In watching Hokie recruiting for years, I’ve always kind of wondered why there has been such an insatiable fixation on just ‘owning the state’. Look, I get it. Virginia is important to the Hokies recruiting strategy. But honestly, when you’re surrounded by other talented states, you don’t have to feel PRESSURED to haul in the recruits in your state. It’s been of continual confusion to me as to why the Hokies don’t raid North Carolina, Tennessee, or Kentucky with greater frequency. The frequent excuse for the latter two I can somewhat understand- Kentucky doesn’t produce a high amount of talent, and the University of Tennessee has a stranglehold on the recruiting in the Volunteer State. Okay, okay, before you start on me, stop. I know how it sounds mutually exclusive that I can understand why Tennessee has a stranglehold on its state, but yet I don’t rail about why we don’t have one in ours. Let’s just move on and leave that for another article. My point is that there’s still a great power vacuum in North Carolina where Virginia Tech could slip in, as demonstrated by starting whip Mook Reynolds…
There was one year during Tyrod Taylor’s run- 2010- where the Hokies played East Carolina, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Duke. We beat them all, with the margin of victory no less than 11 points. That year, oddly, Virginia Tech was the state champion of North Carolina (this was also the year where we lost to James Madison, so, yeah, we had more rights to the North Carolina championship than Virginia’s. Go figure). It was kind of a point of humor and laughter, but that year (2011 in recruiting terminology), we only signed one recruit from North Carolina- Kevin Asante, a wide receiver that didn’t work out. But something funny started happening. 2012 recruiting class brought two recruits from North Carolina- Chris Mangus and Dahman McKinnon. Again, neither quite panned out. 2013 had Jamieon Moss and Carlis Parker. Again, they didn’t pan out. So far we’re talking mid to low three stars and two star recruits, though. No scholarship athletes came out of the 2014 cycle. I’m not sure if this is a streak of striking out or a streak of just not spending as much time in the Tarheel state.
But that’s when, in the middle of the late Beamer slump, we got three commitments in the 2015 class from North Carolina: the aforementioned Mook Reynolds, Adonis Alexander, and Houshun Gaines. While the jury is out on Gaines after his academic suspension this spring and an earlier suspension for marijuana possession (Alexander had the same suspension). But yes, the first two have become quite important pieces to the Tech football team. The recruiting class of 2016 was an odd year due to the coaching transition, but the Hokies still walked away with four star wide receiver (now safety) Divine Deablo and defensive end Jimmie Taylor, who could be in line for a lot of snaps this spring and fall. The Class of 2017 brought in Caleb Farley, Hendon Hooker, Drake Deiuliis, and Zion DeBose- the Hokies’ largest haul in North Carolina since 2006, and potentially the most impactful ever. 2018 could be quite similar. The Hokies are in the top group for several top North Carolina athletes- Payton Wilson, Dax Hollifield, Tre Turner, Dynami Brown, Jamal Elliot, Alim McNeill, and DJ Crossen. Basically, the Hokies have realized that there are actually parts of North Carolina that are closer to Blacksburg than some of Virginia, and there’s a football power vacuum in the state that sucks in so many competitors- North Carolina is regularly raided by Clemson, Florida State, Alabama, and Tennessee. There’s no reason why the Hokies couldn’t slide right in and offer a more local alternative to many of these players.
Look for this to continue in the coming years. Justin Fuente obviously made the state of Virginia a priority last year, but with a somewhat less talented class in the Commonwealth this year (the class is SUPREMELY top-heavy), he’s going to go out of the boundaries of Virginia to look for talent. Right now, that’s North Carolina, which is now free game for the 2010 North Carolina state champions.