In the 48 hours leading up to National Signing Day, the Hokies received four commitments. In my fifth and final recruiting article for the 2011 recruiting class, I was unable to evaluate and include those four prospects. I promised that I would soon have those players and my analysis of them in another article. Well, three weeks later I took a job that often required over 100-hour work weeks, making an article of that nature relatively impossible. But now that I have moved on from that job, I decided to hold true to my word...(er, well sorta) and give you my two cents on the players missed in the recruiting articles (including one that will be on the field for us this fall) just weeks before the start of the season. What's that? And you thought I forgot? Not a chance.
Below are the four prospects that committed in the last two days before signing day. Unfortunately I was unable to find enough tape on invited walk-on Joshua Trimble, so that will have to wait.
Robert Lockhart 6'1" 180 lbs. WR West Boca Raton HS, Boca Raton, FL- This is a kid who makes the spectacular catch look routine. A virtuoso in the air, he can make catches with contact, turn around and box his man out, win the jump ball and make full-extension diving catches on the run. He has unbelievable body control mid-air. One of the more impressive things about his tape is noticing his quarterback's tendency to be errant, often not putting the ball in his pocket, but forcing him to have to go get the ball instead of it coming to him.
Athletically, there aren't going to be many better. His shiftiness reminds me of a Hosley, Roberts or Wilson and his speed is very good too. Will be a factor in the return game in the future. After watching his defensive highlights it made me truly realize how good of an overall football player this kid is and what a phenomenal football IQ he has. He's one of the most natural and intuitive players I've seen on tape.
As a defensive player he shows a real desire to make big plays. It's great to see guys that think like that, especially in high school, that they can create without the ball in their hands. Although, in Lockhart's case, he was possessed to go out and get the ball whether via fumble or interception. He showed a penchant of nastiness as he again and again cleaned players' clocks. He also knows very well how to use proper pursuit angles, which is what made him effective in run support. But, although I like him on defense too, and I think he could be just as good there, he'll probably end up at WR. In fact, his highlight tape was so stunning, I can honestly say I've seen few better at the WR position. Obviously you have to take it for what it is to some degree, a highlight tape. However, some of the plays he makes on his tape are plays that nobody can make, so the fact that he makes those plays at all speaks to the chances of this kid being the real deal.
Since Rivals.com put the video of the wrong prospect under Lockhart, I had to go searching elsewhere to find it. And since I did, it's not behind a paysite. So we get to share in being enamored by Lockhart. So lick your chops, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Robert Lockhart!...
Robert Lockhart #5 WR / DB senior high school football highlights playmaker (via immaginevideo)
Ryan Malleck 6'5" 230 lbs. TE Point Pleasant Borough HS, Point Pleasant Borough, NJ- Given his measurables, I am really surprised to be saying this, but Ryan is a threat in the vertical passing game. Before I watched his tape, I envisioned more of a blocking TE, however was surprised when I saw play after play of Ryan getting off the line, running down-field on a streak and catching the ball in a crowd then accelerating away from everyone.
I don't know if that speed will translate to college, but if so he's a threat to score on every play, which is pretty good for a TE. However, we don't usually use our TE's in that manner, so it'll be interesting to see what he does and what he is asked to do when he gets on the field.
The good news is he has soft hands and knows how to go up and get the ball in traffic. He reminds me of Jeff King in that regard. However, we will need to see if he is a clutch 3rd down guy like Jeff. There's an awful lot that goes into that that I can't see on his tape. I didn't see many other routes being run, so we'll need to see how crisply he runs those routes and the nuances he needs to have to make it work with a certain quarterback, like breaking off a route, turning back to the QB, where his pocket is and so on. He will also need to beef up some because of how much our team likes to use TE's as blockers as well as pass catchers. So he's still a project, but I'm pretty happy with this pickup, especially because despite his recruiting rankings, Malleck drew A LOT of offers and interest late.
Wedley Estime (also now known as Dadi Nicholas) 6'4" 215 lbs. DE Atlantic HS, Delray Beach, FL- Wedley (or Dadi) is a freak athlete that is very raw and very new to football. His 3-star rating on Rivals.com is all based off of athleticism and potential. He is as quick as a hiccup and he rushes the passer and gets into the backfield with lightning speed off the edge...in high school. Until he adds bulk and some moves and counter moves, that won't happen in college with regularity.
He can jump really high to knock down passes, which defensive line coaches will tell you is under-appreciated by fans and a true sign of a good DL. He also can lay a pretty good lick on the ball carrier, and does so as well as he's good at reading and diagnosing plays for his relatively brief football experience. He can also be caught trying to pin his ears back to rush the quarterback or to get into the backfield and hit the running back. However, he was almost BADLY beaten on several occasions on draw plays or by running backs who ran with a purpose to their hole because of this. The difference was that in high school he and Luther Maddy playing on the same line overwhelmed the offensive line. So he will need to change his tendencies to be effective on the next level. Oh and bulk up and add strength. Considerably.
Luther Maddy 6'2" 275 lbs. DT Atlantic HS, Delray Beach FL- Well I'm saving the biggest surprise for last in Luther Maddy, a 2-star recruit according to Rivals.com. After watching his tape (which again, through the magic of Youtube I can share it with you!) I have no idea how Rivals can say Maddy is a 2-star and his D-Line mate Wedley Estime (or Dadi Nicholas) is a 3-star. That has to ONLY be based on the notion of potential and upside, because currently from what I see, it's not even close. Maddy is light years ahead in his game. It's easy to see why he has garnered rave reviews as a freshman already and may have made it to the field somehow this year even without Battle's injury.
Maddy is a wrecking ball that creates havoc through the middle of the line. He is big and thick, but surprisingly quick and agile for a guy his size, AND with excellent explosion off the line. He is a fantastic pass rusher. Trust me, this guy can really get out and move and can change direction quickly for such a big guy. He is great at beating offensive linemen off the snap and putting a move on them before they even can get fully out of their stance. That's his best attribute. That allows him to not only rush the pass, but also to blow up runs in the backfield. He not only blew the plays up though. He was often double-teamed by blockers in high school and routinely shed both blockers IN TIME to be the first one to the running back at or behind the line of scrimmage. He leads the charge up front. Not only is it special when a D-Lineman can shed blocks to get into the backfield, but it's a rarity when they can also locate the running back in all of that chaos and get to him and make the stop. That takes an awful lot of concentration.
It is apparent to me what the staff saw in this guy and that he wasn't just the make-good commitment on a 3-star like I thought. This kid is the real deal, and I can honestly say I won't worry one bit when he's on the field for us this fall.
Luther Maddy #52 (via wendellrob)
Well, in the end it's easy to say I overreacted a little bit when I called this the worst modern class in Virginia Tech football history. Obviously we weren't landing Blue-Chip guys for most of the 90's, and still to this day we've struggled to go out and land some of the elite talent, at least with how they were ranked by the recruiting services. But again, our staff has proven that to be a somewhat useless category, by posting the greatest positive disparity with the recruiting rankings since 2004.
While I still view our 2011 class as a huge disappointment because of what we left on the board, I think this could turn into an average class for us. That's the ceiling though. That is certainly one of the reasons for the staff shakeup, because if Beamer wants to reach his goal of a National Championship, average classes for Virginia Tech's standard of recruiting aren't going to cut it.
Nobody in the future will be looking back in time and telling love stories about this class. But, especially with the addition of these last four guys who we received commitments from in the last 48 hours before signing day, this class is looking up compared to my projections. And although the rankings wouldn't show it, the Hokies went out and got a bunch of kids that fit our system.
So What's Next?:
Well I've decided to change my approach to these articles. I will still produce some recruiting analysis, but I got a late start on the 2012 class and the Hokies have beaten me to the punch. So instead of providing paragraph upon paragraph of detailed analysis on each guy, I'm going to focus on what we already have in our commitments to date and what we still need to get out of our remaining targets.