Virginia Tech’s 2020 recruiting class is mostly in the books. Fourteen prospects signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, which was the opening of the early signing period for football prospects.
There’s a lot to talk about with this recruiting class, both positive and negative. Here are my four biggest takeaways from Wednesday.
Texas might become a legit recruiting area for Virginia Tech
Everyone knows that the state of Texas is burgeoning with high school football talent. 247Sports rated 53 recruits from Texas as four or five-star prospects, showing just how deep the state is in terms of talent.
Virginia Tech hasn’t recruited Texas all that often. As Andy Bitter from The Athletic noted, the Hokies hadn’t signed a scholarship high school player from Texas since 1987. This year, Tech signed two players from Texas, and it just so happens that those two recruits are the Hokies’ highest-rated recruits in this class.
Defensive ends Alec Bryant and Robert Wooten both joined the Hokies’ cadre in recent days and they certainly infused the class with some talent. Bryant, a 6-foot-3 and 240-pound prospect from Pearland, is the Hokies’ only four-star prospect in the class per 247Sports. Wooten is a little under the threshold for four-star prospects, but he is a top-25 defensive end.
Time will tell if Tech is able to build a significant presence in the state, but expanding into Texas is obviously a positive development. Multiple staff members have Midwest and Texas/Oklahoma connections, including Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen.
If the Hokies are able to create a foothold in the state, it will be a boon to the program’s recruiting efforts. It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit in Virginia, so expanding outside the borders should always be on the table.
Virginia Tech has a serious in-state recruiting problem
As of now, Virginia Tech has not committed or signed a single Virginia prospect rated in the state’s top-20. Lakeem Rudolph, an athlete from Virginia Beach, is Tech’s only in-state signee.
This problem is not new. It originated later in the Beamer era, when Virginia Tech was regularly losing top-end prospects to elite programs like Alabama and Ohio State. The problem hasn’t gotten any better and seems to be getting worse.
Here are the number of in-state top-10 prospects that Virginia Tech has signed since 2017, which was Fuente’s first full class.
- 2017: 3
- 2018: 2
- 2019: 1
- 2020: 0
Fuente emphasized in-state recruiting early on and found a lot of success. He’s also hit on some lower-rated prospects from the Commonwealth like Rayshard Ashby and Tayvion Robinson, both of whom were rated outside the top-10.
However, when you consider the elite-level recruits that the Hokies have lost out on, it’s clear there’s an issue. We could go through the lists, but we’ve talked about them before and there’s no reason to keep going over it.
Virginia Tech must find a way to be more competitive in the Commonwealth, specifically more competitive with four and five-star prospects. Tech will never own the top-10 like they used to in the 90s and early 2000s, but the program should be able to sign three-to-four top-10 prospects from Virginia every year. We’re a long way from that point right now.
Attrition is coming at running back
Virginia Tech has seven scholarship running backs on the roster right now. Add in the three running backs who signed NLIs, as well as graduate transfer Khalil Herbert, and you’ve got quite the logjam.
There’s no way of knowing when Jalen Hampton and Jordan Brunson will be ready to play, but one would assume JUCO transfer Marco Lee will be in contention to play in 2020. Herbert will obviously be in contention.
The Hokies lack a superstar back on the roster, but Deshawn McClease was more than serviceable this year. McClease emerged as the Hokies lead back but still posted just a 4.3 yards per attempt average. McClease hasn’t averaged more than 4.9 yards per carry in his entire career and Virginia Tech can certainly do better.
Fuente’s approach to solve the issues at running back has been to flood the roster with as many backs as possible. He’s succeeded in adding a lot of backs but has yet to find a breakthrough. The downside of this approach is the inevitable attrition that comes with over-recruiting a position, and we’re bound to see at least one or two backs leave the program before the start of 2020. There are simply too many players at a position where only one player sees the field at any time.
Development of this class is critical
Developing your young talent is always important, but it’s even more important when you’re working with lower-ceiling prospects.
There will obviously be one or two recruits that punch above their recruiting rankings, but we’ve gotten to the point where these recruiting rankings are generally accurate and the recruiting rankings aren’t kind to this class of Hokies.
Overall ranking means little this year, thanks to limited scholarship availability. But when you look at the quality of Virginia Tech’s 14 signees, there’s not a lot to love.
247Sports gives Virginia Tech’s recruits an average rating of .8483, which is the lowest of the Fuente era. That average rating, which is entirely independent of class size, ranks 12th out of 14 teams in the ACC. By any objective measurement, Tech’s 2020 class is subpar.
That kind of rating suggests that this class is not only thin but lacks high-end talent. A class that lacks both of those things is the kind of class that can cause all sorts of problems down the road. It’s not guaranteed, but it seems more likely than not.
There are many who won’t enjoy reading this, but I don’t know what else to tell you. Judging off the objective standards, Virginia Tech’s 2020 recruiting class isn’t very good. Anyone can watch highlight tape and see flashes of greatness and see the ceiling of these recruits, but those who scout and talk to coaches for a living give Virginia Tech a poor grade. The Hokies will have a chance to develop contributors from this class but as of now, things don’t look good.