A year ago, National Signing Day left Virginia Tech football in a foul mood. The Hokies watched Virginia Coach Mike London steal the headlines with his first recruiting class, which finished ranked 25th in the country according to Rivals.com, eight spots ahead of Virginia Tech.
Coach Frank Beamer, meanwhile, lamented that “a couple got away at the end that we really would have liked to have.” First, Virginia Tech’s only quarterback prospect, Virginia Beach’s Lafonte Thourogood, unexpectedly reneged on an oral commitment and signed with Vanderbilt. Later in the day, five-star linebacker recruit Stephone Anthony chose Clemson over the Hokies.
Only a couple weeks passed before Beamer revamped his entire staff as a result. But the true referendum of those moves comes Wednesday on National Signing Day, when Virginia Tech has a chance to close strong on a 2012 recruiting class that already includes 27 oral commitments. Five of those recruits are considered four-star prospects by Rivals.com, including two players that have already enrolled at Virginia Tech for winter workouts and spring practice.
Rivals currently ranks Virginia Tech’s class at No. 22 in the country, but the Hokies could move higher with any luck on Wednesday. Four more top prospects could pick Virginia Tech, and unlike last year, the Hokies seem well positioned to garner the state’s headlines on signing day. Here’s a rundown of the recruits fans should be aware of as the 2012 football recruiting season comes to an end.
Defensive end Ken Ekanem, a two-time All Met from Centreville High, took an official visit to Virginia Tech on Jan. 20. Centreville Coach Chris Haddock recently told The Post’s Paul Tenorio that Ekanem is deciding between the Hokies and Notre Dame, but that the Irish have backed off because of a knee injury Ekanem suffered in the AAA state championship game this year.
Considered a four-star recruit by all the major recruiting services, Ekanem projects as either an outside linebacker or defensive end at the college level. Recruited by defensive coordinator Bud Foster, he had 72 tackles,18 sacks and 32 quarterback pressures for Centreville this past season, including a 4.5-sack performance in the state semifinals against Hermitage.
The good news is that out of all the prospects Virginia Tech is waiting to hear from Wednesday, Ekanem seems to be the best bet to choose the Hokies.
Joel Caleb of Clover Hill High in Midlothian, Va., entered this season as the top prospect in the state of Virginia and has long been the object of the Hokies’ affection. But he’s also considering Ohio State and West Virginia, and the Mountaineers appear to be making a late push. Caleb reportedly took his final official visit to Morgantown, W.Va., on Jan. 20.
Recruited by Shane Beamer, Caleb is a four-star recruit according to all the major recruiting services and Rivals considers him a top 100 prospect nationally. Listed at 6 foot 2 and 201 pounds, he passed for 747 yards and rushed for 737 yards despite missing seven games. Caleb, who projects as a wide receiver in college, recently had surgery for a torn meniscus.
The Hokies already have three wide receivers orally committed to this class, but Caleb would be a significant prize, especially because Virginia Tech watched a sleeper prospect from last year’s recruiting class, South Florida’s Robert Lockhart, de-commit earlier this month after receiving interest from Miami. The good news for the Hokies regarding Caleb is that all six Rivals recruiting experts recently predicted he would pick Virginia Tech on signing day.
Korren Kirven, a defensive tackle from Brookville High in Lynchburg, Va., is also considered a four-star recruit by Rivals and is considered the No. 7 player in the state of Virginia. Kirven took an official visit to Virginia Tech this past weekend, but is also being courted by Alabama, Tennessee and Maryland.
The Crimson Tide appear to be the Hokies’ biggest threat here, as Alabama Coach Nick Saban reportedly was at Brookville last week to make one final pitch. Kirven told the Lynchburg News-Advance Monday that his primary recruiter, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, said “that at some of the other places I’m a big recruit to get, but to them I’m a critical recruit to get.”
Kirven, listed at 6-4 and 272 pounds, is considered the No. 16 defensive tackle in the country this year. The good news for the Hokies is that Brookville is the same high school quarterback Logan Thomas and defensive end Zack McCray attended, and assistant coach Cornell Brown is considered a legend around Lynchburg.
All Met offensive lineman Jackson Matteo of Broad Run High in Ashburn recently de-committed from Temple and is now considering preferred walk-on offers from Virginia Tech and Virginia. Matteo entered the fall as one of the top 25 prospects in the state and would be a nice late addition considering he’s a scholarship-type recruit for other Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Matteo would join Broad Run quarterback Connor Jessup, also an All-Met this fall, as a Hokies walk-on next year.
Should the Hokies somehow manage to get at least two of the remaining four-star prospects on their wish list, this would be a wildly successful recruiting season for Virginia Tech. And we’ll know pretty quickly Wednesday whether the decisions turn out in the Hokies’ favor. Kirven is scheduled to announce his college choice at 8 a.m., followed by Caleb at 8:30 a.m., and then Ekanem at 9 a.m.
We will have an exclusive live stream of Ekanem’s decision here, and throughout the day Hokies Journal will have updates as Virginia Tech’s 2012 recruiting class takes shape.