Locker Room: Va. Tech ’21 class must be better

If you are a Virginia Tech football fan you’re not going to enjoy reading this quick review of last season’s recruiting class. We’ll just look at the ACC which is of more concern than nationally at this juncture.

Clemson had the best class in the ACC which is certainly not a surprise. The Tigers are now one of the top recruiting programs in the nation and expect that to remain that way. The next best class and 12th nationally was Miami, (even with all the problems), Carolina was 16, Florida State 21, and Georgia Tech 24. The Hokies were 82 and there’s no use wasting time explaining why that’s not good enough. How about other surrounding programs in the region? West Virginia was 28, Maryland 31, and UVa 59. So you could say that everybody pretty much had a better recruiting year than Tech.

Will this make much difference next season? No, it shouldn’t. The Hokies return a large percentage of its two deep and were a young team also, and next season will be one of the most veteran teams in the country. So expect Tech to have a better season. The schedule is a bit tougher, but I still believe the Hokies will be a better football team and have a better season, solid bowl bid at the end too.

But now you get to the problem. What comes next? How much talent has left the program due to the transfer portal, leaving early to enter the draft, and those graduating off the coming team. The last two recruiting classes, particularly the last one, have not been good. So what’s down the road?

I believe it can be salvaged. There are still some good young players at crucial positions in the Tech program that will still be in Blacksburg when the next season ends, but there must be some new talent to add to what’s left. I believe Justin Fuente and his staff need to go all out, and try to find players who can play as true freshmen. They need to get a few pieces of the kind of stuff the blue bloods get every year. Fuente knows it.

“We need to sign an elite class,” he says. “We need a full class, and we need to find some players that can contribute and do so early.” Last season’s class was a small one, just 15, but the real problem was it was mediocre. You may not get to sign many, but can you sign some that are highly regarded? Last time Tech could not. The Hokies finished above only Wake Forest and Syracuse with its class. The 2021 cycle is huge. The Hokies must convince some talent to come to Blacksburg. “It’s the most important class in some time,” says Fuente.

What are the Hokies up against? A lot if you want to compete on a national level and certainly that’s what Hokies everywhere want to do, and do so consistently. When you get a taste of the good life, you want to keep things that way, but since the days of Michael Vick and that’s a long time ago, and since the days of Frank Beamer, things have been a bit slim. It is a crucial time for the Hokie program, and not just because of too many players entering the transfer portal, but because there needs to be an influx of talent into the program.

Recruiting for the 2021 class has already heated up. If you had to spent time trying to finish and plug some holes with the late signing a week ago, then likely you are already behind. Ohio State has the top class at this point, Clemson is next, already with nine players. Florida is third, Notre Dame fourth, and Texas fifth. Here comes the rest of the ACC. Miami’s next class is at 8, Carolina 10, FSU 14, and Tech 28. That’s certainly nothing to celebrate, but it’s a lot better place at this juncture than a year ago. The Hokies need to finish something like 20-25 in 2021. They need some talent, and depth.

The ACC has been down and yet the Hokies have struggled. What’s it going to look like when the conference is up? That creates urgency. The coaching changes at Florida State and Miami appear to have generated good things. Those two may never again be what they once were, but at the very least they are going to get better, maybe a lot better. Nobody doubts for a second that Mack Brown has Carolina on the rise and that is very quickly going to be another problem.

And then you consider Clemson. They have the easiest road to the final four playoff. Why? Because the Tigers have left the ACC in the dust. Just consider these things. Clemson appears now to be a consistent top five recruiting program in the country every year. You see players changing their minds, playing mind games with programs, but Clemson did not have a single decommitment and hasn’t had one in three years. Miami had 20 this last recruiting class!

What does Clemson look like to the players around the country? LSU offered 316 players to get its class. Georgia offered 267. Dabo Swinney offered only 106 players scholarships to play for the Tigers, and almost 25% of them said yes, and that’s a phenomenal ratio. Getting players to visit is a big thing, get them on campus. Give them the $100 tour, complete with all the trimmings. Of all the players that visited the Clemson campus being recruited for the 2020 class, just two said no!

Yes, it’s basketball season, and yes, conference tournaments and the NCAA is getting close. Then comes baseball, and the summer. But there is no change of season as far as Virginia Tech football is concerned. The Hokie staff must work everyday all the way until December in the effort to secure a great recruiting class for 2021. It is imperative.

BY DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot