Monday Mail: The First 2020 Commitment, Cunningham’s Role, Quincy’s Development and More

This will easily be the biggest Monday Mail I’ve written. Thank you for sending in all of these questions and thank you for your support. Grab a drink, take a seat and enjoy this week’s Monday Mail.

Here’s a timely question. Virginia Tech added their first commitment of the 2020 class on Friday, hauling in Virginia native Tyler Warren.

Warren is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound quarterback from Mechanicsville. Warren currently holds offers from Virginia and Syracuse, so his recruitment ended before it really got started. As much as I’d love to evaluate Warren’s ability, both of his season highlight videos on Hudl have been made private. Hopefully that changes soon.

In terms of the entire class, there are a few big-time targets for Virginia Tech. Chris Tyree is probably No. 1 on the list, being an elite running back from Virginia. Tyree has visited Blacksburg on numerous occasions and the Hokies have been recruiting him for years. According to 247Sports, Florida State, Mississippi State and Penn State are the biggest competitors for Tyree’s signature.

Blake Corum is another running back the Hokies are after. Corum currently plays at St. Frances Academy in Maryland and is another high-end prospect.

Virginia Tech is after several receivers in the 2020 class, including five-star Julian Fleming and four-star prospects Porter Rooks and KeAndre Lambert.

Defensively, Virginia Tech is heavily recruiting defensive linemen Tyler Baron and Bryan Bresee. Baron is related to former Hokie Woody Baron is a solid four-star prospect that could end up playing inside. Bresee is a 6-foot-5, 290-pound athletic freak that’s rated No. 1 in the country. Bresee is likely headed elsewhere, but Jacolbe Cowan would be a nice pickup too.

It’s extremely early in the process, and more names will appear. But for now, those are the prospects to keep an eye on.

There’s a chance, but this might be Chris Cunningham’s last chance at securing a big chunk of playing time.

Cunningham is entering his fourth year in the program and has yet to be a consistent impact player. Cunningham has just 15 catches over the last two seasons and after catching four touchdown passes in 2016, he caught just one in 2017.

If Cunningham is unable to solidify his role this season, he will be passed over for younger options that were recruiting by this coaching staff. Dalton Keene is just a sophomore and is already a better blocker than Cunningham is. Drake DeIuliis got a look on the outside in 2017 before pulling a hamstring and will probably get another look out there this season. Freshman James Mitchell has impressed in preseason camp and could play right away.

Virginia Tech has plenty of options at tight end. Cunningham is on the verge of making himself expendable, so 2018 is a critical year for him.

I still think the backup position is Ryan Willis’ to lose. Willis is experienced, even though that experience wasn’t enjoyable. But he looked the best in the spring and I think Hendon Hooker needs more time to mature and develop his skills.

Normally, Quincy Patterson wouldn’t figure into the equation this season. He’s a raw, unpolished prospect with tons of upside. Patterson needs time.

But with the NCAA’s new redshirt rules that allow a player to play in four games and still redshirt, Patterson most certainly needs to play in 2018. Part of the new redshirt experience, specifically for quarterbacks, needs to include garbage playing time.

Patterson’s development may be sped up if he’s allowed to see the field as a freshman. If the result of the game is no longer in question, Patterson should see the field so he can adapt himself to the speed of the game and make mistakes. Patterson needs to be allowed to fail so that he can succeed later in his career

Sure, if Patterson lights it up there will be an immediate quarterback controversy ignited by clueless fans. But those who understand how things work know that Patterson needs at least two years of protected growth before he’s ready to bloom.

Virginia Tech’s linebacker corps looks very promising. The group is full of youth and potential and the group is in good shape moving forward. But even with all the youth and all of the potential, there’s little to no chance that Bud Foster rotates his linebackers.

Foster has never rotated linebackers in his career, for better or for worse. Also, rotating young guys in and out prevents guys from getting the maximum amount of reps possible. Instead of spreading the reps around, you one guy taking as many of them as possible.

That’s not to say Foster won’t bench one of his linebackers in favor of another. Let’s say freshman Dax Hollifield starts vs. Florida State and plays poorly. I could see Foster going with Rayshard Ashby or Keshon Artis later down the line, if the poor play continued. I don’t think Foster will continue to play a guy who simply can’t get the job done.

Any combination of a maroon helmet, maroon jersey and maroon pants is in the top tier. #AllMaroonEverything is Virginia Tech’s best look and there really is no discussion.

That said, I do think the older uniforms look a bit better than the new ones. Specifically, I think an all maroon look using Tech’s 2005-ish look.

A throwback to a much simpler time. (Screenshot from Clark Ruhland’s Uniform Builder)

It’s a clean look with just enough orange used. Also, no shoulder stripes!

Here’s another alternate look I really like, incorporating last year’s jersey vs. North Carolina and an older helmet.

Orange isn’t always bad. (Screenshot from Clark Ruhland’s Uniform Builder)

Here’s another clean look with no shoulder or helmet stripe. That’s a perfect home alternate.

I think Virginia Tech’s defense would benefit by seeing Florida State later in the season. Not only would they have real tape to watch instead of piecing things together from last season, but they’d have chances to make mistakes against lesser opponents.

Would you rather the Hokies make mistakes against William and Mary, or Florida State?

On Sept. 3, several Hokies are going to be seeing the first significant snaps of their careers. Mistakes will be made. Assignments will be missed. Things won’t be communicated properly. It’s a lot easier to come back from those problems when you’re playing an FCS school, rather than a Power 5 opponent who’s recruited in the top 15 for over a decade.

The Orioles acquired 15 different players in their summer exodus, even though most of them were mid-end prospects. A few of them standout, however.

Yusniel Diaz is the best prospect the O’s trade for this summer. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound outfielder has killed it at nearly every stop he’s had, starting in Cuba. Diaz mashed in AA-Tulsa, finishing with a .314/.428/.477 line before being traded to the Orioles and sent to AA-Bowie. Diaz’ torrid pace has slowed considerably since being acquired by the Orioles, but his larger of body work says no one should worry.

Diaz is rated as the Orioles’ top prospect and will be making his debut in the near future. If Diaz finds his rhythm once again, he could find himself in Baltimore mid-2019.

In my opinion, Luis Ortiz is No. 2. He’s a big right-hander who rates as the Orioles’ seventh-best prospect. Ortiz has rebounded from a shaky 2017 and has a 3.54 ERA this season. Since being acquired by Baltimore, Ortiz has pitched 16 innings for AAA-Norfolk and has a 2.81 ERA.

Dillon Tate is third, although he and Ortiz are very close. Tate is two years older and after a stellar 2017, has slowed in 2018. Tate’s ERA this season is over four and has allowed 18 earned runs in just four appearances for AA-Bowie. Tate will likely find his footing but isn’t ready for the bump to AAA just yet.

I think Ryan Mountcastle will be in Baltimore at some point in 2019. He probably won’t make the Opening Day roster but after a short stint in AAA-Norfolk, I think he’d be ready. Mountcastle is hitting .304 at Bowie this season and has 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in 87 games. He’s been consistent all season long and barring a setback, he should be ready some time in 2019.

DJ Stewart should get called up this September, but he hasn’t done much to boost his stock this season. Stewart is hitting just .235 at AAA-Norfolk this season and as been awful since June. Stewart hit .175 in July and is hitting .204 so far in August.

Still, Stewart needs to see major league competition. He’s next in the line of Orioles prospects expected to make their debut and given the organizational depth behind him, the Orioles need to find out of Stewart can get the job done. They also need to find out if he can even play outfield at the major league level, or if he’ll need to move into a first base or designated hitter role.

For those of you who are unaware of who Stephen Newman is, he’s a great friend of mine who is also a sports writer. Stephen covered all sorts of Virginia Tech sports for the Collegiate Times as a student and is very knowledgeable. Go follow him on Twitter.

The Orioles should absolutely re-sign Adam Jones and keep him around for the rebuild. Not only can Jones, a 13-year veteran, mentor the Orioles’ young outfielders sure to debut in the coming years, but Jones can still hit.

Yes, Jones’ power numbers are down. Despite a slight increase last season, Jones has slugged less than .440 in two of the last three seasons and hasn’t hit 30 or more home runs since 2013. But, Jones is hitting .285 this season, his exact average from last season. Jones isn’t a do-it-all hitter anymore, but he can still hit for average.

Jones’ community involvement and level of play over the last several years have made him the face of the franchise. As fans struggle to keep the faith through a rebuild, having a player that fans like and can connect with is essential to keeping the fanbase engaged.

Orioles fans understand that Jones will never be the defensive stud and slugger that he used to be. However, he can still be a serviceable corner outfielder (if he’s willing to play in the corner long-term) and hitter while mentoring younger players and keeping fans engaged. Hopefully, general manager Dan Duquette realizes Jones’ true value and keeps Jones in Baltimore for the rest of his career.

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