Locker Room: Big dogs still recruiting well

On March 13 the NCAA basically closed shop. Everything shut down. Spring sports were eliminated, and college football put on hold. No spring practice, no spring game. You could use technology to connect coaches, players, and prospective recruits, but there would be nothing approaching anything like a structured gathering, all summer camps were axed, no recruits could visit, and coaches could not visit the home of a recruit.

There is obviously considerable impact in the above information, but like much in the world of Power Five Conference football, the ramifications of all the cutbacks are more damaging to the 90% of the programs considered as unlikely playoff contenders.

For instance, schools located in middle America where the overall talent level is not the same. There’s talent without a doubt, just not as much of it. There are some northern teams that face the same situation. But there are a lot of programs that are suffering from the rulings all over the country because they do not that playoff program clout.

Just take three schools people in this area are very aware of; Virginia Tech, Virginia, and West Virginia. Certainly, UVa has improved markedly under Bronco Mendenhall, but from a recruiting standpoint all three programs are similar. Tech, UVa, and WVU need time to recruit players. They need those players to visit campus and hopefully meet their parents too. They need to give the full tour, have the recruits spend a weekend, and do everything possible to impress recruits and make them feel like they can be successful at their school. Seldom will one of those three schools that all of us know so well, get a recruit to commit without a campus visit, at least not a topflight one.

Now consider this. Trey Henderson, arguably the top high school player in Virginia, the top pursued running back in the nation, the 17th rated player in the land, a five star, said he would play for Ohio State last week. Yet, Henderson has never been to Columbus, Ohio.

That’s why I believe the terrible fight we have to defeat this virus, will unfortunately give the big dogs a bigger advantage then they already have. And I don’t blame them for taking advantage. I would too. But Va. Tech, UVa, and WVU, they are fighting and working the phones and computers all day just like the rest of them. They’re trying. But they just don’t have as many bullets in the gun.

And this is a vital recruiting year for the Hokies. The last two have not been good, in fact, last year’s recruiting class was terrible. Tech needs a good class. The Hokies will have a good football team this fall, going to have a good season I believe, but what’s coming behind this is a major question. There’s a lot of stuff going on in college football lately, transfers galore, getting players out of the Juco ranks, but you do not want to make a living that way. You need to be able to recruit quality high school football players. And now this shut down unquestionably will make things harder for the Hokies. Unfortunately, fans are seldom understanding.

Tech’s top recruit for the 2021 class is a good one, duel threat quarterback Dematrius Davis, a four star out of Texas. He’s just what the program needs. UVa’ top recruit to date is 3-star running back Amaad Foston out of Georgia who was also recruited by Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and WVU. The Mountaineer’s top player is Wyatt Milum, a 6-6, 275 offensive lineman out of Spring Valley, W.Va. who was also recruited by Tech, Ohio State, Tennessee, Alabama, UVa, and a lot more. Milum is a four star. With Henderson gone to the Buckeyes, the next biggest prize for Tech would be Tony Grimes, a 5-star defensive back from Va. Beach. To get him the Hokies are going to have to beat Georgia, Clemson, and Alabama. The top instate prize for UVa would be Tristan Leigh, a 4 star 6-5, 285 offensive tackle from Robinson in Fairfax, but to get him the Cavs will have to beat Clemson.

There are other irons in the fire as well. But I emphasize, particularly from a college football recruiting standpoint, the sooner things return to normal the better, and here’s why. Ohio State has a top class, 15 recruits, three fives, and 10 four stars. The Buckeyes are off to such a start and with additional prospects ahead, OSU will recruit the top class for 2021 even though it’s eight months before recruits put pen to paper. Clemson is second with 10 recruits, a five and nine 4s, Florida is third with 13, Carolina is fourth with 11 commitments, Miami fifth with 10, Notre Dame is 6th, Wisconsin 7th, Texas 8th, Maryland a surprising 9th, and Oregon is 10.

For Tech and UVa fans the concern is obvious. Three of those top 10 rated teams in recruiting at this date are ACC schools, and another is Notre Dame who has a scheduling agreement with the ACC. Clemson is not going away. The Tigers are going to remain tigers. That’s something the rest of the ACC is going to have to figure out how to deal with and I’ll leave that up to them. I have no answers. Mack Brown also has the Tar Heels on a roll and I fully expect that to continue. Carolina just may become about as tough to deal with in football as basketball, and that’s an ouch! Can Miami continue to recruit well and still not get any better? That will turn and it might happen this fall. Florida State will also not be dormant forever. So, Tech needs to pick it up.

And the Hokies have got some on the hook. Naquan Brown, a 4 star defensive end from Va. Beach says he just might play for Tech, Anthony Beavers, a 4 star athlete all the way from Harbor City, California, says he wants to visit the Hokies if he ever gets the opportunity to visit, Latrell Neville, a 3 star Kentucky tight end is interested in Tech.

There are others that you could see commit in the April-May time zone like Jordan Dingle, a 3 star wide receiver from Myrtle Beach, Landyn Watson, a 4 star defensive end, another potential recruit from Texas, there’s also Xavier Castillo, a 3 star offensive lineman from Baltimore, and 6-5, 305 offensive lineman Diego Pounds, a 3 star from Raleigh, N.C.

The UVa staff is on the horns too every day. Those that have shown interest in the Cavaliers are Branson Yager, a 3 star 6-8, 325 offensive lineman from Utah, Javin Burke, a 3 star athlete from Cleveland, Tenn., Drew Kendall, a 6-5, 255 4 star offensive lineman from Maine, Kelvin Gilliam, a 4 star defensive end from Highland Springs, Tyleik Williams, a 6-4, 317 4 star defensive tackle from Manassas, Isiah Henderson, a 3 star defensive end from Va. Beach, and Anthony Turner, a 3 star running back from Phoebus.

It should be noted that some of the recruits on both the lists for Tech and UVa are also on the other as well, particularly where instate players are concerned. But it’s interesting to see Justin Fuente try to use his Texas connections to help Tech’s recruiting, and Mendenhall do the same, like recruiting an offensive tackle all the way from Charlottesville to Salt Lake City, Utah.

We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, gang, let us all be safe, and let us all take care of ourselves as well as others. I wish you well.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot