This is now officially National Panic Shopping day. With it 4 days before the Christmas Holiday the time to have mail order stuff delivered before the big morning is rapidly approaching. The shopping centers and left over malls are going to be packed with people out trying to grab something at the last minute.
Well what the heck does that have to do with sports reporting? We’ll say that it goes to situation and frame of mind and proceed from there. The college football season is over, except for the “Fake-offs” and Exhibition Bowls. So we are all sort of stuck in a holiday limbo with shopping lists in hand, and piles of commentary to go with the available items and choices that were made. Bryan went over some basics of Tech’s recruiting class, but there are still some interesting issues to go over about the whole thing.
College Recruiting Isn’t like the NFL Draft - But the draft matters the most.
The first issue is going to remain the chronically difficult, if not nearly impossible item on the list. The best recruits go to the winning programs, leaving the pile of average and above average players for the average and above average programs (of which Virginia Tech is one).
Yahoo Sports’s Dan Wetzel tackled this stark reality on Dec. 18th. I keep hearing the lament that we just don’t get enough four and five star players. I also keep trying to not laugh (hysteria or derision?) out loud to people “going on” about it. It’s really difficult, because the first thing that I ask when I hear the complaints about the lack of “stars” for Virginia Tech recruiting is “...well who the heck to you think we are?” I said it in the recruiting specials and in other articles, and I will repeat it until people start to listen. High School football players are the equivalents of pro football free agents. They can go to whomever they choose to go, from the list on their offer sheets. Their reasoning is their own, and their decision is largely going to be based on how they feel their desired need will be met.
The reality is that star football players want to play for programs that attract next level attention. That’s their first priority. The second priority seems to be completely personal and whether or not the location and situation of the school meets with their individual “lifestyle requirements”. (We’ll stick with that euphemism and I will leave it up to your imagination in catching that concept up to this essay.) Very few stars are deeply concerned about the quality of the degree program, the food on campus, or the clean refreshing mountain air. They might care a bit about the facilities, but in general all that stuff is blab told to administrators by administrators.
Wetzel’s article pretty much takes that issue on as a fact base, but like most of us he really doesn’t have any solutions. I don’t really have much, either, but it still doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about the impact that this imbalance is having and frankly has had on college football.
What does that mean for this section of this summary? We need to quit expecting more than the program can deliver because the program cannot deliver many elite rated athletes. Virginia Tech is currently a 3-star program, with occasional 4-star appeal. Dear readers, that’s what put the Frank and Bud show on the map. Turning a mid-level talent pool into a winning football program by teaching, planning, executing, and working harder than the same level of competition.
This recruiting class might look “disappointing” but as Bryan points out, there are some really good possibilities. This was always going to be a small group. There are just not enough scholarships available to offer incoming players. I know of very few “stars” who will accept a preferred walk on. So, that’s that, and the player situation is now at a high water mark for 2020. There will probably be some drop offs and transfers, but as of today, there aren’t any noticeable names for the February National Signing Day.
So, what walks off the field in Charlotte after the Belk Bowl, will be the team that shows up to practice in August.
Some Observations on the LOI pickups:
- Alec Bryant and Robert Wooten show some serious promise of grabbing a good deal of time for their four redshirt games in 2020, but I don’t see them starting at DE in 2020. They both need time, practice, and nutrition. Bryant is the closest to a burned redshirt, though.
- I do not see Justin Beadles as a Defensive End. At just short of 6’6” and 235 pounds, with a good year of Ben Hilgart’s conditioning program and some serious nutrition work, Beadles could clock in 20-30 pounds bigger and end up be a dominant Defensive Tackle. Someone that size on the edge of the ‘A’ Gap is something that this defense has lacked for most of its existence. I smell a beneficial redshirt year and position change. I don’t see Derrell Bailey, Jr. being a DE, either. Bailey is nearly as big as Beadles and even has a good 20 pounds on him. Again, he offers the possibility of having a couple of tall pro sized defensive tackles on the field for 2021 and beyond.
- There was a moderate pass at the running back position, but none of the three who signed LOIs look to be more than contributors. All three, Jalen Hampton, Marco Lee (true Junior Transfer with a redshirt available), and Jordan Brunson are between 5’10” and 6’. Lee and Brunson are listed at 210+ which means they are pretty similar to all of the backs that have been churning through the program since David Wilson left. In addition to these, Khalil Herbert has also signed an LOI. He’s a graduate transfer from Kansas and falls right into the same physical size category of the other three backs. No one in the list is a pile mover, that’s for sure.
- Kaden Moore and Parker Clements are going to be long term bench and depth additions to the Offensive Line roster. I doubt that either of them will get to the field in 2020. That’s not a bad thing. It will give Vance Vice time to get them built into the program, and provide critical transition personnel in the 2 seasons that it will take to see the current line graduate.
- The defensive backfield was not overlooked but there is no crystal ball for what could happen to Kenota Jenkins and Dorian Strong. Truthfully until the defensive staff is completed and stabilized for the season, there is little to go on regarding coaching tendencies and even the new defensive configuration. Who knows? Justin Hamilton might just go to a pro set 4-3-4 and run a Cover/Tampa Two defense. Bud had already started experimenting with something akin to a 3-4-4/4-4-3 flip-flop arrangement. Hamilton might continue with that formula, too. The Spring Game is going to be interesting for no other reason than to see how Hamilton’s base defense deploys.
- There isn’t much else on the modest pile except for the two remaining receivers. Lakeem Rudolf is the only Virginia football player to accept an offer to play at Tech. He’s tall, supposedly really fast, and would fit right into the plans to extend the WR depth chart to continuously cover the next half decade. It never hurts to have another deep ball threat. The last player might be the most interesting out of the entire bunch. Wilfried Pene is from France by way of St. Thomas More Prep School in Oakdale, CT. He’s rated as a 3-star prospect. The Hokies are international, anyway with Oscar Bradburn, so why not? He’s got some depth in front of him, but at 6’3” and 235 he’s physically capable of competing.
Virginia Didn’t Look Like a Priority and Didn’t Answer Any Calls, Either.
No matter what happens, the most glaring thing that many Virginians see in this list is exactly one player from any area of Virginia signing a letter. I’d have to dig up the offer list, but it doesn’t seem that too many prep football players from the various area codes in the Old Dominion were answering hails. It’s going to upset quite a few old time Hokie fans, but something tells me that we are going to have to get used to it, we aren’t the big dog on the 757, 804, 540, and 703 blocks anymore.. that goes to Clemson, Penn State, and Ohio State.
In sum, the Tech 2020 recruiting class is what I will call “transactional”. That means it’s mostly about answering specific needs, long term depth, and capability, not flash. When you have fewer than 16 scholarships, you have to pick and choose. The team is in transition on the defensive side of the ball. It’s critically short of D-Line depth, and that’s pretty much what the coaches concentrated on.
I am not really sure of what other analysts will say as far as a grade, but given the situation the transition, and the low number of scholarships available, Tech gets a solid ‘B’ for this effort. The class is just not big enough to provide a huge “wow” factor. There is already a critical need list for next year, and the universal consensus seems to be that Virginia Tech has to grade out better, then.
So you give the 2020 Draft Class a Grade. A-F
This poll is closed
A- There are a good spread to add good things to the Hokies for 2020-2025.
B- It’s small, there are definitely some nice adds, but no one flashy enough to rate more.
C- Really could have done better. It’s just a bunch of three stars with only one marginal 4 star to spruce it up. Need to do better.
D/F - No point in talking about it too much. Too small, no big talent, and no more than average talent. A ‘D’ is as good as an ‘F’ for this one.