Recruiting Roundup '99
by Will Stewart,, 2/8/99

The second annual recruiting round-up was held at Boomer's / Greg Roberts Sports Club in Roanoke on Saturday. There were two sessions, one from 4-6, and one from 6-8. I attended the first session.

The event was hosted by Greg Roberts and run by Tech Director of Football Operations John Ballein. John is an entertaining host and a real "football guy" who reminds me of Bill Cowher, coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The other guests were Offensive Line Coach Bryan Stinespring and Strong Safety / Outside Linebackers Coach Jim Cavanaugh.

The format of the event was the same as last year: Ballein took some general questions, and then he showed clips of the Tech recruits by position (DB's first, then DE/TE's, etc.). He showed 2-4 clips of each player, and since the clips were provided by the players' high schools, they varied widely in quality (and interestingly enough, some of the worst video quality-wise was from Warwick High School - somebody needs to buy Coach Reamon a new video camera - but not a Hokie, because that's probably a recruiting violation of some kind).

Between groups of video clips, the audience could ask questions. There were also a ton of door prizes, and even an auction. The main auction item was the field pass worn by Coach Beamer at the Music City Bowl, which I think sold for $80.

Anyway, on to the recap. I have divided the remainder of this article into General News, Player News, Recruiting Notes, and The Recruits.

General news

  • Recently, Florida State and Auburn cancelled a scheduled home-and-home that started next year in Tallahassee. This has led to endless speculation and discussion on the message board about Tech trying to pick up the series, but this will not happen. John Ballein was emphatic about this, and frankly, I wish those of you on the message board who are discussing this endlessly would just calm down. It's like speculating what would happen on a date between me and Cindy Crawford - why bother, because it ain't gonna happen.
  • There is no news on the potential Bristol Motor Speedway game with Tennessee. BMS is working on a business proposal, which will be forwarded to Tech and UT when the final numbers are crunched, and the two teams will make their decisions then. As reported in the past (see the Tuesday, January 26th News and Notes, which are contained in the Feb. 1 archive), Tech is champing at the bit, so it's UT's decision whether or not to play it.
  • Don't hold John Ballein to these numbers, but he says that the new metal bleachers in the North end zone should add 3500-4000 seats, and they will be contoured to the shape of the stadium. They will be in place before next season. Another source in the athletic department told me that construction will begin in March, so maybe we'll even be able to see them at the Spring Game.

Player News

  • Coach Cavanaugh verified that out of the three Hargrave recruits, only massive tackle Anthony Nelson has qualified to this point. Hicks and Davis have not yet qualified. Coach did not speculate on whether they will qualify, or maybe he did speculate, and I just didn't write it down.
  • James Lomax, a 1997 tight end recruit who was ranked the #14 prospect in Virginia that year, has righted his sinking academic ship and will be back with the team this Spring. I got the impression that he still has a long way to go to get back in the swing of things, but the story of his efforts to improve himself academically drew applause from the crowd.
  • Camm Jackson, a 1997 recruit who injured his knee early in freshman drills and eventually dropped out of school, "will come back." I believe that the coaches said he is currently in school, but don’t quote me on that.

Position Changes

When asked about position changes, these are the players the coaches said were being looked at for new positions. The coaches emphasized that these changes may or may not be permanent - they do represent the current state of things, but that could change.

  • Lomax has been moved from TE to offensive tackle.
  • Tim Selmon, from the 1997 recruiting class, has been moved from DL to OL.
  • Wayne Ward will move to fullback. I personally think this is a good move, since Wayne is a talented player and isn't likely to see playing time at tailback, with the three-headed monster of Stith, Suggs, and Burnell already camping out there. Coach Cavanaugh said the Tech staff is pleased with the move, because it "gives us another guy who can run at the fullback position."
  • 1998 recruit Lamar Cobb has been moved to "stud end," the Cornell Brown / Corey Moore position. At first, that seems like a real shocker, because Lamar was listed at 6-3, 210 pounds in last year's media guide, but the coaches said that Lamar is one of those guys who can put on weight. I'm not surprised to hear that, because I saw him before the 1998 season, and I was struck by how big his frame was, in particular how broad his back is. Prior to seeing him, I assumed he was more of a lanky kid, but having seen him and heard the coaches' comments, it seems to jive. But still, that's surprising news.
  • Philip Summers will be tried at Rover, Pierson Prioleau's position. I applaud this move, because Summers appears to be a playmaker, and he's not going to unseat Lorenzo Ferguson at Whip Linebacker. So whatever gets Summers on the field is good with me.
  • Greg Shockley will be tried out at quarterback, and is currently listed #1 on the depth chart ahead of Michael Vick, Grant Noel, and Dave Meyer. Just kidding, obviously - you can put your heart back in your chest.
  • Willie Pile, arguably the sleeper of the 1998 recruiting class, has been moved to free safety.

Recruiting Notes

Many people have been saying that Tech should expand their recruiting area, but the coaches seem happy with their current recruiting base (Virginia/Maryland, Florida, Tennessee, and PA / NJ). If anything, John said, the recruiting area will "shrink a little bit" next year. He didn't elaborate, but I assume that he was implying that you likely won't see any recruits like Deon Provitt from Ohio, next year. But that's me trying to read what John was saying.

Coach Beamer has said that he feels that the current recruiting area is big enough to recruit a national-championship caliber team, and that if Tech expanded their recruiting, they might water down their efforts in the existing areas.

Next year, Tech will recruit four OL/DL from Pennsylvania. Coach Wiles and Coach Stinespring (and a third coach I can't remember) will have this responsibility, and they will start out the year with the Top 50 list from PA, pick four kids, and go after 'em. Tech will once again recruit skill players from Florida.

At the Roundup, a sheet was passed out listing each player, their position, their height and weight, high school, home town, and recruiting coach. Here's a look at the sheet (75k GIF).

One of the most interesting items on the sheet is "Recruit Coach." I ranked the coaches in order of the jobs I thought they did this year, according to two simple criteria, quality of the players recruited, and quantity.

1. Jim Cavanaugh: Nathaniel Adibi, Andrae Harrison, Marlan Hicks (1998), Kevin Lewis, Ernest Wilford, Joe Wilson. For quantity and quality, Coach Cav is THE MAN.

2. Bryan Stinespring: Anthony Davis (1998), Vegas Robinson, Marvin Urquhart, Keith Willis, Thomas Woodley. Coach Cavanaugh better watch it, or the young and energetic Stinespring (yes, that's a good-natured jab, Coach Cav) will steal his title from him.

3. Rickey Bustle: Ryan Angelo, Chris Buie, Jacob Gibson, Joe Simington, Garnell Wilds. Rickey is a solid, sometimes spectacular recruiter year after year in Florida.

4. Charlie Wiles: Cols Colas, Anthony Nelson (1998), Shawn Witten. I rated Witten Sleeper of the Year in my Members Only recruiting article.

5. Lou West: Lee Baker, Deon Provitt.

6. Tony Ball (tie with Bud Foster): Michael Crawford.

7. Bud Foster (tie with Tony Ball): Charles Hattan.

Comments on the Film Clips

Here are my observations from the limited film available on each recruit, and naturally, some of this will sound like hype and hyperbole, but I'll try to make some good observations on each one. Thanks to N2VTFTBL for helping to tweak my memory on some of these kids.

Players are presented in alphabetical order.

Nathaniel Adibi, DE (6-4, 220), Phoebus H.S., Hampton, VA

Adibi has great speed down the line of scrimmage, a hallmark of Tech defensive ends like Cornell Brown and John Engelberger. He is a fast closer in the classic Tech style.

Ryan Angelo, FB (6-2, 225), Springstead H.S., Spring Hill, FL

Angelo is a straight-up-the-gut fullback who keeps the legs moving and doesn't go down easy. Reputed to be a good receiver as well, but there were no clips of him catching the ball.

Lee Baker, CB (6-0, 170), Dunbar H.S., Washington, D.C.

Lee played quarterback in high school, so the clips were of him running the option. He has a good burst of speed and is rangy and covers a lot of ground once he gets up to top speed.

Chris Buie, LB (6-0, 210), Armwood H.S., Tampa FL

Blazing speed. This kid will fit in well in the Tech defensive scheme, because he covers a lot of ground laterally and closes on the runner quickly.

Cols Colas, LB/DE (6-1, 215), South Plantation, H.S., Plantation, FL

Has awesome acceleration, which was showcased in his clips, because most of him were of Colas running the ball on offense. Will do well at either linebacker or defensive end in the Tech scheme.

Michael Crawford, CB (5-11, 170), Patterson H.S. Baltimore, MD

Not a big kid, but he has good hands and can move well in the open field. He's a good closer and a physical cornerback, and he keeps his feet well after contact. Has good footwork.

Anthony Davis, OL (6-4, 335), Central Lunenburg / Hargrave, Victoria, VA

No clips - he was a recruit from last year who didn't qualify and had to attend Hargrave.

Jacob Gibson, OL/DL (6-4, 265), Franklin County H.S., Rocky Mount, VA

No film clips, because the tape did not arrive in time for the roundup.

Andrae Harrison, WR (6-3, 220), Warwick H.S., Newport News, VA

Showed several clips of Harrison just getting behind the defense, catching the ball, and running away from them. The clip that created the biggest stir all afternoon was a play from Harrison's junior year that showed Michael Vick sidestepping the rush and snapping a 30-yard dart to a diving Harrison in the end zone, who caught it with the defender hanging on him. I had to change my underwear after watching it.

Charles Hattan, OL (6-3, 308), Robinson H.S. Fairfax, VA

This guy is huge, and they had about four clips of him absolutely bulldozing defenders, driving them off the line and pushing them 10-15 yards downfield. I don't know if they just caught him during a game where he was abusing his opponent, or what, but he looked impressive. It was hard to get a read on his footwork, but he's a bulldog once he gets into a defender. Doesn't give up until the whistle blows.

Marlan Hicks, DT (6-3, 285), Kecoughtan H.S. / Hargrave, Hampton, VA

No clips - he was a recruit from last year who didn't qualify and had to attend Hargrave.

Kevin Lewis, DL (6-2, 248), Varina H.S., Richmond, VA

Lewis will be tried at tackle at Tech. He showed good vision and footwork. The line of scrimmage can be a real free-for-all situation, but Lewis seemed to know what was going on around him, and in the clips we were shown, he moved well down the line and pursued the play well. He's able to pick his way through traffic and make the play.

Anthony Nelson, OL (6-5, 340), Sullivan South H.S. / Hargrave, Kingsport, TN

No clips - he was a recruit from last year who didn't qualify and had to attend Hargrave.

Deon Provitt, WR/DB (6-2, 195), JFK H.S., Warren, OH

We got a good one here. Provitt will be tried at both wide receiver and safety at Tech. His film clips showed a solid kid who looks like he might be physically ready to play next year. He has excellent speed and phenomenal field vision, which he showcased on an interception return that had him weaving through the entire opposing offense for a score. Provitt (pronounced PRO-vitt) is a real catch.

Vegas Robinson, DB (6-0, 200), Deep Creek H.S., Chesapeake, VA

Vegas will be tried at free safety "right away," according to the coaches. This makes sense, because he already has excellent size and could bulk up to 210 or 220 pretty easily. Ballein said that Vegas ran the 200 meters in 22 seconds in a recent track meet. Hubba, hubba!

Joe Simington, TE/DE (6-4, 205), Martinsville H.S., Martinsville, VA

If Witten is the Sleeper of the Year, then Simington is the runner-up. Based on his physical tools, this kid should be Top 15 in Virginia, maybe Top 10, but Doug Doughty barely rated him in the Top 25. Simington towered over the other kids in the clips, but what was really surprising was the closing speed he showed once he had read the play from his defensive end position. The coaches said that Joe will get a look at tight end, but with Willis and Wilford in this class, Simington will most likely wind up at defensive end. Mark my words, he's impressive. If he works hard and bulks up, he can be a real contributor.

Marvin Urquhart, FB (6-0, 250), Western Branch, H.S., Chesapeake, VA

Out of the three fullbacks we recruited (Angelo, Wilson, and Urquhart), Marvin Urquhart is the true bulldozer of the trio. He runs like a tank. They showed one clip where he broke into the secondary and absolutely annihilated the safety who tried to tackle him, running over him head-on (I've got to give the defender credit for even trying it, and although he got knocked on his can, he did make the tackle. I hope he has a speedy recovery in the hospital). Ballein said that on his visit, Marvin was a "smooth 275." Keep the weight down, Marvin, and you'll be a great fullback at Tech.

Garnell Wilds, CB (6-0, 170), Hillsborough H.S., Tampa, FL

No film was received in time for the roundup, but remember the name Garnell Wilds. He comes highly rated out of Florida.

Ernest Wilford, TE (6-5, 200), Fork Union, Richmond, VA

John Ballein said twice that Wilford was the "best-looking kid" during his visit. He didn't elaborate, so I'm not sure if he meant that Wilford was a handsome devil, or if he's built like a Greek god. Ballein said that Tech offered Wilford a scholarship on a Monday, and Ohio State and UVa offered him on the following Wednesday. Michigan was in on Wilford to some extent, but later backed off.

Keith Willis, TE (6-5, 200), Norview H.S., Norfolk, VA

Willis wins this year's "Ronyell Whitaker Award" as the player most highly recruited by UVa after he committed to Tech. He is Tech's #1 tight end prospect, although Simington and Wilford will also both be given a look, but Willis is most likely to be tight end out of those three, because the other two can be tried at defensive end more readily than Willis.

As most of you know, Willis is a two-sport star who will also try to play basketball at Tech. Ballein told a funny story about Beamer and Stinespring parking in front of Willis's house and waiting outside instead of going in, because they thought that Bobby Hussey might have been there earlier in the day, and the two football coaches didn't want to commit a possible recruiting violation by visiting on the same day. They had to call back to Tech from the car to find out what the rules are.

Anyway, in Willis's film clips, the most impressive clip showed him playing at defensive end, picking up a fumble, and returning it for a touchdown. He's got pretty good acceleration, and once he gets up to speed, he's got LONG strides and can really motor.

Joe Wilson, FB (6-2, 235), Warwick H.S., Newport News, VA

Wilson looked very much like Angelo on the clips that were shown - a straight ahead bull of a runner. Out of the three fullbacks, Urquhart was the most impressive, but Angelo and Wilson both looked like big boys who can carry the load, too.

Shawn Witten, ATH (6-1, 185), Elizabethton H.S., Elizabethton, TN

Witten is a smooth athlete with good hands. As I said, I rated him my Sleeper of the Year in my Members Only article, and John Ballein echoed that, saying emphatically, "He's a real sleeper."

Clips were shown of Witten playing offense and defense, and he showed great range, good speed and vision, and excellent hands on the few plays that were shown. We've stolen a winner here, folks, and he's so versatile and so smooth that I'd be surprised if he didn't wind up contributing somewhere.

In high school, Witten scored 86 touchdowns either by rushing or throwing the football, and he had a school-record 28 career interceptions. Wow.

Check out this fine article on Witten from the Elizabethton Star: Witten Signs to Play for Tech.

Thomas Woodley, LB (6-2, 207), Greenville County H.S., Emporia, VA

Woodley showed a great nose for the ball, and awesome closing speed. He's just the sort of player the Virginia Tech defense is designed for. One clip they showed of him was almost comical, because it showed some poor defenseless running back trying to run a sweep, and Woodley closed on him and trashed him five yards behind the line of scrimmage. The poor kid never had a chance.

Final Thoughts

As usual, a great job by the staff at Boomer's and Greg Roberts Sports Club. If you're a local, I recommend getting in on this gig next year. Sure, the clips of the recruits are nice, but what really makes it fun is the way John Ballein and the coaches run the show. John is always entertaining and down to earth, and the coaches are very open and honest … even if there is a guy in the front row who's wearing a HokieCentral polo shirt and taking notes.

I have to say that Tech's philosophy of recruiting kids in a classy, above-board manner is starting to pay dividends, particularly in-state. It is still Tech's policy, when they're recruiting a kid who commits elsewhere, to pay him one last call and to ask him if the kid would like the Tech coaches to continue calling. If the kid says no, the Tech coaches wish him well and break contact.

It is still UVa's policy to ignore verbal commitments and to push hard right up until signing date. In the case of Willis, after he had committed to Tech, a UVa player called him to talk to him, not to convince him why he should go to UVa, but to convince him why he shouldn't go to Tech.

It's sleazy, it's disgusting, and it's probably got a lot to do with why UVa was only able to recruit four of the Top-25 kids in-state this year. Perhaps the Tech coaches who were present at the Recruiting Roundup Saturday told that story in the hopes that the people in attendance would keep it in private, but then again, if there's something you want kept private, you don't tell it to a room full of over a hundred people, do you?

As usual, I'm proud of the way Frank Beamer and his staff conduct themselves, and although it often takes time, comporting yourself with class and dignity always pays dividends in the end. Sometimes I think that when the day comes that Frank retires, we'll miss him not just because he's a good coach, but because we can trust him.

The coaches also told a story about how they were recruiting a kid head-to-head against Auburn, and the kid committed to Auburn (or somewhere else). The Tech coaches paid him their last courtesy call and wished him good luck, and that was the end of it.

Weeks later, at the coaches convention in Nashville (the same one where Steve Spurrier's "job offer" to Bud Foster occurred), an Auburn coach complimented the Tech coaches on the way they handled the situation. He said that not many other schools would have carried themselves that way.

And that's what it's all about, folks, not just how big and how fast the kids we recruit are.

But my, these kids are big and fast ….!


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