Sunday, February 09, 2014

The 2014 Recruiting Smacktacular

The Year of Getting Better

The Class of 2014 has been long awaited. The Hokies have been recruiting super stud defensive players for years, because, well, Bud Foster. And what else needs to be said there, right? And make no mistake, there are a few stellar defensive players coming to Tech in 2014 as well. But competing for top talent on offense has been very hit or miss for a few years for Virginia Tech. Finally, this year’s class has OFFENSIVE prospects from around the country that the Hokies went head-to-head with other top schools on and came out on top. Unfortunately the Hokies lost OLine coach Jeff Grimes but went 4 for 5 in keeping his prospects (very rare these days). And Scot Loefler got to put his stamp on the offensive side of the ball in the class. Very key was the fact that the Hokies also re-recruited and landed their two best prep-school prospects from the 2013 Class. Both of those players were highly touted and pursued by the top schools in the country by the end of the year and both decided to stick with Tech. The Hokies lost DB Cequan Jefferson to Temple, but if you read our 2013 Recruiting Smacktacular, then you already know that wasn’t much of a loss.

Of course, it’s ironic that there were a few misses on the defensive side of the ball that would have had this go down as the best recruiting class in VT history, but it’s obviously still an extremely strong class. And there’s more to be said about the recruits inside the state of Virginia, which we’ll cover in the wrap-up. There were also still a few players chosen that don’t look ready for college football in this class, but very few.

As always, check out our friends at Rivals for the full measureables on each prospect. What you'll read about below are my insights after reviewing every scrap of tape I could find on these prospects from Youtube, from high school coaches, from ESPN and from BeamerBall's site itself. It's taken a month but I love it and if you do too, read on.


Jaylen Bradshaw (WR) - recruited by Bryan Stinespring

As an offensive playmaker, Jaylen Bradshaw isn’t the typical freak athlete who’s trying to learn the position or has been converted from QB or RB as quite a few Hokies over the past 3 classes have been.  He’s a very skilled receiver who runs decent routes, isn’t afraid to go over the middle and has solid hands. No, he’s not melting the stopwatch but he gives Coach Moorehead a more developed product to work with than what he's had in the past. Anyone who watched Hokie games this year had to just sit slackjawed at the number of well thrown dropped passes. Bradshaw looks to be a receiver who can help address that issue. I think of him as a little bigger, more athletic version of Willie Byrn, who had a pretty productive season in his own right for Tech last year.

Xavier Burke (TE/ATH) - recruited by Bryan Stinespring

Burke is an athletic beast. I don’t really see a clear fit, but the Hokies are going to try him at TE first. He’s one of those types of players that you turn on the film and just think “We have got to get him into our program”. 6’4, 250 lb men that can move like Burke are not common. That said, he doesn’t seem to be a very instinctive player. Maybe that’s because on his team they tried him at just about every position (which is what happens when you play 2A football and you’re bigger and faster than everyone else). I think where Burke ends up will likely depend on his hands. If he can make catches, you want athletes like him at TE to attack the middle of a defense. If not, he’s absolutely capable of playing the defensive end position, and I shudder to see what his measurables are after some Gentry-fication. Again don’t see a high football IQ here, but he’s big, fast and tough and if he finds the right spot, Burke could definitely be a solid contributor. He is also a good candidate for a grayshirt depending on attrition and the class numbers.

Chris Durkin (QB) - recruited by Scot Loefler

Chris Durkin is tall, he’s an incredibly tough runner and he has a cannon for arm. Lefty was able to flip him from Michigan State (where their offense would probably have been a perfect fit for a kid like this). His ability to read a defense, be consistently accurate with the ball and be fast enough to bring a read-option threat to the offense are all in question. But Lefty must’ve seen the raw material and said “I can compete with a kid like this at QB”. Durkin lowers his head and takes on players all over the field (he’s the son of a defensive coordinator). When he winds up, he can fire an absolute missile out of the pocket to anywhere on the field. But he likes throwing on the run a lot and has pretty subpar mechanics and footwork. All of that said, I like having a competitor at the QB position, because they can lead, and at an absolute minimum Durkin is going to push the rest of the QB’s.

Andrew Ford (QB) - recruited by Scot Loefler

Andrew Ford is the 2nd most underrated recruit in the 2014 recruiting class. He is listed at 3 stars at QB, but comparing his footage to any other 5 star pocket passer, the ONLY thing he lacks is strength. And his pocket feel, his throwing mechanics, his recognition, his willingness to step into a hit to make a throw, are better in most cases than those other top QB’s. I love everything I saw about Ford on his footage. You can just sense he has “it” - that undefinable quality that a guy like Russell Wilson brings to the position (though Ford’s nowhere near as mobile as Wilson). I would suggest that a Bucky Hodges or Chris Durkin gets the backup reps for 2014 behind Leal, but that if you give Ford a spring and a full redshirt year with Gentry that he will win the starting position in 2015. I’m that high on his ability.

Isaiah Ford (WR) - recruited by Charley Wiles

Ford to Ford in 2015 looks to be a deadly combination. Isaiah Ford is an elite receiver prospect who had as long an offer list as any kid I’ve ever seen come play for Virginia Tech. He has that rare combination of being tall but plays with a significant burst. Perhaps that comes from his time spent on a basketball court. He legitimately wants to play both sports at Virginia Tech and looks capable of it. Ford has decent hands, but it’s what he does with the ball in his hands that separates him from the 2013 Hokies receivers (with the exception of Josh Stanford). Sometimes out in space, you just need a guy that can break a tackle and then outrun some people. DJ Coles had that before his knee injury and while Ford isn’t that big, he’s faster than Coles. Ford is going to be a serious playmaker for the Hokies. 

Eric Gallo (OL) - recruited by Jeff Grimes, closed by Stacy Searels

The best thing I can say about Gallo is that he plays through the echo of the whistle which I really like. He didn’t play against high level competition and he played on a bad team. Most of his footage is him just beating up on smaller, weaker players. He can move his feet decently, he is a high character kid, and by all accounts has a great work ethic. You can never count kids like that out, and Gallo could make himself into a contributor on the Hokie line, most likely at center if he gets stronger and bigger without losing his footwork. I love getting offensive linemen although I would say Gallo was the least impressive of the 4 players in this class on film.

Kendrick Holland (WR) - recruited by Torrian Gray

Coach Gray obviously saw the same thing on film about the Hokies that we all did last year - inconsistent catching of the football. Holland isn’t blazing fast, he’s a long strider without a lot of burst, but he has two factors working for him here - big size, GREAT hands. Best hands in the class. Reminds me a lot of Jarrett Boykin coming out of high school. I don’t think Holland has that kind of ceiling, but it’s an apt comparison in terms of big body and great hands. I could actually see him bulking up to become a receiving threat at the TE position, or if he does get faster working with Gentry he may stay at WR. There have been quite a few of these “tweeners” to come through Blacksburg in the last several years (Mark Irick, EL Smiling, Christian Reeves and Randall Dunn just to name a few) and none have broken through to be contributors, so I’m skeptical of Holland to say the least. But Holland has better hands than those guys, so perhaps he can write a new ending to that story.

Shai McKenzie (RB) - recruited by Scot Loefler

Every year the Hokies seem to land an enormous talent coming off of a knee injury in high school. Sometimes it’s worked out well (Eddie Whitley) sometimes it hasn’t (Nick Acree), and in other cases the jury’s still out (Ken Ekanem). This year, that player is Shai McKenzie. Every school in the country wanted this kid and then three games into his senior year he tore up his knee. He’s rehabbing it in Blacksburg now and will almost certainly redshirt this year getting it back. But after watching his footage from before the injury, it’s simple - if McKenzie returns to form he’ll be the most complete back the Hokies have recruited since Ryan Williams. He doesn’t fumble, he can run over people, he can make them miss, he can run past them and he has great instincts and vision. Of course, if he doesn’t make a full recovery, or has injury problems throughout his Tech career, he’ll never live up to the potential, which is really all you can evaluate in a recruiting class anyway. But because everyone else backed off after the injury, I’m putting McKenzie as the third most underrated recruit the Hokies landed in this class. He has the potential to be truly great in the Hokie RB tradition that - with all due respect to Trey Edmunds - no back that played for VT in 2013 does.

Travon McMillian (QB/DB) - recruited by Bud Foster

McMillian - like most kids who played the position in high school - wants a shot at being QB, and he’ll get it. But he will get on the field for Virginia Tech on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Foster saw his intelligence and instincts. The Hokies did promise to give him a shot at QB, and while he’s athletic, it’s just not a natural fit for this young man, especially when you see how a kid like Andrew Ford plays that position. After a year, he’ll move over to defense and has a great shot at free safety (the QB of the defense) where I think he would excel. It makes a lot of sense to me because the Hokies don’t need him in the defensive backfield this year and if it means bringing in a player with his kind of athletic talent and football IQ, giving him a shot at QB can’t hurt anything.

Billy Ray Mitchell (OL) - recruited by Jeff Grimes, closed by Stacy Searels

Mitchell is another kid who is on the smaller side when compared to nationally elite offensive linemen and he didn’t play top flight competition. But similar to most of the other linemen in this class, he plays angry, he gets under the shoulder pads of his opponent and he’s athletic. The success of almost all of these guys (except for Colt Pettit) looks to be dependent on their ability to add mass and strength while keeping that athleticism. If they do, they are going to be very good players with great chemistry between them. 

Colt Pettit (OL) - recruited by Jeff Grimes, closed by Stacy Searels

This is the best of the 4 players that Grimes recruited to offensive line and I’m very glad that Coach Searels was able to keep him in the fold. Pettit has the biggest frame and while the other linemen are athletic, he has AMAZING feet. He gets great drive and shares the common theme with the rest of this OL class of not liking the defensive players he’s up against. Pettit also played against better competition than most and he was very quick off the snap getting to his defender before the rest of his linemen teammates. I don’t know if Pettit has long enough arms to be an elite pass blocker at tackle but he’s fast enough to be good or he could end up as a fantastic pulling guard. Either way he seems the surest to be a starter on the line in his career (along with Braxton Pfaff from the 2013 class).

Braxton Pfaff (OL) - recruited by Cornell Brown

See last year’s 2013 Recruiting Smacktacular for our thoughts on Pfaff, who looks to be a solid recruit. He grayshirted and will enroll this year.

Cam Phillips (WR) - recruited by Aaron Moorehead

It’s extremely obvious that Lefty and Coach Moorehead were determined to address a position of need in this class - get big receivers with good hands and excellent fundamentals. They were obviously as frustrated last year as I was at the unacceptably poor play from most of the receiving corps. Phillips biggest advantage is that he got great coaching in a powerhouse high school program (Dematha Catholic where Kendall Fuller played last year). He is fast, though not with quite the burst of Ford, BUT what separates him from the other top receivers whose film I watched is that he is so sound in the other aspects of the position. He’s great in his hand fighting to get off the line, his steps in his routes look more precise and he has very good ball skills. I would expect that Phillips could come in and compete early for playing time just because of his talent at playing the position.

D.J. Reid (RB) - recruited by Shane Beamer

The Hokies were able to keep Reid from going elsewhere after a season at Fork Union prep school. We evaluated him last year as a fantastic running back but with the addition of Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie to the ’14 class, I would expect that Reid gets opportunities at punt returner and the slot position. The Hokies have suggested defense, but Reid is just too innately gifted as a playmaker with the ball in his hands. The Hokies need him to get touches on the football on offense.

Tyrell Smith (OL) - recruited by Jeff Grimes, closed by Stacy Searels

It sounds like a broken record but Smith is yet another undersized lineman with remarkable athleticism and a killer attitude on the field. I will say this, it’s crystal clear where Jeff Grimes was taking the offensive line recruiting. He wanted the toughest SOB’s out there, but they also had to be athletic. I think Grimes’ plan was to keep bringing these guys in, and within a few classes, have 2 or 3 players from each group that were able to add the weight and strength and be a bunch of Andrew Millers out there. Miller was the personification of toughness on the line in 2013 and clearly the best player with his wrestler’s athleticism. You get a slightly bigger stronger version of him at all 5 positions and you finally have an offensive line capable of competing at the highest levels. We’ll see what Coach Searels does to build on this and I’d like to see some guys closer to the right size and strength already come into the fold, but there’s no doubt you can’t coach toughness and aggression in an offensive lineman (see Wang, David) so at least this incoming class has that aspect in spades.

Tabyus Taylor (ATH) - recruited by Shane Beamer

Sometimes the Hokies just take players that are a great fit for the program. I remember a few years back they took a kid named James Hopper. He just didn’t have the athletic ability to play at this level successfully but he was a leader in the locker room, had a great attitude, loved football and after 3 years in the program he quit playing and became a student coach and is still on the staff. Tabyus Taylor fits that bill. He has a hitch in his running motion and played against subpar competition but you can just tell he’s a Hokie. He plays extremely hard, he loves football and his coaches and players just get excited about him being on their team. Do the Hokies need him at RB? No. But will he be on special teams and will he help the program? You bet. I expect Taylor will take a grayshirt this year and enroll in a prep school.

Marshawn Williams (RB) - recruited by Cornell Brown

It’s too easy because of the name to tie into the Marshawn Lynch cliche here. But I’ve got another name for you that Williams reminds me of an incredible amount - Drew Harris. Yes, Harris didn't qualify academically and never joined the Hokies, but he was a bowling ball at RB. Williams is similarly sized coming out of high school and like Harris you can tell that some defenders just don’t want anything to do with him. They go low on him most of the time and are left grasping at jersey. My favorite way to evaluate RB’s is when they play in bad weather because that’s when you can see just how good their balance and footwork are, and Williams, despite his big size, was remarkably deft the two times I saw him play in sloppy conditions. Don’t get me wrong - I do like Trey Edmunds because of his effort and strength and great attitude but he’s a tall back and it’s just so hard to be a power back with his build and running style. Williams is 212 lbs already but much more compact, lower to the ground and runs more centered over his feet. I can’t help but believe that Williams is going to be a better power back in his career than Edmunds.


Kevin Bronson (DE) - recruited by Charley Wiles

Do what?!? Where on earth did this guy come from? Half the country offered Bronson including all his Florida home state schools and yet he came to Tech, not announcing until February 1st. I didn’t know anything about Bronson and popped on some footage and just started jumping for joy. What a massive score by Wiles. Bronson has the best first step for a Hokie DE coming out of high school since James Gayle. He is already big enough and fast enough, but he will definitely have to get stronger. That said, he was simply unblockable in high school and the knack for rushing the QB is something that just comes instinctively to some players. Bronson’s frame, speed and ability to read the offensive lineman to get past him actually remind me a ton of the old Steeler LB Greg Lloyd. Bronson is as close to a sure thing at defensive end as Dadi Nicholas was when he came out of the same area in Florida. Well, at least we at TSF had Nicholas down as a sure thing. Anyway, Bronson is the type of score the Hokies get because of their reputation for defense and thank goodness for that.

Terrell Edmunds (DB) - recruited by Bryan Stinespring

Terrell Edmunds offer list was extremely short. No one even wasted their time recruiting him against Virginia Tech. His older brother Trey is the one who really handled the recruiting and it was open and shut. I’ve always maintained that Trey Edmunds best fit would have been on defense, because his running motion is a bit awkward and too upright. His younger brother Terrell is about 20 lbs lighter but runs just like him. The good news is that Terrell wants to be on defense and he will be. For the same reasons I don’t like him at RB, I don’t like him at corner. But I LOVE him at safety or especially rover. He is so strong and straight-line fast and loves contact. Definitely excited to have Terrell under the tutelage of Coach Gray to watch him develop.

Holland Fisher (DB) - recruited by Shane Beamer

We covered Fisher in last year’s recruiting breakdown but it was tremendous to keep him at Tech after a year at Fork Union. He is only a bigger, stronger faster version of himself a year ago and will probably get into the 2 deep at safety or rover out of the gate. That’s how talented he is.

Melvin Keihn (LB) - recruited Aaron Moorehead

Penn State, Notre Dame and Miami all went after this kid HARD and he stayed true to VT. Why did those other schools push so hard as his senior season evolved? Maybe because he was just making plays from all over the field ending up with 16 tackles for a loss, including 9 sacks. Or maybe it was the fact that his top end speed is so fast that he was the gunner for the punt coverage team. Keihn is already big enough that he could either keep getting bigger and become a defensive end or he could stay his current size and play the middle linebacker position. Either way, he has a sixth sense about knowing where the football is and being relentless in his pursuit of it. Great addition to a young and very talented LB corps in Blacksburg.

Vinny Mihota (DT) - recruited by Bud Foster

Coach Foster knows more about football and particularly defense than I do. That’s just a simple, obvious fact. But I call ‘em like I see ‘em and Mihota doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of what I see here in this defensive class. He has remarkable hustle, I’ll grant that, but from a physical ability standpoint, I would suggest Mihota has the farthest way to go to be game ready. I’ve certainly been wrong before, no arguing that, and maybe Mihota’s hustle carries over to the weight room which will lead to him getting on the field. But when compared to the footage of the elite linemen the Hokies did get, and the one they did not (Nnadi) it’s clear there’s an order of magnitude difference in terms of ability between them and Mihota. The recruiting services ranked him above the guy who played next to him on the line (Steve Sobczak) but in fact, it was often a double team on Sobczak that freed Mihota up to make a play. As you’ll read below I think Sobczak will be a better collegiate player. 

Raymon Minor (LB) - recruited by Shane Beamer

6’3, 210 lbs with a frame to easily carry 225 lbs and he’s so fast that he played WR on offense. Raymon Minor was BORN to play either Backer or Whip in a Bud Foster defense. I can’t tell you how few kids this tall play low with a good base, but Minor does. Just like with RB’s, I evaluate LB’s in sloppy conditions and Minor was playing a different game on a bad field than his opponents. He changes direction very easily but it’s his acceleration to top speed and nose for the football that make him such a natural fit. He definitely has the hands having played WR, so if he picks up pass coverage at the collegiate level, I could see him as a whip. If he puts on some more weight and stays fast, and attacking the run and the screen passes are his strengths, then he belongs at Backer. Either way, Minor is a fantastically awesome late addition to the Hokie program stolen right out from Nebraska in the 11th hour.

Shawn Payne (DB) - recruited by Shane Beamer

Great top end speed, 6’3” tall, loves contact and has a good nose for the football. I don’t think Payne has enough hip swivel to play cornerback like he did in high school, but he is an absolutely perfect fit for safety or rover in the Hokie defense. He makes big hits in run support but he can definitely run with a receiver down the field. I look forward to seeing what Shawn Payne brings to the defensive backfield later in his career.

CJ Reavis (DB) - recruited by Shane Beamer

I enjoy doing recruiting breakdowns. Once a year I get to spend 2 weeks watching hours and hours of footage on prospects and seeing football both at its fundamental level and watching the game evolve in terms of scheme. This is the game I grew up watching and studying. And once or twice a year amidst all the hours, I see footage of a player that just leaps out at me. This year that player is CJ Reavis. I love everything about this kid’s game. He has a winning, brash attitude, he is just unbelievably physical and tough, extremely agile, has great leaping ability and is almost psychically instinctive. Reavis would be the perfect corner at VT except for one thing - he just isn’t fast enough at the top end. But there’s no way you don’t have a kid like this on the field. He is going to start at VT. I don’t know whether it will be safety or maybe he bulks up enough to play whip. But this guy is a player who carries the lunchpail for a defense. He is a leader and plays the game exactly like it was meant to be played. I can’t wait to see where Reavis ends up.

Steve Sobczak (DT) - recruited by Bud Foster

One of the biggest misses I’ve ever had in analyzing VT recruits was DT Luther Maddy. Instinctive and strong, but he was short, didn’t look like he had enough speed and also his teammate looked like such a massive talent (Wedley Estime who became Dadi Nicholas), that I assumed the Hokies took Maddy to help land Nicholas when a last minute scholly opened up after Stephone Anthony flipped to Clemson. It goes without saying I was very wrong (fortunately). I will not make that mistake again. Steve Sobczak wins the most underrated recruit of the 2014 Class. Recognized by few recruiting services and with only an offer to James Madison to go along with his offer at Tech, I expected the footage to show a kid completely outclassed. What I saw was a holy terror on film. In Coach Wiles-speak Sobczak “pitches a fit”. This guy played at 330 lbs earlier in his career and then slimmed down to 285 which helps him get off the ball a ton quicker. It also has given him an undying motor. He pursues plays at all times from snap to whistle and his low height along with wide base make him extremely tough to move out of a hole. I also can’t believe his technique already. He is natural with his hand placement, has a great rip move and a decent swim move. I can only assume that early in his career with his weight, he was so slow that he actually had to work on technique to beat a block. Last but not least he played on a very good football team that made it deep into the Virginia state playoffs at a high level of competition. So his film is against other good high school kids unlike much of the footage I see on prospects. And against that competition, Sobczak was very productive. He doesn’t have the ceiling of Ricky Walker, but don’t be surprised if they end up with similar stats by the end of their career, because Sobczak is going to be hard to outwork.

Greg Stroman (DB) - recruited by Torrian Gray

If only CJ Reavis had Stroman’s speed. Greg Stroman is basically shot out of a cannon in his footage. He is a pure athlete in every sense of the word. Great change of direction, GREAT top end speed, the only question mark is - does he have any coverage or ball skills? If he had good experience with that in high school, I would have likely tagged Stroman as the most underrated recruit of the Class. You can’t coach speed like he has. But I’m cautious here. There was a player like Stroman named Davion Tookes several recruiting classes back who had that same blinding speed. But Tookes never picked up the defense and decided to transfer out of Tech. So it’s not as easy as just being a topflight athlete…….but it helps. And if Coach Gray can reach this kid, Stroman has the athletic ability to be a very good corner at DBU.

Ricky Walker (DT) - recruited by Bud Foster

All the Ricky Walker footage I watched was so good I was tempted to name him one of the underrated recruits of the class even though he was a 4 star recruit that everyone in the country tried to land. He is quite simply “can’t miss” as a prospect and his ceiling is as high as any defensive tackle the Hokies have ever had. Whether Walker reaches his potential will depend on how hard he works at VT. He was so much bigger and stronger than his opponents that you just know he didn’t have to push himself to be successful at the high school level. If he does have that inner fire to be great, he certainly has all the tools to do it. Remarkably nimble on his feet for 275 lbs, he can make himself unblockable. The thought of having him and Derrick Nnadi at tackle in this class was going to have me shedding tears of joy, but after missing out on Nnadi, we now turn to 2015 5-star DT Tim Settle who is considering the Hokies. If they land Settle next year to play next to Walker then the middle of the VT Dline will be stout for years to come. 

Special Teams

Michael Santamaria (K) - recruited by Torrian Gray

This feels like an overreaction to an absolutely horrible year on special teams. Of course Cody Journell also received a kicking scholarship and despite not meeting Hokie standards off the field, he was a very good kicker on the field. I have no basis to evaluate kickers via footage, so I’ll go with Coach Beamer here and concede that Santamaria is a good kicker, but the Hokies have several kids walking on at kicker and I’m a bit surprised the Hokies used a scholarship on a kicker in such a large signing class.


Coach Beamer the Elder has famously said for years that he believes that there’s enough talent in the state of Virginia to win with. I have always agreed with that. I think you need some good players from other states, but the core of your team can come from the top talent in Virginia and you’ll be successful. It’s not Florida or Texas, but it’s better than most of the rest of the states. Beamer has proven that with the product on the field. However, other schools know this as well, and in a year when Virginia produced several of the top players in the entire country - probably the richest talent level the state has had in 6 years - the Hokies missed on almost every top player, some of them to UVa, which went 2-10 and whom the Hokies beat. I don’t know what the reasons for that are. I speculate that there are underhanded things happening in football recruiting in Virginia but I don’t have hard evidence of it. What I do know is that this is still an excellent recruiting class, grabbing great players from around the country, but one or two of those top players from Virginia would have made it the best in VT history. 

A specific area I’m seeing improvement in, but not enough is on both offensive and defensive lines in terms of landing top talent. The offensive linemen recruits have been getting better the past few years (Jonathan McLaughlin is a future All-ACC performer, that I completely missed on in last year’s review) but the Hokies still aren’t in enough on the top players at the offensive line position and I just can’t understand it. As I mentioned in the breakdown earlier, the 2014 Class has four athletic, big-framed kids, who have great toughness/aggression, and a few of them are going to pan out. But a few won’t, and I really was excited about Coach Grimes and what he was going to do with “his” guys on the offensive line over a period of time. You could already see the much better coordination of the offensive line last year. Despite losing a lot of one-on-one match ups they at least weren’t falling all over each other, and in a few games (like Bama and Miami) they were really very effective. But Grimes is gone, and now we’ll have to hope that we get lucky again. Coach Searels is a key piece of the puzzle for VT’s offensive success going forward in terms of both recruiting and coaching.

Similarly, the defensive tackles over the years at VT are always low rated players that Coach Foster and Coach Wiles turn into borderline NFL players. This year I think Steve Sobczak fits that bill, and believe me, I’m glad he came to Tech as he is very underrated. But if you’re a top talent defensive tackle, how can you not consider VT? You’re not being asked to eat up space like in a 3-4 alignment, but rather be a playmaker. Make tackles for loss, rush the QB, force RB’s to cut things outside. I just don’t get how the top level tackles aren’t begging to come play at Tech. Especially in-state kids like Derrick Nnadi and Andrew Brown this year (Really Brown? UVA?) and Korren Kirven last year. Really surprising. Fortunately, Ricky Walker is an elite player at the DT position this year and maybe Tim Settle (who already looks like a grown-ass man) next year will choose Tech to help shore up the position. 

Like we said last year, 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. The Hokies are getting closer to that, but aren’t there yet. At least the focus on offense this year produced some big time future playmakers in McKenzie, Reid and Isaiah Ford, which were in short supply on the 2013 team and also in the 2013 recruiting class - which makes not giving Chris Mangus more of a legit shot inexplicable to me.

So we approach this spring practice with great curiosity. How does Leal do in taking over the reins on offense? What does the offensive line look like with so many changes there, including the coach? Is VT ready to turn things around and get back to competing for ACC championships, or are the past two seasons the beginning of a slide downward? The next step begins in April and we can’t wait!


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