Thursday, February 08, 2007

Recruiting 2007 - What a Haul!

Well friends, here it is. TSF's MASSIVE 2007 recruit-by-recruit breakdown on each player that has signed with the Hokies as of Wednesday, February 7. We have Mad Jay's take first and following later will be our mystery guest and resident recruiting expert. We look forward to your additional comments, video clips, and general take on this recruiting class. Let's start with the offense. The recruits are covered in alphabetical order. If you want just the measurables, let us refer you to our friends at scouts.com - http://scout.scout.com/a.z?s=451&p=9&c=8&toinid=678&yr=2007

Offense

Will Alvarez (OL) – recruited by Bud Foster
Alvarez may one day anchor the other side of the offensive line opposite Blake DeChristopher. He has ferocious explosion off the line. Much of his footage shows him getting two blocks on a play. I can’t tell about his footwork because I saw no pass protection highlights, but the key for Alvarez is whether or not he can handle the mental discipline of the offensive line. It’s always a question mark, but particularly so at offensive line. Everyone always forgets how mental that position is because of the physical size of the players in the trenches. There has to be so much coordination and recognition as a group and there’s just no way to predict who can handle it and who can’t. The best you can do is recruit guys who have the physical tools and aggressiveness of an Alvarez or a DeChristopher and then let Coach Newsome coach them up. The potential is certainly there with Alvarez, though, that’s for sure and everyone made a run on this guy (Miami, Maryland, Penn State and UNC late with Butch Davis). But Alvarez will be a Hokie.

Brandon Barden (TE/hybrid) – recruited by Torrian Gray
He played a lot of QB in high school but the Hokies have talent at that position with Ike Whitaker, Cory Holt and now the addition of Tyrod Taylor to this year’s recruiting class. He projects as a TE, but Barden is just a flat-out athlete big enough to play the position. If he can improve on his speed, the Hokies have suggested he might be a wide receiver. There aren’t a lot of 6’5” people weighing 225 pounds who can run a 4.55 40 yard dash. If he can put on 25-30 pounds without losing his speed, Barden could be a Jeff King-type player at TE for the Hokies. If he gets faster he could be an incredible threat at WR. I also like a guy like that on my punt and FG block teams.

Jaymes Brooks (OL/DL) – recruited by Jim Cavanaugh
Brooks is one of the 5 fastest offensive linemen in the entire country who weigh at least 290 pounds, running a 4.9 40 yard dash. Tennessee and Maryland made late runs on Brooks and chased him hard but he stayed true and ended up a Hokie. Brooks played a ton of defense in high school, and even though the coaches project him on the offensive line, at 6’3” and 295 lbs he might be one of those players who ends up playing on both sides of the ball early in his career to see where he is more effective. Still an offensive guard with Brooks’ size and speed in the Hokies’ guard-pulling offense is a very exciting prospect. From a military background and family, Brooks likely has the discipline and mentality to excel in the transition to college. He throws the shot put which requires great explosiveness in the upper and lower body and I think after a redshirt year in the weight room with Mike Gentry, Jaymes Brooks will be “pitching a fit”, as Coach Beamer likes to say, on one side of the trenches or the other. Either way the Hokies win.

Collin Carroll (long snapper) – recruited by Curt Newsome
Ok this one left me scratching my head. Yeah special teams are important, but if all you need someone to do is snap the punts and FG’s you can practice the holy hell out of those if that’s what you focus their practice time on. That’s why so many people do it with walk-ons. I’m sure Carroll is a great long snapper but using a scholarship on him? Hmmm. I didn’t like this choice very much.

Danny Coale (WR) – recruited by Bud Foster
Along with Quillie Odom and Kwamaine Battle, Danny Coale is one of the three most underrated recruits the Hokies signed (and maybe one of the most underrated recruits at WR in the country). Coale is 6’1”, 200 lbs and runs a 4.4 forty, so I can’t understand how people have him rated as a 2 star recruit. He’s a great returner and he just runs so smoothly. It doesn’t look like he’s running fast until you see how badly he’s beating the other players. I love the fact that he wasn’t on anyone’s radar and he verballed to Tech last summer. Then once other schools saw what he could do they tried to recruit him but he kept his word. I bet the recruiting services just quit following him which is why he ended up as lowly ranked as he did. It works out extremely well for the Hokies who are just so stacked at WR going forward. I can’t wait to see how fast Coale is after a year in Mike Gentry’s conditioning program.

Blake DeChristopher (OL) – recruited by Jim Cavanaugh
You almost always just have to look at who recruited someone to know. If you see that a player was recruited by Jim Cavanaugh (and just look at this year’s list), you know that they are a stud. DeChristopher is the type of guy that you can build an offensive line around. He will be a fixture at tackle for the Hokies before his time at Tech is done. He has a 31 inch vertical leap, benches 400 lbs already and is as mean as Jake Grove was on the field. I could watch highlight footage of him for an hour. DeChristopher is a beast with his hands and with his feet, and Lord knows what he’s capable of after he gets a redshirt year in the weight room with Mike Gentry. Sheesh. This is a bigtime offensive tackle and the Hokies have got to be pleased to have him.

Chris Drager (TE) – recruited by Bryan Stinespring
Here’s another one of those TE/hybrid guys that are so useful to a program. Drager is the most “pure” TE candidate of the four that the Hokies signed. Brandon Barden is as big as Drager and Barden’s faster. Greg Nosal and Andrew Lanier are much bigger and have the frames to become either TE’s or offensive linemen. So leave it to Bryan Stinespring to recruit the most limited of the four players in this position (I couldn’t resist a dig on Stiney who only had 2 recruits in this year’s class). But again, players like this find a way to make it onto the field. Drager will be there on special teams and as he gets older, will likely be in two TE sets as the “receiving” TE. Drager is the most comparable in “measurables” to the TE prospect that got away – Rhett Ellison – who decommitted on Tuesday to play for the Trojans.

Darren Evans (RB) – recruited by Charley Wiles
I am in awe of Darren Evans. He appears to be the most complete back coming out of high school to sign with the Hokies since Kevin Jones. If you want to giggle like a schoolgirl, just go to Youtube and enter “Darren Evans” and watch one of his highlight videos. Yikes. If Evans has the right mentality and handles the adjustment to college (two huge “ifs” that all the recruiting experts in the world can’t predict) he will be the next big-time Hokie RB. Evans had 62 TD’s in one season, an insane 40 plays of more than 40 yards in his career, and I couldn’t find a flaw in his running in any of the highlights. The Darrell Evans-Tyrod Taylor offensive backfield in ’09 could be scary. Wow what a running back.

Billy Grow (FB) – walk-on
In the long tradition of walk-on fullbacks at VT, comes Billy Grow. He played LB in high school as well so he loves the contact, but he’s been out of football for a year and who knows what he’s capable of. The Hokies are deep at FB so I love the fact that Grow is a walk-on and doesn’t take up another scholarship at this point. Of course, if he turns out to be a superstar a la Jarrett Ferguson, then I’m sure the Hokies will make room on the scholarship roster for him. Grow is also enrolled this spring so we should see early on what he’s made of.

Andrew Lanier (TE/hybrid) – recruited by Bud Foster
A gifted athlete, Lanier is 6’5” and weighs 250 pounds and runs a 4.7 40 yard dash! He can either put on 10-15 pounds and develop into a solid TE or the coaches think his frame can handle another 40 pounds and he could become a Duane Brown-type of athletic offensive tackle. I loved his hands in the footage I saw of him as he made a lot of catches in traffic and tight coverage. The Hokies just did such a great job recruiting TE/hybrid athletes this year and there are so many things you can do with players like this. It’s just exciting stuff.

A.B. Latif (OL) – recruited by Jim Cavanaugh
This is a player who brings the mentality that the Hokies need on the offensive line. He plays so hard and so aggressive. Latif is the right size but Coach Newsome is going to have to work on his footwork in pass protection quite a bit. However, on running plays Latif is a road grader and he was just laying mean hit after mean hit down on the defensive linemen lined up across from him. The Hokies need someone who brings that aggressive mentality to the offensive line and with the openings at left guard, don’t be stunned if Latif makes the two-deep at that position as a true freshman.

Greg Nosal (TE/hybrid) – recruited by Curt Newsome
In the same mold as Brandon Barden and Andrew Lanier, Greg Nosal is just another one of those super athletic big guys that I am so excited about. He is the tallest of the bunch and you can bet he will make an appearance on FG block teams during his career at Tech. A player like this is so useful on the team because there are so many things you can do with him. Depending on his weight vs. speed he can line up at TE, move in to offensive tackle, move to the other side of the line at DE and/or play special teams. I love that the Hokies recruited three players of this hybrid quality because they are nowhere near their ceiling in terms of physical development. It sure eases the sting of losing a stud TE like Rhett Ellison to Southern California in the recruiting process. TE was so weak for Tech this past season, but based on this recruiting class, TE is going to be shored up for years to come.

Josh Oglesby (RB) – recruited by Mike O’Cain
He has excellent vision and moves but he isn’t very fast. He runs a 4.43 stopwatch 40 but he didn’t run away from a lot of people in the footage I’ve seen meaning he might not have the best “football” speed. The coaches think he can be a complete back though, and I do like his blocking and his hands (he made some very nice catches in tight coverage). But I also didn’t see a lot in the way of breaking tackles and he has a lot of work to do on his fundamentals in terms of staying low and switching the ball to the outside hand when he breaks into the open. I think Oglesby has the potential to fill in nicely as the backup running back in the Hokies two back system. Darrell Evans looks vastly better to me and Kenny Lewis, Jr and Oglesby will be battling for that #2 spot for the next few years.

Kendrick Pressly (WR) – recruited by Charley Wiles
All of the footage I could find of Pressly showed him at QB which is not where he will play at VT. I saw some very nice open field skills, but who knows whether he can catch the ball or how fast he really is. And frankly it doesn’t matter because he needs to get his academics in order and he’ll be taking a prep year at Hargrave Military first. TSF will keep an eye on his progress and hopefully he doesn’t pull an “Adjiboye” and have a monster season and then decommit and go to another college.

Jacob Sykes (WR) – recruited by Charley Wiles
Sykes was actually a commit in the summer of 2005, who enrolled at Tech this spring. He looks like a decent WR who is almost as fast as Terry and Coale, but he didn’t put up very impressive statistics in high school. He is the right size and might develop into something special but we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for what he does in the spring practice.

Tyrod Taylor (QB) – recruited by Curt Newsome
If you follow this blog even remotely, or you watched more than 45 seconds of a Hokies offensive series this season, then you probably realized that QB was a position of need for this team. Well, may I present to you the centerpiece of the Hokies recruiting class – Tyrod Taylor. Oh and by the way, welcome to big-time college recruiting Coach Newsome. You certainly did a lot to make Beamer look smart by hiring you. Now I'll certainly say that TT does indeed have the makings of something special. But there is always a risk with QB’s. You can’t see their decision making process in high school because there is almost always one read and then a throw. You can’t tell what kind of a leader he will be. But oh my that arm. In one clip he throws the ball 65 yards on the fly. Glennon might have the best bench press by a Hokie QB but it doesn’t translate into zip on the ball (for reasons I’ve covered elsewhere on the blog). I don’t know Taylor’s bench press and I don’t care because he can wing the ball on a frozen rope. And his mobility has been covered in great detail all over the rest of the internet so I won’t get into it here any more than to say he does indeed have wheels. I will wait until I see what Taylor does in practice and summer scrimmages before I offer anything else up on this young man. You can “look the part” at other positions and you are usually ok (RB and LB come to mind). At QB, you have to do more than look the part. We’ll see.

Patrick Terry (WR) – recruited by Bryan Stinespring
Okay I’ll give Stinespring his due on this one. Terry looks phenomenal. He’s one of the fastest players in the state (he beat fellow Hokie recruit Cris Hill in the 55 meter dash) but he isn’t just a “track guy”. I love on his footage how he caught long balls from the split end position as well as in the slot. He caught short passes and broke them for long gains and he made catches in traffic. I love his break on the ball and he has good hands. Terry is a boatload of raw talent for wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman to work with. You know it’s the signing of players like this that makes me wonder – why can’t Stinespring just be a recruiting coordinator for the Hokies? Bring in someone else to do the offensive coordinator role and make Stinespring full time on recruiting. Oh my Calm and Beloved Reader, you knew I wouldn’t make it through a TSF post without calling for Stinespring’s head didn’t you?

D. J. Thomas (playmaker) – recruited by Jim Cavanaugh
I just love watching footage of DJ Thomas. The Hokies have learned from the success of Eddie Royal. When you have a guy who has great vision, balance and crazy speed, who cares if he’s short, you recruit the hell out of him. Yeah Thomas is 5’9”. Who cares? Watch his film and he’s hitting someone, or running for a touchdown or catching a short pass and making 6 guys miss on the way to a touchdown. The coaches haven’t projected him at a spot, and that’s fine with me. I see Thomas as an early Mike Imoh (before he got hurt). He is blazing fast and can return kicks, catch passes and run draw plays out of the shotgun formation. I am a big DJ Thomas fan and after Eddie Royal leaves, I think Thomas is the heir apparent for what Royal does for the football team. DJ will be taking a year at Fork Union to get his academics in order first.


Defense

Kwamaine Battle (DE) – recruited by Charley Wiles
The single most under-rated prospect in this class, Battle is the poster child for why the star rating system of recruits is stupid. The only reason he is a “2 star” recruit is because he is only 6’1”. Tell Darryl Tapp and Corey Moore that you have to be taller than 6’1” to be dominant at DE at this level. Battle is a very gifted athlete who has strong hands, great recognition and just blazing pursuit. Check these stats out – he weighs 260 pounds runs a sub 4.8 40 yard dash and has a 35.5” vertical leap! In the NC-SC All Star football game, Battle had 5 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss going up against supposed 4 and 5 star recruits. I can’t wait to see what Battle does for the Hokies.

Cris Hill (DB) – recruited by Jim Cavanaugh
Unfortunately I only saw three clips of Cris Hill on the defensive side of the ball which is where the Hokies project him to play. However those clips showed him making great plays on the ball, including a Brandon Flower-type hit. The rest of the footage I’ve seen was with Hill on the offensive side of the ball. But he’s come to the right place to learn how to be a defensive back as the Hokies have become an NFL DB factory over the past 7 years. Of course, the one thing you can’t teach is speed and one thing this kid brings to the table on the film I saw was speed. Eye opening speed. I really like the potential that Hill shows and with Brandon Flowers sure to leave for the NFL after this season this was another position of need for the Hokies.

Davon Morgan (DB) – recruited by Jim Cavanaugh
Morgan is one of those players that if he hadn’t been hurt his senior year in high school he would have been a 5 star All-everything guy. I LOVE this player’s game. He dropped some serious big hits on people and is so fast and so aggressive. The coaches project him at free safety and it’s nothing short of a perfect fit. This is a recruit that is flying under the radar in my opinion because all the talk about this recruiting class is focused on TT and Evans. Keep your eye on Davon Morgan.

Quillie Odom (LB) – recruited by Torrian Gray
The third of the three most underrated recruits the Hokies signed, get ready to learn the unique name of Quillie Odom. I’ll tell you what, this guy looks like something special. He could be a whip or strongside LB. Odom is so fast to the ball and he breaks down when he gets there and makes fundamentally sound hits. I saw him miss one tackle in all the footage I watched and but he slowed the guy down long enough for his teammates to get there. He has great instincts and quick hands. I am very excited about Odom and I think Bud Foster is too. We call Xavier Adibi “X”, and Odom plays a lot like Adibi so get ready to yell out “Q”! This was a big position of need for the Hokies. I expect Odom to redshirt for a year to put on about 15 pounds and then play as a redshirt freshman in ‘08.

Hunter Ovens (LB) – recruited by Charley Wiles
I have very mixed feelings about Hunter Ovens. He is obviously an amazing linebacker. He has incredible speed and just football “sense” for lack of a better word. I watch his footage and I think Ben Taylor. The problem is that he won’t likely take a snap for the Hokies as he is also a phenom at baseball and is going to be drafted and offered a big money contract. Oh he might pull a Kenny Lewis, Jr. and come back in a few years but I doubt it. I am much more enamored with Barquell Rivers and Quillie Odom in this recruiting class not from a talent standpoint so much as a commitment to play football standpoint. If the June draft passes by and Ovens doesn’t go play pro baseball, then he could be a MAJOR player on the Hokies defense, so time, as it always does, will tell.

Courtney Prince (DL) – recruited by Kevin Sherman
Frankly I am underwhelmed by Courtney Prince and I don’t understand why the Hokies signed him. He made most of the plays in his highlight footage by being unblocked. On one play he gets credit for bouncing up from being blocked to make a play but he was blocked well by a smaller guy. VT can recruit better defensive linemen than this with their tradition but I guess the coaches just viewed this as a position of need. He’s only 245 pounds and the coaches don’t project him anywhere yet. Unless he can carry a lot more weight and strength on his frame, I don’t think he’ll do much, but he could also be one of those players who’s nowhere near his ceiling.

Barquell Rivers (LB) – recruited by Kevin Sherman
This is my guy. Look at his measurables and you think he’s just like every other 3 star linebacker across the country. 6’0, 220 lbs, runs a 4.6 40 yard dash. Respectable but not spectacular. Then watch him play and look at his production. This is a guy who LOVES to play football and he is just as instinctive as they come. He reminds me of guys like Zach Thomas and Dat Nguyen. Smaller guys who are decently fast, but everyone said they wouldn’t do anything in the NFL. Of course they both have had VERY successful careers because they just knew how to play the position so well. They could almost smell the ball. And that’s Barquell Rivers. His footage is just filled with interceptions, tip ball drills, causing fumbles, recovering fumbles, flying around making tackles. Lots of tackles. Rivers had 184 tackles his senior year. Folks that is an AVERAGE of over 13 tackles per game and he also had 3 defensive touchdowns – Beamerball anyone? Vince Hall is going to take him under his wing and I think the MLB position is going to be in good hands when Hall moves on to the big leagues after next season.

Alonzo Tweedy (DB) – recruited by Jim Cavanaugh
Another very gifted athlete, Tweedy fits the Willie Pile mold. He is fast enough to get to the ball and strong enough to make big things happen when he gets there. I love the versatility I saw in the footage on Tweedy and I like the thought of him anywhere from free safety to rover to whip if he gets big enough. Every play he showed an understanding of the game. He had a nice blocked punt, a kickoff return, a sack, a fumble return for a touchdown, a touchdown reception and a great pursuit tackle all on one highlight reel. Fast players who understand the game are what Hokies defense is all about and Tweedy will find a way onto the field at Tech.

Justin Young (DL) – recruited by Kevin Sherman
Again, the Hokies recruit a guy with great feel for the game at the defensive line position. Young is so fast to the ball. He had 18 tackles for loss his senior year which is just crazy from the defensive line. The coaches haven’t decided if they want him to put on 40 pounds and play defensive tackle or put on 15 and play defensive end but he probably projects better at tackle. The Hokies missed out on some key defensive line prospects this year including the insane decision of Bud Tribbey to sign with Syracuse (he is going to be kicking himself in 4 years) and the back-out of All-Everything lineman Ladi Adjiboye who betrayed the Hokies for South Carolina. Young doesn’t appear to be quite at the level of those two players, but by not signing them, this was certainly a position of need in this recruiting class and he appears to be a very solid recruit. Fortunately for the Hokies Daryl Robertson and Joey Hall have both been re-admitted to the football program this spring and that really shores up the D-line as well.

Mad Jay’s Closing Thoughts

That does it for the summary of the recruits. Having watched some footage of these players I knew they were better than their “stars” might indicate and leading up to Signing Day I was sure that some were going to defect so I was very nervous. But all but one player stuck to their verbal commitment and the one loss was in an area that the Hokies could afford.

I’ll tell you something else I saw in a lot of footage that impressed me – there was very little selfish behavior. When one of these players scored a TD they just flipped the ball to the referee. When they made a big sack or tackle they gave a fist pump and celebrated with their team. This is in stark contrast to some of the other big names out there whose footage I watched. They acted like they were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Signing a recruit is about more than bringing physical talent into the program. The Hokies want to bring the right kind of player on board that will not only represent the university properly on the field but off the field as well. Tech wants players that want to win the right way and as Beamer says, win and lose with class, just win a lot more often. And the guy who just had a monster year in recruiting players like that for the Hokies was Jim Cavanaugh. Every player I watched footage of who had me really impressed inevitably turned out to be recruited by Jim Cavanaugh. Coach Beamer and Hokies everywhere are lucky to have that man on staff.

I want to say that the ’07 class is one of the best the Hokies have recruited in a long time, but the reason I won’t say that is because you can only tell with time. They have the potential to be one of the best in a long time, IF they want to play football the VT way. IF they can maintain their academics. IF they can handle the transition to college life (which, if you recall back to your own time at school, wasn’t always the smoothest). And IF they can keep their nose clean off the field.

Let's take a second and appreciate what this '07 class means in terms of VT on a regional and national stage as well. Unlike last year, the Hokies defended their state on '07 and did extremely well in North Carolina too. These inroads are critical as a super-recruiting coach like Butch Davis comes to UNC. It will be tough going forward, but I think Tech has established itself well enough to be a program of choice for the top talent in the region. Make no mistake there are some serious football players coming into the program in '07 and we, as Hokie Superfans, have great reason to get excited!!!

GO HOKIES!!

Stay tuned for the ever-wise comments of our resident recruiting expert Dominelski Cimipanski. He’s Italian.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the summaries Jay!

-Digits

MadJay said...

Digits P,
I can't believe you had time to read through that with your hectic schedule at work and home. I think our readers would be interested in your take on a few of the prospects as well.

MadJay

Anonymous said...

"Insane decision" to play for Syracuse

LOL--maybe he wanted to go to a better academic school, maybe he wanted to play earlier, maybe he didn't like the players at VT as much?

MadJay said...

anonymous,

First of all, you and I disagree as to whether or not Syracuse is a better academic school than Virginia Tech.

Second of all, the reason I believe that was a bad decision by Tribbey was because it is a statistical fact that players get drafted higher by going to a higher profile program. There is a reason that USC/Virginia Tech/Ohio State/Miami all had 9 or more players chosen in the 2006 draft. Then add on the fact that VT is starting to become known for it's defensive lineman production in the NFL vs. Syracuse where the one name that people know is Dwight Freeney and then who? VT needed defensive linemen in this recruiting class and my argument is that Tribbey would have served himself and his career better by going to Tech. Not to mention it certainly would have helped the Hokies.

Obviously Tribbey (and you) feel differently and as I always say - time will tell. Let's check back on the issue in a few years and see how his career has gone.

roshan said...

Its nice to read the site. It provides the work at home which was interesting.recruiter

Anonymous said...

I think that some of the recruiters did a great job. Some was ok. Yes academics is very important. I hope to whom that didn't do well. take advantage of any opportuinty that is given to them. No matter where it may take you. Good luck to all of the players that was recruited.