The Virginia Tech Hokies are back in the top 25, and this week they travel to Chapel Hill to face No. 17 North Carolina. This game could go a long way in determining ACC Coastal Division supremacy.
But this game is more than just about the 2016 season.
While the Hokies would love nothing more than to defeat Tar Heels on Saturday and get out in front of them in conference play, the big picture is about recruiting.
For years, the Hokies dominated this rivalry. Tech entered the ACC back in 2004 and won the first five battles and seven of eight games against the Heels. The teams have split two games apiece in the last four seasons, with UNC winning an overtime thriller last November in legendary head coach Frank Beamer’s final home game. Overall, Virginia Tech has a 9-3 edge over North Carolina since both schools have been members of the ACC.
You think that matters to recruits? No, it doesn’t. Recruiting is more about ‘what have you done for me lately?’ And the Hokies have been mediocre the last four seasons, while Carolina finally had an impressive season last year and are looking strong again this year.
It’s time for the Hokies to take back over this rivalry and show recruits Virginia Tech is a football school.
More and more, recruits who are looking at Virginia Tech also list interest in North Carolina and vice versa. Why? The Tar Heels are building off Tech’s struggles recently.
Tech’s top target for 2017 is safety Devon Hunter of Indian River High School in Chesapeake, Va. While Hunter has steadfastly professed Virginia Tech is his leader, the Tar Heels are among his finalists and he’s visited Chapel Hill numerous times. Think Hunter will be paying close attention to this one?
Then there is running back Jalen Holston. A running back from Stockbridge, Ga., Holston is a player Fuente covets. And Holston loves the Hokies, too, but North Carolina is also one of the finalists for Holston.
Just last year, the Heels took it to the Hokies on the recruiting front. Defensive back Myles Wolfolk was a Virginia Tech commit, but backed out after Beamer announced his retirement. Where did he sign? UNC.
Defensive end Tomon Fox and linebacker Dominique Ross were UNC commits that Tech was trying to flip until national signing day, however, both players stuck with their pledges to North Carolina.
This Saturday—weather permitting of course—Chapel Hill will be full of top talent on hand to see the Hokies and Heels. According to Ross Martin of 247Sports, Holston will be on hand for an official visit along with several current Carolina commits.
The biggest visitors on Saturday could be 2018 prospects Dax Hollifield, Ricky Slade, Dyami Brown and 2019 running back Devyn Ford and receiver Jacoby Pinckney. Each of these players list a high interest in both schools. Hollifield and Brown are from North Carolina, while Slade and Ford are from Virginia. Pinckney is from South Carolina.
The Tar Heels are attractive to top-shelf talent because of their high-powered offense. Now, the Hokies offer that, too, under new head coach Justin Fuente. In addition to Fuente’s fast-paced offense, longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster is still in place. Hollified is a player that’s been to Blacksburg on countless occasions and has a strong relationship with Foster.
Speaking of Fuente, he has the Hokies’ offense humming right now. Tech is averaging over 40 points per game and finally has an explosive passing game. He has gotten the Hokies off to faster start than most would’ve imagined. Sure, the Hokies were expected to be 3-1 after four weeks, but it’s the way they’ve done it. Not only did the Hokies get up big on Boston College and East Carolina, Fuente kept his foot on the gas.
Can this carry over in recruiting?
This week could go a long way in shaping the future of these two schools on the gridiron. And with so many possible future Hokies in attendance, Tech needs a win in Carolina’s house.