The Real Recruiting Battle
by Jim Alderson, 2/12/04

Another recruiting class is in the books. Tech did rally at the end and collected a pleasant surprise, wide receiver Eddie Royal. This certainly qualifies as the good news I had hoped for in my last column. It was joined by the satisfying wins over Providence and Georgetown recorded by the men�s basketball team. One gets the feeling that few teams in what will soon be our former conference will be happier to see us go than the Friars. Their record of futility in Cassell Coliseum mirrors that of Frank Beamer�s team in the Carrier Dome. While I seriously doubt that Providence would be the slightest bit interested in scheduling Tech for OOC games, it might be worth it for Tech�s Athletic Director to at least give them a call. The worst that could happen is the Providence AD immediately hanging up the phone.

Back to recruiting, Tech�s biggest successes came at the offensive skill positions. The haul of wide receivers was impressive, at least on paper. Tech has had difficulty over the years convincing top receiver prospects to cast their lot with our generally run-oriented scheme, so this represents a bit of a turning point in Tech recruiting. It would seem to indicate that the Tech coaches did a good job in convincing the receiving targets that the wide open offense on display in the Insight Bowl was not an aberration but instead similar to what Tech plans on employing in the future.

This collection of what seem to be quality wide receivers also causes one to wonder what exactly is the pecking order these days among the coaching staff. Frank Beamer has made no announcements of any adjustments in titles or duties for his assistants, but it would seem that some stars are ascending among the offensive group and others are not. Among the latter, the influence of Billy Hite on the offensive scheme of things would appear, at least on the surface, to have waned a bit. Hite is an old-school coach who believes in the Dooleyesque philosophy of run the ball at all times and at all costs. He must have gritted his teeth, at least slightly, as he observed the ball flying around Bank One ballpark during the Insight. I�m sure Kevin Rogers did not. I seriously doubt a recruiting sales pitch of "Come to Tech and spend your career running decoy patterns while we continuously slam running backs into eight-man fronts" would have tilted many targets in our direction. It would appear that recruits were told that all of the talk heard these lo so many years about a more balanced offense would now finally turn into action. We shall see, but first impressions are that the star of Kevin Rogers is rising.

On defense the biggest news was whom Tech didn�t get, most of the targets at defensive end. The staff mostly struck out at the position, as even the one they did sign [William Wall] will spend the next few months rising to the sounds of Reveille at a military prep school. This dearth of signings will show up on the field somewhere around 2005, just as past failures to sign coveted linebackers manifested itself in the last two seasons. It should be pointed out that this is not the first time Tech lost out on desired defensive ends. The response a few years ago was to develop two of the most productive defensive ends ever to play for Tech, John Engelberger and Corey Moore. Neither carried many, or any, recruiting stars when they first came to Tech; they were developed instead. This would seem an opportune time for Bud Foster and Charley Wiles to give the �build your own� strategy another shot.

The recruiting misses on the defensive side of the line brings to mind some of the media comments read following the season and during the recruiting season. Several of Tech�s defensive recruits, most notably the linebacker Andrew Bowman, were quoted as saying they were told by Tech coaches that Tech�s defensive scheme would be altered to scale back the traditional attacking defense to one more in line with what is run in the NFL, the ultimate desired stop for top recruits.

Contrast that with some of the media remarks by Bud Foster following the season claiming there was nothing wrong with his defense and he ain�t changing it. One cannot help but wonder if a mixed message was sent to defensive recruits, one different from the �wide open offense� party line pitched to the offensive ones. Over the past few recruiting seasons, the misses on top-notch defensive prospects have really started to pile up. This seems a bit odd for a program whose claim to fame was built largely upon its defensive prowess. These are not the best of days for Bud Foster at Virginia Tech.

Taking a last look at this recruiting class, it seems to me that one fact stands out whether one views the class as half-full with offensive prospects or half-empty, missing defensive ones: It could have been much worse. Exhibit A is what happened at Pitt. Yikes! This was solid evidence of the Li�l E Effect, as Pitt�s top recruits scattered around the college football landscape, on Signing Day, no less. As his coaching staff fell all over themselves to blow town, Walt Harris was left to pick up the pieces in between his own calls to NFL teams seeking to discover if any needed an offensive coordinator with great knowledge of how to pick apart Virginia Tech�s defense. Lots of luck in the watered-down Li�l E, Pitt. It certainly did not help matters that just before Signing Day most of the eastern media blared out the news that the future television prospects for the Li�l E were going to be much closer to the limited ones of CUSA than anything approaching a real BCS conference. Way to pitch in, guys.

Take a look at Pitt�s misfortune and realize that would have been Tech�s, had things not gone our way last summer. How good did Tech�s recruiting prospects look early last June? How many of the top prospects that did fax an LOI to Merryman last Wednesday would be listed among the signings at some other school, had Tech not muscled its way into the ACC? The answers are bad and many. It can be argued that the staff did a pretty good job of cobbling together a fairly decent class, considering how bleak things looked when they started.

No matter who signed or didn�t last Wednesday, the major recruiting battle, that with the ACC, was already won. Tech will at least have a football future to sell to recruiting prospects.

TechSideline Pass Home

Copyright © 2003 Maroon Pride, LLC