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   Welcome to TSLMail #214 - Friday, February 17, 2006    
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Sleepers Who Came Out of Nowhere and Hit it Big 
by Chris Coleman,

Last week’s TSL Mail covered recent highly-touted recruits that never panned out at Virginia Tech. There have been more than a few cases of this happening in Blacksburg, but there are a lot more examples of lowly-rated recruits developing into excellent players while they were at Virginia Tech. There have been so many in fact that they probably will not all be mentioned here.

Let’s start with the 1997 class. 1997 was apparently the year of the sleeper, because five players who didn’t get a lot of recruiting attention signed with Virginia Tech with relatively little fanfare. By the time their careers were done, four would become NFL Draft picks. The other was signed as a free agent.

The first was Andre Davis, a little-known receiver from New York. His recruiting profile in the 1997 recruiting issue of the Hokie Huddler shows that the other schools he considered were Maine, UMass and Delaware. Of course we all know what happened with Davis. He became one of the most prolific receivers the Hokies ever had, was Michael Vick’s favorite target, and went on to be a 2nd round pick of the Cleveland Browns. He now plays for the New England Patriots.

Ben Taylor was another member of that class. The linebacker from Ohio wasn’t highly recruited. Well, that’s not quite true; Michigan did offer him … as a punter. But Taylor went on to be one of Virginia Tech’s best linebackers ever, playing the whip and backer positions during his career. He was later a fourth round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, where he still plays.

Offensive lineman Matt Lehr was rated the #26 prospect in the state of Virginia. He was a little undersized but eventually developed into one of the best offensive guards in school history. Lehr was a fifth round pick of the Dallas Cowboys and started for the Atlanta Falcons in 2005.

Defensive tackle David Pugh was rated the #23 player in Virginia by the Roanoke Times. He went on to have an extremely productive career, lettering four years and starting for two seasons. He was a 6th round pick of the Indianapolis Colts.

The final player was Larry Austin, who started at cornerback for the Hokies for two seasons. Austin was never a superstar, but he was solid. His other college choices? Duke, Wake Forest, William & Mary and East Carolina. He was signed to a free agent contract by the Houston Texans.

The class of 1998 brought three more undervalued prospects to Blacksburg. The first was Jake Grove, a center prospect who was rated #20 in the state of Virginia. Grove, whose only other offer was from VMI, didn’t have a lot of recruiters beating down his door. Grove chose Virginia Tech and went on to become one of the top two centers to ever play for the Hokies, as well as one of just four unanimous All-Americans in the history of Virginia Tech football. Grove was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and started for them this past season.

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Another sleeper in that 1998 class was free safety Willie Pile. Pile was ranked #31 in the state of Virginia during his senior year. He went on to become one of the top coverage free safeties the Hokies have ever had, snagging 14 interceptions in his career, third on Virginia Tech’s all-time list. Pile went on to the NFL, where he currently plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

Offensive tackle Anthony Davis was a member of the 1998 class as well. He was ranked #28 in the state, and never got a lot of recognition when he was in college. He signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he has developed into one of their starting offensive tackles.

The Hokies also found some excellent sleepers in the 2001 class. Tim Sandidge was rated the #23 player in the state, and he developed into a solid defensive tackle for Virginia Tech. Sandidge enjoyed an excellent senior season in 2005 and was a big part of one of the best front sevens in Tech history.

James Anderson was a 1-star recruit that was rated the #26 player in the state of Virginia. He was a great athlete coming out of high school, but not many were sold that he could become a great football player. He struggled at the backer position, but then moved to whip before his sophomore season. Anderson finally cracked the starting lineup in 2004 and never looked back. He was the first of the "new" type of whip linebacker in Tech’s defensive system. The whip is now more like a traditional outside linebacker, rather than a defensive back.

Reggie Butler took a lot of criticism throughout his Tech career, but considering he was rated just #55 in the state coming out of high school, the Hokies got all they could ever hope for out of him. Butler was a part-time starter in his last two seasons. He did struggle at pass protection, but excelled in games like the 2005 UVA and UNC games, when the Hokies just ran the ball up the gut all day long.

In 2002, Virginia Tech signed Jimmy Williams and Aaron Rouse. Rouse was rated #24 in the state, while Williams was #26. Rouse was listed as an athlete, and it was thought that he could end up at safety, linebacker or maybe even defensive end. As it turns out, he has played rover and whip linebacker, and he could see action at both positions in 2006. Rouse has developed into a very good player and has a chance to be a high draft pick in the 2007 draft.

Jimmy Williams was a safety prospect with a lot of ability. He did play safety during his first two years at Virginia Tech, but was moved to cornerback before the 2004 season. Williams flourished at the new position and became an All-American. He is just the fourth player in Virginia Tech history to be named a unanimous All-American, joining the elite group of Jim Pyne, Corey Moore and Jake Grove. He is expected to be a first round draft pick this April.

The Hokies have some other players currently on the roster, such as Brandon Frye, Danny McGrath and Carlton Powell, who have a chance to make this list. How they progress during the 2006 season will go a long ways in determining if they do. Pass - Your Ultimate Ticket to Hokie Sports!

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-- Will Stewart Updates From the Past Week
2007 Top Target: Morgan with two 1A offers
February 17, 2006
Once star senior running back Brandon Minor went down in the season opener, 6-0, 182-pound quarterback Davon Morgan was called upon to be the sole leader of the Varina offense. He responded brilliantly, leading the Blue Devils to a 9-1 record and finishing with 70 completions out of 138 attempts for 1,402 yards, 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He added 505 yards rushing on 75 carries and scored seven touchdowns. Morgan was named Capital district offensive player of the year for his performance.

Ruminations on the Coaching Changes
February 16, 2006
Faced with the loss of multiple assistant coaches for the first time since 1998, the Virginia Tech football program has some important decisions to make when filling the voids left by the departures of Kevin Rogers and Tony Ball. Their replacements will affect everything from position coaching to staff chemistry to recruiting. Some names are emerging as replacements and additions to the staff, but it's also possible that there's more turnover to come. Here's what we're hearing from various sources on the topic of assistant coaches, plus some information on the new guys who might be coming to Tech.

2007 Class: Khalil Latif Leads Lancers
February 16, 2006
6-4, 290-pound Khalil Latif transferred from Monacan High School (Richmond, VA) to Manchester (Richmond, VA) before the end of his sophomore year, and Manchester head coach Tom Hall feels lucky that he did. As a junior last season, Latif, who primarily played offensive tackle but did play some defensive end as well, earned Richmond Times-Dispatch first-team all-metro honors for his performance.

VT in the ACC: The 2006 Class
February 16, 2006 caught up with Dave Glenn, award-winning editor and lead writer for the ACC Area Sports Journal who has covered the ACC for more than 15 years, for a look not just into Virginia Tech’s 2006 football recruiting class but also into how the Atlantic Coast Conference shaped out. Glenn gives his impressions of VT’s 2006 effort as well as the winners and losers in the ACC.

Inside the Numbers: Ranking the 2006 Recruits
February 15, 2006
Here we are again with's sixth annual "Inside the Numbers: Ranking the Recruits," in which we mash together recruiting rankings from various recruiting services into one complex ranking system that gives each VT recruit a composite ranking. We first did this in 2001, and as we add more and more recruits to our rankings (we're up to 113 now), it's interesting to see where today's recruits rank when compared to yesterday's recruits. We now have six years of data, and we can see how the 2006 recruits compare to schoolboy superstars like Kevin Jones, DeAngelo Hall, Victor Harris, and even Marcus Vick.

Tony Ball Departing Tech for Georgia
February 15, 2006
Virginia Tech lost their second assistant coach of the offseason on Tuesday. The University of Georgia announced that Tony Ball, the Hokies’ wide receivers coach for the past eight seasons, will serve as the Bulldogs’ running backs coach beginning in 2006. Quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers left Virginia Tech for a job with the Minnesota Vikings in January.

2007 Profile: Gar-Field ATH Savion Frazier
February 15, 2006
Savion Frazier was a jack-of-all-trades type player for Gar-Field High School (Woodbridge, VA) last season. He saw playing time at a variety of positions, including quarterback, running back, linebacker and safety. A versatile and athletic prospect who plays multiple sports, Frazier is drawing interest from Division 1A programs.

Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline Notes for 2/13/06
February 14, 2006
Monday night's show featured Tech head basketball coach Seth Greenberg, who talked about the close loss to Virginia and the upcoming game against NC State. He also talked about Coleman Collins, answered questions about the team's offensive sets and talked a little about recruiting.

Top Target: RB Ryan Houston
February 14, 2006
Butler (Matthews, N.C.) star Ryan Houston, a big running back at 6-2, 240 pounds, looks like he will be one of the top prospects in the state of North Carolina in the class of 2007. Houston already has official scholarship offers from Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

2006 Recruiting Grades: The Defense
February 13, 2006
The offensive recruiting didn't fare very well in part one of this series, grading out at just a C. But on the defensive side of the ball, the Hokies inked one of the best defensive line classes in the nation. On the strength of that alone, the overall defensive grade will definitely be higher than a C, but how high? And were there weaknesses in the defensive recruiting? We'll break it down for you and give you our take on Tech's 2006 defensive recruiting class.

2007 Class: Gloucester Dukes
February 13, 2006
In his first season as head football coach at Gloucester High School, Tommy Reamon led the Dukes to a 5-5 record - the best season the program has had in several years. Looking towards 2006, Reamon boasts a number of talented players headlined by 2007 class prospects Aaron Taliaferro and Josh Reamon.

Cavaliers Down Hokies in Overtime, 81-77
February 11, 2006
Virginia outscored Virginia Tech 9-2 down the stretch in overtime to take a hard-fought 81-77 victory over the Hokies. The loss was Virginia's 400th win in University Hall and spoiled a career-high 24 points from Jamon Gordon and 19 from freshman A.D. Vassallo. UVa was led by star guards Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds, who scored 23 and 19 points respectively. The overtime game was Tech's second consecutive OT game, the first time that has happened since 1992-93.

Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Virginia
February 10, 2006
Virginia Tech will travel north to Charlottesville to take on in-state rival UVA in a critical ACC matchup on Saturday night. Both teams have been going in opposite directions recently, with the Hokies winning three out of four games and the Cavaliers dropping three of their last four contests. UVA is currently 11-9 overall and 5-5 in ACC play, and have greatly resembled Virginia Tech’s team from a year ago, with their unexpected success. The Hokies stand 13-10 overall and 3-7 in the ACC.
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