Well Hokie fans, I have more bad news. But, I know you're used to it, so be good Hokie fans like we're told and just accept it. Just get up and leave your house and go to your nearest church of Frank Beamer and praise him for all he has done in your life (the good and the bad). All joking aside, we are several hours from inking our WORST RECRUITING CLASS IN MODERN HISTORY! Want to know why!? Well, keep reading. Plenty of gloom and doom ahead.
WARNING: If you're a true Tech fan and you can't make it through, I'll understand and nobody will look down on you. But as I suggested in my first installment of this series, if Tech DID NOT PRODUCE THE BEST RECRUITING CLASS IN IT'S FOOTBALL HISTORY THIS YEAR then it was a failure, and to cope with it, we should all grab strong drinks and drink to opportunities lost. Guess what? We didn't quite meet that benchmark. You know what that means.
But seriously, why is this the worst class in Tech's modern history? Well here are the six obvious reasons I could come up with...
1. FULL HOUSE- This year The Commonwealth had more talent than any year in recent memory. There was a good balance of positions, there were 6 prospects ranked in the Rivals top-250, and there was of course the #2 overall prospect in LB phenom Curtis Grant (the highest rank for a Commonwealth prospect since Percy Harvin was #1 nationally in 2005), who grew up an avid Hokie fan and as recently as mid-2010 was still said to be favoring us. We HAVE to win those guys.
2. TABLE FOR 2011 HOKIES, PARTY OF ...?- A common misconception about our class is that the reason for our shortcomings in the recruiting arena was a lack of space in our class. Now I know we are still below the numbers we have taken in our recent classes, but we currently have 19 prospects committed that will receive a scholarship this coming season (20 if you count 2010 holdover Justin Taylor), including 3 who will likely receive a scholarship in the spring via grey-shirting and a possibility for a fourth (or more! Heck, there could be ones I don't even know about). In addition to that, we have AT LEAST one straight up scholarship offer left on the board. Now, if you add those numbers, we're talking about a possibility of 26 players that we KNOW about. I think that debunks that myth (p.s. Mythbusters, if you're hiring, I'm interested. Consider that my audition).
3. TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER...OH, HE DOESN'T MAKE HOUSE CALLS?- One of the more visible aspects of the failure of this class is that the big whigs of the Hokie football program were often MIA. Very few prospects were assigned to the coordinators (of course that is the norm for Tech, but this year they took it to the extreme!), and Tech took a very conservative approach to recruiting, much like what has held them back in previous years ON THE FIELD! When things started to go awry, we said "stay the course. It'll work its way out." Where have we heard that before? Hmmm....
The thing is, it DIDN'T work its way out, and when by the time realized we were in the corner with our hands tied behind our back, it was too late. We didn't even make our version of Custer's last stand until January 21st and hoped that by bringing in a mass amount of our commits we could land an elite out of state player...but sometimes it is just too late to make such an impact.
When Dabo Swinney and Butch Davis are in recruits houses and Frank Beamer is sitting at home kicking back to Larry the Cable Guy and making Kevin Sherman and Torrian Gray do the grunt work, you can imagine the result (and that's nothing against those guys). Hell, Bud Foster only signed ONE recruit this year, and HE COMMITTED DURING SUMMER FOOTBALL CAMP! How much work did Bud actually have to do to get that to happen!? Maybe that's not the most accurate representation of what happened, but it's at least sniffing up the right tree.
4. DOMINOES ON LONDON BRIDGE- We should have quashed a new coach's (Mike London's) hopes and recruiting dreams by dominating him in recruiting like we have dominated his team on the field when we had the opportunity. Granted London was from the 757 area, and he is a young, successful, charismatic African-American coach who secured commitments mostly from African-American players by selling them on the possibilities of UVA and the hype and energy surrounding the program. It wasn't JUST African-Americans committing to UVA. Seven Caucasians also comprise the 24-player UVA class right now. But without turning this into a race war, consider this: In the shoes of a young African-American OR Caucasian player from the Hampton Roads area, who would you rather play for? Who would you feel could relate to you more? Mike London or Frank Beamer? If it were me, I would rather play for London.
Once he managed to secure commitments from several of the elite Hampton Roads players, the dominoes fell (as they always do in recruiting) and the other recruits saw what London was building. Unfortunately the Tech coaches were playing a different game called Chicken Foot, and they stuck to it. But in Chicken Foot, there is no domino effect.
5. JMWHO?- The loss to James Madison (as well as our continued struggle against Top-5 opponents) signaled to all the elite prospects that we were a sinking ship. Ultimately, it didn't matter what we did after the JMU game. The Titanic (remember, at least we thought in that game that we were UNSINKABLE!) had already sent out our S.O.S., passengers had already bailed off of the and they were rowing away frantically to prevent from getting sucked under as we were unquestionably sinking. Sure, we managed to stay afloat and bob above the water for much longer than people imagined we would after hitting the iceberg, but ultimately, we still went down. I promise I won't break into Celine Dion, but you get the picture. We sank our ship early in our voyage. Too early to reach port with everyone on board.
6. NOT SO TOP-10- Okay, so we lost the in-state recruiting battle to UVA. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it? We've beaten them seven times straight on the field. But there's a problem. Just like in the WWE, we let our guard down more people came into the ring than we could handle. Before long there was chair-bashing, pile-driving, double-suplex action (I had to Google how to spell suplex. That should tell you how long it's been since I've watched wrestling) IN OUR RING! And before we knew it we were put into a submission hold and had to tap out. And then they threw us out of the ring onto one of those breakaway tables and took our heavyweight belt.
The real life parallel is that we only landed TWO of the state's top-10 players (according to Virginia Preps). TWO! And only THREE of the Top-20. If that doesn't prove my point then I don't know what will.
Moving on: Since my last recruiting article here are the events which transpired that have gotten us to this point.
(I'm going with the bad news first and getting it out of the way, because it's bigger news)
- 1/21 Despite taking an official visit, Kevin Grooms (a 3-star ATH and #31 on my list) stayed committed to Miami.
- Rumors have begun to circulate that our only QB commit in this class Lafonte Thourogood (#11c on my list) is close to de-committing and committing to Vanderbilt.
- Our only remaining prospect of note, 5-star LB Stephone Anthony (#6 on my list) is rumored to be signing a letter of intent to play for Clemson University later today. He will announce his decision on ESPNU at 11:30!
- 1/21-Today Four players have committed to the Hokies and one invited walk-on turned down scholarships to play at Virginia Tech. They are in order of commitment date Ryan Malleck, Robert Lockhart, Wedley Estime/Luther Maddy (committed around the same time) and Joshua Trimble (walk-on). I will not be including them in my player rankings as they committed late, but I will do a follow-up on these players sometime in the near future.
21. David Watford 6'2" 180 lbs. QB Hampton HS, Hampton, VA (STATUS: Committed to UVA)- His ability to escape the pocket is impressive, and reminds me of another Crabber that also wore #5 (at Tech at least) Tyrod Taylor. I wouldn't really compare him to anyone else that went through our system at QB, because like Tyrod, he doesn't blow you away with his speed. David is a deliberate runner, which you always like to see. He knows EXACTLY where he is going with the ball. He may not make a bunch of people miss with jukes (of course, it's also possible that he may), but he's not going to lose yardage on a designed run-play. He keeps the play alive like few can, with one play on his highlight tape that looked exactly like Tyrod's running in circles play against FSU in the ACCCG, except David's almost went to the house!
The things that separate him from Taylor at this point are that Taylor had VASTLY superior zip and accuracy on the ball, and had a better release point and throwing motion than I believe Watford will ever have. However, I think Watford has an advantage at this point of his career as well. He keeps his eyes down the field more when he takes off behind the line of scrimmage, something Tyrod was not as skilled at at that point of his career, and it really took him until his junior year to truly develop that.
Based on his highlight tape, most of his passes are short-to-intermediate routes (i.e. crosses, quick posts and outs). His play-faking ability is just average (and that's not an assessment of it's effectiveness, but rather his energy level when doing it) and yet is effective. Energy level is crucial to a pump-fake. If you don't sell it like it's real, the defense won't buy it. However, it'll be scary if he ever masters that completely. David does have tremendous footwork in the pocket, and there are no wasted steps. He's got a smooth motion in his dropback and doesn't abandon it in the instance of pressure so he can set to make a throw. Has good ability to find the hot receiver, and also is very good at finding the holes in the zone.
As far as I can tell, David doesn't throw the deep ball that often, even though judging by the Blacksburg Nike Camp videos, arm strength is one of his specialties. Getting a better look at his release up close and looking at the zip he gets on the ball makes me believe this kid is going to be more than just fine at the next level. He gets ELITE explosion from his arm coming over the top with the throw. Even if he was the least accurate quarterback in the 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills (stationary QB throws to receiver covered by DB), I feel like he was trying to force a lot of throws to make too much happen. But, most of the balls were not only out of his receiver's reach, but also the defensive backs.
My final analysis is that this is a guy I made a mistake on. Certainly he warrants being ranked higher on my list (probably somewhere in the mid-teens, although I do like him better than Williams and Thourogood), but having just seen the Blacksburg video to this point, I underrated him. It stinks that he ended up committing to the 'Hoos as well, because provided UVA doesn't land a stud QB in the next few years (knock on wood. EVERYBODY!) he's gonna be the guy we have to go up against, and it's a shame because I think he fits our system like a glove.
22. James Farrow 6'0" 178 lbs. ATH (CB) Minnetonka HS, Minnetonka, MN (STATUS: Committed to VT)- After watching James' first video, one thing I can confidently tell you is that he will be involved as a returner on our special teams units. VERY involved! In fact, I'll go a bit further and say that post-Jayron Hosley, Dyrell Roberts and David Wilson, James Farrow will be our return guy. He takes balls off of a hop and makes one or two cuts MAX and gets upfield (although once he's upfield he may make some jukes or reverse field, kind of reminding me of Eddie Royal's cutback vision in that regard), exploding through holes that didn't even seem to be there. Yeah, he's THAT kind of athlete. His highlight tape includes one of the SICKEST plays I've EVER seen!
James is best when the ball is in his hands, so he will probably AT LEAST get a look in the return game or eventually offense, because that's when he's the most dynamic and can have the biggest impact on the game.
I would not bet on him being a very productive cornerback. His stance and distance pre-play tell the whole story. Regardless of down and distance, a 14-yard cushion means one of two things: You're up 70-0 in the second quarter, OR you don't have confidence in your ability as a cornerback in coverage. I'm guessing that not all of his highlights occurred under the circumstances of the first reason. He also stands STRAIGHT UP and at a little bit of an angle that causes the deep out, flag, and streak routes more dangerous because of blown coverage. One thing he does do extremely well is read the wide receiver screen and blow it up, something Tech coaches covet and Tech corners have had in their pedigree (Macho and Brandon Flowers come to mind). Also, not surprisingly, he's not too shabby in run-support.
James looked MUCH better in coverage at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp (and yes, that is a real name for a camp). Although he still gave too much of a cushion (and was punished for it), he was smooth in his backpedal, and he played the ball in the air EXTREMELY well, and played it at its highest point (a DB coach's wet dream). However, he did spend too much time with his head turned away from the ball for my liking.
When James makes it to campus, I'd expect coaches the coaches to give him a SERIOUS look at playing all three ways (both sides of the ball and special teams) if not immediately, then by the time we lose some of our current offensive crop. His athleticism gives him the potential to at least be an above average player on defense (much like Macho Harris' athleticism contributed to him being a good defender). As a special teams player he's truly great, and as an H-back particularly, or out of the slot, he's a dangerous option that gives us the opportunity add an element to our offense that we don't possess. Certainly after watching all of his highlight tapes I'm PUMPED about getting this kid in a uniform. I can say now (knock on wood) that he is the biggest sleeper of our class. Certainly he's not as good as Dominique Terrell, but he's a poor man's Dominique Terrell, and that's still not bad.
23. Michael Holmes 6'0" 200 lbs. RB Harrisonburg HS, Harrisonburg, VA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- When Michael Holmes committed to the Hokies back in December, I, along with many others, was actually confused. For the longest time the rumors had been that Holmes had completely soured on the Hokies and that the Hokies likewise had little interest in Holmes (as originally it appeared that he was a make good offer to try and land Harrisonburg OT and Holmes' teammate Landon Turner).
The closest comparison I can draw to Michael is Mike Imoh. Although this sounds preposterous, as the diminutive Imoh was only 5'7", their running styles are practically identical. Just like Imoh, Holmes reverses field in the backfield, cuts multiple times before he hits the line, and relies the stretch play to take advantage of his lateral agility. However, completely UNLIKE Imoh, he has below average vertical top-end speed for a college running back. Holmes is about as fast as Cedric Humes. He's listed as running in the 4.4 range on his 40-yard dash, but I'd peg him more between the 4.5-4.75 range (I'd say at the lowest, it would be towards the middle of that range). Now that's just a ballpark figure based on what I saw on his tape, but I will say definitively that he is not a burner. Heck, on one of his highlights his blocker (it was a blocker too, not a receiver) outruns him to the endzone and the two are at full sprint! The one thing that Holmes has in common with Humes is that he breaks a high amount of arm tackles.
Although he has incredible offensive production from his time at Harrisonburg, please remember he played behind a BEHEMOTH run-blocking offensive lineman in Landon Turner that just bulldozed anyone in his way. And as I mentioned above about his speed, he does have some undeniable flaws. One such flaw is that he runs too high, more or less straight up and down. He needs to lower his pad level if he's going to get extra yardage by breaking tackles on the next level.
As for Holmes' contributions to the Hokies? Well, he's never going to be our starter unless we really get in a crunch and can't produce a worthwhile running back once David Wilson is done. What he is is a solid player. He may see the field in limited amounts later in his career, but I don't think he has the upside to make a considerable impact on the field. I'd imagine he's somewhere between Keith Burnell, Kenny Lewis Jr., Josh Oglesby and Elan Lewis. Let's hope for the former, as it's hard to imagine someone making less of an impact than Elan Lewis did on the field for the Hokies.
24. Drew Owens 6'5" 227 lbs. Ardrey Kell HS, Charlotte, NC (STATUS: Committed to South Carolina)- Drew has everything you'd want in a TE. He's got a giant frame. He runs nice, pretty-crisp routes for a TE. He seems to have good hands. He wins the jump ball not just because of his height, but also his leaping ability. He's a solid technique blocker, although he will have to grow out significantly to block effectively in the SEC. He realizes when he sees a veiled blitz by the defense that he has to cut his route short as a safety valve for his quarterback. He also is very good getting open in general, something any good receiver must have (Danny Coale anyone?).
Speaking of receiver, Drew has the ability to get some looks there in college as well. He's a good enough of an athlete with a quick explosion to get off the line and into his route like a receiver. He also has a pretty high-end top speed for someone his height and size (I'd buy his 4.78 40-time AND some), and he reaches it quickly. In fact, his BEST asset is his acceleration. Certainly Drew was a good pickup for the Gamecocks and Steve Spurrier, but I'd rather not dwell on not picking up Drew when we picked up a real quality TE in Christian Reeves.
25. Dewayne Alford 6'3" 220 lbs. DE Nansemond River HS, Suffolk, VA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- This pickup was a very good one for Tech, because it allowed them to get SOME kind of foothold on the 757 or the Hampton Roads area and they get a developing player with good upside while being able to offer him only a greyshirt scholarship, meaning it does not take affect immediately.
He absolutely MUST get bigger in college, but I'm not necessarily concerned given Mike Gentry's track-record and the fact that Alford will get a greyshirt year. Dewayne is pretty good at fighting off blocks for his size (in HS), and also when he gets you in his clutches, you're going down (again, in HS). He is also very good at diagnosing the run and figuring out which hole it's going through so he can shed his block.
He has good explosion off the line and as I went through his videos, I realized he progressed as a pass rusher from his junior to senior year simply by timing his jump better and adding some nice speed moves to his arsenal. Dewayne is prone to over-pursuit, and will need to iron that out. He also not only plays through the whistle, but sometimes PAST it, which is what you want out of a center, but as a defensive end you're always gonna get called for hitting the QB late (or the RB who he also hit late often too). Dewayne must also quit standing in the hole waiting on the RB to come through and rely on his strength to take care of things. In college, his wrap up tackles will become arm tackles if he doesn't remedy this, or a back will choose a different hole and leave him sitting. Basically there are a lot of things that Alford has to do to get on the field, but given the program's history for turning out diamonds in the rough, I'm cautiously optimistic about Alford. He's certainly a project though (and sorry I have to sound like a broken record, but it's true that Tech has a lot of unknowns in this class).
26. Alonzo Russell 6'4" 188 lbs. WR Milford Academy, New Berlin, NY (STATUS: Committed to Toledo)- This was such an embarrassing loss for Tech on two levels. One, at the time Tech had ZERO commitments at WR, and secondly, the team they lost Russell to was Toledo. Yeah, the MAC school. I know he's from NY, and that we may be out of our recruiting comfort zone or even range, but to not be able to win a recruiting battle with Toledo is disconcerting.
For such a big receiver he has great agility. He has the ability to adjust to a ball mid-route, which is a treasured asset. Alonzo seems to have good comprehension of route-running. When he's in the open-field, there aren't a lot of players who are going to catch him. He reminds me of a taller version of Josh Morgan.
Alonzo is definitely an offensive player. He tackles too high and he runs around aloof, like a chicken with his head cut off (JGW anyone?). He will probably be a GREAT player in the MAC. Look for him to be high up on the MAC receiving lists in the next few years.
27. Darius Redman 6'4" 241 lbs. TE H.D. Woodson HS, Washington D.C. (STATUS: Committed to VT)- Darius surprised Hokie fans and Cavs fans when he de-committed from UVA and decided to commit to their state rival. Obviously they're pretty steamed in Charlottesville, but despite his low Rivals ranking, I think he has a chance to be good, much the same that Jerome Lewis does. has GREAT agility, speed, and presence of mind to know where he's at all times on the football field and what he needs to do (i.e. getting open and breaking off his route as a safety valve for the QB on a veiled blitz like Drew Owens). Darius has soft hands and has a good vertical leap to win jump balls. He is an average to above-average blocker, but like everyone else, he needs to grow out in that regard. He is a very precise route-runner.
Darius also might get a look at defense because of his size and the fact that he's no slouch on that side of the ball. He overpowered blockers and just drove them into the backfield with ease (of course, again HS blockers that shouldn't have been on the field with him), which is great to see considering I thought his speed was his best asset. Much like Chris Drager, he could see both sides of the ball by the time he's done in Blacksburg.
28. Chris Hall 6'4" 231 lbs. TE Dinwiddie HS, Dinwiddie, VA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- Chris Hall is the high school teammate of Corey Marshall (#12 on my list) and felt like a make-good commitment (something that we've seemed to do a lot recently). I rarely agree with that strategy. Granted, Hall is on a greyshirt scholarship, but the real issue is getting a guy that's not as good as you need or reaching for a guy (again, something we did A LOT of this year).
Chris mostly played quarterback in HS, but nobody seems to believe he'll play the position in college. I may not be as dead set as other analysts, but I do think he's got a LONG way to go if he wants to play that position. He reminds me of a less athletically gifted, rawer, and poorer passing version of Ike Whitaker. His escapability from the pocket is a mirror image of Ike in the 2006 Tech Spring Game (I've never seen a better Spring Game performance by the way. We all wish you well Ike).
As a potential quarterback, Chris does have adequate arm strength if not good or great. He kind of slings the ball, perhaps releasing it too early, making his throws a little erratic and sometimes forcing receivers to have to make difficult plays on the ball. He also throws a lot of ducks relative to what a college quarterback should. He was a pretty good runner in HS, but not unstoppable. He was more out of the mold of a Marquise Williams (big, physical, JUST BARELY too fast for inferior HS talent to catch). But I have a feeling from watching him, he won't be able to duplicate long runs like he did in HS. He's akin to a Greg Boone without the bulk. If he gets carries in college, they'll come from banging it up inside.
Unfortunately, there's nothing to evaluate him on as a tight end. Unlike Logan Thomas (a former HS QB) who was asked by pretty much every camp he attended to give them a look at TE or WR, Hall has not done so. Maybe it's also because for most of his senior year, Thomas was rated as the top HS TE in the nation, having never played serious time there. However, if Lafonte Thourogood de-commits from the Hokies and commits to the Commodores (as expected), the staff may want to ensure that they have AT LEAST one scholarship quarterback in this class and try Chris Hall out there. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
29. Jake Goins 6'5" 288 lbs. OT Manchester HS, Midlothian, VA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- As a 3-star offensive lineman, there isn't much video on Jake. That's just kind of the nature of the beast when you play OL. As it is now, Jake is our ONLY OL commit, which is scary when you think about it. And, what video that I could find on him isn't really going to be a fair evaluation of him. Like Landon Turner, he dwarfs everyone he plays across from. That won't the case at the next level, as like most of these prospects, even Jake will have to beef up a little bit even if he doesn't gain any weight. He's a little too lanky in the legs for my liking. He's also got a crazy leg side-to-side motion, almost like a penguin waddle when he goes into pass protection. That will be amusing to watch for the next 4-5 years to say the least.
One thing that concerns me about Jake is that sometimes he doesn't get good drive off the ball. I don't know if that's a strength issue or an explosion issue, but I'm guessing explosion. But it's puzzling because he can often be seen sprinting downfield trying to find someone to hit, looking like a much faster skill position player. He gets second level with ease, and is a particularly imposing run blocker. He finishes off blocks and he plays to the whistle with regularity. He even is used as a pull-blocker as a tackle! That's pretty rare.
Jake has an uncanny ability to stay engaged with the man he is blocking. I did not ONCE see a defender disengage in his highlight video that wasn't a designed disengage on a middle screen or something like that (in other words, unless he wanted to). Looking at his full arm extension, it occurred to me the reason for his ability to keep engaged is that he has a pretty long reach, even for his size.
Watching Jake's tapes makes me glad that even though we only landed one offensive lineman (in all probability), he is a quality lineman that we can count on to be a starter on the line for the next couple of years (maybe even starting with 2012). I know he needs to bulk up, but I'd say Jake is ahead of the curve, and does much more good than bad. If he adds some bulk he will be particularly versatile, because I believe he could play at either tackle or guard, though tackle would be preferable. Looking back, I could have put Jake a little higher on here, but at the time the offers weren't coming in like they ended up doing and there wasn't much video on Jake then either.
30. Michael Cole 6'3" 198 lbs. S Cave Spring HS, Roanoke, VA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- As a HS linebacker, Michael is good at finding the hole where a run is going to go through and getting there to make the stop. He has CRAZY fast closing speed. He can go from a standstill to full acceleration in just a couple of steps. He has good lateral quickness and can make cuts to stay with offensive players trying to stretch it to the outside. The question is, with improved athletes on the next level, can he expect that to continue? He may not always be a wrap-up tackler, but he almost always delivers a pretty good lick on the ball-carrier.
Michael also has an offensive highlight tape, but for me, his place is on the defensive side of the ball. He played running back, but to me he just didn't have enough explosion out of the backfield. If he were going to play any position on offense, I'd say he could possibly play fullback because of his physicality (though he'd have to bulk up), but there are so many nuances to playing fullback that one can't just go out there and pick it up immediately. Those guys are RARE! It's not glamorous, and that's why it's one of the most under-appreciated positions.
Okay, back to defense. His pursuit of the ball is very good. He takes good angles and almost always seems to parallel the ball-carrier. One thing I am wary of though is how few pass coverage highlights he has for a player who projects as a college safety. Beamer's gonna love this guy though, because he blocked two kicks in his highlight tape and plays on the kickoff coverage team. For guys like that, there's a spot for you on a Beamer team.
Michael probably won't push for playing time TOO soon, but he's another one of our below the radar guys that could end up surprising everyone. I don't want to speak too soon, but he reminds me a little bit of a HS Cody Grimm. Could we be seeing the Deathbacker 2.0? We shall see.
31. Kevin Grooms 5'10" 165 lbs. ATH (RB) South Broward HS, Hollywood, FL (STATUS: Committed to Miami)- Tech missed the boat on Kevin Grooms. I'm not blaming the staff for not signing him, but I didn't hear about him until late in the process, and I didn't hear his name linked to Tech until even later. He is a UM commit, but he did do us a favor and gave us a chance even after his commitment to the Canes by following through on his scheduled visit. What peaked his interest in us was the departure of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans to the NFL. Ultimately though he stuck strong to the Canes although we did make a huge final push for his services.
Kevin is a different kind of runner than we have had...well, EVER as far as I can remember. Kevin is (and here I go again with the Mike Imoh comparisons) another back out of the Imoh mold. But I actually think Kevin is more effective than Imoh. Imoh would cutback and scramble out of necessity, trying to keep plays alive and hit the big one. Grooms, who is faster, more agile makes a series of mini-cuts in the backfield before making his reads and taking off (left, right, left, right, ...). Almost like an Allen Iverson crossover or a bad animation NCAA football (and in this situation bad means it's so good it's unstoppable), Grooms' quick, shifty cuts are almost incomprehensible. He is EXPLOSIVE! AND SOME!
I think Kevin was good enough to eventually be a starting back in Blacksburg. He would have brought an element to the table that was unique and that benefitted out offense. Although he's pretty small (and I don't buy that he's 5'10"! MAYBE 5'8"...MAYBE!), he seems to be durable and willing to take AND dish out contact...that is if you can catch him.
Grooms' recruitment really blew up late. Every major program in the Southeast that had holes in their class and scholarships left offered him, and in the final Rivals recruiting rankings update he rose 14 spots in the ATH category to become the #19 athlete in the country. So am I bummed we didn't get him? Yeah. But even if he didn't stay committed to Miami, so many schools were offering him that we would have had another battle on our hands.
32. Michael Branthover 5'10" 170 lbs. K DeMatha HS, Hyattsville, MD (STATUS: Committed to VT)- Michael was a real get for us because he allowed us to maintain our philosophy on not offering kickers straight out (although he does have the opportunity to earn one via greyshirt) and the flexibility to keep a scholarship on the board for someone else for AT LEAST one more season.
I think it's safe to say that once Justin Myer vacates the kickoff duties that Michael Branthover will be taking over. Michael is an incredibly strong-legged kicker. He kicked the ball over 70 yards with regularity in HS, and if you know where high schoolers kick off from, you'll know that means the ball often ended up bouncing on the track. In college, that means he would be kicking off to the goal line at a minimum, and this kid hasn't even stepped on campus yet.
Don't you love it!? I'm getting excited about a kicker! It reminds me of those Madden 2004 Playmaker spots where they talked about Michael Vick and some choice others being a playmaker, and Adam Vinatieri stepped on and said something about being a playmaker, to which Micahel Vick and others responded "Kickers can't be playmakers!" Great commercial. I digress.
Michael gets GREAT rise on his field goal kicks before they reach the line, which is crucial to them not being blocked. And in all of his videos the ball was still near the top of the uprights when it sailed through, so he can kick from further than some of the kicks I was seeing. He also handles punting duties. He gets the ball of his foot quickly and gets pretty good hang-time too.
I have been very impressed from what I've seen of Michael, and just because he's a kicker doesn't mean he's not valuable or that we don't need him. Trust me, WE DO! We've come a LONG way since the Carter Warley days, and I don't want to go back there. That would give me alcohol poisoning on a weekly basis.
33. Kevin Asante 6'0" 175 lbs. WR Mallard Creek HS, Charlotte, NC (STATUS: Committed to VT)- Kevin was a surprise commit to me because I had never heard of him before, and certainly because at that point we were still in the running for some pretty big prospects and running out of scholarships, I was angered by the fact that we were "throwing one away" in my determination. You see, this I believe was another example of a make good commitment to try to convince Marquise Williams (who at that point was on the fence about going to UNC and having to compete with Everett Golson and amid the possibility of sanctions) to de-commit and commit to Tech. However, after Asante's commitment several things transpired that made this plan run amok. First, Everett Golson de-committed from UNC and committed to Notre Dame, leaving Williams as the Tarheels' lone QB commit. Then when Tech received a commit from prospective QB Lafonte Thourogood, Williams was content to stay put.
SO, if this was a plan for a make-good commitment (and we will never know, because nobody in the know will confirm that. THAT is a certainty) then we screwed up. But if not, we got a receiver who is unbelievably fast. Every highlight on his tape was a play in which Williams lobbed a deep ball behind the coverage and Asante just ran behind them. When I saw that his 40-time was 4.39 I was skeptical, but now I'm starting to believe it based on the frequency with which it happened. The bad news is, if it is the only route he can run effectively, collegiate defenses will make adjustments and take that route away from him, neutralizing it completely. The good news is, even then, if you can throw the ball past the coverage with this guy, you'll always have a chance. So basically, I'm filing this one under the TDB file. Who knows? We could come out of this one smelling like roses, or we could come out smelling like...well, you know.
34. Demontevious Smith 6'1" 185 lbs. ATH Monroe Area HS, Monroe, GA (STATUS: Committed to GT)- If it's all the same, I'm more than glad we did not land Demontevious Smith. Smith was a HS option QB, which made GT a natural fit. I'm almost 100% sure we were looking at him in some other capacity (I heard DB), but if we were pursuing him as a QB for some reason, I find it rather peculiar. Of course Demontevious' highlight tape showed him running the option, and running out of a wildcat set, and throwing passes. So there's not much to evaluate him on from our perspective if we were looking at him as a DB. He is incredibly athletic and makes guys look like they're standing still, but athletic ability alone doesn't automatically qualify you to play another position.
Now here's the good part. I could barely concentrate on what was going on in the video because cheap video effects/text were popping up across the screen saying things like "TOO FAST" and "I CAN THROW TOO!" (which ironically was superimposed over a play in which Smith waited too long to throw to a wide-open receiver and BARELY missed throwing an interception as the DB's outstretched arms JUST missed the ball, and his receiver was able to catch it and walk into the endzone) and "TOO EASY!" How about this one Demontevious, "TRYING TOO HARD!?" I can honestly say that despite how much today is going to suck, I was laughing deliriously at this for a good five minutes. And the other good news? At least now we get to laugh at this chump for the next 4-5 years since he's taking his highlight tape talent (and apparently super-sized ego) to Atlanta. I will always remember you by this Demontevious.
35. Demetri Knowles WR 6'1" 175 lbs. Liberty Christian Academy, Lynchburg, VA (STATUS: Committed to VT)- First off, I'd like to apologize for the comments I made about Demetri Knowles as being a "joke" of a prospect in my last post. As furrer4heisman pointed out in his "recruiting getting creepier" article, fans have gotten TOO fanatical with recruiting and have helped to make the process particularly cumbersome for recruits. In the case of Demetri Knowles, I know that he has put in hard work to get where he is, but I was simply expressing my concern about his being a fit talent-wise for the Virginia Tech program, and so my post was in no way an attack on Demetri, but instead a half-joking quip voicing my frustrations about Tech's poor recruiting class as a whole. I also want to thank SAWBLADE61 for letting me know about his player profile and 3-star status on Scout.com, and that he was the #1 rated Mid-Atlantic sprinter, which is something I should have checked. Now let's get down to business.
Throughout the entirety of his recruiting tape, I only saw Demetri run five routes: a go route, a sit route, a screen, a post, and a deep out (or cross. You really can't tell where he lined up from the camera angle). At any rate, it is safe to say that Demetri will need to work on route-running. To be honest he doesn't look NEARLY as fast on film as the sub- 4.4 he's been pegged at by some, but that is an inexact way to make a judgement like that. However, a theory I'd offer up is that with his slight frame and little football experience, it is possible he's still having trouble adjusting to running in pads.
In HS, they just threw him the deep ball on a post or a go and he simply outran the coverage to get to the ball, or moved the pocket for the quarterback and sent him on a simple sit route (akin to a hitch) underneath the cornerback's cushion. College quarterbacks are not going to be able to just lay it up there for him (or if they do it'll be intercepted), and college defenses will notice if a receiver only runs certain routes again, and again, and again and jump the route. He just seems like a guy who is very raw and will need time to develop into any kind of legitimate receiving threat (and since I began writing this I found this article by Kyle Tucker explaining that Knowles is native to the Bahamas and has just begun playing football two years ago).
Demetri reminds me of David Clowney (who also ran track, received many offers to run track, including from FSU, whom he wanted to play football for, but they wouldn't give him a football scholarship). Virginia Tech was David's FIRST football offer and he ended up playing in the NFL. That speaks to the tremendous foresight the Tech coaching staff has and their ability to develop projects. So it is possible that I'm wrong about this kid, and again, for those of you who didn't read my rant about him in the previous recruiting post, I HOPE I AM!
OTHER POSSIBLE HOKIES
Below is a list in no particular order of guys who may have or receive a scholarship or greyshirt offer, as well as those who are considered priority targets to be invited walk-ons, or have already committed to becoming an invited walk-on for the Hokies.
I hope you enjoyed this Fifth and final installment of the Virginia Tech Football Recruiting Guide for the class of 2011. Look out for more recruiting analysis during National Signing Day and in the future on GobblerCountry.com. Also, check out the Hokiehaven.com 2011 Target Board. However, you must be a Rivals.com member to see this. Below are the links to the previous four installments of this recruiting series.