For Ohio State, it was their home opener. Coming to town was college football’s winningest active coach and his team, who, until the last two seasons, had a steady national profile and had amassed multiple conference championships and BCS bowl bids. It was only natural, then, to invite many of the nation’s top recruits to Columbus to see the show, particularly when some of the recruits were also considering Virginia Tech. Three of the biggest of those names?
Kevin Toliver II (6-2, 185; Jacksonsville, FL, Trinity Christian Academy) Rated the #2 CB in the land and #11 in the Top247 by 247Sports, Toliver committed to LSU in November 2012, but has scheduled the maximum of five official visits this fall (LSU, Ohio State, Auburn, UCLA, and Virginia Tech). In his highlights, he looks like the type of player Hokies’ DB Coach Torrian Gray would really like to get in Orange & Maroon. And he has a friend in Chicago Maroon already with Freshman Phenom Isaiah Ford hailing from the same high school.
Josh Sweat (6-5, 240; Chesapeake, VA, Oscar Smith) The #1 ranked WDE and #1 overall player in the nation by 247Sports, Sweat has also decided to take all five official visits this fall (Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Florida State, Oregon). He is a high school teammate of current VT Jr. TB J.C. Coleman.
Matthew Burrell (6-5, 302; Woodbridge, VA, C.D. Hylton) Rated the #6 OG and #92 in the Top247, Burrell’s official visit schedule is a bit fuzzy beyond Ohio State and Penn State. A high school teammate of current Hokie Fr. TB Travon McMillian, Burrell reportedly also has high interest in Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Alabama.
At the game, Sweat and Burrell paused for a photo op with Brutus.
Here are two of the top recruits (Josh Sweat and Matthew Burrell) who were at last night's Ohio State game. pic.twitter.com/XvNkcxvg02— Lori Schmidt (@LoriSchmidt) September 7, 2014
They also met some of the, um, Buckeye faithful.
As it turns out, random Ohio State fan was absolutely right: the recruits were in for a treat Saturday night in Columbus. Oh, foreshadowing.
Ohio State rolled out their finest for these recruits:
- It was Ohio State’s first game in newly-revamped Ohio Stadium following a $13.7 million renovation project that was wrapped before the season began. What’d the project include? Tell us, Ari Wasserman of Northeast Ohio Media Group’s cleveland.com:
"• The south stands seat expansion work will add approximately 2,600 seats and create a wide, rubber-surfaced tunnel for the Buckeyes to walk down to enter the field.
• This new seating will not compromise the integrity of the "horseshoe" design of the stadium as created by architect Howard Dwight Smith.
• The installation of permanent lighting above the east and west walls will "crown" the stadium with high definition sports lighting from MUSCO.
• And completion of the concrete waterproofing project that was started last year will preserve the 1922-circa coating and concrete in portions of A deck.
• New FieldTurf is being installed after the artificial surface was originally installed in 2007. The field will look identical to the previous version. The rubber pellets that were used to create a soil-like feel on the previous surface were removed and placed into 300 large bags. Those pellets will be recycled into the new surface."
- · The revamped stadium now officially holds 104,944. However, Ohio Stadium was packed with the largest crowd in its history: 107,517.
- · Fancy uniform. To be exact, they sported their 2012 Nike Pro Combat set, featuring a metallic silver helmet with a thick gray, white, and metallic scarlet stripe.
- · Just for funsies, Buckeyes Head Coach Urban Meyer invited a special fella to be a sideline visitor and show his tOSU support: basketball superstar and global sports icon LeBron James, who reportedly led the Buckeyes out of the tunnel.
While the visit was certainly supposed to showcase Ohio State and all it had to offer as a program, a strong argument could be made that the game ended up showcasing the Hokies instead. What did recruits likely take notice of on Saturday night?
1. The LPD is a fast, aggressive, fun-to-watch bunch.
If I’m a DB recruit, I’ve definitely done my homework enough to know that Virginia Tech DB Coach Torrian Gray is arguably the best in the business. But, if I’m a defender of any position, I want to be a part of Bud Foster’s LPD. Coach Foster was an absolute wizard last night, dialing up pressure from every angle, leaving Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett on his behind seven times and running for his life late in the game. The players were hype and that energy bred itself into more success.
2. Beamer & Co. aren’t afraid to play young talent.
Through their first two games, the Hokies have scored nine touchdowns. Six of those nine were scored by freshmen. Not only are these guys playing, they’re starting, they’re appearing on national TV, and they’re scoring.
3. Foster & Co. aren't afraid to trust their young guys to be a key part of the game plan.
Foster employed a unique game plan with his defensive front. However, because more bodies were needed to stop not only the run, but the threat of the QB pull on both the zone read and veer read, math dictated that there would be fewer bodies in the secondary. No worries, Foster just left his true sophomore corners Kendall Fuller (6-0, 190) and Brandon Facyson (6-2, 189), and nickel corner Chuck Clark (6-0, 208) in man coverage with minimal safety help over-the-top most of the night. Why? Because he trusted in them to consistently beat their man and take care of business on their own.
4. Loeffler has given the Hokies an offensive identity.
Much has been said and written about the previous offensive playcalling regime. Much was also said about Loeffler among the Hokie faithful last season, after approximately 95% of our offensive gameplan seemingly revolved around mecha-QB Logan Thomas just making plays. However, through the first two games this season, Loeffler has tossed aside "multiple" as the Hokies’ offensive identity and shown that they are now a truly spread team—that will situationally go pistol or under center-- that wants to establish the running game but aren’t married to it, but will absolutely spread the ball around the yard to any and everyone who will get open and catch the football.
5. Loeffler has a really neat bag of tricks he's not afraid to dig into.
Players love unorthodox plays, or even "trick" plays. Against Ohio State, Loeffler called a throwback screen to the TE, and he also dialed up a reverse to So. fullback Sam Rogers (5-10, 222) that clearly had a pass option that wasn’t needed as Rogers rumbled around the right edge instead, smartly taking advantage of the green grass present there because no one in the entire state of Ohio, let alone Ohio Stadium, had a clue that THAT would be the playcall in that situation.
6. HokieNation was in full effect.
According to the interwebs, Blacksburg is 299mi from Columbus. Yet, plenty of the Hokie faithful loaded up the family truckster not only made the trip, but made their presence known.
Brewer said on show he overheard Ohio St. fans saying #Hokies brought as many fans into Horseshoe as any visiting team they've ever seen.— Norm Wood (@normwood) September 8, 2014
Hokies were relentlessly cheering our boys on. Congrats to the Hokie fansssssss. pic.twitter.com/9p6AHS0miE— Kevin Jones (@Iam_KevinJones) September 7, 2014
Then after the game, Blacksburg emptied itself into downtown, and Hokie diehard-ers stayed up to greet the team at their 4am return to Cassell.
Honestly I can say hokie nation has the best fans! pic.twitter.com/LitNYtP06L— Kenjamin Ekanem (@Ekannibal) September 7, 2014
After the past two seasons, where the team was relegated to mediocrity, many top recruits had either given Virginia Tech but a cursory look during their recruitment or marked VT off their list entirely very early in the process. They had opted for schools who were closer, already had players they knew from high school, or they bought into the "Beamer is an out-of-touch old white man" negative recruiting pitch (and yes, that pitch is legitimately used against Tech). The biggest knock on VT’s offense was that they didn’t run a system, they ran plays. And, the biggest knock on VT’s defense was that the offense was so bad, players signing to Tech to play defense would never again see big-time success because the offense was a giant anchor holding it down. But, after the Hokies went into the Horseshoe and not only bested the Buckeyes in their home opener for the first time since the Woody Hayes days (1978) and won there as an out-of-conference opponent for the first time since the Earle Bruce-led days of 1982, but absolutely punched the Buckeyes in the mouth defensively and threw the ball all around the yard offensively, it’s highly likely that those recruits in attendance—as well as countless others watching from home across the land—came away from that game far more impressed with the visiting Hokies than their hosts.
In the words of newly-minted Virginia Tech Director of High School Relations for Football, Thomas Guerry,