A Look Back At Virginia Tech's 2002 Recruiting Class
In the first year of the “Rivals.com” era of college football recruiting, Virginia Tech seemed to have a meager showing as the Hokies recruiting class finished rather poorly in the eyes of the experts.
The coaches did manage to convince five star quarterback Marcus Vick to follow in his brothers footsteps but other then Vick, the Rivals.com experts didn’t rank any of the other commits very high.
This class finished the recruiting season ranked as the 45th best recruiting class in the nation.
Even though this class didn’t create a whole lot of buzz outside of Marcus Vick, Tech did real in some pretty impressive talent in this 2002 class.
I’m sure some fans would like to forget the name “Vick” but Marcus did give us one good season in 2005 so in an article like this, I have to mention his name a few times. Daryl Tapp, Noland Burchette, Jonathan Lewis, Brandon Gore, Jimmy Martin, Mike Imoh, Aaron Rouse, and Jimmy Williams were all part of this class as well.
The coaches did miss out on quite a few prospects especially to their in-state rival UVA.
Coach Beamer recruited both Kai Parham and Michael Johnson, both of whom were five star recruits from the state of Virginia.
Ahmad Brooks was a five star linebacker in this class and ultimately chose the Cavaliers over the Hokies (Author’s note: Thank God).
Virginia Tech did find a few future stars but they also found some duds too so let’s take a look at this recruiting class and break it down player by player.
DE Noland Burchette
Highland Springs High School has been very kind to the Hokies over the past few seasons as Tech has grabbed Burchette, Macho Harris, Cris Hill, and Antoine Hopkins from there recently.
Noland Burchette was a two star recruit according to Rivals and ended up being very underrated by the recruiting services.
By his redshirt sophomore season, Burchette was a starter at weak side defensive end for Tech and finished his career with 137 tackles and 10.5 sacks.
Noland went undrafted in the 2007 NFL draft but was signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent. He was later released and eventually signed with the Indianapolis Colts with whom he stayed with for a season until he was released in 2008.
DT Chris Burnett
Chris Burnett was a two star defensive tackle that chose Virginia Tech over West Virginia back in 2002. Burnett was limited athletically although he did manage to start for three years on the pride and joy team under Coach Beamer.
Chris was a bit of a journeyman at Virginia Tech as he played a little bit of everything during his career. He started at defensive tackle but moved to offensive guard in 2003 but after missing the entire year with an injury he moved back to defensive tackle.
Burnett only got to play on defense in two games in his career. He finished with just one total tackle and that came in the 2004 season.
WR Chris Caesar
Chris Caesar was a two star recruit out of Florida that failed to qualify academically out of high school. Chris ended up enrolling at Florida A&M where he achieved the needed SAT score for him to enroll at Virginia Tech.
However, once Caesar made it to Blacksburg, he could just never find a spot on the depth chart. He started off at wide receiver in his freshman season but failed to make any headway so he eventually moved over to cornerback where he once again found himself buried on the depth chart.
It appears that Caesar left the Virginia Tech program sometime after the 2005 season.
OG Brandon Gore
Brandon Gore was a three star recruit out of Virginia but never really lived up to his potential. Gore ballooned up to 360 pounds in his junior and senior seasons, which allowed him to only be used in certain situations.
Gore spent his career primarily as a backup at the guard and center positions. He had 52 snaps in his junior season and started in place of Ryan Shuman in his senior season when he went down with a knee injury.
Gore did have NFL aspirations but was not drafted and was never offered a free agent contract.
ATH Brenden Hill
There were some rumors going around that Hill and Vick were a package deal, which means that in order for Tech to get Marcus Vick in this class they had to take Brenden Hill as well.
Either way, Tech actually ended up with a pretty good deal here. Hill did get suspended for three games in his sophomore season but managed to mature some after that and turned into a high-quality linebacker under Coach Foster.
Hill didn’t see much playing time until his senior year when he won the starting whip linebacker job over Corey Gordon. Brenden went on to finish the season with 52 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
ATH Demetrius Hodges
Demetrius Hodges was a two star athlete from Florida that just never panned out. Hodges ended up leaving Virginia Tech and transferred to East Carolina where his career was plagued by injuries.
Hodges played in the first four games of his junior season for the Pirates but injured his shoulder and had to undergo surgery, which cost him the rest of the season.
He then entered his senior season as the starting weak side cornerback and was able to finish the year with 43 tackles and two interceptions.
RB Mike Imoh
Mike Imoh was listed as a three star recruit out of Fairfax, Virginia and he was one of the players in this class that definitely lived up to the hype.
Mike didn’t play much in his freshman season but he was the Big East’s top kick returner in his sophomore season when he averaged 30.5 yards per return on the season.
Imoh then took over the reigns in 2004 after starting the year on a three game suspension. This allowed him to set the Hokies all time single game rushing record with 243 yards on 32 carries against the Tar Heels.
Imoh suffered through an injury plagued senior season as he rushed for only 419 yards in 2005. Imoh is now currently in the CFL for the Montreal Alouettes.
DT Jonathan Lewis
Jonathan Lewis was the lone four star recruit in this class that actually lived up to his billing. Jonathan played right away and even started the final two games of his freshman season.
Lewis ended up being a three year starter at defensive tackle and finished his career with Tech in 2005 after gathering 134 tackles to go along with his 11.5 sacks.
After his final season in 2005, Lewis was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Since then, the former Hokie has bounced around from the Raiders to the Seahawks to the Jaguars where he is currently listed.
OL Jimmy Martin
Jimmy Martin was a three star recruit out of Fork Union Military who committed to the Hokies over offers from Clemson, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia.
The talented tackle ended up starting in the last seven games of the 2003 season and went on to start every game after that until the end of his collegiate career.
Martin was drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers but was released prior to the 2006 season. Jimmy has also made stops with the Vikings and the Patriots, however he is not currently listed on an NFL roster.
ATH Brian McPherson
Brian McPherson was a two star recruit out of high school who never fully adjusted to the college game. McPherson left the team after his sophomore season for undisclosed reasons.
According to his profile on Virginia Tech Athletics’ website, McPherson never truly dedicated himself enough to make an impact at the collegiate level.
WR Robert Parker
Robert Parker had all the makings of a good football player but for some reason he could never put it all together. Parker started off his career at wide receiver and caught two passes for 19 yards in the Hokies 2004 spring game.
However, Parker ended up making a switch over to linebacker and then switched to safety during his senior year.
Parker won the “Top Newcomer” award during his senior year in the Hokies 2006 spring game but, Parker was not able to contribute on the field that fall.
LB Aaron Rouse
Aaron Rouse was one of the bigger success stories of this 2002 class as he only had one offer coming out of high school.
Rouse played in his first two seasons at whip linebacker but moved to Rover after his sophomore year and starter at that position in his final two seasons.
Aaron finished his career with 217 total tackles to go along with five interceptions.
Rouse was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers where he is now a starter at their strong safety position. He finished last season with 53 tackles and two interceptions.
DB Antoine Rutherford
Antoine Rutherford was a two star cornerback out of Florida whose only scholarship offer came from the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Rutherford looked impressive on the scout team during his redshirt season but that fall, he was charged with “malicious wounding,” which is a felony.
Rutherford was dismissed from the football team and expelled from the University. The chargers we’re dropped and Rutherford transferred to Howard University where he played running back and was able to graduate in 2006.
K Nic Schmitt
Nic Schmitt was a star kicker out of Salem High School that committed to Virginia Tech since they were his only division one scholarship offer.
Schmitt had a good career at Virginia Tech as he set positional records in the weight room that will probably never be broken. Nic started off as a place kicker but in 2003 he switched to punter and became a three year starter for the Hokies at that position.
Schmitt possibly was the best punter in Virginia Tech history as he finished his career with a 42.6 yards per punt average including 32 punts downed inside the 20.
DE Daryl Tapp
The Hokies needed a couple of defensive ends in this class and they landed possibly one of the best defensive ends in school history in Daryl Tapp. Tapp chose Virginia Tech over offers from Florida, Maryland, and UVA.
Daryl played immediately as he saw action in all 14 games of his freshman season and went on to start at defensive end in his last four games of his sophomore campaign. Tapp became a man among boys in his junior and senior seasons as he completed them with a combined 18.5 sacks, giving him 21.5 for his career.
The Seahawks drafted Daryl Tapp in the 2nd round of the 2006 NFL draft and he has gone on to have a very good professional career. After completing his third NFL season this past fall, Tapp has 15.5 sacks for his career to go along with 137 total tackles.
DE Lamar Veney
A talented lineman out of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, Lamar Veney was forced to greyshirt and enroll in January of 2003.
However, Veney never did enroll at Virginia Tech, instead he enrolled at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
After graduating from there, Veney transferred to Carson Newman College, which is a liberal arts school in Jefferson City, Tennessee.
QB Marcus Vick
Marcus Vick was the heir apparent to the empty quarterback throne that was currently unfulfilled at Virginia Tech. After his brother Michael led the Hokies to a National Championship appearance back in 2000, Marcus came out of high school with the same hype his brother had only he failed to live up to his potential.
Marcus showed signs of greatness in his redshirt freshman season as he split snaps with starting quarterback Bryan Randall. However heading into his sophomore season, he was suspended due to conduct that was “detrimental to the team.”
Vick went on to have a good junior season in 2005 as the starting quarterback for the Hokies and led the team to a Gator bowl appearance. But after a personal foul penalty late in the game, Coach Beamer and college President Charles Steger decided to dismiss Marcus Vick from the football team.
Marcus did sign a free agent contract with the Dolphins back in 2006 but after Nick Saban took the Alabama job, Vick was cut and his NFL days were over.
DB Cary Wade
Cary Wade was a talented three star recruit out of Fairfax, Virginia who chose the Hokies over offers from Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Wade actually received some playing time in his true freshman season although the majority of his snaps came on special teams.
Wade redshirted in 2003 and moved to the Rover spot where he became the backup man at Rover behind Aaron Rouse. Finally in his senior season, Wade got a chance to start at Rover but after those two games, Rouse regained his starting job and Wade was forced to return to his number two role on the depth chart.
Cary had a solid career at Virginia Tech where he finished with 69 career tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss.
DT Jimmy Williams
Coach Beamer rarely goes after JUCO players now and Jimmy Williams is a perfect reason why Beamer doesn’t recruit them much anymore.
Williams was a four star recruit coming out of Pasadena City Community College and decided to sign with the Hokies over the likes of Alabama, Arizona, and South Carolina.
Jimmy was actually able to enroll at Virginia Tech but his playing time was limited and he never lived up to his four star billing. Williams was supposed to be a part of the new semi-pro team that was going to play in Salem, Virginia this summer but the league has cancelled it’s season and is on the brink of collapse.
DB Jimmy Williams
After signing DeAngelo Hall in the 2001 class, the coaches needed to find a bigger lockdown corner to start opposite of Hall in the future. They found their man in Jimmy Williams.
Williams actually started his career at free safety before moving over to cornerback in his junior and senior seasons. Jimmy finished his career at Virginia Tech with 9 interceptions to go along with 264 total tackles.
Jimmy Williams was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2nd round of the 2002 NFL draft but after starting five games for them that season; he was released due to a drug charge. Williams is now a member of the San Francisco 49ers and has a good chance of making the roster this fall.
Inside the Numbers
The biggest question you can ask when looking back at past recruiting classes is was this class a success?
In my opinion, for a recruiting class to be a success at least 60-percent of it’s members should graduate and be contributing members of the football team and at least 40-percent of the class’s members should become starters during some point in their careers.
The Hokies signed 20 players in this class and of those players 13 become contributing members on the team. Also, 12 of those 13 contributing players started a game at some point in their career. That means that 65-percent of this class contributed in some way and 60-percent of this class ended up starting a game at Virginia Tech.
For a class that was rated as the 45th best class in the nation, these kids really did overachieve or maybe they were just underrated from the start.
Seven members of this class ended up playing in the NFL and another two were invited to try out for teams but were never signed.
The coaches overall did a good job evaluating talent in this class although they whiffed on every out of state recruit. The coaches missed on a lot of high-end talent but looking back, the majority of those kids never panned out anyway.
So I guess now is the time to actually decide what grade to give this class and to actually say whether or not this class was a success.
I, personally, would give the coaches a solid B for this class as it seems they brought in a lot of under the radar talent and maximized their potential.
This class was a success due to the graduation rate and the amount of future starters this classed produced. Daryl Tapp, Aaron Rouse, Jimmy Williams, Mike Imoh, and Nic Schmitt were all talented players that really helped contribute to the success the Hokies had in the 2004 season.
This class finished with a 39-14 record from 2002 to 2005, which put this class up there as one of the better senior classes in Virginia Tech football history.
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