[Ed. Note: Bumped from FanPosts.]
With spring practice concluded and the college football season months away, it gives us some time to think about what we have and what we want going forward as a program, and that is more or less an assessment of recruiting. So, with the 2010 class done and the 2011 recruiting season well underway, let's look at some of the guys that Tech has on their board, have offered, and in general who we want.
I have continually said to anyone who will listen that the 2011 football AND basketball recruiting classes will be the best ever in school history. For basketball, the sheer number of scholarships that we boast and the verbally committed talent that we already lined up is going to cause a domino effect of sorts for other big name prospects (but I will get to basketball at a later time, so look for that in the near future). For football, the amount of talent in the Commonwealth is about as great as it has ever been, and it is about as deep as it has ever been too! So basically when I was saying that we WILL have the best football class in school history, it is saying that if we don't have the best football recruiting class in school history it will be a flub-up of epic proportions by the Virginia Tech coaching staff and we should all resort to heavy drinking to cope with it.
With Al Groh being fired Virginia is on the ropes, even with an energetic new coach like Mike London at the helm, and we should see this as our prime opportunity to strike and take hold of the state for good. If there is any one thing that Al Groh did well at UVA it was recruit. On several occasions, he even out-recruited Virginia Tech. That hurt. We need to keep the state all to ourselves, and put the best prospects year in and year out on lockdown (for those of you slow on the uptake it means in Maroon and Orange uniforms). Don't think that just because we recruit lower profile guys who are generally thought of as diamonds in the rough and turn them into diamonds, that given the opportunity we wouldn't take higher profile and more often than not, BETTER recruits, because we would (WILL I hope). Let's face it, recruiting is the name of the game, and until we do a better job of locking up big name guys from this region (especially the state), our product we put out on the field will never win us that elusive National Championship.
Below are a list of targets, and I have listed them based on the order in which we want/need these guys. I took into consideration our need based on position, our need based on talent, their level of talent, and how they fit our system. ENJOY! (Keep in mind that I began writing this in mid-May, and it just became too cumbersome of a read/write to have as one article. So I have broken it up into parts. Here is Part 1!)
1. Curtis Grant- 6'3" 222 lbs. OLB Hermitage HS, Richmond, VA- Grant is drawing comparisons to Xavier Adibi at this point in the recruiting process, possessing 4.5 speed and at 6'3" 222, the size that college scouts salivate over at that position. He is a physical freak, and was named the best linebacker at the Blacksburg Nike camp last week, an event that will probably go down as the combination of the best HS linebackers at the same camp in history. I watched his video from that camp...and let me tell you, IT WAS SCARY! He could have made an entire highlight tape from that camp alone! He is all but a lock to be named the top player in Virginia when the rankings come out for Rivals and Scout (since I began writing this article he was named the top player in the state and the 8th player nationally by Rivals). Early on we looked like the favorites for Grant's services, but as more and more teams get a look at him, they obviously like what they see and offer him. His offer sheet keeps growing, and although he said that he wants to cut his list, he also said that he is going to take his time. He has deep ties to Virginia Tech, as does the Hermatige program, but he also has some UVA ties.
I still think that we are the favorite for him, BUT, he has an extensive list of unofficial visits this summer, including many out of state programs (USC, UCLA, Alabama, Michigan and Ohio St.) who could pull him away from us based on program prestige alone. Basically, what I see from the number of visits he is taking, he is nowhere near deciding. USC has come in under the radar in the last few months, and call it what you want, but an offer from USC usually seems to be Virginia Tech's kryptonite when recruiting a player, so forgive me if I'm concerned. If Grant chooses an out-of-state school, look for it to be USC.
2. Quinta Funderburk- 6'5" 204 lbs. WR Oscar Smith HS, Chesapeake, VA- I read from a recruiting analyst that Quinta does nothing great, but everything really well. For an offense like ours that relies on our receivers just as much for run-blocking and selling their routes on run plays, this was great news. Considering his frame, I'm already excited. This guy is a perfect fit for us, and although he may not be the best wide receiver in the history of the game (he's projected to be a 4-star, and since I began writing this he ended up dropping, still a four-star but a lot lower than people thought, coming in as the #23 receiver nationally on Rivals.com), he is an elite WR in his class and an all-around good player.
Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although he hasn't been as productive in his last few years, you could make the argument even today that Hines Ward is the MOST COMPLETE receiver in the NFL, and especially important to a team like Pittsburgh that relies so heavily on the run and run-blocking. According to what I've heard, this is that guy! We haven't had the best luck locking down the state's top receiver (in 2006 Virginia boasted 4 of the top 6 receivers in the nation, including the top player in the nation in Percy Harvin, and we landed a cool...0 of them!), and it's understandable at least a little with our offense. I mean who would want to come play in our offense as a receiver pre-last year? But, this is a guy we need to get. Who was the last elite WR from Virginia we landed? Eddie Royal (Dyrell Roberts doesn't count because he was a RB in HS)? We did more stuff with our receivers this year, so hopefully that will impress, but his offer sheet is every bit as daunting as Grant's. I'd say we're in the mix, but I don't think we are head and shoulders above any team to get him.
3. Travis Hughes- 6'1" 228 lbs. MLB Kempsville, HS, Virginia Beach, VA- Another linebacker this high!? Yup. Like I said, this class of linebackers is unreal, and Hughes is one of the big ones Tech has its hands on. Hughes was part of the Nike camp mentioned above in Blacksburg, and performed well. Getting him would be HUGE for our program! I don't want to discount Barquell Rivers and how good he's been for us, but he is not without flaws, and is nowhere near being in the discussion of a guy like Vince Hall. I know that Barquell still has two seasons to go, but Hall dominated from the moment he took the field, and I just haven't seen that from Barquell (although it's hard for anyone to match up against the greatest linebacker in Tech history).
Travis is more like Hall; an undersized linebacker from the Tidewater region who has some good speed for the college level. With Barquell's injury, it has opened up the opportunity for guys to get some reps there, although I don't know if that has revealed the MLB of the future for us. To be honest, we shouldn't just take it for granted that Barquell will come right back and be himself right from the get go either. Sometimes injuries end careers (not a prediction, just an observation). So with this guy's level of talent, our need for a enforcer at the MLB position for the future, and our chances being pretty high (our main competition seems to be ACC-foes Maryland and UNC, but he also like the rest of these guys has an offer from pretty much every power in the land to boot as he is the #149 overall player and #7 inside linebacker in 2011 according to Rivals.com), we should land him to be a staple of our defense for the next 4 years!
4. Mack Crowder- 6'4" 270 lbs. C Tennessee HS, Bristol, TN- For many people this would come as a shocker. Mack is currently a 3-star prospect and the #13 center nationally (according to Rivals) in a traditionally weak D-I football recruiting area (or at least as it is perceived). At least Mack plays at Tennessee High, a beacon of success in the area in a pretty good conference. I am going to go out on a limb and make a bold prediction: if this kid comes to Virginia Tech, he will be the next Jake Grove AND SOME. I'm not just saying this because the kid (like Jake) plays center either. This kid plays with the fire and intensity of Jake, often bordering on late hits from contact after the play. Like Jake, he plays through the whistle, which is EXACTLY what you want to see, especially from a lineman. Ask any coach and they would tell you that they'd always rather have to calm a player down than to get him up.
From the moment I watched Mack's highlight video I was wowed! So I called a few friends over to make sure I wasn't just making much ado about nothing. Turns out, I was even more impressed from the second watch of the tape than the first, and my friends were just as sold about how good this kid was (p.s. they hate Virginia Tech, so I figured there was some control for my experiment). At that point (of course I hadn't seen the highlight tape of Curtis Grant yet) I said "I want this kid over any other kid out there in this class to be a Hokie!" That was early in the process...maybe 4-5 months ago. Well I must have a good eye for talent, because this kid is shooting up people's recruiting boards left and right and he has been offered scholarships from more than a dozen schools, (including BC, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Kansas). He is almost certainly going to make the jump to a four-star prospect on Rivals' 5-star system sooner rather than later.
Aside from my personal love affair with this kid's game, let me tell you exactly what he does well that doesn't involve him being like Jake Grove. He understands the concept of blocking exceptionally well, and who he has to block on a given play to free up a lane for his skill position players. His form and technique is polished, and he has a nice, balanced stance, allowing him to have a good base and distribute power evenly in the case of an oncoming pass rusher that may change his direction on a dime (something that befuddled Ed Wang for 3 years as he looked like Yao Ming getting crossed up). However, nothing I have said to this point is the best part of his game. This kind of has to do with the not quitting on a play until the whistle blows, but don't get too technical. On his highlight film, Mack ALWAYS finished up his first block by getting second level and sometimes even into the secondary after leaving two guys eating dirt in his wake. It's downright scary to watch this kid. I know a highlight tape is supposed to make a guy look good, and sometimes it's just a case of catching freak plays and putting them on tape, but that's not the case for Mack. Nor is the lack of competition. For those of you who are saying yeah right, especially the second level part, I challenge you to go watch his highlight tape and not pee your pants in absolute jubilant shock.
You do have to be a Rivals member to see this, but trust me, if you are, you'll be SOOOOO glad you did!
5. Dominique Terrell- 5'11" 175 lbs. ATH Osbourn Park HS, Manassas, VA- When I first saw this kid's highlight tape, I watched the first play and I was a believer. My first analysis was how insane his lateral quickness was. That was until I saw his vertical straight-line speed. Terrell is listed as having run a 4.4 and it's legit. He looks like he was shot right out of a gun! I WANT THIS KID SOOOOO BAD! A lot of people (both fans and some in recruiting circles) are wary of athletes, because they don't know where they will pan out, or if they will pan out. A lot of times it's a case of athletes being a jack of all trades but a master of none.
The good news is that athletes of this caliber are rarely ever busts. Coaches always talk about getting their best athletes on the field, and when they do, they're talking about this guy. His athleticism is so uncanny it's spooky scary. Though he's being looked at as a WR or DB, I have an interesting idea for him. I know we got away from the Wild Turkey last year, but as more and more teams are putting in some variation of the Wildcat, I'd nominate Dominique for that honor over the next four years. Firstly, he played/plays QB in HS, and he really looks to run right from the snap a lot. The thing is, a lot of people knew that and they still ended up on his highlight tape. But, he is not a terrible quarterback either. The kid has an above average arm, and the perfect situation for the Wildcat is when the guy taking the snap can threaten you on the ground or through the air. It just makes that formation THAT much harder to defend. Whatever, that's my two cents.
Virginia Tech has successfully utilized athletes over the years, especially recently, and especially with converted HS quarterbacks. Dominiqe's athleticism is so good that he could line up at virtually any skill position on the field and still hold his own just based on athleticism. He can help our team in so many ways, not the least of which is being our Punt Returner of the future. This kid shows rare vision in finding holes that aren't even there yet, similar to former Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards, sometimes seemingly opening up holes that don't exist...and in case you haven't ever seen one of those players...let me tell you folks, it's pretty exciting. He has the agility to start, stop and start again with painful ease (painful to those of us who wish we were made like that). Many guys can start and stop, but very few can start, stop, and then start again almost seamlessly. For the record, the only Hokies I have ever seen be able to do that are Kevin Jones and Michael Vick in that order. Not even Ryan Williams makes that list (sorry bud). As for our chances with him? Well, he is listed as the #189 prospect in the 2011 class by Rivals.com, and like everyone else here, has a ridiculous offer sheet, full of the likes of SEC powers, ACC powers and Big East powers with a couple of other national powers to boot. We look to be in the driver's seat right now, but the longer this kid stays uncommitted, and the longer his highlight tapes continue to circulate, the less of a chance he ends up in the 'Burg.
I hope you enjoyed this Part 1 of the Virginia Tech Football Recruiting Guide for the class of 2011. Look out for the rest of this series on GobblerCountry.com over the next few weeks. Also, to check out the Hokiehaven.com 2011 Target Board. However, you must be a Rivals.com member to see this.