 2010 pledge who took a semester off) and Adeboye Aromire.
16. Darius Jennings 6'0" 180 lbs. ATH Gilman School, Baltimore, MD- Darius is rated as the #19 athlete in the country, the #3 player in the state of Maryland, and the #180 player according to Rivals.com. This guy is an explosive athlete who plays all over the field. He can stop on a dime and cut back with scary effectiveness. He played some quarterback in HS, but I doubt if anyone not running an option attack is looking at him there. His modus operandi is to get outside the tackles. He's so limited to the outside that I could see some college D's shutting him down or at least slowing him considerably by making him run inside, where he's not very effective unless there's a gaping hole. He is effective inside WHEN he uses a read option and beats defenders through the hole and can show his flat-line speed, BUT the second he sees contact he's going down. Jennings may be fast, but not seeing any contact up the middle in college is beyond unlikely.
He is not necessarily a BAD passer, but he is not always accurate either. He's more of a throw the ball up there and hope his guy comes down with it. He is much better on the run as he sucks the defense in. He reminds me a little bit of David Wilson as a runner, but obviously not in his ability to take contact (or dish it out a little).
Right now our chances are landing him are pretty slim, because of our scholarship situation and the scholarships that he has been offered (24 by my count). He has narrowed his list considerably based on the visit dates he's scheduled (which are Virginia and Ohio State, so go Ohio State! That's the first time you'll hear me say that).
17a. Nick Vannett 6'6" 230 lbs. TE Westerville Central HS, Westerville, OH (STATUS: Committed to Ohio St.)- Speaking of Ohio State...Nick Vannett was a priority target for the Hokies at TE. Nick is ranked #192 in the nation and the #13 TE. He is from Ohio, so it may have been a little bit of a stretch to land him, but we've done more surprising (and yes in a good way) things. Nick is a heck of a blocker. His highlight tape is full of sit routes, in which he will just flare off of the line of scrimmage to the quarterback's side (depending on the rollout and the handedness of the QB) of the field and just sit, exactly like the route sounds and wait for the QB to find him if he makes his progressions all the way to the sit route which is usually his bailout option. At 6'6" he's a big target, but I feel like a lot of the hype surrounding Nick is based off of height and potential.
For instance, with contact in the open field, Nick falls quicker than a Pau Gasol flop-job. Maybe it's not that bad, maybe he's just clumsy. But it does look like he goes into contact looking to go down, sometimes initiating his own fall (which is distinguishable from just lowering your pad level). This is surprising considering his size and frame, especially for the high school game. Nick, just like Christian Reeves (17b., so read on) has played wide receiver in high school, and therefore has benefitted from route running. Nick has very good acceleration after the catch, which usually amounts in 5 yards of YAC (or yards after catch, which you'll take any day from a TE). He also cuts pretty well for a man his size.
In the end, Ohio State probably got the better tight end of the two because of the potential that Nick has. But to be honest, the difference between Christian Reeves (our tight end commit) and Nick Vannett was so little I couldn't tell you that I'd necessarily rather have Nick than Christian.
17b. Christian Reeves 6'3" 214 lbs. TE Eagle's Landing Christian HS, McDonough, GA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- Christian is a 3-star prospect and the #26 rated tight end according to Rivals.com. To be honest, I think Christian may be a little bit better than this ranking because of his versatility and ability to play multiple positions. The first thing that jumped off the page at me when looking at Christian Reeves is that he is particularly fleet of foot. He's not as fast as listed (4.46 in the 40), but he continually ran by HS DB's. He breaks a LOT of tackles, and really gets out of a lot of impossible and adverse situations, including tiptoeing down the sideline, so he has good feet (something Rex Ryan would covet!). Watching him makes you think "HOW DID HE GET THROUGH THAT HOLE!?"
He is great at winning jump balls, often with contact. He played a lot of WR in HS, and really has a good understanding of running routes because of it. He seems to know how much space he needs to get open, and just kind of floats to that area, a lot like Danny Coale, who gets open by finding the soft spot in the zone or exploiting the mismatch of a linebacker on a crossing route. I think he could play either WR or TE at the next level, but, his blocking is so advanced and at such an advanced physical level, I think TE may be the more natural position, although I could see him being moved into the slot. He's really a receiving threat no matter where we put him because of his ability to run good routes which leads to him getting open.
Christian was a great get because he slipped under the radar and we got to him early. He and Matt Roth (#19 on my list) were probably the gems of the class in that regard. Tech always seems to do well in this area (i.e. finding a guy under the radar and getting on him early before bigger schools looking at more touted prospects get ahold of a kid's tape).
18. Kyshoen Jarrett 6'1" 182 lbs. CB East Stroudsburg HS, East Stroudsburg, PA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- Kyshoen was the most recent Hokie commit when I started writing this article. He de-committed from Pitt when Dave Wannstedt was sent packing (the first of two coaches they've let go in the last month), so I'm sure he's glad to be a Hokie and know who his coach the next four years will be.
Kyshoen is rated by Rivals.com as a 4-star prospect, the #15 CB prospect, the #5 player in the state of Pennsylvania and the #155 player in the nation (and since I began writing this he ended up dropping to the #18 corner and the 175th overall player). Personally, I think that is a bit high for him, as I'd say he's more in the 200-300 range of players, but time will tell.
Kyshoen does NOT possess very natural "swivel hips," a characteristic that is very important to coverage. He is way too high in this backpedal, which is something that can be coached, but sometimes depends on a player's body and frame. He is REALLY great in run support (perhaps why we were interested in him), shedding his blocks EXTREMELY quickly, however he sits on the tracks too often when waiting for a running back to come into the hole. That's a good thing to prevent from over-pursuit, which prevents him from being taken out of the play, BUT on the collegiate level, he may get knocked out of a play by a blocker getting second level, or a superior athlete making a cut that'll break his ankles. Has an uncanny penchant for stripping the ball.
Kyshoen looks more the part of a contributing field corner than the shutdown boundary corner in Tech's scheme. With his specialty being press coverage, he is going to require an awful lot of help if the receiver sheds the press, something Tech doesn't like to do in their scheme. Still, Kyshoen is a HUGE get for Tech, especially after losing Demetrious Nicholson to the 'Hoos. Jarrett did have at least 14 offers from big programs, and the good news for Tech fans is that he is EXACTLY the kind of person we want in this program. He makes good grades, he's articulate and personable and he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. Coaches will take those kids any day, boon or bust.
19. Matt Roth 6'4" 225 lbs. DE Nease HS, Ponte Vedra, FL (STATUS: Committed to VT)- Without jumping the gun on this one and jinxing Mr. Roth's college performance (meaning everyone who is reading this please knock on wood now) I am going to say that getting Matt Roth was one of the best jobs our staff did in this class. He slipped under the radar and we jumped on him early before any of the big conference schools offered him. Roth is a 3-star prospect according to Rivals.com and the #12 weakside defensive end in the nation.
Matt's best attribute is his quickness off the ball. He gets up and out of his stance before offensive linemen take their first backpedal step, which usually equates to him being able to cause some sort of havoc in the backfield. Of course, in his highlight tape he often came into the backfield unblocked. You'd have to imagine that would be a rarity in college football. Although he is primarily a rush end, he is a pretty good all-around player. He diagnoses the run well, and sheds his blocks quickly once he determines where the run is headed. He never quits on a play, and shows persistence in making sure he gets a player ALL THE WAY to the ground, something our defensive unit could certainly use (James Madison game anyone...?)
It's really hard to get a complete read on Roth because he only has one fairly short highlight tape up online with duplicate plays, so I had to make the most of what I had. However, to me, he looks like a solid player that may be able to push for time in his third year when our current crop of young DE's will be on their way out. He's not a superstar in any way, he's just a solid, good technique player. He will never be big enough to move inside, and even to play DE in college he'll have to fill out his frame some. But if he can do that and keep his explosion, he'll be a productive player. If he can't fill out his body, Tech coaches may have to give him a look at the backer position, much like they did with Jake Johnson, who had a similar frame.
20. Ronny Vandyke 6'3" 200 lbs. S South County HS, Lorton, VA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- Ronny was the first commit to this Virginia Tech recruiting class. He is ranked as the 20th safety in the nation and the #8 player in the Commonwealth by Rivals.com.
Ronny has played all over the field on defense, often rotating between safety, linebacker and cornerback. He also plays receiver on offense. After watching his tapes, I think there is some debate to where Ronny would play. The possibilities span from rover to whip to even split end. Ultimately, I'm not as impressed with his defense as some are, but basically he is not superb in coverage. He is also kind of frustrating because he comes up to hit people in the run game yet he doesn't hit them. He backs off. It's almost like he forgot what he came there for! He is not a form tackler, often diving at guys' legs. He over-pursues even though he is generally very good in providing run support if not finishing the play. He's a gambler for sure. I know this is not what you want to hear, but he plays a lot like Jeron Gouveia-Winslow does right now, a little aloof and all over the place (which is bad considering JGW's HS tape was pretty awesome, he was a STUD HS player, and Ronny just really doesn't look the part).
I think that Ronny projects as a whip most likely, especially with two other safety commits in this class and another guy in Kyshoen Jarrett who could possibly make that transition. However, it would not be a bad thing to give him a STRONG look on the offensive side of the ball. He runs pretty good routes, comes back to the quarterback, and has pretty reliable hands. Plus I don't just like the lack of willingness to put a hit on somebody, especially as many arm tackles as we've seen out of the Hokies' D as of late.
On the positive side, Ronny is going to be an elite special teams player. He blocks punts at a staggering rate. With that trait, I'm sure Frank was salivating to get him.
I hope you enjoyed this Part 4 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 on National Signing Day (Feb. 2). Also, check out the Hokiehaven.com 2011 Target Board. However, you must be a Rivals.com member to see this.