The Curse of the VT Decommit?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Since 2005, Virginia Tech has seen twenty of its recruits take back their verbal pledge and sign with another school. Interestingly, many of those were never heard from again after spurning the Hokies. Is there a curse that falls upon Virginia Tech decommits that renders their career elsewhere a resounding bust?

Twenty recruits.

Since 2005, twenty committed Hokie recruits have flipped their verbal commitment and signed with another school on National Signing Day (NSD). Some reasons given were academic, others proximity based, some were personal, and others seemingly schizophrenic. Interestingly enough, most recruits who decommitted from VT never made even the slightest splash with their collegiate football career. According to Virginia Tech message board lore, there exists a curse that befalls upon all VT decommits the minute they renege. Is this curse truth or merely wishful thinking of a scorned fanbase?  In this article, we take a closer look at all twenty "recent" Hokie decommits.

"I Love You, But I’m Not In Love With You" Decommits

These decommits are those who flipped because they grew to love another school more, were persuaded by future teammates or coaches at prep school, or conveniently earned an offer from their preferred in-state school that they seemingly couldn’t refuse.

Jonathan Hannah (2005) –South Carolina

Rivals 4* 247Sports 4* Tight End; 6-4, 251

The Turn


Hannah grew up in Richmond and moved to North Carolina just before his high school football career began. He committed to VT in January, then pulled one of the biggest surprises in VT recruiting history when he switched his pledge to South Carolina on National Signing Day.

His Career


Hannah played as a true freshman in South Carolina’s first three games, sustaining an ankle injury in the third. The Ol’ Ball Coach (OBC) decided to medically redshirt Hannah, though he likely could have played later in the season once he had healed. The decision obviously rubbed Hannah the wrong way, as he decided to transfer to NC State, his parents’ alma mater. Before he could enroll in Raleigh, he had to put in some academic work at Louisburg Junior College. By the time he had taken care of business, Coach Chuck "Chuckie Chest" Amato had been fired as Wolfpack head coach and caught on as an assistant at Florida State. Hannah signed a letter of intent (LOI) to become a Seminole in 2007. He enrolled in Tallahassee, but had eligibility issues relating to his time at junior college and as a result, Hannah left FSU and enrolled at FCS’s Texas Southern University, where he would play out the remaining two years of his collegiate year. Hannah entered but went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft. As an undrafted free agent (UDFA), he earned a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but never made it out of camp. Today, Hannah believes he should have signed with UNC on NSD 2005. You can read about Hannah’s life after football in this article, courtesy of the Fayetteville Observer: http://www.fayobserver.com/sports/article_1d3bc1d2-9146-5299-9117-c7842fd197a5.html

Collegiate Stats

South Carolina: Games: 3, Catches: 1, Yds: 24

Texas Southern: Games: 18, Catches: 33, Yds: 478: TD: 4

Doug "Budd" Thacker (2006) – Florida State

Rivals 4* 247Sports 4* Defensive End; 6-3, 245

The Turn

This Florida native whose father played for VT in the 1970s would have been a defensive tackle for Foster’s LPD. Thacker committed to VT in November, then showed out in the CaliFlorida Bowl (7 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks). The Noles came swooping in with an offer, wowed him on an official visit, and flipped him.

His Career

In Tallahassee, Thacker saw time—and started two games—as a true freshman at defensive tackle. He started 23 games in his 4-year career. Thacker entered but went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft and was never seen or heard from in the football world again.

Collegiate Stats

Games: 38, Tackles: 71, TFL: 10.5, Sacks: 2, FF: 1, PD: 1

Olufemi (Ladi) Ajiboye (2007) –South Carolina

Rivals 4* Defensive Tackle; 6-2, 290

The Turn

Beamer & Co. thought they had gotten revenge on the OBC & Co. for the Jonathan Hannah shocker when this Georgia recruit flipped his commitment from South Carolina to VT just before NSD 2006. Unfortunately, Ajiboye did not qualify and prepped at Hargrave Military Academy, where he reconnected with the Gamecocks through his teammates and committed to South Carolina in 2007.

His Career


Ajiboye had a very productive career in Columbia, starting as a true freshman and earning 44 starts (and a couple of suspensions) over the course of his career. He earned an invitation to the 2011 NFL Combine, but went undrafted. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a UDFA, but was waived in August 2011, never making it out of camp.

Collegiate Stats

Games: 49; Tackles: 147, TFL: 14, Sacks: 6.5; PD: 3

Rhett Ellison (2007) –USC

Rivals 3* Tight End; 6-5, 230

The Turn

Hokie fans were shocked by a verbal from a California prospect when Ellison committed to VT in late July 2006. As it turns out, USC was his dream school. After being rejected by a higher target, the Trojans offered Ellison the day before NSD 2008. The next day, Ellison rebuffed the Hokies and signed with USC.

His Career


As a Trojan, Ellison redshirted in ’07, saw the field in spot duty at back-up TE/FB in ’08, served as back-up TE in ’09, and was productive as a starter in 2010 and 2011. He entered the 2012 NFL Draft and was selected in the 4th round, 128th overall, by the Minnesota Vikings. Ellison backed up starting Vikings’ TE Kyle Rudolph and started 6 games in 2013 after Rudolph was placed on injured reserve.

Collegiate Stats

Games: 46, Catches: 53, Yds: 471, TD: 6

Kyle Nunn (2007) –South Carolina

Rivals 3* 247Sports 3* Offensive Tackle; 6-5, 265

The Turn

Nunn verballed to the Hokies in late July 2006, attended a game at his home state SC in September, and broke up with VT in late October. He committed to the Gamecocks in November, and enrolled summer 2007.

His Career

In Columbia, Nunn redshirted in ’07, and saw special teams action in 9 games in ’08. He competed for the starting left tackle job in ’09, seeing significant action and starting 7 of the final 9 games of the season. 2010 saw Nunn earn 9 starts, some at left tackle and some at right tackle. He started the first 4 games of the 2011 season before suffering a back injury, then a blood clot in his leg. He entered the 2012 NFL Draft, went unselected, and, as a UDFA, spent a short stint in camp with the New York Jets. After being waived, he was invited to camp with the Arena Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers, but did not make their 24-man roster.

Collegiate Stats

Games: 28, Starts: 20

Lafonte Thoroughgood (2011) –Vanderbilt

Rivals 3* 247Sports 3* Quarterback/Athlete; 6-3, 224

The Turn

A star at the 757’s Ocean Lakes High, Thoroughgood verballed to VT at the end of November 2010. On NSD, he unexpectedly changed his mind, instead signing his LOI to play for Vanderbilt (and then-Assistant Coach Chris Beatty).  Rumor had it that he had his heart set on playing QB and VT was slotting him at WR.

His Career

In addition to Thoroughgood, Vanderbilt also accepted LOI’s from two other quarterbacks on NSD 2011. Thoroughgood was pigeonholed at scout team QB and (predictably) changed positions, switching to RB in December 2011. In 2012, he barely saw the field, only appearing in one game, before injuries ended his season. In May 2012, he transferred to JMU, was allegedly moved to defense, and no longer appears on the Dukes’ roster.

Collegiate Stats

Vanderbilt: Games: 1

Robert Lockhart (2012) –Miami

Rivals 4* 247Sports 3* Wide Receiver; 6-0, 175

The Turn


A Florida native, Lockhart pledged to the Hokies just before NSD 2011. After failing to qualify academically, he enrolled at FUMA and, in January 2012, changed his mind and committed to Miami, announcing his decision with this tweet:

Tweet

His Career


In Coral Gables, Lockhart played in two games before an ACL injury put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season. In May 2013, Lockhart realized he was buried on the depth chart and transferred to Hinds Community College to finish out the 2013 academic year. In November 2013, he committed to the University of Nebraska, where he has 3 years of eligibility remaining to play two seasons.

Collegiate Stats to Date

Games: 2, Catches: 0

Jawand Blue (2012)--Miami

Rivals 3*247Sports 3* Outside Linebacker; 6-0, 215

The Turn

A Florida prospect, Blue committed to Virginia Tech in early July 2011 before flipping to Miami on NSD 2012. Blue’s turnabout was much publicized, thanks to speakerphone Twitter, and Hurricanes beat writer Matt Porter.

His Career

Blue redshirted at "The U" in 2012 and saw action at reserve linebacker in two 2013 games. He has 3 remaining years of eligibility, and is currently projected as a back-up linebacker for the 2014 season.

Collegiate Stats to Date

Games: 2; Tackles: 1

T.J. Millweard (2012) –Arizona State

Rivals 3* 247Sports 3* Quarterback; 6-4, 230

The Turn

Hokienation lit up when Texas prospect Millweard committed to Virginia Tech in late February 2011. He visited Blacksburg for the Spring Game that April and reportedly had a great visit. Two months later, he decommitted from the Hokies and gave his pledge to Arizona State. In January, Millweard again waffled, and switched his commitment to UCLA and Head Coach Jim Mora, Jr. He enrolled at UCLA in 2012 and redshirted. In August 2013, Millweard again decided to commit himself to another school and transferred to The University of Kansas. He sat out the 2013 season due to transfer rules. He has three remaining years of eligibility.

His Career

Despite having committed to 4 Division I programs, Millweard has yet to see the field at the collegiate level

Collegiate Stats to Date

Games: 0

Mario Nixon (2012)—Virginia

Rivals 3* 247Sports 3* Wide Receiver; 6-4, 216

The Turn

A member of the storied Norfolk Christian 4-pack that lit up recruiting message boards in 2011-12, Nixon committed to Virginia Tech on May 15, 2011. Here’s where the story gets blurry: in August of 2011, Virginia Tech pulled their offer and Nixon committed to UVA. There are two tales here, neither of which has been confirmed by Nixon publicly. The first is that the remaining 3 prospects were planning a visit to UVA. VT regularly frowns upon committed Hokies visiting other schools. When the other NCA guys visited Charlottesville for a practice, Nixon allegedly went with them despite being asked by VT coaches not to go. As a result, VT pulled his offer. The other story floating around is that Nixon was planning on flipping his commit to UVA, but VT pulled his offer before he could flip. Either way, Nixon signed his LOI in 2012 for the Cavaliers.

His Career

In Charlottesville, Nixon was slotted at TE and redshirted the 2012 season. He saw no action during the 2013 season after suffering a "lower extremity" injury. He does not currently appear on the Virginia depth chart.

Collegiate Stats to Date

Games: 0

Javon Harrison (2014) –Florida State

Rivals 4* 247Sports 4* Wide Receiver; 6-2, 190

The Turn

Harrison pulled the trigger for the Hokies in July of 2012. However, after earning an offer from his home-state Seminoles and a late visit to Tallahassee, he decided to remain close to home (and his 3 year old daughter) and flipped to Florida State on NSD.

His Career

Harrison signed his LOI for the Seminoles on NSD 2014 and is set to enroll at Florida State this summer.

Collegiate Stats to Date

TBD

Kalen McCain (2014)—NC State

Rivals 3* 247Sports 3* Safety; 6-1, 175

The Turn

After pledging to the Hokies in early April 2013, McCain attended a summer skills camp at NC State in June. Apparently, the Wolfpack took advantage of the situation, as McCain decommitted from VT, then made it public with this tweet:

Tweet

Two days later, he committed to Coach Dave Doerin’s Wolfpack.

His Career

McCain reported to Raleigh in January after graduating from high school early

Collegiate Stats to Date

TBD

Brady Taylor (2014) –Ohio State

Rivals 3* 247Sports 3* Offensive Tackle; 6-5, 280

The Turn

Taylor, a Columbus, OH native, was seemingly a heavy Kentucky lean until he committed to VT in late July 2013. In mid-January, Taylor received a scholarship offer from hometown Ohio State, and despite the offer, reportedly remained committed to the Hokies. Then, OL Coach Jeff Grimes bolted Blacksburg for LSU, and Taylor predictably flipped his commitment to the Buckeyes, and made it public with these tweets:

Tweet

His Career


Taylor signed his LOI for the Buckeyes on NSD 2014 and is set to enroll at Ohio State this summer.

Collegiate Stats to Date

TBD

"Follow the Yellow Brick Road" Decommits

These are decommits who wanted to attend Virginia Tech, went to prep school to shore up their eligibility, and while there, learned they would still not meet VT requirements. Rather than buckle down for one more year of the academic grind, these players chose to "follow the yellow brick road" to eligibility at a school with entrance requirements they could meet.

Mike Gee (2006)

Rivals 3* Defensive End; 6-1, 228

The Turn


Gee, a New Jersey native, committed to the Hokies in July of 2005, but failed to qualify academically and elected to enroll at Nassau Community College in Long Island, NY. He then played the 2008 season at Alfred State College (The State University of New York College of Technology).

His Career

In 2009 & 10, Gee played for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Crimson Hawks, where he was a two-year starter and earned all-Conference honors his senior year.

College Stats


IUP: Games: 26, Tackles: 88, TFL: 28, Sacks: 14, FF: 7

Derrick McCoy (2008) –?

Rivals 3* Wide Receiver; 6-4, 230

The Turn


There wasn’t really a turn for this Virginia native, per se. McCoy committed to VT in March of ’07, but failed to meet NCAA qualification requirements out of high school. He was supposed to prep at Georgia Military Academy but never showed up. Perhaps he wanted to go to GMA, but other influences persuaded him not to; perhaps, he chose to give up rather than travel a more indirect path to NCAA football. Regardless, he committed to the Hokies and did not fulfill his commitment to the program.

His Career


McCoy elected to end his football career when he never reported to GMA.

College Stats

Games: 0

Bobby Massie (2009) –Ole Miss

Rivals 5* 247Sports 4* Offensive Tackle; 6-8, 325

The Turn


A Lynchburg product, Massie committed to the Hokies in September 2007. Less than a month before NSD, he backed out of his commitment when it became clear that he would not qualify and instead elected not to sign a LOI at all on NSD. He attended Hargrave and was courted by everyone before selecting Ole Miss in 2009.

His Career

In Oxford, Massie anchored the right tackle spot for three seasons before forgoing his senior season to enter the 2012 NFL Draft. He was selected in the 4th round, 112th overall, by the Arizona Cardinals. Massie started all 16 games for the Cardinals at RT in 2012, but only started 8 in 2013, backing up veteran Eric Winston.

College Stats


Games: 37, Starts: 29

Leon Mackey (2009) –South Carolina

Rivals 4* 247Sports 4* Defensive End; 6-5, 258

The Turn


This Delaware native transferred to Hargrave Military Academy for his senior year of high school after playing his first three years in Delaware. He originally signed with the Hokies on NSD 2008, but did not qualify and remained at Hargrave to prep and opened his recruitment back up before his second year at Hargrave began.

His Career


At Hargrave, he flirted with VT and UNC before committing to Clemson. Because an ACC rule prohibited him from signing with the Tigers after having signed the previous year with VT, Mackey then committed to and signed with South Carolina and the OBC on NSD 2009. Still failing to qualify, Mackey spent the next two seasons with Hinds Community College. There, he flirted with Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State before committing to Texas Tech on NSD 2011. There, he was mostly a back-up defensive end and earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors in 2012. Mackey entered the 2013 NFL Draft, went undrafted, and signed with the Miami Dolphins as a UDFA, but never made it out of camp. He spent 2013 in the Arena Football League with the L.A. Kiss.

College Stats

Hinds C.C.: Games: 9, Tackles: 47, TFL: 15.5, Sacks: 4.5, FF: 1

Texas Tech: Games: 21, Tackles: 34, TFL: 4, FF: 1

DeAntre Rhodes (2009) –Louisville

Rivals 4* Defensive Tackle; 6-2, 279

The Turn

This Richmond prospect committed to VT in December of ’08, but did not qualify and headed to Hargrave.  He attended for one semester, but reportedly had some financial difficulty and was unable to return for the spring semester. Virginia Tech cooled its interest, and Rhodes committed to Louisville. After failing to qualify again in 2010, he enrolled at Mississippi’s Itawamba Community College.

His Career

Rhodes has never appeared on a Louisville football roster.

College Stats

Itawamba C.C: Games: 3, Tackles: 5

Chris Hall (2011) –Marshall

Rivals 3* 247Sports 3* Athlete; 6-4, 231

The Turn

This Virginia QB committed to the Hokies as a projected tight end in June of 2010. He failed to qualify academically and enrolled at Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA) in 2011.  After his academic performance at FUMA left him still unable to qualify at Virginia Tech, Hall committed to Marshall as a QB.

His Career


Hall never made it to Marshall, instead electing to enroll at Division 2 Virginia Union University in the summer of 2012. He was listed on the 2012 Panthers’ roster as a WR; however, he did not appear on the 2013 roster.

Collegiate Stats

Games: 0

Cequan Jefferson (2014) –Temple

Rivals 3* 247Sports 3* Athlete/Cornerback; 5-10, 163

The Turn

Jefferson committed to Virginia Tech out of Richmond’s Henrico High in February 2012 and signed with the Hokies in 2013. After being denied admission to VT, he enrolled at FUMA and hit the books. After still failing to meet the necessary requirements, Jefferson committed to Temple on January 17, announcing his decision with this tweet:

Tweet

His Career


Jefferson signed his LOI for the Owls on NSD 2014 and will reportedly enroll this summer.

Collegiate Stats to Date


TBD

"Did He or Didn’t He?"  Decommits

These players flirted heavily with the Hokies in their recruitment and are rumored to have gave their "silent pledge" to VT: verballing to our staff, but "waiting" to make the news public, and ultimately never doing so.

Kevin Newsome (2009) –Michigan/Penn State

Rivals 4* Quarterback; 6-3, 210

The Turn

Virginia Tech unofficially offered Western Branch High’s Newsome as a sophomore, viewing him as the heir-apparent to star QB Tyrod Taylor. The relationship between Newsome and the Hokies soured in 2008. Newsome (or his father) had allegedly insisted that he be the only QB that VT offered in his class; however, when Newsome dragged his feet on a commitment and began to travel the country on visits, the Hokies offered a second QB and Newsome immediately looked the other way and committed to Rich Rodriguez at The University of Michigan in May 2008. In August, he decommitted from the Wolverines and flirted heavily with VT—reportedly becoming a "silent" commit during that time—before he committed in December and signed with Penn State in February 2009.

His Career

Newsome was reportedly sold on becoming the heir-apparent to Nittany Lions’ QB Daryll Clark. Newsome saw time as a true freshman, but was benched for third-stringer Matt McGloin after poor play. Newsome competed with McGloin for the starting job in 2010, lost out, became buried on the depth chart behind incoming QB’s, and decided to transfer.  He returned home and sat out the 2011 season as he attended Tidewater Community College, and enrolled at Temple in 2012, joining the Owls. He saw very little playing time in 2012 and was moved to H-back in spring 2013. Newsome left Temple in August 2013.

Collegiate Stats


Penn State: Games: 15; Passing: 14/24, Yds: 144; Rushing: 34/154, TD:3

Temple: Games: 1; Passing: 0/1l Rushing: 5/55

Marquise Williams (2011) –North Carolina

Rivals 4*, 247Sports 4* Quarterback; 6-3, 218

The Turn

Williams gave his verbal pledge to his home-state UNC Tarheels in July 2010. In August, the NCAA began investigating UNC’s shadiness that would eventually run then-Coach Butch Davis out of town, and Williams heavily flirted with VT. How serious Williams was about switching his pledge to the Hokies is up for debate; however, at the time, the Internet was abuzz with multiple reports that he had committed to the Hokies—even this tweet from Rivals’ analyst Mike Farrell:

Tweet

In the end, Williams shored things up with the Heels in December and enrolled at UNC in January 2011.

His Career

In Chapel Hill, Williams redshirted in 2011 and then backed up Virginia QB product Bryn Renner, seeing snaps sparingly in 2012 and eventually overtaking an injury-riddled Renner in 2013. Williams is expected to be the Heels’ starting QB in 2014 and has two years of eligibility remaining.

Collegiate Stats to Date

Games: 20; Passing: 136/234, Yds: 1,825; TD: 15, Int: 6; Rushing Attempts: 140, Yds: 722, TD: 9; Receptions: 2, Yds: 52, TD: 1

The Verdict

Obviously with the most recent decommits, their story has yet to be completely written. However, only two decommits (Ellison, Massie) could undoubtedly be classified as successful, while just three others (Ajiboye, Nunn, Thacker) could even remotely be considered productive. (Even that’s a matter of perspective, as most Noles’ fans consider Thacker a huge let-down.) Some decommits bounced around multiple locations before settling into "bust-hood,"and nearly half of the twentywasted their talent at a lower level of play and/or ended their football careers prematurely.

Does the curse exist? If a recruit has to prep, it certainly does. If he just changes his mind? That’s much less unclear. Between ’05 and ’11, VT only had six of these decommits; however, since ’12, we have had another six. As these players still have most of their eligibility remaining, it is premature to reach a true conclusion for them.

While it’s most definitely fun to feel a bit of schadenfreude at the fact that a significant number of VT decommits have gone on to greatly underachieve after breaking up with the Hokies, the fact of the matter is many of these guys were counted on to either compete for a starting job or provide quality depth at key positions in Blacksburg. The losses of Thacker and Ajiboye certainly could have helped plug the gaping hole in the middle of the LPD defensive line between 2007 and 2009. Would this have been enough to help then-starting QB Tyrod Taylor bring a crystal football to Blacksburg?  Had Massie made it to VT, he could have solidified a left tackle spot that was a veritable turnstile of underachievement during the years he was eligible. If Thoroughgood would have come in at WR as planned, Logan Thomas certainly wouldn’t have been lacking legitimate receiving targets this past season. Had Newsome actually committed and enrolled, perhaps Thomas would never have even been the Hokies’ QB at all. And certainly, if Millweard or Williams would have made it to Blacksburg, it’s almost certain that we wouldn’t be staring down the very real threat of the Mark Leal era in 2014.

Talk about depressing.


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