When it comes to recruiting, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer isn’t shy about his desire to lock up what he calls the six-hour radius around Blacksburg. That means the Hokies “home” recruiting territory essentially stretches from Atlanta to Baltimore.
But Beamer is also fond of saying he believes there is enough talent in the state of Virginia to win a national championship. So it was surprising last year when the Hokies signed just five of the state’s top 25 players, according to Rivals.com, instead getting 12 recruits from out-of-state. It was the fewest top 25 in-state players Virginia Tech had signed since Rivals started tracking such stuff in 2002.
This year, though, the Hokies are poised to reel in more of the state’s top 25 players than they have since 2008, and could set a record if things fall right when National Signing Day arrives Wednesday. Virginia Tech has received oral commitments to its 2012 recruiting class from 10 of the top 25 players from Virginia, and four more are debating whether to pick the Hokies this week.
Currently, the top-ranked in-state commitment for the Hokies is running back J.C. Coleman of Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, Va. Coleman, the No. 5 prospect in the state per Rivals, is already enrolled in school for spring practice and will get an opportunity to compete for the starting tailback job now that David Wilson is preparing for the NFL draft.
But the Hokies will hear from two of Virginia’s top five recruits – two-time All Met Ken Ekanem of Centreville High and Richmond-area wide receiver Joel Caleb, the state’s No. 1 recruit – on signing day. Defensive tackle Korren Kirven of Lynchburg, Va., and All Met offensive lineman Jackson Matteo of Broad Run High in Ashburn could also pick Virginia Tech Wednesday.
That the Hokies have done so well recruiting the state this year is perhaps a credit to the changes Coach Frank Beamer made during last year’s offseason. After watching Virginia Coach Mike London beat him on the recruiting trail a year ago, Beamer brought in two new assistants (his son, Shane, and former Hokies linebacker Cornell Brown) while also altering the in-state recruiting responsibilities of his entrenched staff.
Virginia Tech also has more scholarships to work with this year. According to Beamer’s official website, the Hokies could sign as many as 28 recruits this year. The Hokies only had enough room to enroll 18 players in 2011.
NCAA rules prohibit schools from signing more than 28 players and enrolling more than 25 in any given year. Teams are only allowed 85 scholarship players total. But there are ways to maneuver around this through gray shirting, meaning certain recruits will delay their enrollment until at least January 2013 and therefore not count against the 2012 scholarship limits. Others could fail to qualify academically and be forced to spend a year at prep school.
Beamer, however, believes there are enough in-state recruits for both the Hokies and Virginia to be successful, and this year could go a long way toward proving that. Though Virginia Tech has done exceedingly well in the Commonwealth, the Cavaliers haven’t been slouches this year, either.
Together, Virginia Tech and Virginia have gotten oral commitments from 17 of the state’s top 25 players. That would be the most since 2005 when Virginia Tech and Virginia combined to sign 20 of the top 25 recruits from Virginia. But with four of the top 25 waiting to announce until Signing Day and still considering either the Hokies or the Cavaliers, there’s a chance this could be a record year in-state for both schools.
We’ll have much more on Signing Day here at Hokies Journal throughout the week, including live streaming video of Ekanem’s announcement as well as updates throughout Wednesday as Virginia Tech receives national letters-of-intent from its 2012 recruits.