The Year of "2012 - The Sequel"
The Class of 2012 had some excellent skill position players, some of whom were ready to take the field last season, others who show great promise for the future. There were even a few prospects at defensive end. But it was lacking in any sort of depth for those warriors in the heart of the trenches- the "Big Uglies" as the legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson used to call them.
The Class of 2013 if anything, exhibits even greater talent away from the line of scrimmage, than the 2012 Class did. And there are some Class of "2012" members who actually count in the Class of 2013. If you want to see the profiles of Seth Dooley, Woody Baron or Jerome Wright, please see our 2012 Recruiting Smacktacular.
However, despite better talent in the four offensive line prospects that come into this class than 2012, the Hokies yet again fall miserably short in getting bigtime offensive line prospects, or even enough prospects into the class. My Calm and Beloved Reader, you have to look no further than LAST SEASON to see what happens when a team doesn't have a full complement of high quality offensive linemen at their disposal. Despite strong play from Nic Becton and Vinston Painter at tackle in their one-on-one battles with ends (at least in the games I watched), the interior of the line was a mishmash of garbage, never playing with any drive off the ball or any consistency, as various players came into and out of the lineup. The results speak for themselves.
Having said that, after spending the past several weeks going over interviews, game film and comments from high school coaches and teammates, I will admit that I am excited about the overall quality of the class. The Hokies can do battle with programs from around the country to land talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. And there appear to be very few bad apples in this class as well, which bodes well for continued team chemistry. These players are consistently mentioned for being the type of hard-working, team-first players that the Hokies have built their program on and that I'm proud to see represent Virginia Tech. Having said all of that, this is called the Year of 2012 The Sequel because there still isn't enough "beef" to make the difference on the interior that is so obvious to me when I watch the top teams in the country. If you don't have at least one NFL 3rd round or better draft prospect on your offensive and defensive line every season, you're just not going to be able to compete at the top of college football in today's game.
Now, that was plenty of ado, so without much further ado, let's get into it. As always, check out our friends at Rivals for the full measureables on each prospect. But if you want to know who's going to be a stud and who's going to be an also-ran, continue on down the wormhole.
Kyle Chung (OT) - recruited by Charley Wiles
Ok so it's ironic that immediately after I rail on the offensive line in the intro, one of the better OL prospects in the class happens to come up first for discussion. Kyle comes from great stock with his dad being Eugene Chung, former Hokie great and NFL lineman. Kyle's fundamentals and footwork are miles ahead of most kids coming out of high school as a result and he's athletic, having played some tight end. Really the only question is, how strong can he get and how much weight can he carry on his frame without losing the athleticism? VT has had enough kids who can "really get after ya", it's time one of these prospects takes it up a notch and starts crushing people on a consistent basis. Chung has the potential to be one who does, based on his pedigree and film, but "potential" is a dangerous word.
Bucky Hodges (QB) - recruited by Bryan Stinespring
This may be called the Year of the Sequel, but I think when people look back 5-6 years from now on the 2013 Class, they're really going to associate whether this was a good or a great class based on the development of Bucky Hodges. He looks like a thinner version of Logan Thomas coming out of high school, but he has a quicker, more compact throwing motion, and isn't quite as athletic. New OC/QB Coach Scot Loeffler gets a ton of raw material to work with here and we're going to find out in very short order what kind of QB coach he really is. If Hodges can learn to read a defense and manage the game, he looks like the type of player who can be a star. If he either doesn't have that mental toughness and quick recognition ability, or Loeffler can't reach him, he'll just be another Jordan Jefferson-type of QB - serviceable, but never able to live up to the athletic talent.
Jonathan McLaughlin (OL) - recruited by Bryan Stinespring
McLaughlin was originally an East Carolina commit, who after a year of prep school, switched to the Hokies, thanks to the hard work by Bryan Stinespring. It's always good to get a kid in who has had a year of prep school to go against tougher competition, and McLaughlin helps put another body in the trenches this spring, which the Hokies really need right now, but nothing leaps off the tape as special about him. He is big enough but doesn't appear dominating in any of his footage, unless going against a somewhat smaller player. McLaughlin is the type of prospect the Hokies need to sign behind two-to three stud prospects, because he could be a sleeper and work hard enough in the weight room to become a starter, but you don't want to rely on him being a contributor as part of your four player OL recruiting class, which is what's happening here.
Deon Newsome (WR) - recruited by Cornell Brown
Deon Newsome is the second legacy Hokie mentioned in this class as his dad, Myron Newsome, was a LB for VT back in the day. Newsome is just an all-around football player and you can tell he grew up around the game. He played everywhere for the Hampton Crabbers, but most of his snaps were at QB (wearing #5 a la Tyrod Taylor). Newsome wasn't always the fastest guy on the field, but the 757 is filled with kids who can fly, so he's also not exactly slow. However, he has great stop/start acceleration and just has that knack which makes him a danger with the ball in his hands. And I say a "knack" because he doesn't even make a ton of flashy moves, he just always seems to be gliding north/south and avoiding tackles. I see him being able to contribute both in the return game and as a slot receiver.
Parker Osterloh (OL) - recruited by Curt Newsome (closed by Bryan Stinespring)
My goodness, this Osterloh fella is a monster. 6'7 1/2", 300 lbs and he has more room to grow into that frame. Unfortunately the level of competition he played at was very poor, he appears to have had little coaching at the offensive line position, and basically his footage is of him just getting in the way of anyone trying to futilely get past because he's so much larger and more athletic than they are. I liken the relationship to him and new OL Coach Jeff Grimes to that of OC Scot Loeffler/ QB prospect Bucky Hodges. We're going to learn about what Coach Grimes can do given a lot of raw material because Osterloh could develop into an absolute monster. If he gets a lot stronger and learns the position well, he could be an amazing All-ACC caliber performer. Or he could just be another big guy, not able to get on the field. The type of prospects the Hokies need to be going after, are the kids that have the fundamentals of a Kyle Chung, but have a frame like Parker Osterloh. In the meantime, we'll hope that both of these young men can reach their maximum potential and become solid linemen for VT.
Carlis Parker (QB) - recruited by Bryan Stinespring
The 2nd most underrated recruit in the 2013 Class is Carlis Parker. I don't know what most recruiting sites were thinking about, but Parker has got a very nice throwing motion, can throw well on the run, and is a legitimate running threat from the QB position. He's tall enough to see over the line, but still can shake'n'bake to escape pocket pressure, which he feels very naturally. Recruiting sites might have missed him but all the North Carolina schools came on late and even the SEC beckoned with an offer from USC. Now most of those other offers were as an "athlete" (which should indicate what kind of athletic talent Parker is) while the Hokies promised him his first shot will be at QB and from his footage, this looks legit. Fast + elusive + a live arm = excitement, as we know all too well in Blacksburg.
Braxton Pfaff (OL) - recruited by Cornell Brown
I have to admit that while I have really been down on the Hokies OL recruiting the past few seasons, in terms of overall quality of prospects along with not enough prospects in each class, there has been at least one player in each class whose footage just gets me fired up watching it. Yeah, these guys don't have all the tools of the top prospects, but they still get after it, they play extremely physically and they give it hell on every play. And to me, that type of battling in the trenches, though it doesn't get the highlights on TV, is really where you can boil the game of football down to. Who wins that battle - the blocker or the defender? Braxton Pfaff is that guy for me this year, who just makes me want to run around and break stuff. He's a big ball of effort and hustle on every play and I don't mean to short sell his footwork or arm strength, as he is a legit prospect, he's just not a Kyle Bosch or Dorian Johnson from this year's OL class. Now I fully expect this kid to embrace the weight room and if nothing else, he is going to represent the hard-nosed, physical type of line play that Coach Jeff Grimes went on and on about at his introductory press conference. Glad Pfaff is a Hokie.
David Prince (ATH) - recruited by Cornell Brown
David Prince will be competing for a similar role as the previously mentioned Deon Newsome - returner and slot receiver. And while they both played a lot of QB in high school, and both were in rushing roles from the QB position, their running styles are very different. Newsome is that guy people always miss their first shot at, who makes a couple of moves while he's running and then puts his head down and gets the most out of every play. David Prince is a one-move and he's GONE type of guy. The kid can flat-out burn it. He outran every type of angle, just relying on his blazing speed. Put simply he was uncatchable in high school. He isn't going to break many tackles or shake you out of your shoes, but give him a step and it's six points. Football is a results game, so the question will be whether Newsome's or Prince's style of play is more effective at the college level, but whichever one is, they will add excitement to Lane Stadium in the years to come.
D.J. Reid (RB) - recruited by Shane Beamer
Makes sense that the RB coach would recruit a running back under the radar like D.J. Reid. Reid is the 3rd most underrated recruit in this year's class, as the thought of him being a 3 star running back is laughable. The footage I watched appeared to be a Kill the Man with the Ball Fest, as there were defenders breaking through everywhere in 9 man fronts, so it seems that he was the lone threat on offense for his team (reminded me of watching what teams tried to do to the Vikings this year with Adrian Peterson). And because of that, Reid didn't have a ton of TD runs like many other prospects, so maybe that's what hurt his rating. But Reid is incredible instinctive, he has great feet and good balance. He'll have to be taught to trust linemen and read blocks, but he can run over a defender, around one or make them miss. Reid is just meant to run the football. He is also big enough to be a huge weapon in the passing game as he is easily physical enough to block a LB or slip out of the backfield, as long as he can pick up the mental aspects. All in all, this is a fantastic addition to the class and I'm pretty certain Reid will earn a chance to join the lineage of Hokie starting RB's later in his career.
Chuck Clark (S) - recruited by Bryan Stinespring
The defensive side of the ball is just filled with unbelievable talent in 2013 and it starts with Chuck Clark at safety. His footage is straight out of a 1990's montage of BeamerBall. The kid is returning punts for TD, he's blocking kicks, forcing fumbles, picking off passes and taking them to the house. Clark picked off four passes last season and returned THREE of them for TD which is ridiculous. The two-time defensive Player of the Year in SE Virginia, Clark just has that instinctive nose for the ball. And despite a running motion that I can only describe as awkward, he is still pretty fast. He will be working with his track team this spring to clean up his running motion, which should only make him that much faster. And he's already plenty physical. The Hokies have really landed some great safety prospects the past few years and Clark is right in the mix amongst the best.
Brandon Facyson (CB) - recruited by Torrian Gray
Would I sound completely insane if I said that it's possible that the best cornerback signed in this class ends up being Brandon Facyson instead of Kendall Fuller? Fuller is more polished right now, there is no question, but Facyson is the winner of TSF's most underrated recruit in this year's class. Watching him reminds me of watching a young Nnmadi Asomugha who, when he played for the Raiders a few years ago, was the best shutdown cover corner in the NFL. Facyson is that rare breed of big, tall corner who still has the open hips and incredible change of direction that lets him come out of his break to make a play on the ball. He also has excellent ball skills, always high-pointing the football whether on offense or defense and plays very physically in the run game, not just enjoying the contact, but comes up on the football in a fundamentally sound way. Facyson has plenty to learn about technique as he often had to overcome being out of position by simply being so much more athletic than his opponents, but physically, he is the most exciting prospect at cornerback I've seen sign with the Hokies since Jayron Hosley. VT beat out literally half the schools in the SEC and Charlie Strong at Louisville to land him out of Georgia.
Holland Fisher (DB) - recruited by Shane Beamer
Holland Fisher is one of those guys whose stock kept improving throughout the camp season last summer. He showed he had ball skills, could cover and still played with immense physicality. A very early Hokie commit, basically everyone in the country went after him, including Alabama and Ohio State who both pursued very hard. But Fisher stayed true to his commitment and the Hokies are getting a big, fast heat-seeking missile. He can accelerate to full speed by his second step which is just unbelievable to watch on film. He's 6'2" but plays with a much lower center of gravity than that. The coaches are going to give Fisher a shot at rover, but I'm not sure he's top-speed fast enough to play there. I do, however, think he's a future STAR at the whip position once he puts on 15-20 lbs or so through some Gentrification, as he spent his high school career playing close to the line of scrimmage. Fisher is a great example of how, on defense, the Hokies can go head-to-head with ANYONE in America for a prospect, because of the perception of the Hokie defense. It shows yet again, why it's so important that the offensive staff begin building a similar tradition.
Kendall Fuller (DB) - recruited by Torrian Gray
Torrian Gray only recruited two players in the 2013 Class, but they were both cornerbacks and they are both unbelievable. What else is there to say about Kendall Fuller? Like I mentioned above, he comes in ready to play. His brothers have prepared him to understand the defensive backfield concepts that Coach Gray uses, and he obviously is physically gifted. Donaldven Manning has all of the instincts one could want in a CB, but he was undersized, being forced into action so early in his career and lost his confidence and nearly left the program. I have a feeling that for Kendall, confidence won't be an issue. He also looks to be the fastest Fuller (either him or older brother Corey). The only small issue I saw in his footage was, he doesn't seem to have top flight ball skills, but then, he's playing DB not WR, so that's nitpicking. Really with Fuller the only question is - will he be great? I have zero doubt, that he's ready for the college game and he will be good. But how hard will he push himself? How seriously will he take the coaching and the weight room and the film study? He has the talent to play already, but to be one of the great ones, he has to drive himself to do those other things and keep trying to outwork his opponents. That's a lot to ask a kid who already has the world at his feet, and doesn't HAVE to outwork his opponents to be a contributor. We will see.
Cequan Jefferson (DB) - recruited by Shane Beamer
Jefferson isn't big and he's not as athletic as the two other cornerback prospects the Hokies brought in this class, but he's instinctive, and extremely tough for his size. Watching footage, he's clearly one of those guys that the game just comes naturally to. He comes off of the man he's covering to make plays on a regular basis. If Jefferson was a half step faster or a little bigger, he'd be much more highly rated. As it stands, he could still surprise some people. I could easily see him having a standout special teams career at Tech (similar to Alonzo Tweedy).
Jameion Moss (LB) - recruited by Charley Wiles
The "freak show" position on the Hokie defense is the Backer spot. Now Bruce Taylor was successful last season in the role just because he knew the defense so well. But think of the James Anderson's and Xavier Adibi's, as guys who have no business being that fast at that size, that made the Hokie defenses go. Plays are "spilled" to the Backer because the Backer is supposed to be your playmaker. Jameion Moss is a little too small to star in that right away, but the kid can absolutely fly at 210 lbs. I loved his pursuit and his ability to come off of blocks to the correct side to make the play. If he can put on 20 lbs and keep that speed (a big if) he has the capability to be that playmaker for VT in 2-3 years.
Andrew Motuapuaka (LB) - recruited by Shane Beamer
This young man is to the linebacker spot what Cequan Jefferson is to the cornerback position in this year's class - at first glance you think "No way." He looks too short to play the spot, his arms just don't have enough length like a Jameion Moss to hold off blockers, and then you put on the tape and he's just all over the field. Motuapuaka has an endless motor, he's faster than I thought he'd be, and talk about playing the game violently! He relishes contact and makes big hit after big hit. He is a natural at the game and so, like Jefferson, it will be a function of if he can get fast and strong enough to overcome his size disadvantage and get out there to play in what is a very competitive position on the Hokie football team - the Mike spot in the middle. Jack Tyler is able to do it at that size through incredible instincts and he is faster than people realize. Perhaps Motuapuaka will emerge as a similar playmaker later in his career.
Anthony Shegog (DB) - recruited by Bud Foster
Anthony Shegog looks custom built to be a rover in the Hokie defense. He is a big body who can really run, and he absolutely loves contact. Shegog played all over the field in high school, so he's been at corner and safety and linebacker, which if you put those three in a blender, is really what the Hokies are looking for in a rover anyway. Tech landed Shegog over UVa which is always awesome to bring an in-state kid in over the Wahoos. He models his game after Kam Chancellor and he has a similar frame, so it will be interesting to see Shegog's development. If he is successful, it really will help the Hokies by allowing them to move Holland Fisher to where he can be a terror at whip.
Wyatt Teller (DE) - recruited by Bud Foster
Coach Foster may have only landed two prospects in the 2013 Class but they are stellar (would you expect anything less from this legend?) It's a shorter list of schools that didn't offer Wyatt Teller than the ones who did. Despite being ranked so highly by recruiting services, I nearly listed him as one of our underrated recruits, because he has the best defensive end footage I've seen in some time (which is saying something when you think of players like Corey Marshall and James Gayle). Now Teller is a very different type of player than those guys. He isn't an athletic wonder, running a 4.4 40 yd-dash in a 220 lb frame that we hope gets big enough. Instead, Teller is a full-grown merciless terror on the football field. The only way to describe what I watched was that he MAULED the opponent, whether it be an offensive tackle, a guard, the running back, a double-team, you name it, Teller destroyed it. One play that sticks out to highlight his strength is that he chases a running back down the line and with the back running forward, Teller literally grabs the back, lifts him up (the back's legs are still running in the air) and turns and brings him down facing back towards the line of scrimmage. He is already 250 lbs and it seems likely to me that he moves inside to the defensive tackle spot. He is very quick in space, he's just probably not fast enough to play defensive end. But I shudder to imagine a redshirt year spent getting meaner and tougher with Mike Gentry and I'm pretty certain Wyatt Teller is going to be a name Hokies everywhere will know by the 2015 season.
The great thing about analyzing recruiting is that it allows to me do what I enjoy - just watch the game of football and evaluate player performance, without the stress and agony of a Hokie victory hanging in the balance. So, yes, while I only watched the wins for Virginia Tech this past year, I watched hours of footage and film on players the Hokies were in on, whether they signed them or not. And I've come to the same conclusion that I reached the past two seasons - the Hokies aren't getting enough top talent in the middle of the offensive and defensive lines. It will be very interesting to see the impact of this new offensive staff (a change that I still am not fully recovered from the shock of after hoping and dreaming of it for so long) on many areas of the team.
New OC Scot Loeffler will be a fascinating topic to study and discuss regarding his impact on QB development, game-planning and playcalling, all of which will have massive implications, to be sure, on VT's football future. But I think one of the biggest opportunities to make an impact is OL Coach Jeff Grimes who comes to Blacksburg with a strong history of recruiting linemen, especially in the ultra-competitive SEC. Can he begin getting Tech in on the foundational type of linemen that you can build an offense around? After watching the footage, I do honestly believe one of this year's crop of offensive linemen will develop into a very effective starter for Virginia Tech, (my guess is Osterloh or Chung) but you just can't afford to go 1 for 4 in terms of being right about linemen. You want to get at least 2-3 stud offensive linemen each year and then take a project or two who you think could develop into very effective players. I am already excited about seeing the impact of Grimes on the Class of 2014.
So what's left to discuss on this year's class? In what's become a common refrain, the defensive talent was plucked from among the very best along the whole East Coast. The Hokies won recruiting battles against in-state programs as well as national powers and continued to reload. I was (and still am) a big fan of Davion Tookes from the 2012 Class, but I think Facyson and Fuller both have the potential to be first team all-conference performers, if not even better at cornerback and Wyatt Teller is an awesome addition to the line.
Regarding offense, maybe what's most interesting about the 2013 Class is two players who were supposed to join VT this year after a year of prep and neither is currently scheduled to do so: Thomas Smith was a massive prospect at WR who never made it to Fork Union where he was going to prep for a year, and Drew Harris was the next big thing at RB who has run into some academic qualification difficulties. Smith was pretty impressive but not landing him isn't that big of a deal because the WR corps is still deep and the Hokies have added a few more prospects this year to that position in Prince and Newsome. The addition of DJ Reid at running back makes me feel a lot better about the decreasing possibilities of landing Harris, but I still hold out hope that Harris makes it to Blacksburg, as I think he'd be a solid complement to the blazing Chris Mangus (who I still think is going to take people by surprise).
I find I'm more excited about spring practice than usual (which if you know me is REALLY saying something) just to see how this new offensive staff goes about their business. I'm expecting an increased energy level and it would be so tremendous if, for a change, the offense was really able to push to the defense to a higher level. I'm not expecting that from an execution standpoint in the very first spring that the Hokies are trying to learn this new offense, but from an energy level standpoint it should be very interesting. And I also look forward to seeing those prospects who've already enrolled, especially Carlis Parker at QB and Brandon Facyson at CB to see is they still look as impressive athletically when matched up against current Division I-A talent.
Of course, as Susan Bissonette once said - "An optimist is the human personification of spring" so let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Oh what the hell. Let's.