Virginia Tech Football Recruiting: Grading Every Commitment
National Signing Day has come and gone but recruiting classes still need to be evaluated. Virginia Tech's class was rated as one of the top 25 for the 2012 season.
The most celebrated commit for the Hokies this year is four-star athlete Joel Caleb. Caleb may be stealing most of the spotlight, but this is Frank Beamer's biggest recruiting class since 2008. Each incoming freshman brings in a separate skill set that could be an asset to the Hokies in the future.
Virginia Tech signed five 4-star recruits, 22 3-star recruits and three 2-star recruits according to the ESPN rating system.
The following is an evaluation and grade for all 30 incoming Hokie freshmen.
Joel Caleb; 4-Star Athlete
Caleb is the only Hokie commit that was named in the ESPN U top 150 recruits. The 4-star athlete was a quarterback in high school but is expected to become a wide receiver in college. He has the size, at 6'2" and 205 pounds, to become a major threat in the red zone. He isn't a speedster; only running the 40 yard dash in 4.68 seconds, though many believe he could become faster by improving his technique.
With the departures of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale he could get a lot of playing time, but probably as the third or fourth receiver. He could very easily become the number one receiver in his sophomore year after Marcus Davis and Dyrell Roberts graduate.
Ken Ekanem; 4-Star Linebacker
The linebacker position is one of the deepest positions for the Hokies. There are a number of solid linebackers in this class. Ekanem is 6'3" 235 pounds, which is good size for an outside linebacker. He has solid speed, as evidenced by his 4.69 40 yard dash.
Ekanem is good at diagnosing plays, shows solid defense against the run and could become great if he learns to play decent pass coverage. Ekanem may not get much playing time in his first year, but he could become a great linebacker for Bud Foster.
Donaldven Manning; 4-Star Cornerback
Virginia Tech has become known as DB U (defensive backs university), and Manning appears to be the next great Hokie corner. The Miami native is 5'10" and 165 pounds. In high school, Manning showed his ability in man-to-man coverage. He has good instincts at the position and should excel once he becomes the boundary corner. His first year or two at Tech will be filled at the field corner, where he will likely play more zone coverage.
The only drawback to Manning is his speed. He doesn't have blazing speed like DeAngelo Hall did as a Hokie. He only runs a 4.65 40 yard dash. A good comparison for Manning is Macho Harris. The speed may not be there but the play making ability is. Manning could get a lot of playing time in his first year.
Drew Harris; 4-Star Running Back
Harris could get a lot of playing time his freshman season, seeing as Tony Gregory is recovering from a leg injury. Harris will draw a lot of comparisons with former Hokie back Darren Evans. He is 6'1" and 190 pounds but is not a speedster—he only runs a 4.64 40—but that isn't Harris' game.
Harris is all power. He won't run around you, but he will run right through you. He has good vision, and if he gets a head of steam going then it will be hard to bring him down. It will be a daunting task to be one of the replacements for David Wilson following a record-setting season, but Harris could become the Hokies' tailback of the future.
Devin Vandyke; 4-Star Linebacker
Vandyke is the second four-star linebacker that the Hokies signed in the 2012 class. While at South County High School in Lorton, VA, Vandyke was a two-way player. He played linebacker and running back. The 6'1", 205 pound prospect will be will be an outside linebacker for Bud Foster in his 4-3 scheme.
Devin is good in coverage as well as in run defense. He is also a good tackler, and could become a great tandem at linebacker with Ken Ekanem in the future.
J.C. Coleman; 3-Star Running Back
Coleman makes for an interesting dichotomy in Virginia Tech's backfield. Harris is a power back, while Coleman is a small speedster. He is only 5'6" and 170 pounds. His size may be the only reason that he was only a three-star recruit. He is fast, running a 4.45 40.
He is a speedy, elusive back that could do great things in the screen game. He may also excel shifting out to the slot, and while he may have trouble running through people, he will be able to run around them.
Josh Stanford; 3-Star Wide Receiver
Stanford is the second receiver on this list. He is a tall receiver at 6'1", but he may need to put on some pounds to excel at the college level, only weighing 175 pounds. Stanford has good hands and is a good receiver in traffic.
Stanford could become a solid receiver in Blacksburg, but he probably won't get much playing time seeing as the wide receiver depth chart is pretty crowded. If Stanford puts on some weight then he could become a major threat in the red zone.
Woody Baron; 3-Star Defensive End
Unfortunately for Baron, as well as all incoming defensive players, the defense is returning a fair number of starters in 2012. The Brentwood, Tennessee native may be able to work his way into the rotation, but it is doubtful barring any injuries.
At 6'3' and 250 pounds, he can be disruptive on the defensive line, but his speed may be his biggest asset. He runs a 4.72 40 and he has the ability to wreak havoc in the backfield. Baron should develop into a solid defensive end for the Hokies.
Mark Irick; 3-Star Wide Receiver
Irick's size is his greatest weapon. He is 6'3" and weighs 190 pounds. He has good hands and is a solid route runner, though his speed and inexperience are concerns. He won't run past opposing corners, but Logan Thomas may be able to use him as a possession receiver against smaller defensive backs.
While he doesn't have blazing speed, the biggest drawback to Irick is his inexperience. He started playing football as a sophomore in High School. His first sport was basketball, but given time he could become a weapon for Frank Beamer's offense.
Jorantay Jones; 3-Star Defensive End
Jones will have the same trouble making the defensive rotation as Woody Baron. Baron has a better chance of getting on the field early in his career because he is bigger and faster but that isn't to say that Jones won't have a productive career in Blacksburg.
He is 6'2" and 235 pounds. He runs the 40 in 4.99 seconds. He is a strong defensive end who is good in run defense, but he could work on his ability to get to the quarterback.
Dahman McKinnon; 3-Star Linebacker
McKinnon is the third outside linebacker the Hokies signed in 2012. He is undersized for the position at only 5'11" and 183 pounds, but his lack of size is made up for by his speed. He runs the 40 in 4.72 seconds.
He is a solid tackler and is good in coverage. In order to become a good all-round linebacker then he needs to become better at defending the run. McKinnon should eventually work his way into the rotation.
Grade: C +
Deon Clark; 3-Star Linebacker
Clarke is the fourth outside linebacker for the Hokies in this class. The Chesterfield, VA native is 6'1" and weighs in at 205 pounds. He provides solid run support inside and out. He is also solid in coverage. The only problem for Clarke is that he will be buried down in the depth chart. He could end up redshirting his freshman season.
Clarke earned numerous defensive awards during his high school career, and if he gets playing time then he could become a valuable player for Foster.
Der'Woun Greene; 3-Star Athlete
Greene is an athlete from Portsmouth, VA. ESPN has him ranked as the 61st-best athlete in this class. He is 5'10" and 175 pounds. He is a versatile playmaker, but is still unclear as what the Hokies are planning to do with him.
Trey Edmunds; 3-Star Athlete
Edmunds is the 69th rated athlete in the country. The Ringgold, VA native is 6'1" and weighs in at 205 pounds and is expected to play linebacker in college. An aggressive, solid tackler, his versatility will help out Bud Foster's defense as he can switch positions (between inside and outside linebacker), but he will be low on the depth chart in his first year.
He has a lot of upside and could very well end up a starter in his second or third season.
Dakota Jackson; 3-Star Tight End
Jackson is one of two tight ends in the Hokies' 2012 class. The tight end position isn't the deepest for Virginia Tech, so it is possible that Jackson will get some playing time as a freshman. He is 6'3" and weighs 245 pounds. The Roanoke, VA native has good hands and solid speed for the position. His size could also make him a red zone threat.
Jackson has a lot of upside and could become a contributor for the Hokies quickly. He needs to work on his run and pass blocking, but if he can do a serviceable job in that department then he will be a great weapon.
Jerome Wright; 3-Star Running Back
Wright is a Highland Springs native who is ranked as the 40th best running back of this class by ESPN. He is a large back at 6'2" and 225 pounds, with good power and vision. He may draw comparisons to former Hokie Josh Oglesby.
Oglesby was a career backup at Virginia Tech, but he got plenty of reps during his senior year. Oglesby switched between full back and tailback roles for the Hokies and Wright could end up going through the same process. Wright may become a backup, but if he has a career like Oglesby then he would be of great value to the Hokies.
Davion Tookes; 3-Star Cornerback
Tookes and Donaldven Manning are the only corners of this class, but they seem to complement each other. Tookes isn't as good as Manning is yet, but secondary coach Torrian Gray has a history of developing his players. Tookes is 5'10", and weighs in at 170 pounds.
He has good ball skills and does well in zone coverage. Tookes will probably play most of his Hokie career as the field corner, while Manning (good man-to-man coverage) will play the boundary. This won't happen for a few years, but Gray may have the next great Hokie corner tandem in these two.
Jack Willenbrock; 3-Star Offensive Guard
Willenbrock was a teammate to fellow commit Drew Harris in high school. The guard is 6'4" and weighs 245 pounds. He is physical and a good run blocker. The only drawback for Willenbrock is his weight. 245 pounds is fairly small for a guard, so the Hokies could move him over to tackle but he will probably put on some weight during his freshman year.
The Hokies lost four of their five starting offensive linemen from 2011, but Willenbrock will still be placed down on the depth chart. Virginia Tech has suitable replacements for the linemen that departed, but if Willenbrock can put on some weight then he will move into the starting rotation.
Nigel Williams; 3-Star Defensive End
Williams was rated as the 100th best defensive end of this class. The Richmond native weighs 245 pounds which fills out his 6'3" frame. He is a strong and disruptive presence on the defensive line but will be buried on the depth chart early in his career, though he has the potential to become a contributor for the Hokies' defense.
Desmond Frye; 3-Star Wide Receiver
Frye is a tall receiver but his speed, or lack thereof, could hinder him early in his Hokie career. He is 6'1", which is plenty of height to become a major threat, but he only runs a 4.74 40 yard dash. It is true that the 40 isn't always the best indicator of a players in-game speed, but it usually can give you a good inclination of their speed in pads.
He has good hands and is good catching the ball in traffic. The Hokies receiving corps is crowded but, with some work, Frye could turn into the second or third receiver in a few years.
Seth Dooley; 3-Star Defensive End
Dooley appears to be headed for a career as a backup for Bud Foster. Most of his scholarship offers came from FCS schools, but he chose Virginia Tech. He is 6'4" and 230 pounds—good size for a defensive end—but considering how many DEs are in this class, he doesn't have much to distinguish himself from the group.
Chris Mangus; 3-Star Running Back
Mangus is a solid recruit for the Hokies. He is 5'11" and 180 pounds, but his speed is what sets him apart. He runs a 4.46 40-yard dash, and scouts talk positively about his break away speed. This is a deep class for running backs, which will make it difficult for Mangus to get much playing time.
Even if he is buried on the depth chart, he could occasionally come in as a slot receiver. He has good size and speed for the position but he would have to spend some time learning it.
Brenden Motley; 3-Star Athlete
Motley is considered an athlete by ESPN, but the Christiansburg star was a quarterback in high school. It is still unclear how the Hokies will use him, but his size makes him a candidate for multiple positions.
Motley is 6'3" with good ball skills, which could make him a receiver or a quarterback. If he stays at the quarterback position then he will be third on the depth chart behind Logan Thomas and Mark Leal.
Donovan Riley; 3-Star Safety
Riley, a Baltimore native, is the only safety that signed with the Hokies this season. He is decent size for a safety, weighing in at 200 pounds to fill out his 5'11" frame. He is a ball hawk, who is at his best in zone coverage. Riley has decent speed for a safety; he runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds.
The safety position isn't that deep for Virginia Tech, so Riley could work himself into some playing time in his first couple of years.
Alston Smith; 3-Star Defensive Tackle
Alston Smith is a good size for a defensive tackle, weighing 265 pounds at 6'3". He is a solid defender against the run, but he can improve in rushing the quarterback. The defensive line may be the deepest unit for the Hokies' entire team, so it is unlikely that Smith will get much playing time early in his career.
Thomas Smith; 3-Star Tight End
Smith has been rated as the 71st tight end of this class by ESPN. He is slightly undersized for the position at 6'3" and weighs 215 pounds. He is a solid route runner, but his size makes him more a receiving tight end than a blocking one.
Smith provides depth to the position, but he will likely play second fiddle to Dakota Jackson.
Augie Conte; 3-Star Offensive Tackle
Conte is the last three-star player on this list. The tackle out of Powhatan, VA is 6'5" and weighs 270 pounds—big enough to play tackle in college but he could stand to gain a few pounds. He is a physical tackle but is inexperienced, having started playing football as a freshman in high school.
The good news is that Conte should have some time to wait and learn from the coaching staff before he is thrown into division one football.
A.J. Hughes; 2-Star Punter
Hughes fills a hole that the Hokies desperately needed to fill. Punting was Virginia Tech's biggest weakness last season.
Danny Coale eventually came in to fill the void of a consistent punter. Hughes is a lefty who kicks a great spiral. The Hokies hope that he can replace Coale and contribute consistency to the special teams.
Adam Taraschke; 2-Star Offensive Tackle
Traraschke is a large but inexperienced tackle. He is 6'5" and weighs 260 pounds. He started playing football as a freshmen in high school. He may gray shirt and delay his enrollment at Virginia Tech until 2013.
Dewayne Alford; 2-Star Defensive End
ESPN didn't give Alford a rating other then the star rating. He is the only Hokie commit that wasn't rated. He is 6'3" and weighs 220 pounds. He ran the forty in 4.6 seconds. Virginia Tech was the only division one school that offered Alford a scholarship.
Overall, this was one of the best recruiting classes for the Hokies in recent memory. There are some future stars that committed to play for Frank Beamer, and the majority of the group have the talent to become major contributors for Virginia Tech.
Overall Class Grade: B+