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Monday, February 8, 1999

Doug Doughty of The Roanoke Times offered up several key assessments of the 1999 Virginia Tech football recruiting class on the broadcast Monday night:

1. Tech's class is comparable to last year's (which at the time was labeled its best in history), "IF NOT BETTER." Doughty attributed this to the Hokies signing four of the state's top 10 players.

Because of the way he answered the question, it wasn't clear to me if Doughty meant Tech's OVERALL 1999 class was better, or if he meant just the in-state class. His comment came when Bill Roth asked him to assess Tech's 1999 class.

2. Tech out-recruited Virginia in-state. It was "no contest," Doughty said.

3. While UNC got 7 of the Top 25 in Virginia, Doughty said he's not sure all of them are "impact players." He suggested that a UNC offer didn't make someone an impact player.

4. When asked for a final quick assessment to close out the show, Doughty said what stands out is that VT hardly lost anyone it really wanted. He mentioned only DL Larry Anderson in that regard.

The annual Hotline recruiting show also featured Coaches Beamer, Stinespring and Cavanaugh. They were joined by Doughty, who ranks the Top 25 players in Virginia each year.

Doughty said that UVa is not as well connected with coaches and schools in Virginia right now, and that showed in its 1999 state recruiting class.

The point was made that Tech's Jim Cavanaugh has 29 years of coaching/recruiting experience in Virginia. Doughty said that after all those years, Cavanaugh has no enemies. Virginia, on the other hand, has had its differences with Tommy Reamon (who had Aaron Brooks and later Michael Vick and Andrae Harrison), and some problems with Bill Dee of Phoebus regarding developments with UVa RB Antoine Womack.

Virginia's recent recruiting loss of RB Julius Jones to Notre Dame was seen as a big surprise, said Doughty, who also is the UVa beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Most Virginia observers thought that the Jones family was happy with older brother Thomas Jones' situation in Charlottesville.

Which recruits have the best chance to play this fall? Cavanaugh said that often depends on injuries and other factors, and then went on to say that Harrison will be given the opportunity to play early. How fast he learns the system, etc. will be a factor. Cavanaugh said one of the defensive backs also could emerge. Stinespring mentioned TE/WR Ernest Wilford and DB Vegas Robinson.

Doughty said Fork Union Coach John Shuman thinks Wilford (6-4, 210) is going to get bigger and will be a rush end at VT. Cavanaugh seemed to say that could happen because of the way coach Mike Gentry "changes kids' bodies." But he indicated that Wilford, for now, is seen as an offensive player because of his height and ability to run. "With what we want to do with the passing game," that's where they think he will play. Later he said that Wilford has the "fast twitch" to play defensive end.

Stinespring said that Wilford and Keith Willis look like tight ends. Bodies are similar. He cited Willis' great hand-eye coordination from playing basketball.

Two coaches said that Ohio State tried to get in on Wilford at Fork Union, but that he stood by his early decision.

Out of the top 11 state players for 1998 and top 11 for 1999, Beamer said the Hokies signed 11 of that pool of 22.

One caller expressed some concern that VT seems to do well with in-state players ranked 5 on down, and gets those ranked 10-20, but can't get some of the elite to visit.

Cavanaugh said #1 ranked RB Daniel Davis visited VT unofficially during the season. But Davis also saw he had three tailbacks to beat out at VT, as opposed to being first in depth on his first day at UNC, where he signed. Cavanaugh suggested not to just be swayed by the rankings, and that coaches have their evaluations of the talent. Who's to say, he said, that Vick and Houseright aren't better than Ron Curry and Matt Farrior, he said.

Doughty responded that some kids just want to go out of state. He also cited the example of the University of Texas losing the #1 and #3 players in state to Notre Dame, yet the Longhorns were regarded as having the nation's top recruiting class.

Coach Beamer opened the show by saying this class has the foundation to be very good. A lot of players were signed off the very top of Tech's internal list, and he said VT finished strong with some players capable of having a lot of options. He mentioned Adibi, Willis and Ferguson in this regard.

The fact that VT beat out some name programs for recruits means the chances are those guys are legitimate players, Beamer said. But he said it's not what Michigan or Notre Dame thinks about a player, but rather what the VT staff thinks about their ability, potential, work ethic, etc.

Beamer and Stinespring said the 1999 recruiting class was fun to recruit. They liked being around the players and their families. Some of the 1998 recruits played important roles this year as hosts. He mentioned Suggs and Whitaker.

Why such a large class of signees? Beamer indicated they were doing well with so many players and just took them. Not all have qualified yet, and some will be encouraged to wait and enroll in January 2000 in order not to count against present limits. In the case of someone who's a likely redshirt anyway, it's better for them to wait, Beamer said. He twice mentioned that they like to do this with linemen.

Not a lot of time was spent dwelling on individual recruits. Roth asked Beamer to comment on three specifically:

Adibi, DE -- from a good high school program and family. Has a chance to be the next great defensive end that VT has become accustomed to. He has that capability through size and speed. VT seemed to always stay in the recruiting picture, even when Adibi was rumored at various times to be seriously considering Penn State, Virginia and UNC.

Harrison, WR -- Michael Vick was a big factor in Harrison's decision. The two had been so successful together before in high school and they have a chance to be "really exceptional." Beamer said Harrison is a legit 6-3, 200, 4.4 player. (Cavanaugh put him at 190-195.) He talked about the tall speedy receivers that the Hokies have -- taller than before, and the types who will find and exploit the 5-9 DB in a defense, and open up plays over the middle of the field.

Willis, TE -- recruited by VT for football and basketball, and VT will work with him toward his best interests in the two. Can use a big guy with speed down the middle. The question is how soon he gets his weight up to be an effective blocker.

Beamer said he hopes the UNC raid into Virginia is a one-shot thing more like the Boston College recruiting haul here several years ago. In both cases it was a matter of an outside team just gaining momentum, although he acknowledged that UNC is a lot closer. He said he agreed with other comments that not all the UNC players signed are "program changers."

Doughty said UNC recruits #9 Dexter Reid (DB) and #8 David Stevenson (G) are as good as anyone else in state at their positions, even though they didn't make the Top 5. RB Daniel Davis earned the #1 recruit ranking based on the college offers he had before the 1998 season.

A caller asked about the future kicking game, because Graham and Kibble are rising seniors. Beamer said the staff is trying to get some players to walk on this fall and work out with the Hokies' two NFL-potential kickers and develop toward becoming kickers in 2000. And then if there are concerns that they need to recruit another kicker in the fall, they can do that. He said we'll see "one... two ... three kickers" on scholarship in 2000. "You'll not see this program without us studying kickers and having good kickers here," Beamer said.

Beamer and Roth commented about Tech signing players from all corners of Virginia once again. "From the coast to the mountains," as Roth put it. Doughty said it was unusual in a class of 23 not to have a QB or RB among the signees. There are some QB's among the recruits, Beamer said, but none is expected to play that position at Tech.

Doughty talked about players who have been surprises or exceptions in past years. WR Herman Moore was not a Top 25 player when he signed at UVa, for example. He had offers only from VT and UVa. Mike Willets was ranked the top player in Virginia in 1994 on the basis of his recruiting visits and signed with BC. John Engelberger played high school ball 15 miles away from Willets and didn't make Doughty's Top 100. Yet Engelberger, a walk-on at Tech, has been the better player.

Cavanaugh said Tech benefited in the recruitment of Harrison by not forcing Vick into action at QB in 1998. The decision gained Tech "a lot of respect" with high school coaches, he said.

A caller asked about the possibility of an all-Western Branch backfield for the Hokies due to the signing of FB Marvin Urquhart from Western Branch. Tailbacks Shyrone Stith and redshirt Keith Burnell are from the same school. Stinespring, who recruits that school, said it could happen. He sounded high on Urquhart as a prototype fullback and state heavyweight wrestling champ who will remind Hokie fans of Tony Paige. Stinespring joked that Urquhart comes with a neon sign stamped on his forehead that says "I am a fullback."

Cavanaugh pointed to several recruits with the skills to be tried at several positions. Shawn Witten could play WR, DB, FS, whip. Jacob Gibson could be a lineman on either side of the ball. Simington could be a DE-TE. Kevin Lewis, the co-player of the year in Richmond, is likely to move inside to DL.

Stinespring likes OL Charles Hattan (6-2, 300) for his ability to come off the ball with driving blocks.

When the question of players qualifying came up, Cavanaugh said they don't take a player unless he has a chance to make it. "Each kid can do what he has to do" to qualify.

Beamer said he was vocal in a head coaches meeting in Dallas this weekend about getting an early signing period for football. He expressed his concern about players who commit early and then go elsewhere when they are coaxed by other schools. "Seventeen-year-olds can be influenced."

The practice of trying to get a kid to de-commit goes against what college football is about, he said. When someone commits elsewhere, Beamer said, it is VT's practice to leave him alone unless he wants the contact to be continued. He suggested having an early signing date of around Dec. 23 for players who have committed early and are ready to sign. He brought up Ernest Wilford as an example of a player who lived up to his word when Ohio State and Miami tried to move in on him. "He said 'No, I'm committed to Virginia Tech.'"

The coaches declined to pick a "sleeper" out of Tech's 1999 class, indicating they didn't think it was appropriate. Doughty went ahead and named DB Michael Crawford of Baltimore as his sleeper pick.

-- GalaxHokie


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