Alright, simple news first. Tyjuan Garbutt, the one consensus 4-star recruit Virginia Tech had, and one of the top defensive ends in the country, decommitted from the Hokies yesterday. It stinks. There's no avoiding that losing out on talented players is not great. He claims we're still in the lead, but he decommitted from Tech after a visit for a 7 on 7 camp at Pittsburgh. Current scuttlebutt is that it's mostly because his high school coach is in his ear trying to get him to commit to the Panthers from the get go. Anywhere but Tech. Anywhere but Tech. Anywhere but Tech.
Stop me before I say something you've heard before. Oh wait. Too late.
Tyjuan Garbutt isn't a problem. He's a symptom. And that disease is called ‘mediocrity'. I know it's hard to win without high talent recruits; I've been banging that drum for years (granted, obvious drum to bang, but some people still don't get why it's so important that teams recruit well). But I know it's even harder to get them at this level right now with no major track record. Justin Fuente is going up against national runner up Dabo Swinney. He's going up against billion-draft-picks and recent national title winner FSU. He's up against former successful NFL coach Jim Harbaugh. He's going up against history of first and second round success Pittsburgh (Don't laugh, they have the better current history now, minus Jonathan Baldwin). He's going up against a local high school system that despite hitting a lot of pavement in outreach, still doesn't know him that well and trust him to succeed at a major college level yet- or has connections elsewhere.
So right now? We're going to have to shut up and take our medicine. Fuente wasn't hired because he was a recruiter, he was hired because he was a developer- and it's hard to recruit to Blacksburg. I think the issue is that we as a fanbase are expecting the world when we need to look at ourselves and how we're perceived for a second. Perception- and one that's at least partially grounded in reality? We're a midsized ‘ag school' in rural Virginia 4 hours away in any direction from anything outside Roanoke and Bristol- neither of which is a supreme talent hotbed. We've produced some NFL players but outside of Bruce Smith, Michael Vick, Antonio Freeman, Kam Chancellor, DeAngelo Hall, Duane Brown, and Brandon Flowers (And out of the blue, Tyrod Taylor getting a shot)? None of them have done amazingly well- and all those guys are from different eras. We hired a coach that is known for his background in player development from a smaller school, and he hired coaches that are friends, not recruiters, and members from the previous staff that still didn't recruit all that well. Wiles was OK, Foster for years has been known as a poor recruiter, and this is Zohn's SECOND year at this level. We've been unimpressive, and worse, unexciting for the past four years. We upset Ohio State, whoo-pee. We then tanked the next game to ECU and spent the year crippled or ineffective or both. Ditto last year, minus the amazing win.
To borrow a phrase from a T-shirt, ‘The Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves'. It's not going to be easy; it's not going to be fun. Fuente's going to have to win with what he's got until he can win with better recruits once he has a track record of doing it at a better level. Baylor and Mississippi came out of nowhere to have good classes and paid for it with a mountain of infractions and legal allegations. You can't get good overnight or demand excellence off the bat without being willing to give something up along the way. We're not going to see how Justin Fuente can recruit until next year at the earliest. He's got to have something comparable to sell. Who knows how good Tech's going to be, and these kids have relationships with other schools before Fuente even came into the picture. Almost all of them have a connection somewhere pulling them away from Tech for the same reason: Because right now, pastures are better elsewhere. Plenty would rather get a ring riding the pine and getting spot duty rather than toiling for what can be considered an ultimately futile enterprise. Kevin Durant just went to the Golden State Warriors to chip in and win a championship rather than lead dog it at Oklahoma City. It's a similar train of thought. I want to go WIN someplace. Right now Virginia Tech is the Wizards and FSU is the warriors. It's going to take luck, drafting (read- smart recruiting), player development, and time. So be patient. It stinks right now. But I'm not going to start jumping off a cliff just yet. Call me in two years. Then my hair will be on fire.