It’s been a rough 2018 for the Virginia Tech football team. Whether it was the loss of several good players to the NFL, off-field issues for a couple of former starters or an assistant coach’s indiscretions becoming public, to a 6-6 season that saw the team struggle to make a bowl, it hasn’t been an ideal year.
In addition to the struggles on the field, the Hokies have suffered some attrition on the field this fall as a number of players have announced their intentions to transfer during the season. Well, finally we can put all of that behind us as the Early Signing Period for college football happens on Wednesday and we can welcome a new bunch of Hokies to Blacksburg.
Currently, the Hokies have 19 commitments on the board. That has been bolstered with three commitments within the past week as two junior-college players, defensive tackle Dashawn Crawford and linebacker/defensive end Amare Barno and three-star defensive tackle Joshua Fuga have jumped into the class of 2019.
All players, with the exception of one, are expected to sign tomorrow. That’s good news as this is an impressive class in some areas. Of course, fans will lament about missing out on running back Devyn Ford and one of the top interior defensive lineman, but overall, there is a lot of potential at numerous positions with this class and several of these players could help in 2019.
Now, here is a look at who is committed and what they could potentially bring to Blacksburg.
Entering this season, the Hokies had Joshua Jackson, Ryan Willis, Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson all returning in 2019. Therefore, the Hokies didn’t make the position a priority in this class. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one—or two—quarterbacks departed this offseason. So, the Hokies are monitoring the position until National Signing Day in February.
Running back: Keshawn King, Tahj Gary
This was supposed to be the year the Hokies signed a top-flight back again. Unfortunately, Devyn Ford chose Penn State and for the second straight year Tech lost an in-state, five-star running back to the Nittany Lions. Onto to Plan B and that netted a pair of backs with potential in Keshawn King of Florida and Tahj Gary of Atlanta. King’s senior film was outstanding and he gives the team hope at a position that’s been a struggle for several years now. King does everything well and could push for time in 2019.
Wide receiver: Jaden Payoute, Tayvion Robinson, Jacoby Pinckney, Elijah Bowick
The Hokies continue to stockpile talent at the wide receiver position. Last season, head coach Justin Fuente added Tre Turner, Darryle Simmons and DeJuan Ellis. Simmons and Ellis didn’t play, but Turner showed signs of being a star. Payoute is Tech’s top recruit and a bit of a late bloomer in the process. He offers outstanding size, speed and athleticism and could be terrific for the Hokies. Robinson is another in-state guy who can play right away. He can be a dynamic slot guy who can also immediately help in the return game. Pinckney and Bowick had some impressive offers and the Hokies held onto both. Pinckney looks like a faster Eric Kumah.
Tight end: Nick Gallo
Gallo is a legacy as his brother, Eric, was a multi-year starter at center. He offers good size and can redshirt in 2019 as the Hokies are loaded at the position. He can end up being a terrific receiver for the Hokies.
Offensive line: Bryan Hudson, Jesse Hanson, William Pritchard
For the second straight year, the Hokies did well on the offensive line. As with most offensive linemen, a redshirt year is likely in the cards for these guys. But Hudson can play right away. A four-star recruit, the Hokies beat out some big-time schools for Hudson. Hanson is a local kid who possesses the size, strength and nastiness to be a multi-year starter at guard. He was a Clemson legacy, however, stuck with his pledge to the Hokies once the Tigers offered. This kid is all Virginia Tech. Pritchard is the smallest of the group and is most definitely a redshirt candidate in 2019.
Defensive line: Mario Kendricks, Norell Pollard, Dashawn Crawford, Joshua Fuga
The Hokies needed some beef up front. So, they went heavy at defensive tackle. Brandon Dorlus was committed until two weeks ago. Kendricks offers the highest upside of this group. Defensive tackle is perilously thin and each of these players could find a role next season. Pollard is just 260 pounds, so he will need a year in the weight room before moving inside for the Hokies. Crawford is a JUCO who was committed to Troy. He is undersized in the mold of former Hokie, Woody Baron. He can find a spot in the two deep in 2019 with a strong spring. Fuga was a Temple commit who just jumped on board. A look at his high school film and he almost appears undervalued. He could end up being a good, blue-collar guy for the Hokies. That’s exactly the type of player defensive coordinator Bud Foster and defensive line coach Charley Wiles love.
Linebacker: Dean Ferguson, Amare Barno
Ferguson had a strong senior season. His offer list wasn’t super impressive, but he’s athletic, hard-hitting and versatile. And, most importantly, Foster loves him. He looks like an ideal whip linebacker in the future for Virginia Tech. Barno is another JUCO who just committed. In size, he’s a bit comparable to Tremaine Edmunds. But let’s not get carried away. Barno shouldn’t be compared to Edmunds but he can help the Hokies, especially in a pass-rushing role. He will need to add some weight to his 6’6”, 220-pound frame.
Defensive back: J.R. Walker, Nyquee Hawkins
There will be a lot of talk about how the Hokies needed a true corner for this class. And that’s true. Mike Sainristil was committed to the Hokies for awhile, but continuously flirted with other schools before backing off his pledge and ending up at Michigan. Lost in all the talk about how Tech needed more corners was the two players it did get. Walker is a four-star defensive back out of North Carolina who surprisingly committed to the Hokies in October. He can play the slot, nickel or safety and will challenge for time next fall. Walker was considered an N.C. State lean and also had an offer from Clemson. Hawkins was once considered a Penn State lean and the New Jersey native can play either corner or safety for Tech, however, safety is considered his more natural position.
Fuente will address the media tomorrow where he can discuss this class. We will have more coverage of this class in the coming weeks, as well as player profiles on each player and how they project to the next level.
All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.