There has been much discussion both on Gobbler Country and elsewhere about how good the 2012 recruiting class really was for the Hokies. One thing I thought would be helpful was to analyze the class by positions as a segway into my 2013 recruiting posts. So for those of you still sulking over my limited recruiting analysis of the 2012 class, don't worry, I still have one last bone to throw your way before I start my 2013 class coverage (which will be closer to my 2011 class coverage than last year).
For those of you who read my pre-signing day recruiting primer, you probably have a good idea who most of these players are and what their skill level/abilities are. But if you need a refresher, here it is. This post won't go into as much detail on those individuals, but will highlight our position-by-position recruiting in groups and evaluate our success in each area. So whether you're a casual Tech fan with a very tame interest in recruiting or a fastidious recruiting follower and Tech football zealot, this post is for you. All you have to do is continue reading!
Brenden Motley 6'3" 200 lbs. ATH (QB) Christiansburg HS, Christiansburg, VA
As you may have read in my signing day primer, I don't think Motley is much of a quarterback. He is an athlete, and several other recruiting sites are in agreement with my conclusion by classifying him as an athlete and not a quarterback. That being the case, it is hard to grade this class of quarterbacks if there may not be any quarterbacks in it. But as is always the case, the Hokies coaches have suggested they are going to give him every chance to prove himself at quarterback before looking elsewhere.
Unfortunately, if he does not pan out there, that will be another year where the Hokies did not get a quality signal caller, at least according to recruiting rankings. And while Logan Thomas obviously can't be thrown into that group, if you will remember, he was listed as a TE coming out of high school. It is an absolute MUST that the Hokies take a quarterback (preferably multiple quarterbacks) next year for several reasons. 1. Logan Thomas may decide to leave early for the NFL and 2. Mark Leal would be the only scholarship quarterback on the Hokies' roster. So if I had to give this position a grade, I'd give it a D on the off chance that Motley becomes a QB at Tech.
J.C. Coleman 5'7" 169 lbs RB Oscar Smith HS, Chesapeake, VA
Drew Harris 6'1" 210 lbs. RB Downingtown East HS, Exton, PA
Chris Mangus 6'0" 180 lbs. RB Broughton HS, Raleigh, NC
Jerome Wright 6'2" 225 lbs. ATH Highlands Springs HS, Highlands Springs, VA
We took four running backs in the 2012 class, and coaches and fans alike are giddy about seeing these guys on the field. As you may remember from my primer, Coleman is already enrolled at Tech and is participating in spring ball. He is a prime candidate for the starting job, possibly with the best odds of anyone if he can pick up his pass blocking assignments, something that held up former Hokie backs such as Ryan Williams.
Harris is a wrecking ball with a V-16 under the hood and should compete for immediate playing time with Coleman and incumbents Michael Holmes and Tony Gregory this fall. Mangus is another speedster with good size, but for the time being, he appears to be the odd man out for playing time. Wright was a late offer and pickup for the Hokies, but he will not be enrolling until spring of 2013 as he was a greyshirt offer. Wright is a classic under the radar pickup for the Hokies. Only time will tell if the coaches' player evaluation skills helped them to strike gold again. At any rate, this is the deepest conglomeration of talent at the running back position in one recruiting class that the Hokies have ever brought in. This position is what helped to put the class over the top.
Mark Irick 6'3" 185 lbs. WR Calhoun County HS, St. Matthews, SC
Thomas Smith 6'3" 218 lbs. WR Lafayette HS, Williamsburg, VA
Joshua Stanford 6'2" 175 lbs. WR MLK HS, Lithonia, GA
Joel Caleb 6'2" 201 lbs. WR Clover Hill HS, Midlothian, VA
Given the signing day addition of stud wide receiver Joel Caleb, this position could be ranked higher. But, there are still some unknowns among other players that give me pause. While it's great that the Hokies were able to pick up Smith as a greyshirt, he still may be a reach talent-wise. Both he and Irick received little interest throughout the recruiting process, though Smith's stock really jumped up late. Both receivers are similar in that they have size and they run slower 40 times. But, big receivers like Jarrett Boykin, Ernest Wilford and Justin Harper have all thrived at Virginia Tech, and all were lightly recruited.
Stanford committed to Tech rather late, but he appears to be a speed demon that caught several schools' eyes late in the process. Even with the Hokies' losses at wide receiver, only Joel Caleb seems like a serious threat to the top-3 receivers on the Tech depth chart, although he will most likely play even if he is behind those three returnees (Marcus Davis, D.J. Coles and Dyrell Roberts). If some of the unknowns of this position pan out, maybe we can look back at this and see why it needed to be higher. But until then, I'm comfortable saying this is a solid class with a couple of players with high upside.
Dakota Jackson 6'4" 250 lbs. TE Northside HS, Roanoke, VA
A year after taking seemingly every tight end to ever suit up, Tech took only one TE in the 2012 class. The reason for that is Tech had a huge need in 2011 for TE's that in 2012 they do not, at least numbers-wise. Jackson seems to be more of a blocking tight end, but in Tech's offense where guys at that position not named Jeff King are rarely utilized, that seems just fine. If Jackson could come anywhere near King's success it would be a Christmas miracle, but he'll have to fight his way up through the depth chart to do so. The combination of Jackson's skill level coming in an the Hokies lack of need for numbers at TE, I am content in giving this position a C+.
Jack Willenbrock 6'4" 260 lbs. OL Downingtown East HS, Exton, PA
Augie Contie 6'6" 270 lbs. OL Blessed Sacrament Huguenot HS, Powhatan, VA
Adam Taraschke 6'6" 270 lbs. OL Riverbend HS, Fredricksburg, VA
Tech struggled once again to pull in elite linemen, even if all around them the Hokies were raking in highly-rated commitments at other positions. If this trend continues, you have to wonder if this is an issue with Curt Newsome. Even though he isn't necessarily the recruiter for his position recruits, he does spend time with them on campus visits and ultimately should have a big influence on their signing.
The three recruits the Hokies did land were all rated lowly or unranked by recruiting services, but have the potential to surprise, especially the two tackles Contie and Taraschke. They both have huge frames and can still fill out. I can say after watching Taraschke's highlight tape that he possesses a very important skill that is rarely seen at his age. He has great hands as a blocker with the ability not only to maintain blocks, but also to re-direct the defender to where he wants him to go. That technique represents maturity for his position and a conceptual understanding that will undoubtedly benefit him and help his case for early time. However, it has been rumored that both tackles are greyshirts. With Willenbrock, he will also need to fill out and is headed for a redshirt year as the two-deep is pretty full.
The biggest need on next year's team aside from quarterback is offensive line, and it was already one of this year's biggest concerns. The fact that we missed so many good players out there and had to bring in two greyshirts and an unheralded recruit makes this class just so-so. But rankings aren't everything, so we will see what this position of the 2012 class brings to the table.
Jarontay Jones 6'2" 240 lbs. DE Stephenson HS, Stone Mountain, GA
Seth Dooley 6'5" 230 lbs. DE Glenvar HS, Salem, VA
Alston Smith 6'3" 272 lbs. DT Cox HS, Virginia Beach, VA
Woody Baron 6'3" 252 lbs. DE Brentwood Academy, Brentwood, TN
Nigel Williams 6'3" 260 lbs. DL Benedictine School, Richmond, VA
Ken Ekanem 6'3" 226 lbs. DL Centreville HS, Clifton, VA
Aside from running backs and linebackers, defensive line may be the best part of this class. Though it was heartbreaking for the Hokies to lose out to Alabama on Brookfield HS (Lynchburg) defensive tackle Korren Kirven, who was long-rumored to be favoring VT, they put together a really great class here on the defensive line. Jarontay Jones, originally the headliner of this class, may now be the sleeper. He dropped in the recruiting rankings late for a variety of reasons, but talent-wise, we may be looking at the next Jason Worilds.
As for the defensive tackles, all of them were added within several days during summer camps. I think Williams will be a tackle since he can add weight, but it's nice to see that he may be able to play either tackle or end. Barron and Dooley may be unheralded, but again, we have to trust in the system that has proven the Hokies' coaches to be the top talent evaluators year in and year out. Alston Smith was also a great get. Though he is not as developed as he needs to be, he obviously has the raw tools and pedigree to be great. As for Ekanem, he brings the athleticism of an outside linebacker to the defensive line. He fits the mold of Hokie defensive ends. Tech was the only school to look at him as a DE, and he ended up picking us, so obviously teams nationwide thought he was athletic enough to play linebacker.
The numbers and talent we brought in on the defensive line with this class were fantastic. We helped to solidify long-term depth at both tackle and end for when the current crop of players is gone. As last year proved, a lot of injuries and transfers can lead to guys playing that shouldn't be out there, so it is always good to have a class like this that gives plenty of options and is talented enough to hold their own.
Dahman McKinnon 6'2" 200 lbs. LB South View HS, Hope Mills, NC
Deon Clarke 6'2" 205 lbs. LB Lloyd C. Bird HS, Chesterfield, VA
Trey Edmunds 6'2" 205 lbs. LB Dan River HS, Ringgold, VA
Devin Vandyke 6'1" 203 lbs. LB Lorton HS, Lorton, VA
Even with the defection of Jawand Blue on signing day, this class of linebackers will challenge the 2003 class which produced Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall. While they might not produce individually on that high a level, collectively, I expect them to exceed that level of play. There are four solid linebackers here that can all have an impact pretty early on with the whip and mike backer positions freeing up after 2012.
Most of these guys probably project as backers or whips, but in an attempt to get their best players on the field, I think there is too much depth not to see three of these guys manning our linebacking core in the near future. Clarke and Vandyke are lauded for their playmaking abilities and their sideline-to-sideline speed. Edmunds is more of a powerful player and has the best chance to end up at the mike. He has a good football IQ and fundamentals, although he is no slouch athletically either. McKinnon was under the radar as well, but he's got a great combination of speed and size that will benefit either of our outside backer positions.
While there isn't necessarily a headlining name like an Adibi or Hall who stood out head and shoulders as the best player in the state or nationally at their position, there are high quality players here that are close to that level, and more of them than in the past. This haul at linebacker is probably the best the Hokies have ever reeled in on paper.
Davion Tookes 5'10" 179 lbs. CB Creekside HS, Fairburn, GA
Donaldven Manning 5'9" 163 lbs. Miami Central HS, Miami, FL
Der'Woun Greene 5'10" 175 lbs. DB Woodrow Wilson HS, Portsmouth, VA
Desmond Frye 6'1" 168 lbs. DB Thomas Dale HS, Chester, VA
Donovan Riley 6'0" 190 lbs. DB Baltimore Poly HS, Baltimore, MD
The focus of this position class is the cornerbacks. While Greene may end up at wide receiver and the two safeties, Frye and Riley flash athleticism, the tandem of Tookes and Manning were an absolute steal for the Hokies. The class after all started off with those two players and the coaches were able to keep Manning from start to finish despite many serious attempts to pull him away (ahem...I'm looking at you Miami). Of course with the recent transfer of James Farrow and Manning's early enrollment at Tech, it appears that he may see some serious playing time as soon as next year.
Tookes also drew heated interest, picking up at least 16 confirmed BCS offers. He may also be in the mix for early playing time just based on numbers, or lack thereof. If the safeties are able to develop into solid players, this class of defensive backs will be among the best Tech has ever taken. But right now, it is still very good.
Class Grade as a whole: B++
Please stay tuned to Gobbler Country for the upcoming posts on the 2013 recruiting class. Also if you have any suggestions for my future recruiting posts, please comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.