The prospect by prospect review of Virginia Tech's current recruiting class has given me a lot of mixed feelings as a fan. On the one hand, I'm obviously glad that these student athletes have chosen to attend Virginia Tech. I'll go through some standouts and some questions below, but I think this class is solid. The problem with the designation of ‘solid' is that it is normally appended by the phrase ‘if unspectacular', which is the case here.
First, time to clean up additions to the depth chart. I missed Coleman Fox the first time through, mostly because there was speculation that he would be a wide receiver, and his position of running back wasn't given until fall camp started. Personally I would have liked him at wideout as I feel his quickness in the middle of the field would be sorely needed, but that's another story. Quinton Taylor is a R-Jr. OLB that has not seen any varsity action so far. Sean Daniel is a new freshman wide receiver from Oscar Smith. I did not do kicking, punting, long snapper, or fullbacks in recruiting. Most of this is because recruiting for these four positions, while important, is a bit of an enigma. Of scholarship players I know were recruited for those positions, we've got two: Jerome Wright at fullback and Michael Santamaria at Kicker. Neither of those two project to start- Sam Rogers is too versatile as an H-Back and Joey Slye hasn't done anything to lose his job. AJ Hughes will handle the punting duties. Eddie D'Antuono will continue to play long snapper. Punters, kickers, and fullbacks are people, yes, but I'll defer recruiting talk on them unless one absolutely pops on the radar.
Secondly, to sum up this class in one word? Depth. This is a class we're looking for not for stars, necessarily, but for bodies that need to be replaced. There's plenty of talent in the class, some of it I think is really underrated. But from where it stands right now, those stars aren't born, they're made. And we make ‘em just fine when we can. Kyle Fuller was a three-star that was a first round draft pick. Duane Brown was a first round pick that was a lightly recruited tight end. But getting what we can out of this class is going to be key for the next couple of years of success- likely not in 2016, but 2017 and onwards. If Dwayne Lawson becomes what we think he can be, it'll be because these guys are catching his passes and blocking for him. We'll win because these defensive backs shut people down and linebackers tackle. But for a balanced class overall, there are a couple interesting standouts.
Most Intriguing Player:
Joshua Jackson (Saline, MI. 200lbs, 6'-2", Dual-threat Quarterback)
Jackson currently has my interest because he gives me an annoying case of déjà vu for all the wrong reasons. There are two huge questions around him:
- If Loeffler's offense stinks on ice again this year, and he's fired to prevent him from polluting Lawson, does Jackson leave/decommit from Tech and follow him? Jackson's only coming to Tech from Michigan because his family knows Coach Lefty personally. Would he still stick around in the class if that changes? He's currently got other offers from plenty of similar-level universities, including WVU, Minnesota, Oregon State, Navy, Air Force, and BC. While some of those offers are actually heartening (I'd hope Navy and Air Force didn't offer a dope), some of them would be tempting enough for him to bail if his father's friend was fired.
- Is Joshua Jackson the next Mark Leal? Leal was the tempting benchwarmer as Logan Thomas continued to sputter. If Dwayne Lawson pulls a Thomas- a spectacular redshirt freshman year followed by years marred by inconsistency, a lack of talent, and hideous offensive playcalling- is Jackson the next guy we're calling for just to see someone different? I think the problem could be greater because I believe Jackson has more natural talent than Leal had, but they're almost even the same stature. And everyone knows that the Mark Leal bandwagon ended up going nowhere- his career ended when he left the team to pursue a professional opportunity with his degree.
As for his talent, I don't think there's much in question in terms of his toughness, his arm, and his accuracy. Unfortunately for him he plays at a smaller school in Michigan so he's not going to get the huge recruiting boom other kids can get. Saline has only produced a couple of rated recruits in the past 10-15 years, and talent scouts rarely suddenly descend on a high school.
Most Important Commitment:
Jimmie Taylor (Jacksonville, NC. 220lbs, 6'-3". Defensive End)
This one's fairly simple, as Taylor is a commitment in a position of need as well as possibly one of the only potential commitments on the board at said position. There are possibilities of Nick Coe (vague ones, we're fighting Auburn for that and are currently projected to lose) and JaQuan Bailey (a current Florida commitment, which means we're way behind the 8-ball), but right now, all indications are that Taylor is it. Taylor is a competent, athletic defensive end that projects well in Foster's system requiring, well, competent, athletic defensive ends. His frame is solid for the position, as well, so we'll see where he is in two years and twenty pounds.
Most Replaceable Commodity:
Tech went heavy after wide receivers this class. Divine Deablo, Eric Kumah, Phillip Patterson, and Samuel Denmark have already committed to the class- previously reported recruit Conner O'Donnell appears to be a shadow decommitment. Either he had his scholarship offer pulled, or his commitment was conditional upon other contingencies. But this class has the versatility to add one or two more receivers- Grant Holloway from Chesapeake, VA and Ian Boyd from Apex, NC to name two possibilities, and still possibly lose Patterson to the defensive side where he'd be playing safety. The latter is definitely a possibility, considering we just lost two secondary/whip players to transfer. Among the crew, Kumah is tall and physical, Denmark is smaller but fast, and Patterson and Deablo are somewhere in between. Either way, this is shaping up to be one of the most thorough recruiting jobs that Virginia Tech has done.
My Personal Favorite Recruit:
Samuel Denmark (Charleston, SC. 175lbs, 6'-0", Wide Receiver)
Denmark needs to gain around 10-15 lbs, but even as he stands right now, he's a stronger than he looks physical freak with great hands. Denmark is a down the field burner that simply blows by his competition on the ground. My professional comparison is somewhere between Antonio Brown and Pittsburgh-era Mike Wallace. The guy can just BURN. If you've got someone of Lawson's arm and Denmark's ball skills, we're going to be taking the top off defenses all day and all night for the next couple of years. I like that Denmark can and will catch away from his body and high-point the ball. His talent right now stands out against a very bland background, and since he's planning on early enrollment, he might have the jump on being the impressive, explosive threat this offense needs on the outside next to the savvy and steady Ford and Phillips.
Best Remaining Potential Recruit:
Landon Dickerson (Hudson, NC. 293lbs, 6’-5", Offensive Line)
Landon Dickerson, Landon Dickerson, Landon Dickerson. This isn't up for debate. Virginia Tech still needs high-quality offensive linemen. That's never going to change. Dickerson is a brawler, the proverbial man amongst boys. He's a tackle right now, but he's the perfect kind of mean cuss to play left guard and pull around and wail on some poor, unsuspecting defensive end or linebacker and knock them sprawling. A battering ram to anchor an interior running game behind. Kearns and Hopple I believe are both underrated, but Dickerson is a gigantic monster that would probably be one of the best linemen that Tech ever got. I won't say ‘ever produced' because like Mark Shuman showed, you can have a 4-star shuffle through your program without seeing the field, but if a guy like Dickerson doesn't get a chance to beat someone up, that's on the coaching staff's inability to harness his obvious talent.
Next edition, I'll review Virginia Tech recruiting and recruiting process overall as time goes on in the season.