What’s going on in Blacksburg?
That’s the question many folks are asking as the Virginia Tech Hokies have picked up four commitments in four days.
It started off on Friday night when Devon Hunter, the 4-star safety from Chesapeake, chose the Hokies over Florida, Alabama, Auburn and North Carolina.
The positive news continued on Saturday when Bryce Watts, a 3-star athlete from Toms River, N.J., committed to the Hokies while in Blacksburg on an official visit. A former Rutgers commit, Watts has long been intrigued by the Hokies.
Perhaps the biggest shocker of the weekend came Sunday when it was announced that 4-star linebacker Dylan Rivers, from Sherando High in Stephens City, Va., decommitted from Penn State and chose the Hokies.
For as big as the Hunter commitment was—and it’s huge—Rivers’ addition to Virginia Tech’s class of 2017 is big, too. A talented and athletic 6’2”, 226-pound linebacker, Rivers is a player defensive coordinator Bud Foster has recruited for the past three years. Tech has struggled with linebacker play in recent years, but this class is as good as any the Hokies have had since the class of 2003 that featured Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi.
Rivers, along with Aundre Kearney, Rayshard Ashby, Jaylen Griffin and Nathan Proctor will add some much-needed youth, talent and athleticism into the linebacking corps. This will be a fun group to watch develop over the next 4-5 years.
Finally, as if the weekend couldn’t get any better, it did on Monday when 3-star defensive end Robert Porcher IV picked the Hokies. Porcher, the son of the former longtime NFL star of the same name, picked the Hokies over Michigan State, Georgia Tech and others.
Porcher is an underrated prospect. He’s a super athlete with a high motor and possesses strong hands to win battles at the line of scrimmage. He was also an extremely productive player at a high level. Porcher finished his senior season with 40 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. He leaves Dr. Phillips High in Orlando as the school’s all-time leader in sacks. The Hokies got a steal here.
The good news, the Hokies likely aren’t finished.
Tyjuan Garbutt, a 4-star defensive end/athlete from Fredericksburg, could be next in line. Garbutt, a former Hokie commit, will decide soon between the Hokies and Pitt. Tech has been on Garbutt from the start and most expect he will sign with the Hokies in the end.
For all of you complaining about Virginia Tech’s perceived lack of focus on the offensive line, you could be in for a treat. Mekhi Becton, a 6’7”, 345-pound offensive tackle from Highland Springs, Va., had an outstanding visit with the Hokies over the weekend. Becton, who has long been considered a Virginia lean, is now favored to end up in Blacksburg.
Becton, with a redshirt year, could be a force on Virginia Tech’s offensive line in the near future.
Brad Johnson, a 6’3”, 230-pound defensive end from Pendleton, S.C., will be deciding between Tech and South Carolina. Of all the defensive ends the Hokies are recruiting, Johnson could be the quickest to see the field. Johnson is the prototypical Virginia Tech defensive end.
Dazz Newsome is a legacy player for Virginia Tech. His father, Myron, was a linebacker for the Hokies in the 90s and his older brother, Deon, is currently a defensive back for Tech. Newsome, who is really close with Hunter, will choose between VT, North Carolina and Maryland. Newsome would likely play cornerback in Blacksburg.
Speaking of cornerback, Ameer Speed is a player Foster and head coach Justin Fuente would love to close on. The 6’3”, 195-pounder from Jacksonville, is fresh off a visit to Georgia last weekend. While there is optimism from Georgia’s side, Speed left Athens without committing to the Bulldogs. He will decide on February 1 between the Hokies, UGA, Oregon, UNC and Michigan State. Speed would fit nicely in Foster’s defensive backfield.
This has certainly been an unusual few days for Virginia Tech fans. Hokie faithful aren’t used to this kind of excitement on the recruiting trail, so seeing other schools and their fans breaking down on message boards is a rather positive development.
And a big reason for the confidence surrounding Hokie Nation is Hunter. To say he was important to this class—and Virginia Tech in general—is a massive understatement. If Hunter had chosen another school, things wouldn’t have been enjoyable in Blacksburg. Hunter is a massive talent that can change the fortunes of a program, but his arrival will be felt off the field, too.
Recruiting is about perception. After some down years, the Hokies were struggling to sign the top players in Virginia. Repeatedly, top players were choosing to leave the state for the likes of Florida State, Alabama and Ohio State. Until the Hokies could start winning some games consistently, that perception wasn’t going to change. Top recruits continually felt Virginia Tech was an inferior option to the above schools.
The first-year coach hit the recruiting trail hard last year and has rejuvenated the entire staff, especially Foster. Fuente’s hands-on approach to recruiting is paying dividends. Winning 10 games in his first year didn’t hurt either.
Regardless of what happens over the next week, Virginia Tech has put together an outstanding class in Fuente’s first full year at the helm. And with players like Hunter and Rivers on board, expect Virginia Tech to start keeping more of the state’s top players home.
It’s time to erase the old narrative that the Hokies struggle to close on top recruits.