Matt Arkema – 6’3" 284lbs,
Sierra Vista, AZ)
Augie Conte – 6’6" 270lbs,
Adam Taraschke – 6’6" 265lbs,
2012 was one of those underwhelming recruiting years that the Hokies sometimes settle for, and it's quite dangerous to adopt this attitude, because it's essentially burning scholarships that could otherwise be put to good use. The fact that the position most often affected by this is the OL is troubling.
Augie Conte (r-So) was listed as 2nd string guard behind recently departed Andrew Miller, will challenge for a starting position this fall. Despite getting only 31 snaps this season, Conte tested out as "Super Iron Hokie" which is always good to hear especially for our guys battling in the trenches.
Jack Willenbrock, a rising r-So might be better known for his high school teammate Drew Harris, who many felt was going to be the next great tailback for VT. Willenbrock logged a total of 29 plays this past season, all on special teams. I don't expect him to factor much in the two deep during his career at Tech, especially with the incoming haul expected to sign on Wednesday and new leadership at the helm in Coach Stacy Searels. And Drew Harris? He's had to go JUCO, so the time-tested tradition of pretending to be interested in someone else at a top prospects HS has failed miserably once again.
Recent reports stated Taraschke left the program in August due to "burnout" but recently rejoined the team, though not on scholarship. Chalk this class up as more or less a bust.
Editor's Note: I can only recall one instance where bringing a player in just to help recruit their more highly-regarded teammate worked out. Surprisingly, it was the Marcus Vick-Brendan Hill pairing. Hill turned out to be a solid 5th year WHIP who had a heckuva Stomp Bowl performance on NY Day in 2006 vs Louisville.
LETS NOT SUGAR COAT IT, THOSE PAST THREE CLASSES REALLY UNDERWHELMED. IT NEEDS TO GET BETTER OR VT WILL BE IN REAL TROUBLE. LUCKILY, 2013 WAS VASTLY IMPROVED
Braxton Pfaff - 6’6" 285lbs, Liberty Christian Academy (Lynchburg, VA)
Parker Osterloh – 6’8" 299lbs, Warhill (Williamsburg, VA)
Jonathan McLaughlin – 6’5" 313lbs, Mauldin (Mauldin, SC)
Kyle Chung – 6’4" 260lbs, Ponte Vedra (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL)
2013 yielded Tech's first true freshman starting tackle in Coach Frank Beamer's tenure. Jonathan McLaughlin spent a year at Fork Union and was initially an ECU commit until the Hokies offered. Sun Bowl game vs UCLA aside, McLaughlin managed to hold his own and performed very well considering being thrown to the wolves.
Parker Osterloh, a mountain of a man who red-shirted this past season and will look to crack the two deep moving into the spring.
Braxton Pfaff, who recently enrolled this month was actually a 2013 recruit who took a grey-shirt year to rehab his shoulder after having surgery. Pfaff, who's father also played in college looks to have that "nasty" demeanor that separates the good O-lineman from the average. Looking forward to seeing this young man in action.
Kyle Chung, a legacy "product" of former Virginia Tech All American Eugene Chung took a red-shirt in 2013 to bulk up in order to battle for a spot on the 2014 two deep. Playing tight end in high school, Kyle looks to follow in his father's footsteps and make his own name in Blacksburg.
I have high hopes for this class, overall success still to be determined.
Editor's Note: My six year old legacy "product" is currently enjoying a snack and the puppy bowl. We have some work to do on branding.
A NEW HOPE?
If you ask our coaches, offensive line is probably the hardest position to evaluate. Therefore, it's going to be interesting to see how new offensive line coach Stacy Searels works, and develops these youngsters and acclimates them to Coach Scot Leoffler's offensive schemes, which Searels himself is doubtlessly absorbing at an accelerated rate.
Bill Ray Mitchell – 6’4" 285lbs,
Offers: VT, 14 others including Wisconsin and GT
Mitchell, who primarily played on the interior line during his high school career looks to be very aggressive and active. I can picture him pulling as he looks to be light on his feet for a big guy. I wouldn't be surprised to see him tried out at tackle at some point in his career, but we'll leave that up to Coach Searels. He will surely need to add some bulk and gain some seasoning before he is ready to challenge for a spot on the two deep.
Billy Ray Mitchell Senior Year Highlight Tape (via Billy Ray Mitchell)
Colt Pettit – 6’4" 260lbs, Patrick Henry (Hamler, OH)
Offers: VT, 15 others including Illinois and Purdue
Much like Mitchell, Colt Pettit has a lot of the same characteristics. Playing on the interior, he looks to have the "nasty" edge to him as if someone talked trash about his momma. I don't mean to sound repetitive, but he looks great moving around, pulling and mauling people down field. He also looked good playing on defense as well, very aggressive and not afraid of the big collision. First team All-Ohio (thanks for leaving us one, Urban) Colt will have to add some weight before he's thrust into action but his future looks bright in orange and maroon.
Colt Pettit Junior Highlights (via Cody Pettit)
Tyrell Smith – 6’5" 265lbs,
Offers: VT, FAU, UMass
Out of the highly-regarded program at Don Bosco Prep, we have snagged offensive tackle Tyrell Smith, who despite his lack of offers appears to have a lot of great potential on the outside. He has the preferred measurables for a prototypical OT and has great speed off the edge to keep speed rushers at bay. A year of seasoning with Coach Mike Gentry and the tutelage from Coach Searels should get Tyrell ready to compete by 2015.
Tyrell Smith DBP 2012 Junior Highlights (via Dave Rubel)
Eric Gallo – 6’3" 280lbs, Council Rock South (Southampton, PA)
Offers: VT, Buffalo, UMass, Temple, Villanova
Eric Gallo, another interior lineman from Pennsylvania, has a different skill set compared to his classmates in Mitchell and Pettit. Gallo is more of a straight ahead "road grader" as he has a bigger frame and looks to have a more college-ready body at this point. Whether Eric can adjust to the speed of major division one football will ultimately determine how successful he becomes. I expect Gallo to red-shirt as well.
Eric Gallo 2012 Junior Highlight Film Council Rock South (via Eric Gallo)
LOOKS LIKE FORMER COACH JEFF GRIMES KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING
Before his departure to LSU in mid-January, Coach Grimes left us with some pretty decent material to work with. We all know our offensive line deficiencies won't be corrected overnight, but we are taking a step in the right direction and recruiting actual high school lineman. While it's too bad that VT lost talented OT Brady Taylor (Columbus, OH) to AN Ohio State University, VT fans should take some relief in the fact that we are recruiting the right types of players. I'm cautiously optimistic about this class and 2013's haul. I think Coach Searels has a lot of good young prospects to work with and getting Tech back to the days where we used to RUN AT WILL. As Coach Frank Beamer loves to say, let's hope these guys "Really Get After It!"