Hokies fans sat down this morning at work and school alike and the damage was already done. DT target Derrick Nnadi Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach) couldn't even wait until 8am (his scheduled time) to announce he would join the defending National Champion Florida State Seminoles. As I mentioned earlier, the come-from-ahead loss of Nnadi was injurious on two fronts. It highlighted how badly outclassed the Hokies were in the state of Virginia in getting just 1 of the top 10; and it meant that the depth at DT would be significantly thinner.
Nnadi is built to play as a freshman, and if he had signed, he would have been in the rotation to keep Luther Maddy, and whoever happens to play DT alongside him (presumably Corey Marshall) fresh. Now that will fall to Nigel Williams or Woody Baron, with incoming freshmen Steve Sobczak or Ricky Walker also being considered, though one will likely redshirt. Since Sobczak has lost weight to get down from 340 lbs, he might be a candidate to play right away if he is properly conditioned.
Just under an hour later came the news that WR prospect Isaiah McKenzie had opted to attend the University of Georgia. The late drama surrounding this, along with Isaiah Ford's quick defection from Louisville have helped remove a little tarnish from the Hokie brass. Sometimes we are in the mix for a couple names on signing day, but four who garner national attention? Not anytime in recent memory.
McKenzie had de-committed from Notre Dame and reopened recruiting, with VT picking up some steam heading into signing day. 24/7 Sports wildly had him at 76% probable to sign with VT, without him ever having taken a visit. Personally, i was optimistic, because when a player seeks out a school late in the process, it means they are serious. But not having taken a visit and being from warmer climate, I was dubious about a late January visit to Blacksburg, knowing that it might sink our battleship.
For a couple weeks, VT cast a wary eye at Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss, knowing that the SEC and warmer weather can be mortal enemies, but the vibe was the same: McKenzie loved watching the Vicks as an impressionable youth, and saw a place for himself as a Hokie. Obviously, he had a good rapport with Aaron Moorehead, who despite the losses, had a heck of a debut in his first full recruiting campaign. Then late in the game, Mark Richt found a place for him and swooped in. It's truly a shame the weather was miserable in Blacksburg, because had it been mild we might have scored a dynamic playmaker.
Raymon Minor was supposed to sign at 11am in his school library, per his Twitter account on Tuesday night. Somehow his letter-of-intent arrived quietly well before that, as though Minor knew that Hokie fans needed some sort of victory. If all goes well for Minor and he gains admission, VT has a really good football player. Perhaps a challenger for the elite player of the class. He's 6'3, 210lbs and moves well from sideline to sideline. The Benedectine (Richmond) product was coveted by the blackshirts of Nebraska, and sneaky poacher Marshall, who is always ready to scoop up the talent that is on the fringes academically. Obviously, Minor has wanted to come to VT all along, and VT would love to have his athleticism and size in their LB corps. He also looks to be the kind of guy, who if he put on 30 lbs might be a decent speed rusher, and it's already a given that he'll put on 15-20 lbs just by training with Mike Gentry.
Getting Minor was nice, but it was expected. And as all of the letters-of-intent came filtering in as expected, validating the Hokies deepest ever class of recruits, there was still an unshakeable bitter taste of disappointment in our mouths. When you have 11 four-star commits, the most ever by a wide margin, that should be a cause for celebration. But when the in-state recruiting efforts amounts to an embarrassment (all due respect to the good second tier players who did make a good choice in coming to VT), and Florida State cuts you off at the knees before the sun comes up, it's hard to ignore. Nothing with the Hokies can ever just be easy.
At this point in the signing day chronology it's about 11am, and then something odd happens. Justin Ditmore of the Roanoke TV station WSET somehow let fly that VT's other major WR target, Isaiah Ford, had signed with the Hokies. Now, to this point the Nnadi and Minor signings were earlier than scheduled, and McKenzie signing happened 20 minutes late. Because of the prior scheduling inaccuracies, this news was accepted a little more readily than it should have been. The info went up on HokieSports, but then his name was quickly removed from everywhere that posted the signing. Just what we needed, right? How much can the fragile Hokie fan psyche take? All of a sudden, what looked like a stone cold lock appeared as though it might be in jeopardy.
The day before, many had it on good authority the the Louisville de-commit had already let Louisville know he was not coming. But Will Muschamp and Florida had come calling late. The Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) standout hadn't given the slightest impression he was wavering on us, but it wouldn't have been the first time the Hokies had had the rug pulled out from under them by a Florida school now would it?
Ford had been scheduled to sign at 2pm, and perhaps everyone knew he would sign but the public, and it was just a snafu with a press release, but that was of little consolation. Additionally, to add to the Hokie nerves, when ESPN went to commercial they talked about the Ford signing coming up, and added Miami to Ford's final three along with VT and Florida. I'd been paying attention for a good while now, and hadn't heard anything about Miami being close enough to be in the final three. As a matter of fact, Ford was still listed as an outside shot to re-commit to Louisville.
In the middle of this scramble to verify what was going on, longtime WR commit Javon Harrison flipped on VT for Florida State. This was anticipated for some time now. Initially when Harrison committed, he didn't have the FSU offer. But considering he has a three-year old daughter, it's an absolute no-brainer that he SHOULD stay home and go to school in Florida. I'm happy for the young man, that he can continue to pursue his dream and remain near his family.
My only regret is that Harrison should have officially told VT a while back when he got the FSU offer. Why wait to flip on the final day? As it was, the VT staff smartly pursued both McKenzie and Ford in a last minute effort to mitigate against Harrison's loss, and it worked out for everyone. I just personally think any type of "decision" like Lebron James made is poor-form. If your announcement is beneficial to one party, it's punitive to others.
I don't mind the big in public announcements when a kid hasn't committed to any one school yet, but flipping on the last day (or 12 hours before) is unnecessary. Harrison represents another missed opportunity for the Hokies, though in the end the decision is by far one of the more logical ones you'll hear in recruiting, one made for all the right reasons. Luckily for VT, they don't play FSU until 2018, when Nnadi and Harrison would be 5th year seniors. The Hokies might never have to face them.
News finally came just around 3pm that Isaiah Ford signed with Virginia Tech, wrapping up a productive final day. The Hokies finished with 15 signees from the state of Virginia, between eight and twelve four-star recruits whether you prefer Rivals or 247 scouting service, and a player of significance at every position of need. The Hokies even signed a scholarship kicker, Michael Santamaria, a lefty who can really get it up from distance. He actually has a two star rating, and there are only four kickers nationally with three stars.
With this group of recruits in the books, the recruiting cycle begins anew, with Virginia Tech's first junior day of 2014 scheduled for Saturday 2/15. Let's hope that for National Signing Day 2015, some of the problems VT has been having in the Tidewater get sorted out; and that the Hokies can find a way to outsell a team who only won two games the prior year. Beating Florida State head to head for recruits will never be easy, but it's been done before (see Sergio Render); and it was nice to join the party yesterday if even to walk away with a little less than we wanted or needed.
We'll be back with a depth chart analysis this weekend, and a piece on how well the coach's did recruiting. As always, thanks for reading, and follow us on Twitter @gobblercountry.
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