Alright, after a couple weeks' absence during the dead period, we're back online. There's certainly plenty to discuss, considering Virginia Tech has a lot of ground to make up. Nothing's much changed in the interim. 247 has us rated as the 39th best recruiting class, Rivals at 45th, and ESPN at 37th. That's embarrassing for, at least, a team that thinks itself a football school and one of the better ones in the ACC. We've got a long way to go to get back there. Again, a typical national championship roster comes together at about 50% 4/5 star recruits. It's a long way to go. It's not going to come this year, obviously. Probably not next year, and maybe not even the year after that. But there's potential out there this year. Some of them? Names you've heard here before. Some? Newer names that while they've popped up, haven't gotten much in the way of a feature. Here, I'll highlight some of the recruits Tech's chasing after. We'll see how many come, but suffice to say, there's going to be an interesting mix of people.
Jarrod Hewitt (Venice, FL. 290lbs, 6'-2". Defensive Tackle)
Hewitt has been a name in the mill on-and-off through the summer and fall. He's been a target of Charley Wiles before he had committed to Rutgers, and now that he's decommitted, Virginia Tech looms large in the process. Hewitt is rated as a lower-3 star on ESPN, a lower-3 star on 247, a 3-star on Scout, and a two star on Rivals. It's interesting he's so lowly ranked despite being awarded a 7A State All-Star Team starting position in Florida. It's likely either due to people not paying a ton of attention to him (not being in a huge recruiting high school, not attending the camp circuit, not getting enough scholarships from the right programs, etc.) He's scheduled to make an official visit on the 29th, which is one of two huge recruiting weekends in the next three.
Hewitt is obviously a strong guy. I'm actually impressed with his off-the-ball quickness and pursuit more than his strength. One of his problems is that he, like some offensive linemen, comes out of his stance too high- though he's broken through double teams when, arguably, he comes out too low. You can see the edges of a decent swim move, which is interesting for an interior defensive player, but his best ability is his see-runner, hit-runner sense. You can tell he makes a MOUNTAIN of tackles- I didn't see one terrible wrap-up in the lot, you're not going to have to fix much with his technique. Well. He DOES make a lot of tackles by simply grabbing guys and throwing them down, which either speaks to a bit of a lack of closing speed, or heckuva strong grip. There are a coupel problems in his game. One, he can get washed out of the picture frequently. He makes up for it some in pursuit, but in college, those kids are gone. Two, for his size? He's not much of a bull-rush artist. He doesn't blow his lineman off the ball when he's getting penetration- he's either blowing by them or dancing until the ball handler gets there. Right now, most of the news is that Tech's his leader, and will likely commit as the days tick down to signing day.
JaQuan and Joshua Bailey (Jacksonville, FL. 236 and 260lbs. 6'-3" and 6'-2.5". Defensive End and Tackle)
Rick Wells (Jacksonville, FL. 178lbs. 6'-2". Wide Receiver)
The Bailey Brothers and Rick Wells are an interesting trio of opportunity at this moment. William M. Raines High School in Jacksonville has been producing recruits for years, their most famous recruit being Louis Nix (went to Notre Dame, third round NFL draft pick at DT). Any way in to a major recruiting ground is a good thing, and this year, Virginia Tech could legitimately pull a trifecta of recruits. There's a lot of dice rolling in all of this, however: Joshua Bailey currently has no scholarship offer from Tech, and Rick Wells is currently committed to Florida- though that commitment is already close to being a year old. A lot of time to change his mind or a lot of time that he has stuck with one thing, either way. Let's look at them one at a time.
Bailey's been in Tech's sights for a while now. He decommitted from Florida, and before that, even while committed, Tech was after him, much like Hewitt. Bailey is fairly quick and definitely athletic. His speed moves show promise; however, he's not going to be a set the edge kind of end. He excels when sent right after the quarterback, and plays with a lot of menace to his game. I'd say that he might have some priority issues on some of the special teams things that are highlighted- big hits on only somewhat useful targets in the return game. Definitely worth the scholarship, but he's still kind of raw in a lot of places. Needs to mature some, which is fine. He's a high schooler. He's rated as a three star by all four recruiting services.
I evaluate Bailey as a middling offensive lineman on that film but an interesting defensive lineman. You can see a bit of both power and speed to his game. He's either an oversized defensive end or an undersized defensive tackle. I'd tend toward the latter- his frame isn't exactly long enough for a defensive end. He's got a little of the same ‘looking for someone to hit, not a play to make' thing, but he's got a strong grip and does a lot of pitching people to the ground. It'll be interesting to see what happens, since Joshua is coming on an official with his brother on the week of the 22nd. He's rated as a three star DT by both Rivals and 247, but unranked by Scout and ESPN.
Wells is the highest rated of the three Raines prospects. He's a four star on ESPN and Rivals, and a three star on Scout and 247. We've already got wide receivers coming into the class, sure, but thanks to a lack of quality depth, we're likely to take a total of 5 or 6 (from what I've been hearing, with graduation and roster attrition, Fuente might be taking close to 30 recruits if possible). His best attribute is his hands. His quarterback- Augie DeBiase, one of the potential QB recruits mentioned earlier this year, no longer a possibility- is a bit scattershot in his ball placement. You can see how much Wells helps to compensate for that weakness. He's all arms and legs and yet is not a long strider- his speed doesn't overwhelm you and his strides don't make up for it. He adjusts well to the ball in the air, and seems to do a decent job of getting open. To me, he's another Divine Deablo type- above average at everything and probably a more complete wide receiver, but not obviously exceptional. Obviously a quality recruit, yes, but with a couple of holes.
Right now, JaQuan Bailey is between us and Tennessee. I've been hearing we've got a legitimate shot at Wells flipping, but how firm that is, I can't say. Joshua Bailey is a bit of a wildcard in this, but again, if the board breaks right, we could have three commitments from the same high school this year.
Marshall Long (China Grove, NC. 214lbs. 6'-2". Punter.)
Well, we're Virginia Tech, and we're looking for a punter. Let's get some punting film on. Marshall Long is a punter from North Carolina. He's also a US Army All-American Bowl participant, which is obviously necessary for the game but is a very hard spot to nail down. As a punter, it's hard to get rankings, but it's simply interesting to note that he's already got a scholarship offer per 247. Long's big bonus is his hangtime. I've rarely seen a ball drop almost straight-to-80 degrees downward. Makes it very hard to catch and even harder to advance. It also does well toward placing the ball in certain situations. And while obviously as a team you hope to keep the punter on the sidelines at all times, you can't expect to never punt. Interesting to see some special teams players getting recruiting pub all the same.
Jovani Haskins (Bergenfield, NJ. 235lbs. 6'-4". Tight End.)
Haskins is another player that has been featured here before, all the way back when I did my tight end recruiting preview. He's remained uncommitted to any school this whole time. Back then it was a fight between us and Rutgers, now it's between us and West Virginia. He's currently predicted to go to West Virginia by a shaving, but I don't think it's by any means over. He's rated as a four star player by 247, but a three star by everyone else. It's hard to get a perfect evaluation of his talent, however. He's got a few receptions on the highlights, mostly emphasizing his athletic abilities and mismatch potential, but it's really hard to see things like blocking and route-running, so most I can say is, yes, I can see the potential for him to become a mismatch tight end. He doesn't have the height, necessarily, to be in the prototype for that, but that's where he'd play.
One more for today, and I'd stated this one before. Landon Dickerson isn't happening; sorry. This guy, however, we stand a chance at. I don't know how big of a shot- he's got EVERYONE with a name gunning for him- but a shot, at least. Getting an official visit locked in helps a lot; he'll be here on the week of the 22nd barring cancellation.
Malcolm Pridgeon (Central Islip, NY. 303lbs. 6'-8". JUCO. Offensive Tackle.)
Pridgeon is another mammoth man to potentially add to the offensive line. He's very strong, and watching him simply manhandle defensive players is very impressive. He seems more than capable of either pass blocking or run blocking, which is a relief to see, considering he's rated as four stars by everyone but Scout, who has him as a five star. My problem is that I can see him miss blocking assignments in terms of accounting for assignments and who to block for where a play seems to be designed to run, but I can't tell that for sure without actually having their playbook in front of me. It's going to be hard to pry him out of going to someplace like Baylor, Alabama, or any of the other huge number of programs that have given him offers.
Next time, I'll go more ‘off-board' to let you in on some of the more widespread and eclectic prospects that the Hokies are chasing after. One thing's for sure, this recruiting period between now and Signing Day has the potential to be VERY different.