Alright, class of 2016 is in the books. Eventful year, to say the least, if not overly heralded. Only recruit that didn't sign an LOI is Clay Dean, and he's accepting a walk-on offer. It's time to take a look at current (or at least, currently known) targets for the class of 2017. And, well, if we're going to start, let's start from the top. Quarterback position:
(Note: Depth charts are an estimate.)
1a. Jerod Evans (Jr.)
1b. Dwayne Lawson (So.)
2. Brenden Motley (R-Sr.)
3. Chris Durkin (R-So.)
4. Joshua Jackson (Fr.- Early Enrollee)
5. Jack Click (R-Fr.)
6. Chase Mummau (Fr.- Walk-on)
What I’d expect our coaches would LIKE our depth chart to look like at the beginning of the 2016 schedule would be as follows: Jerod Evans at 1, followed by Brenden Motley and Chris Durkin, who have already eaten redshirts. That lets them space out the age progressiion by redshirting Lawson and Jackson. That gives them two years of Lawson and one of Jackson on the tail end, securing the position for hopefully five years. But again, that's a lot of wishing/hoping/dreaming and projection, not necessarily what could or would happen. Say Evans suddenly nabs a lot of professional attention after this year and is drafted, or Lawson wins the job outright right now and plays three years. There's a lot up in the air in regards to this job. None of this changes the fact that any recruit coming in here this year will get a redshirt next year, guaranteed.
So, who are the top targets this year? At present, that we can see, it's a three-man race. Obviously targets race up and down the board as required or commit, but let's start with the most likely target and commitment...
Alex Faniel (Richmond, VA. 225lbs, 6'-5". ‘Pro Style' Quarterback)
To start, 70% completion percentage for a high school QB is pretty good. Granted, limited number of passes- but offenses at that level, especially in this state, don't pass that much. Faniel does a LOT of things well. He's a big guy with a big arm that's always looking to pass. His throws ARE about as on point as you can expect from a high schooler, even into tight coverage or with people draped over him. His wind up is a bit long, but the fact that he can make throws from all platforms and while both standing still and on the move, that's great. I like the fact that he's willing to move out of the pocket, but he'll need to learn to climb it instead of spiraling out of it and turning his back to the defense. Either way, his tape shows a lot of promise. If he puts up another very good year and shows progress, I can see him possibly gaining another star. As it sits, he's rated as a high three star by 247, unrated by Scout, three star by Rivals, and a high three star by ESPN (293rd in their ESPN JR 300). Again, if he has a good year, you can expect the attention to pick up around him and the big-time offers roll in. Right now he's predicted to go to us by the 247 Crystal Ball crowd. I'd hope so; I could see him being a very good quarterback under Fuente in a few years.
Shon Mitchell (Chesapeake, VA. 170lbs, 5'-11". ‘Dual-Threat' Quarterback)
Mitchell is an interesting case. I'm not sure if he'd be eventually seen as a quarterback or not- Fuente's never gone with a guy his size before. But as it sits, this is me evaluating him as one. He's been starting longer than Faniel has, and for his size, he's got a rainbow arm and drives the ball really well. I think he's more of a single read thrower of the ball, rather than a clear reader, and of course his stature isn't ideal. I noticed that his line is more often giving him clean pockets than Faniel gets, though, which obviously helps his performance. I'm not doubting the physical tools outside the body type, but I'm just a BIT skeptical on performance outside of a one-read system. I will say, to his positive, I do like that it seems that his offense is geared to his passing skills rather than toward a use/abuse of him running around. He's got a decent portfolio of throws, but there's a lot of one-on-one seam throws against outmatched man defenders. Right now, his recruitment is apparently a two-way battle between us and the Cornhuskers(?!) of Nebraska. And while I have connections to Big Red (my grandfather graduated from there and played football on the '49 team), I'd certainly like the Hokies to win every recruiting battle they can. Note that Nebraska hasn't offered him yet, but they're interested, and he's interested since he's apparently from there. Mitchell's currently rated three stars at 247, three stars at Scout, unrated at ESPN, and three stars (as a pro-style QB) at Rivals.
Darriel Mack (Norfolk, VA. 217lbs, 6'-3". ‘Dual-Threat' Quarterback)
The third VA signal caller in this prospective class, Mack is also the least heralded. He's unranked by 247, three stars by Rivals (though they list us as not having offered him, though 247 does), unranked by ESPN, listed as ‘D.J. Mack' by Scout (unranked, though), and they have him as having an offer by us. My source says that we'll see where that actually sits where he camps- and that they might even be recruiting him to play tight end after missing out on any tight ends last class. At any rate, again, I'll evaluate him here. Of all three of the QBs, Mack is the one that uses his athleticism the most. He escapes to run, though he'll throw if the throw is open to him. He's also not afraid to throw with guys all over him. But I can see why my source is saying he might be a tight end- the dude is obviously very physically talented and athletic and would be a monster matchup issue inside. He's a THICK 6'-3", and I mean that in the best way imaginable. I do like that he tends to go through his progressions more than Mitchell does, but obviously he's more inclined to go into hero-ball mode and take off running. His ball is good, but it might be the least aesthetically pleasing of the three targets. It gets there, no question. Guy is not a limp-wristed thrower. He's just a bit less natural throwing the ball. I don't think it's in any particular way that's bad/unfixable though. My one worry is that his portfolio of throws is somewhat limited. It's almost more seam and go throws than Mitchell, and anything else looks like a bit of a struggle. To me? At present, he's sort of like a smaller version of Logan Thomas, but with a tad more touch on the ball and maybe more shiftiness instead of power.
My evaluation is that the most Fuente-like QBs in order are Faniel, Mack, and finally Mitchell. I think Faniel is the top target for a reason, but I think that any or all of the three are justifiable in the one slot we'll likely have to replace Motley. It'll be interesting to see how things develop as the year goes on, especially when/if these guys start announcing things.
(Thanks as usual to Hudl.com for the highlights, and Scout.com for the Faniel interview)