Junior Days and Early Commits: A Place Holder For Top Recruits Until They Get A Better Offer?

Peter Casey-US PRESSWIRE

The Virginia Tech football Program, in trying to keep up with the Joneses hosted "Junior Day" in an effort to gain a jump start on recruiting. But does it really work in this day and age of fickle recruiting?

Make no mistake about it, college football is a big business. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is living in a fairy tale. The recruiting game in big time D1 athletics, especially in football, is not for the faint of heart. Fans at Virginia Tech know this all too well. Forget the disappointment of losing out on a key in-state target on National Signing Day like we did with Derrick Nnadi of Virginia Beach, who opted to sign a letter-of-intent with the reigning national Champions at Florida State (Note, Nnandi never verbally committed to the Hokies). Imagine the time and investment you spend in getting to know a kid, his coach and especially his family in the middle of their junior year. You sell your program and all that goes with it, a few prospects are so impressed that they leave your campus and give you a verbal "commitment" to fax in that LOI roughly a year from now.

A YEAR IS A LONG TIME:

The countless letters, texts, calls, in-home visits, high school visits, tweets, and Facebook posts making sure you let that recruit know he's "number one" on your priority list is a full time job in and of itself. If you've ever had to deal with teen-aged kids, you know how time consuming and mentally tasking that can be. One minute they love you and make you happy, but the next minute they can do an about face and act like they don't know you, breaking your heart in the process. Fickle times, a day and age where ones "word" doesn't hold much water.

I understand these kids have an unimaginable amount of stress weighing on them, especially the highly touted recruits who are barraged on a daily basis by coaches that are jockeying for position to ultimately get you to sign with them. These young men are very impressionable as most of us were at that age, not used to all the "love" and attention they are suddenly receiving. It can be overwhelming and some don't want to disappoint a coach they've built great rapport with, even though they know in their hearts that they won't be going to that school.

CASE AND POINT - A PLACEHOLDER UNTIL SOMETHING BETTER COMES BY:

Virginia Tech received a verbal commitment on November 25, 2013 from 2015 4-Star defensive end recruit Michael Barnett (Woodland High School - Dorechester, SC). Barnett, who is being heavily recruited by all the "big boys" de-committed today as I was preparing this article! Am I shocked or surprised? No. Does it still suck? Yes. Barnett was recently offered a scholarship by our good old friend in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban. Ruthless. After receiving that offer from the Crimson Tide, Barnett probably figured he probably should re-consider his commitment to the Hokies and re-evaluate his options. I don't blame the young man one bit. BUT, the "adults" advising these kids need to teach them the value of what someone's word and commitment means. Sadly, those terms are becoming obsolete.

Even worse, Barnett's decommitment is the second the Hokies have endured for the 2015 class. Highly touted 4-Star CB Marcus Lewis out of Gonzaga Prep (Washington, DC) "committed" to the Tech on November 16, 2013 only to renege and decommit just two and half weeks later!

Currently, the Hokies have three "commits" who have given their verbals to Coach Frank Beamer and staff. Those players are:

  • Ashton White, DB from Washington, DC (Gonzaga Prep) 3-Star by 247 sports

  • Mook Reynolds, CB from Greensboro, NC (Northern Guilford) 3-Star by 247 sports

  • DuWayne "The Rock" Johnson, CB from Washington DC (H.D. Woodson) 3-Star by 247 sports

(Coach Torrian Gray and Aaron Moorehead making waves early on!)

HOW DID WE DO LAST WEEKEND?

Virginia Tech hosted it's earliest Junior Day recruiting event ever. February 8th saw Tech host a plethora of top rated targets in hopes of making an early impression. It's evident by the early commits that VT is focusing in on the DC metro area, including Maryland and Northern Virginia. The tag team duo of coaches Moorehead and Gray seem to be a great fit as two of the three early commitments come from the DC Metro area.

Two of the key players who made the visit from that region where nationally ranked 5-Star defensive tackle Tim Settle (Manassas, VA) and 4-Star OT Matthew Burrell of Woodbridge, VA. What's interesting to keep an eye on, is both of these players play for high schools that are also currently attended by current Tech signee's in Greg Stroman (Manassas, VA - Stonewall Jackson) and Travon MacMillian (Woodbridge, VA - C.D. Hylton). Hopefully that gives the Hokies an edge in getting those guys to come aboard.

Without a doubt, making amends in the "757" is the Hokies top priority as Coach Bryan Stinespring paired with Cornell Brown try to get an early foothold after 2014's disasterous showing.  Top players such as 4-Star DE's Harry Lewis (Hampton) and Josh Sweat (Chesapeake) are high on tech early on.  4-Star RB Deshawn McClease is also a key target for 2015 and is teammates with Sweat.

Early returns and feedback have been positive for Tech, yielding  two commits from the event. Now, the real recruiting of keeping them committed begins.

HOW HAVE THE HOKIES DONE IN PAST SEASONS?

Although Tech hasn't done the Junior Day event for long, the past few years have resulted in procuring early commits who were highly rated and stayed with their word.

2014 recruit Vincent Mihota (3-Star) committed to the Hokies early on (April of his junior year).

2013's class saw a bevy of early commits that included:

  • Holland Fisher (4-Star, DB) and Cequan Jefferson (3-Star, CB who later decommitted and enrolled at Temple) commit in February of 2012
  • Anthony Shegog (3-Star, DB) and David Prince (3-Star, DB) gave their verbals in March of 2012
  • April of 2012 gave us six commits that included Bucky Hodges (4-Star, QB), Andrew Motuapuaka (3-Star, LB), Parker Osterloh (3-Star, OL), Braxton Pffaf (3-Star, OL), Chuck Clark (3-Star, DB) and Carlis Parker (3-Star, QB)

The 2013 class had six more commits that summer, giving the Hokies an astounding 17 of it's 19 commits before their respective senior years had started (Note, RB Jerome Wright was a part of the 2012 class but had to prep at Fork Union and re-sign as a part of the 2013 class).

In 2012, The Hokies had verbals from 22 of it's 28 commits before Labor Day, further validating the effectiveness of these early Junior Day events and Spring/Summer camps.

So what does this all mean? It's definitely a good thing to establish relationships with players early on in the process, getting familiar with their family and coaches and monitoring how they develop and finish out their high school careers. I feel though, fans and coaches alike should be guarded against these early commits as a lot can happen between now and next February. It's been good to the Hokies in recent years, but it can also be a double edged sword. In the past, I feel as though VT went after more "safe" targets who weren't being wooed by the Alabama's, Florida State's and Ohio State's of the college football world and it showed with our dip in overall talent. But, I have seen recently with this past class and especially the targets in 2015 that the Tech coaching staff is willing to go head to head for these highly touted recruits. If the Tech staff can increase the talent level that one last notch, I think realistically competing for that elusive crystal football is well within reach.

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