3 Reasons 5-Star DE Josh Sweat Will Sign with Virginia Tech
The Virginia Tech Hokies have taken some hits with their in-state recruiting recently, but the program has the right combination of good relationships and roster openings to land 5-star defensive end Josh Sweat.
Tech is still reeling from the loss of major in-state defensive prospects like Quin Blanding, Andrew Brown and Derrick Nnadi to fellow ACC schools last recruiting cycle, which makes signing the Chesapeake, Virginia, native the team’s absolute top priority.
But while the Hokies might not have the best recent record with major prospects, Sweat already seems to be leaning their way.
Sweat told 247Sports’ Evan Watkins that he plans to use one of his official visits to stop in Blacksburg (subscription required), and the recruiting site’s Crystal Ball prediction puts Tech in a tight battle with Florida State for his services.
The Hokies lost out on a very similar head-to-head matchup with the Seminoles last year—FSU’s Odell Haggins outmaneuvered Tech to land Nnadi on national signing day in 2013.
However, this time around, the Hokies should have enough to make a big splash and sign Sweat.
The value of recruiting from a prospect’s home state cannot be overstated, and Sweat’s Virginia connection should really come into play as the Hokies pursue him.
Sweat may have offers on the table from exotic schools like Florida State, Ohio State and Oregon, but Tech lies just five hours from his home in Chesapeake.
If he has any interest at all in staying close to his family and friends, then Blacksburg is an ideal landing spot.
The Hokies have also established a major presence at his high school, Oscar Smith.
The Hokies staff has had a major presence at the school, particularly recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring and outside linebackers coach Cornell Brown, both of whom happen to serve as Sweat’s main recruiters and successfully pulled in Bradshaw in 2014.
If familiarity is a big factor for Sweat, then the Hokies have a decided upper hand over the other contenders. Tech is simply close enough to the school to give the Hokies a chance to really make inroads with their prospects.
Tech wasn’t able to close the deal with fellow Oscar Smith prospect Andrew Brown last cycle, but Stinespring and Cornell Brown were on the trail there as well, giving them added exposure to the school.
The pair should be able to build on this experience to sway Sweat.
When it comes to the coaching staff, there’s a lot for the Hokies to show Sweat.
Stinespring and Brown have had years to develop their relationship with Oscar Smith coach Richard Morgan, and Sweat already seems comfortable with the Hokies staffers.
“They just seemed like they cared about their players. They want them to graduate and that’s a big thing for me,” he told 247Sports’ Josh Newberg (subscription required). “I feel like I know the coaches and I’m feeling good about that place right now.”
As a former All-American defensive end with the Hokies, Brown is the perfect person to sell Sweat on what Tech can do for his career.
But Tech also has a big advantage in trumpeting the abilities of defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
Foster’s been assembling world-class defenses for decades now and just helped the Hokies rank fourth in the country in yards allowed per game in 2013.
Tech’s defensive record is stellar, and the unit has produced 19 NFL draftees over the last 10 years.
If Sweat is looking for a program that can help him vault to immediate success, the Hokies clearly have the staff to mold him into a star.
While Foster might toss and turn at night over his lack of depth at defensive end, in this case, the Hokies can take comfort that the position isn’t crowded right now.
Redshirt junior Dadi Nicolas and redshirt sophomore Ken Ekanem are each slated to start for the Hokies at the position right now, but there’s precious little depth behind them.
The team will be relying on inexperienced players like Seth Dooley and Dewayne Alford to spell its stars this season, which should show Sweat that he could come in and contribute immediately.
There will be an open spot in just two years’ time, meaning that Sweat could sign, redshirt or contribute in the rotation and then have a starting spot all to himself for as long as he wants it.
He could even move inside to defensive tackle if the coaches deem it wise. At 6’5” and 237 pounds, he certainly has the frame to bulk up, and Tech prefers its tackles a little slimmer—just look at current starter Corey Marshall, who stands at just 6’1” and 257 pounds.
Marshall is a redshirt junior, while fellow starter Luther Maddy is a graduating senior this season, meaning Sweat could find his way on the field on the interior as well.
At other big-name schools like Florida State or Ohio State, Sweat would likely have to wait a little longer behind a glut of talented prospects, even if he comes highly rated out of high school.
When Sweat weighs his various options and considers that Tech has a hometown connection, a formidable coaching staff and some openings on the roster at his position, it seems inevitable he’ll choose the Hokies.