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Soul Searching: Virginia Tech Recruiting in the New Era

This week, I take a look at VT recruiting as an entity, not in particulars. This isn't an analysis of anything but the system. And the system is broken. Through a combination of bad luck, lack of effort, and other issues, we've fallen. Let's see if we can get up again.

Warm up your pipes now, Coach Fu. You've got a lot of selling to do.
Warm up your pipes now, Coach Fu. You've got a lot of selling to do.
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day is a little over a week away, so it's almost about time to get into an examination of 2017. I'm not going to get into the potential class of 2017 just yet since we've still got moves to make in this class. And I appreciate all those in this class- I do. All kids that put their lives and future livelihoods on the line for our school should be celebrated. I just have something I want to get off my chest about the recruiting writing I do and watching the response to Virginia Tech Recruiting in parts of the fan base.

I will warn you- any of you- who even glance at this article: Recruiting MATTERS. It's the number one-B thing in college football. Winning matters, sure, that's number 1-A. But without great recruiting, you can rarely sustain it over long periods of time. You've also got to capitalize on that recruiting, so it's not that recruits buy wins, per se. High quality recruits buy you margin of error. Alabama's so good because if even one of their players goes down, they've got someone else behind him that's just as talented. See what Ohio State did two years ago with Cardale Jones after both TJ Barrett and Braxton Miller went down. They didn't miss a beat. Those kind of teams survive injuries and attrition because it's a next man up assembly line of people that are going into a similar system built toward making the most of talent that is recruited specifically for it. Alabama has a huge margin of error because of that depth, and because talent can make up for mistakes or inefficiencies, especially if coached well and developed properly. Over the entirety of Nick Saban's tenure at Alabama (2007, so his first class was the class of 2008), Alabama has gone 3, 2, 5, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, and they're currently 8th this year. What about Florida State? Since 2010, so class of 2011, they've gone 2, 3, 11, 4, 3, and right now they're ranked at 4 for 2016. Guess what? If we want to get high quality recruits, that's the people we're competing with, gents and ladies. If we want to win games, you've got to tower against those monoliths. Along with Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss, and other teams like Miami, Clemson, and Michigan.

In the span since Saban took the job at Alabama, Virginia Tech's classes have ranked thusly: 20, 24, 34, 36, 21, 21, 27, 29, and we're currently ranked at 39th.

To put it simply: That has to stop. Virginia Tech has to win with what it has for now. The two biggest failings of the Beamer era, for all the spectacular highs we had, was that our recruiting never improved, and that our offense was always regrettable and inconsistent. Of course you can compete with lower talent. What about say, Stanford, since Saban arrived? They've had consistent winning. 45, 18, 25, 22, 7, 51, 13, 24, and right now they're ranked 17th. They've got a high-end academic standard and are from one of the most talent rich environments on the planet. It's an odd dichotomy and their class ratings pinball, but right now would you guys like to at least get to THAT level? Consistently winning Rose (in our case Orange) Bowls? Producing quality NFL talent? That's why it's so frustrating reading all these things and seeing so many people in our fanbase not demand higher results. Hokie recruiting news is important to many, but EVERYONE should care. Yes, the Hokies have issues against them they can't solve. You can't up and move your campus from what's basically the middle of nowhere in Southwest Virginia and go someplace where it's always 75 and sunny. We can't suddenly develop a history of high quality NFL draft picks. We can't all of a sudden rewrite the record books and win championships. This is a multi-year process. But we've got to keep fighting. The recruiting backslide- in our own backyard or otherwise- has been inexcusable. Coaches out there have been winning with less. They've also been losing with more, sure. Miami and Texas in the past few years have had great classes and never had teams worth writing home to mother about. There ARE overrated four stars and five stars, but not nearly as many as the naysayers about recruiting want to say.

Recruiting is a feedback loop business. You recruit good players, get them to succeed, win games with them, they graduate and move on to the NFL and succeed there, and you get more good recruits based on that...or vice versa. It's not THAT simple, of course- easier said than done as with most things- but you get the picture.  Since 2007, Virginia Tech has had 30 draft picks. That's nice. But of those? Only 3 have made pro-bowls (Duane Brown, Brandon Flowers, and Kam Chancellor). You can argue that Eddie Royal has had a moderately successful career. Maybe Josh Morgan. But after that- barring Tyrod's very recent chance with the Bills? It's a barren list of people that made no impact in the NFL. Even our better players like David Wilson and Ryan Williams have done nothing of consequence. Granted, not our fault nor theirs in those two cases, but all of them have been in and mostly out of the league and league consciousness. Kyle Fuller and Kyshoen Jarrett likely need more time to develop, but when your success rate is, at the generous end, 8 players out of 30, you're not going to be able to sell people on that. Since 2008? Alabama has had 48 players drafted- and none in 2008. So in 1 less year, effectively, they've had 18 more players drafted. In that span we've had 3 first rounders. They've had 17. You can sell THAT. You can sell ‘we get you guys drafted and a TON of you in the first round'. You can't sell ‘we've had guys drafted, but only some of them have done anything'. In some ways it's amazing that we've won with what the next level finds less than promising, but in some ways that's frustrating. It doesn't get that kind of premier attention. Yes, a lot of those Alabama guys haven't done much or are roster fillers. Some of them have been incredible busts (Mark Barron, Trent Richardson, Terrance Cody, Andre Smith, Rolando McClain). But the problem is, those draft slots are at the very least the right OPTICS. You can sell optics. We don't even have the high-quality optics to sell. Right now we're in a negative feedback loop.

We're not going to be Alabama. Not anytime soon, at least. The SEC is a different world with different expectations, different coaches, and completely different bankrolls (take that as you will). But the point is that Alabama's won championships. We've won the Independence Bowl and a Russell Athletic Bowl I'm glad I scrubbed from my memory. Part of it is coaching, part of it is recruiting. And if we want to get up there, we've got to fight with the best of them. We can't lose the recruits in our area, definitely. Derek Nnadi, Josh Sweat, Quin Blanding, Da'Shawn Hand, Andrew Brown, Jonathan Allen, Christian Hackenburg, Derrick Green, Eli Harold, Curtis Grant, Demetrious Nicholson, etc. Yes, not all of those guys succeeded, but those were all Virginia Recruits. Of the top 50 recruits each year since 2008? Ryan Williams and Kendall Fuller. That's all. In 8 years- that's 400 recruits- we've had 2. That's just not going to cut it.

I don't care where we get the talent from- Virginia, Florida, Timbuktu, or Mars. I just care that we get it. And yes, do it fair and square and straight up and be straightforward with people. I'm all for ethics in recruiting- it's something that the whole business (and frankly the world) lacks. But the fact that we've gotten stiffed repeatedly and fallen further and further down the boards into oblivion makes me wonder why we ever had that national championship box out. My dad always says that hubris is always followed by nemesis- vainglorious pride always bites you in the butt. We presumed too much and didn't back it up on the field or off it to build to that level on a consistent basis. We paid for it with a proud but definitely less than glorious end to Frank Beamer's career- he'll forever be the guy that got close once, built a program out of ash, and brought a whole other side of the ball back in vogue...but never won a championship. Justin Fuente's about to write his own Virginia Tech legacy. That legacy starts with the right building blocks, and that means the right recruits and right recruiting methods. Having a legitimate successful offense will help- especially with Coach Fu's record with quarterbacks, which we haven't been able to recruit worth a lick until recently. We need to make those numbers pop. Bud needs to get his act together and get a defense we can be completely proud of again. We CAN dig out of the hole we've fallen into, but it will take time, it will take effort, and it will take us as fans supporting the team and the school and getting our name out there. Be respectful to the coaches and to the recruits. They make their own choices. But don't let your apathy about recruiting set the tone for what this administration can get away with. Comment on our recruiting stuff, get involved, and get informed. It's the only way you can grow- by caring enough to do so.

(Recruiting rankings and list were taken from 247sports)