Virginia Tech Recruiting: 4 2015 Recruits Every Hokies Fan Should Be Following
With spring practice coming to an end, the Virginia Tech football team’s coaching staff is turning its attention to the 2015 recruiting cycle. There are a few players across the country that the coaches will be keeping an especially close eye on.
For once, the defensive line is in serious need of depth. With senior defensive tackle Luther Maddy departing, it’s going to need a major injection of talent as well.
That’s why the staff is aggressively pursuing some in-state prospects who could see the field very quickly for the Hokies.
Similarly, the offensive line will be graduating four of the unit’s projected starters in 2015, so the staff will need to focus there as well. The coaches were able to bring in a bevy of prospects at the position in 2014, but there’s at least one more major recruit they’re targeting for the next cycle.
Read on to learn more about four of the prospects Hokies fans should be watching this summer.
When it came to recruiting, the Hokies used to own the so-called “757” Tidewater area of Virginia, which includes Newport News and Virginia Beach.
But lately, the team hasn’t had quite the same touch there. In the 2014 cycle, Tech lost out on highly rated defensive line prospects from the area in Andrew Brown and Derrick Nnadi, who signed respectively with ACC rivals Virginia and Florida State.
Now, the team has to be looking to get back on track, and that will likely start with 5-star defensive end prospect Josh Sweat of Chesapeake, Va.
Sweat is fielding interest from powerhouses like Florida State, Georgia and Ohio State. 247Sports’ Crystal Ball pegs the Hokies and Seminoles as dead even to earn his services with a 44 percent chance each.
He’s ranked the top recruit in the state and 13th overall for the 2015 cycle. Saying that the Hokies would like to sign him is putting it lightly.
The Hokies have sent their top duo of recruiters to court Sweat in recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring and defensive backs coach Cornell Brown. But they’ll be going up against FSU’s Odell Haggins, the man who beat them out for Nnadi last year.
If the Hokies can leverage their in-state status and relationship with previous players at Sweat’s Oscar Smith High School—Tech signed receiver Jaylen Bradshaw from the school last year—they might have a chance.
He visited Blacksburg unofficially on April 10, but Tech will have an uphill battle against some of the nation’s top schools to sign Sweat.
The Hokies’ efforts to restock the defensive line won’t end with Sweat.
Tech is also taking a long look at 5-star defensive tackle Tim Settle of Manassas, Va.
Settle is the second-ranked player in the state, the sixth at his position nationally and 19th overall, so he seems to be similarly talented as Sweat.
He’s been offered by schools like Alabama, Clemson and Florida State, and 247Sports' Crystal Ball currently gives the Crimson Tide the lead for his pledge at 38 percent.
However, beyond just being an in-state school, Tech also has a good relationship with his high school, Stonewall Jackson.
Torrian Gray signed defensive back Greg Stroman from the school in 2014, and he’s heading back to the area as Settle’s primary recruiter this time around.
While it may look like Settle is being swayed by the bigger name schools, SB Nation’s Gobbler Country urges that the Hokies have a chance to land him:
Both Rivals and 247Sports are under the impression Settle is a heavy ‘Bama lean. That is absolutely not the case. Early on, perhaps; however, the longer the process has gone on, interest has faded quite a bit on both sides. It is quite hard to say who Settle IS leaning toward, as it seems he has a new favorite after every school he visits…and he’s visiting a lot of them.
This one will absolutely go down to the wire—on many fronts—until National Signing Day 2015. As long as Stroman is in Blacksburg the Hokies will be firmly in the race, as Greg will definitely have Tim’s ear when he talks of his experiences. Settle is scheduled to narrow his list before the start of his senior season and announce his college choice at the Under Armour All-American Game in January.
The competition for Settle’s services is certainly deep, but Tech might have the connections to sway him. Either way, he’ll be a recruit worth watching.
If the Hokies want to aim a little lower than elite prospects like Sweat and Settle, they might also consider 4-star defensive end/outside linebacker Ricky DeBerry of Richmond, Va.
DeBerry is the third-ranked player in the state. But he is also getting national interest as the fifth-ranked outside linebacker and 66th player overall.
Ohio State, Oklahoma and Tennessee seem to be Tech’s top competitors and the 247Sports' Crystal Ball puts the Buckeyes in the lead with a 56 percent chance of signing him.
"He definitely makes sure he stays on top of me with trying to come up to Virginia Tech,” DeBerry told Thekeyplay.com. “He's always one of the first ones in the school. I appreciate everything he's done, and he's a good coach."
DeBerry isn’t as highly rated as the other two defensive line recruits Tech is chasing. The fact that he's been used as hybrid pass-rusher might not make him an ideal fit for Bud Foster’s defense, but he’ll still get a long look.
At 255 pounds, he's bigger than Tech starting defensive end Dadi Nicolas, who weighs 218. But DeBerry seems to have some of Nicolas’ elite speed with his 4.60 40-yard dash time, which would make him an intriguing prospect for the defense.
The Hokies will also need depth on the offensive line, which is where 4-star offensive tackle Austin Clark of Lexington, Va. comes in.
Clark has great size at 6’6” and 296 pounds—even though he’s just 17 years old—so it’s no surprise he’s the 10th-rated player in the state and 24th at his position.
He’s getting major interest from schools like Tennessee, Clemson and Ohio State, and the 247Sports' Crystal Ball gives the Volunteers a 83-17 percent lead over the Hokies.
However, he’s a local kid: Lexington is 85 miles up I-81 from Blacksburg. And Clark recently included Tech on his list of the top seven schools he’s considering.
But while Tech does seem to be drawing Clark’s interest, it’s hard to discount the influence of the major programs that are also courting him.
“Now that I’ve started to get attention, the bigger schools are saying, ‘Whoa, hold on here,’” Clark told the Roanoke Times’ Doug Doughty. “They like what they see, I hope. When you hear from Alabama, you must be doing something right.”
The Hokies will have to keep up with Clark this summer to avoid getting lost in the shuffle and stay competitive for the massive tackle’s pledge.