National signing day has come and gone for the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the only thing I've been hearing are complaints about this class and the lack of substance. I understand how they feel. While the recruits that have been brought in have addressed the needs that the Hokies needed (except for running back...but we'll get there), there has been little to no "flash."
Virginia Tech missed out on outside linebacker recruit Stephone Anthony, who has committed to Clemson's dream defense, and QB/WR Lafonte Thourogood, who has committed to Vandy (...I really don't know...). And let me tell you, when I heard that Anthony committed to Clemson (who VT plays next season) and Lafonte decommited for James Franklin, I was horrified. I was just as angry as everyone else. Article titles and paragraphs were running through my head, and I didn't know what to think.
I've calmed down a bit, and realized that there's no reason to be angry. Let's take a look at why.
It's not like Virginia Tech has been amazing at bringing in ESPN Top 150 talent over the past decade. On average, VT brings in one ESPN Top 150 recruit a season. The most was in 2009 when they brought in Logan Thomas (No. 19 overall) and David Wilson (No. 40 overall). This year the only Top 150 prospect was Kris Harley (No. 12 defensive tackle).
But let's not get carried away, top players don't always mean top results. Even top recruits fizzle out, or don't even make it to school. Danny Coale, Jarrett Boykin, Darren Evans and James Gayle weren't very highly recruited out of high school, however they have contributed greatly to team. Why should we worry now, if we're just doing the same thing we have been doing?
In my experience as a Hokie fan, there's definitely no reason to panic. Listen, Frank Beamer doesn't bring in Top 150 players on purpose. They recruit people who fit the system, keep their academic standards and are low-key players—meaning that they don't get into too much trouble off-field. Now, with that said, let's take a look, shall we?
The 2011 Virginia Tech recruiting class is highlighted by 4-star defensive tackle Kris Harley, and 4-star wide receiver Robert Lockhart. That's about all the flash you're going to get in this recruiting class. Instead, what caught my attention where the four last-second commitments from Luther Maddy (2-star D-end), Wedley Estime (3-star D-end), Ryan Malleck (3-star TE) and of course Lockhart. These guys essentially came out of nowhere on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
The guy that got my attention the most was Estime, who has only played one year of organized football, excluding Pop Warner level. In his senior (only) season, he recorded 70 tackles, 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and two pass breakups. Kind of sounds like a gem to me. Kevin Asante is an unranked recruit from Charlotte, NC but had over 1,000 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns his senior season.
As I said above, there have been many players that have come to VT that were recruited very lightly, but have had wonderful careers. What makes this class any different?
There is one aspect about this year's class as a whole that hits a little too close to home for Hokie fans everywhere...UVa has just wrapped up a top 25 recruiting class. Let me say this again: UVa has wrapped up a top 25 recruiting class.
There have been some varied reactions about this. One freelance writer went off his hinges a little when he wrote that the in-state recruits that UVa brought in saw VT as a "sinking ship" and that UVa is building something, rather than slowly collapsing like a soufflé. Fair-weather fans make me laugh. It's probably a true assumption that we won't dominate the 'Woos like we have been, granted. But I doubt that VT is like the Titanic.
New coaches always attract new attention. His ties to the entire Tidewater and Chesapeake areas give Mike London a huge advantage when it comes to recruiting that area and it shows. Only time will tell if this class was a fluke, or that he actually has UVa going and can actually contend for the Commonwealth Cup.
The conclusion to all this rambling is basically that this class shouldn't be rated until their senior year. My guess is that this is just as talented a group as VT has ever brought in and with the light schedule that we have, maybe we can get the ones that will start as true freshmen valuable learning time. Fear not Hokies, Clemson and Florida State's recruiting classes will take time to mature (if ever). Until then, we're still reigning champs! Go Hokies.