Virginia Tech National Signing Day: 5 Takeaways from Hokies' Class

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

Virginia Tech National Signing Day: 5 Takeaways from Hokies' Class

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    Virginia Tech signee Holland Fisher
    Virginia Tech signee Holland Fisher247Sports

    You win some, you lose some. That's the story for almost every college football team on national signing day.

    For the Virginia Tech Hokies, things were no different. Tech lost out on 4-star defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and 4-star receiver Javon Harrison—both to national champion Florida State. Harrison had been a Hokie pledge since July 2012.

    Losing Nnadi and Harrison was tough, but the Hokies finished strong on the day. Raymon Minor and Isaiah Ford both chose the Hokies on Wednesday. Minor, a 4-star athlete out of Richmond, will play linebacker in college. Ford, a 4-star wide receiver, could be the steal of the class. He is a special talent.

    Overall, the Hokies signed 27 players, including the four who enrolled in January.

    You can't truly judge a class until four years later, but early indications are that this is a strong, deep class for Virginia Tech.

    Here are five takeaways for the Hokies from national signing day.

    All recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports (subscription required)

Scot Loeffler Got His Quarterback, or Quarterbacks

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    Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler
    Offensive coordinator Scot LoefflerJoseph V. Labolito/Associated Press

    In his first full offseason as Virginia Tech's offensive coordinator, Scot Loeffler needed to replace a three-year starter at quarterback. 

    So what does Loeffler do?

    He signs a pair of 4-star quarterbacks in Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin. Ford, at 6'3" and 200 pounds, is known for his accuracy. Durkin, a former Michigan State pledge, has a howitzer of an arm. 

    Ford enrolled in January and could compete for the starting job next fall. Durkin looks like a redshirt candidate with Ford, senior Mark Leal and sophomore Brenden Motley ahead of him on the depth chart.

    Regardless of who starts at quarterback in 2014, Loeffler is firmly in charge of the offense and has his first two handpicked quarterbacks at Virginia Tech. 

The Class of 2014 Has Outstanding Balance

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    Isaiah Ford
    Isaiah Ford247Sports

    Here's how Virginia Tech's class of 2014 shapes up by position:

    • Two quarterbacks
    • Three running backs
    • Four wide receivers
    • Four offensive linemen
    • One tight end
    • Four defensive linemen
    • Two linebackers
    • Five defensive backs
    • Two athletes

    Keep in mind, some players' positions won't be finalized until they get on campus and compete in fall practice. For instance, Tabyus Taylor is listed as an athlete but will play either linebacker or running back in Blacksburg.

    The Hokies generally go heavy at one position each year. The wide receivers and offensive line have struggled for the past two years and were points of emphasis during this recruiting cycle. Tech signed multiple players at each position, which should help improve depth beginning in 2014. 

The Hokies Missed an Opportunity Along the Defensive Line

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    Ricky Walker
    Ricky Walker247Sports

    The completion of the 2013 season saw Virginia Tech lose several longtime starters on the defensive line. James Gayle, Derrick Hopkins and J.R. Collins all departed. Backups Tyrel Wilson and Kris Harley are gone, too.

    Fortunately for Tech, Luther Maddy and Dadi Nicolas return.

    However, depth will be an issue for the Hokies in 2014. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster liked to go eight-deep along the D-line in 2013 to keep his stars fresh. 

    That won't be the case in 2014, as Tech will be forced to rely more on the starters. The Hokies signed four defensive linemen in the class of 2014: Ricky Walker, Vincent Mihota, Kevin Bronson and Steve Sobczak. Walker is especially intriguing, as he has the build and quickness that Foster likes from his defensive tackles.

    Bronson, from Delray Beach, Fl., could be the biggest sleeper in this class. 

    The state of Virginia was loaded with defensive linemen this year. The Hokies signing just three within the state—and none of the top four—has to be disappointing for Foster and head coach Frank Beamer.

    Good news, Hokies fans: The state of Virginia is loaded along the defensive line next year, too. Expect the Hokies to place an emphasis on the front four in 2015.  

The Hokies Went with Experience at Wide Receiver

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    Cameron Phillips
    Cameron Phillips247Sports

    For years, the Hokies have had a habit of taking high school athletes and moving them to receiver at the next level. Sometimes that strategy works, sometimes it fails miserably.

    With Aaron Moorehead as wide receivers coach, Tech shifted its philosophy to recruiting actual high school wide receivers—and the Hokies signed some good ones. 

    Isaiah Ford, Cameron Phillips, Kendrick Holland and Jaylen Bradshaw all played receiver in high school. Each player brings a different style to the table, and some could play as early as this fall. Ford, in particular, could find himself playing in the two-deep and as a return man.

    Recruiting experienced receivers can only help the quarterback. Logan Thomas struggled at times with players such as Dyrell Roberts and Marcus Davis. Both were talented athletes, but they struggled with the depth on their routes, which led to major issues in the passing game. 

    Losing Javon Harrison does hurt, but the signing of Ford certainly eases that pain. 

New Coaches Helping Recruiting

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    Quarterback Andrew Ford
    Quarterback Andrew Ford247Sports

    When Beamer hired his son Shane and Hokie legend Cornell Brown to the coaching staff three years ago, it was seen as a big move by a veteran coach who liked to keep things status quo.

    Yes, bringing in his son was a no-brainer, but it was far from a nepotism hire. Shane coached at Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State and South Carolina before returning to his alma mater. He has done an excellent job recruiting the talent-laden Richmond area. 

    Then, just last year, Beamer hired Loeffler, Jeff Grimes and Moorehead. Grimes has since departed, but not before being instrumental in signing the four offensive linemen—all from outside of the state of Virginia. 

    Loeffler signed two quarterbacks—one from Pennsylvania, one from Ohio—that the team would not have pursued before. 

    And Moorehead, just like Shane Beamer, brings an energetic approach to recruiting and relates well with young, impressionable high school athletes.

    Tech's recruiting efforts will only continue to improve now that they are going after athletes from places such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.