Recruiting Roundup 2002
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #16
Now that the LOI's are signed, sealed and delivered, and we know who is and isn't part of Tech's 2002 football recruiting class, let's break things down position-by-position and see how we think the Hokies did.
Of course, people keep asking me how I think the Hokies did in recruiting this year, and my guarded answer is, "I think they did pretty good." Expanding a little bit on that, the Hokies got their top two targets, Marcus Vick and Jonathan Lewis, and they generally recruited well and recruited their needs.
Tech gets top marks from us on their recruiting for defensive line, defensive backs, and tailbacks. Coming in a close second are the quarterback, offensive line, and special teams (we'll explain later how a class that includes Marcus Vick doesnít get top marks at the QB position). Wide receivers come in third, and bringing up the rear is the linebacker position.
Let's run it down position-by-position, and yes, we will be so presumptuous as to give grades for how Tech did at each position. Let's begin on the offense, with the quarterback position.
More precisely, this category should be called quarterback, not quarterbacks, because Tech got one, and only one. But he's a good one: Marcus Vick.
Here's the skinny on Vick: he's the same height and weight (6-0, 185) as brother Michael was when he signed with Tech. In the film clips I've seen, his arm doesn't appear to be as strong (but whose is, for crying out loud?), and he's not as mega-quick as Michael is (but who is, for crying out loud?).
But Warwick Coach Tommy Reamon says that Marcus is a better QB than his brother was at this stage, better at reading defenses and running an offense. In two seasons as Warwick's starting quarterback, Marcus completed 68 percent of his passes (that is not a typo) for 3,992 yards and 40 touchdowns and also rushed for 1,468 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Compare those stats with Michael's stats as a three-year starter at Warwick: 4,846 yards passing, 43 TD's, 1,048 yards rushing and 18 rushing TD's. You can see that Marcus' per-year production easily exceeds that of his brother. In all fairness, I hear that Marcus played on better teams, though I can't say that for sure.
Can Marcus contribute earlier than Mike, i.e., as a true freshman? Only time will tell, but he will be given a shot. It's worth noting that the skinny #18 (Michael) who roamed the sidelines during his redshirt season at Tech in 1998 bore little resemblance to the 1999 Michael Vick, who was 26 pounds heavier, faster, and a more physical specimen. Marcus could undergo a similar transformation during his first year at Tech, with one difference: he might play during that first year.
So at the top, the Hokies did very well at the QB position. The problem is, there's no one else, and the Hokies wanted to sign two quarterbacks, not just one. They thought they had a second QB in Benedictine product Patrick Dosh, who verbaled to the Hokies, but Dosh backed out on signing day and signed with Florida instead.
How important was Dosh to Tech's efforts? We'll never know, because he won't be here. But one source told me that a VT coach said that if Tech had gotten Dosh, the coach would have considered it Tech's best recruiting class ever. But since it's thin at QB, it's not the best.
Quarterback grade: B-plus, but only because of a lack of depth. If Vick turns out to be a great college quarterback who never gets hurt, the lack of depth won't matter, and you can consider this an A++ recruiting class at QB.
And again, call it tailback instead of tailbacks. The only player Tech landed here was Mike Imoh, but there's a big difference between the QB position and tailback position this year, because whereas Tech wanted two quarterbacks, Imoh was the only tailback Tech recruited, and the only one they wanted.
Imoh is diminutive (5-7, 175), but don't let that fool you. He's explosive (4.4 forty), powerful (he's a competitive powerlifter), and a freak athlete (he can dunk a basketball).
Imoh ran for 5,277 yards in his high school career, including 2,100 yards and 34 TD's in a 13-game senior season. Watching him on tape is like watching a Virginia Tech coaches' tailback dream: Imoh runs between the tackles, gets into the secondary, and shows great vision and acceleration. At the yearly Recruiting Roundup at Boomer's Deli and Greg Roberts Sports Club in Roanoke, Imoh was easily one of the two most impressive players on tape (Aaron Rouse was the other).
Tailback grade: A. The Hokies set a target and nailed it. They didn't need much here, because of the depth already in the program, but they got a good one.
The Hokies' historical penchant for conservative, run-oriented offenses is coming home to roost in the recruiting wars, and at the wide receiver position, it's not pretty. Tech has now signed just three wide receivers in the last two years (four, if current QB Chris Clifton winds up there), and only one of them -- Fred Lee (5-10, 175, 4.4), who was originally a 2001 recruit, failed to qualify, and resigned with Tech in 2002 -- is an "A-lister."
The other two wide receivers were late additions to Tech's recruiting list: Robert Parker (6-1, 190, 4.5) from Oscar C. Smith high in Chesapeake, and Warwick High's Brenden Hill (6-3, 195, 4.6). The Hokies took a look at them and offered scholies after national-level recruits like Santonio Holmes (Ohio State) and Justin Miller (Clemson) wouldn't seriously consider Tech.
Having said that, Parker and Hill could both turn out to be good recruits. Parker, based on his BeamerBall.com interview, is a great kid and a Hokie through-and-through, and recruiting film shows surprising explosiveness and speed from him. He may blossom in Blacksburg and prove to be underrated, despite being named the Roanoke Times "Sleeper of the Year" in Virginia. As for Hill, he is tall and might develop into a good possession receiver for the Hokies.
Josh Hyman, from Deep Creek in Chesapeake, who did not sign with anyone on signing day, is a phenomenal physical talent, but he's a long way away from qualifying.
Wide receiver grade: B-minus, and that may be too optimistic. There's too much hoping for things to work out: for Lee to qualify (he hasn't yet), and for Parker and Hill to turn out to be sleeper recruits. No real headliners here, and if Lee doesn't make it and Parker and Hill are busts, the Hokies will start to get very thin at wide receiver very soon.
The Hokies didn't go after a lot of OL this year, but they got two that they wanted: Brandon Gore (6-6, 315) from Liberty (Bealeton) High in Virginia, and Jimmy Martin (6-6, 270) from Fork Union.
Gore is obviously a big kid, and once he "gets into" a defender, that defender is toast. Gore's strength is run-blocking, and he looks like a kid who could use a redshirt year to enhance his conditioning and mobility. He has a great work ethic and will do well under Tech's Mike Gentry.
The coaches have said that they would like Martin to play this coming season, in the hopes that his extra year at FUMA has benefitted him, as it has so many others before him. But that call won't be made until he arrives and they get a look at him in two-a-days next July/August. Same for Gore.
Offensive Line grade: B-plus. Good recruits, but not enough of them. 3-4 four OL's a year would be more like it.
Fullback and Tight End
No recruits, none targeted; no grade issued.
With the departure of five lettermen at the defensive tackle position, the Hokies needed immediate help at this position, and by all accounts, they got it.
Jonathan Lewis (6-2, 290, 4.9) from Varina High School in Richmond will arrive physically ready to play. Varina put a VT-like strength and conditioning program in place five or six years ago, and Jonathan has been in it since 8th grade. He is much more ready to play as a true freshman than his brother Kevin was.
That doesn't mean that Jonathan will be a great defensive tackle right out of the box. Like all freshmen, he'll have to work on his technique (like keeping his pads low) and his intensity (all-star high schoolers are notorious for taking a play off here and there, and they need to learn to turn up the wick and keep it up).
Lewis will be joined by "Big Jimmy Williams," (6-4, 305, 4.8), from Pasadena (CA) City College -- in other words, a junior college (JUCO) player, with two years of eligibility left. That 4.8 sounds outrageous, but it's what the services are reporting, and Williams is a four-star (out of five) Rivals.com recruit and one of the top 100 JUCO's in the country, according to SuperPrep. The VT coaches wanted him badly, and got him. He'll likely provide immediate help, and I'm not going to tell you how really excited the VT coaches are about Williams, for fear that you, too, might get excited and blow a happy-gasket.
The Hokies also recruited Chris Burnett (6-3, 255, 4.7) from Liberty High School in Bedford, VA, and Lamar Veney (6-5, 260, 4.9) from Stuarts Draft HS in Stuarts Draft, VA. Both are probably redshirts. Burnett has been compared to former Hokie DT David Pugh (it hurts to say "former," doesnít it, Hokie fans?), and based on film evaluation, that comparison is fair. Like Pugh, Burnett fights through blockers and then explodes into the quarterback from the middle of the line. Very impressive.
At defensive end, the Hokies got near-twins Noland Burchette (6-3, 225, 4.6) from Highland Springs in Richmond and Darryl Tapp (6-2, 225, 4.6) from Chesapeake's Deep Creek. Burchette looks lankier than Tapp, and Burchette can run. And holy smokes, can he catch the ball at tight end. His recruiting film at Boomer's showed two great one-handed circus catches at tight end. The lanky Burchette is bound for a redshirt year, and the coaches will evaluate whether they want him at DE or TE.
The Hokie coaching staff seem to feel that Tapp does not get enough attention as a quality recruit (they're loathe to use the word "underrated"), and he picked the Hokies over Maryland and Florida.
Defensive Line grade: A. A great mix of DT's and DE's, with some guys (Lewis and Williams) ready to play and others ready to redshirt. Tech only missed out on one DL recruit that they really wanted, Levi Brown (to Penn State), and had they landed him, this would have been a no-questions A-plus class of defensive linemen. As it is, Hokie fans can't complain.
A swing Ö and a miss!
Every once in a while, you just come up empty, and at linebacker this year, it happened to the Hokies. Whereas Tech's D-line haul is as full as a Pamela Anderson bikini top (okay, it's filled with plastic, but it's still full), their linebacker haul is as empty as her little surgically-modified head.
Tech came up bone-dry at the Mike (Jake Houseright and Brian Welch) and Backer (Ben Taylor) positions. They set their sights on Justin London and Ahmad Brooks and got neither one, and didn't seriously pursue the other linebackers listed in the TSL database.
This puts the pressure on the linebackers currently in the Tech system at those positions: Alex Markogianakis, Chris Buie, and Jordan Trott at Mike; and Vegas Robinson, Mikal Baaqee, and James Anderson at Backer. Tech should be okay at Backer, but Mike is a little more iffy.
At whip, look for Aaron Rouse (6-4, 195, 4.5) from First Colonial HS in Virginia Beach to land there. Rouse was originally listed as a DB in the TSL database, but Coach Jim Cavanaugh said Rouse will get his first look at Whip when he arrives at Tech, so we switched him to an LB entry.
The good news is that Rouse is (repeat after me) underrated. He was a near-unanimous choice (10 out of 11 votes) by the Beach District coaches for Defensive Player of the Year, and it's worth noting that the Beach District included a certain UVa recruit with an over-inflated ranking, Kai Parham from Princess Anne. Parham was rated -- cough! -- the #13 recruit overall in the nation by Tom Lemming.
Rouse's tape showed a hitter with good speed. A very good hitter. He can hit. He can also hit.
Linebacker grade: C-minus. Only Rouse saves this mess from being an F.
Just think to yourself: "5-11, 180 pounds, 4.5 forty." The Hokies got four players about that size and speed: Antoine Rutherford (5-11, 180, 4.5), Brian McPherson (6-0, 180, 4.5), Cary Wade (5-11, 180, 4.5), and Demetrius Hodges (5-10, 175, 4.5).
Those guys are all cornerbacks. Tech will also give ATH Jimmy Williams (6-4, 205, 4.5) a look at free safety, but Williams is wide open for receiver or linebacker -- the coaches will decide when he arrives.
McPherson (Amherst County High) and Wade (Robinson High in Fairfax) are both Virginia guys, but Rutherford (Hollywood, FL) and Hodges (West Palm Beach, FL) are Florida products. McPherson and Hodges are both swivel-hipped guys who can turn and cut on a dime, whereas Wade and Rutherford are more rangy and fast.
I've got to think that out of those four guys, at least two will work out well, and Williams has the capability of providing a successor to Willie Pile and Vincent Fuller, who currently have the free safety position locked up.
Defensive Backs grade: A-minus. All in all, excellent depth in this area, and a good job recruiting. The only player the Hokies missed out on here was Stefan Orange (who signed with Virginia), but they probably won't miss him.
Special teams recruiting is rarely an area of emphasis -- in recent years, Tech has offered PK Shayne Graham and P Vinnie Burns scholarships out of high school, but kickers usually donít sign on the dotted line on Signing Day. Most of the time, they're walk-ons.
Nic Schmitt out of Salem High School in Salem, Virginia, isn't your usual kicker. He's 6-3, 230 (big enough to beat up Sebastian Janokowski), and also plays safety, but rest assured, the Hokies recruited him exclusively as a kicker. And they like him enough to sign him to a scholarship.
Schmitt has a strong leg, and unlike most high school kickers, kicks off the grass, not a tee. So he's got that going for him, which is nice. But the Hokie coaches cautioned that recruiting kickers is like throwing spaghetti against a wall; sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn't. Schmitt could turn out to be the next Shayne Graham, or he could turn out to be Tech's next water boy.
Special Teams grade: B-plus. One very task-specific guy who may or may not work out. Typical of special teams recruiting.
So after all that rambling, how did the Hokies do? Let's take a look:
When you mash those ratings into offensive, defensive, and special teams units, here's what you get:
Which leads us quite naturally to an overall grade:
OVERALL GRADE FOR THE 2002 CLASS: B+
Throw Levi Brown, Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Dosh, and Justin London, plus a star-quality receiver or two into this class, and you've got a slam-dunk A+. As it is, though, it's a very good class but not great. Fortunately, in Lewis and Vick, it's got some potential difference makers, and among the others, some guys who may develop into great VT players.
Of course, the real story will be told 4-5 years from now, but you know the drill: we do this kind of stuff because it's fun, not because we really think we know what we're talking about. Remember, Tech had one of their worst recruiting classes ever (on paper) in 1995, and they played for the national championship four years later.
That, my friends, is why we like recruiting. It's unpredictable, and never boring.