This week, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said Saturday’s rivalry game between Virginia and Virginia Tech won’t significantly impact either school’s recruiting. Virginia Coach Mike London agreed with that premise to an extent, but noted he does think any opportunity to win — particularly for his program — can affect recruiting.
But according to at least one coach of a renowned high school program in the state of Virginia, Saturday’s game carries considerable implications for Virginia and Virginia Tech in terms of how they shape their message to recruits moving forward. In case you haven’t heard, the winner of Saturday’s contest advances to face Clemson in the ACC championship game.
“If Virginia Tech wins the game, they’re going to say: ‘There’s still a difference between us, guys. Come to Virginia Tech and play for the [ACC] championship,’” said Richard Morgan, the head coach at Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, Va. “And if Virginia wins, they can say, ‘You can come to Virginia and win just as many games and go to the championship also.’
“I think it’s a huge game for both teams in the way they recruit kids this offseason, especially with the juniors they’re going after. I think it’s going to be a huge deal when a kid says, ‘Hey, I can go to either school, and I can win championships.’ ”
It would seem, then, that Saturday’s game has the potential to have a greater impact on Virginia, not just in terms of its ability to recruit in-state prospects, but also in terms of its status in the pecking order of the region’s FBS college football programs.
The Cavaliers have tallied many on-field accomplishments this year — many more than most observers thought they would at the season’s outset — but defeating Virginia Tech for the first time since 2003 would add an extra degree of legitimacy to the push London and his staff are making.
As London himself noted this week, Virginia Tech “has been on this side of the ledger for a long time,” meaning the Hokies are not new to competing for ACC titles. Indeed, Virginia Tech has won four of the past seven conference championships.
“A win on Saturday would be probably more important than any other win [the Cavaliers] have had all year,” Morgan said. “I’d be willing to bet that this is the biggest game of their year, because not only do they have a winning program now and they’re going to go to a bowl game, but this could solidify them even further and get their development pushed forward even faster than most people had thought.”
Morgan does not include himself in that category, primarily because he had inside sources telling him over the summer that Virginia was going to do exactly what it has done this fall. Two of his former players who now play at Virginia – junior tailback Perry Jones and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tim Smith – predicted before the start of training camp that the Cavaliers were “definitely going to a bowl game” and could “definitely win nine, 10 games” on their schedule, according to Morgan.
In the view of Morgan – whose high school program will send four-star tailback J.C. Coleman to Virginia Tech next season – there’s no question that Virginia’s success would be amplified in recruiting circles by a win Saturday and that Virginia Tech (ranked No. 6 in the AP poll) stands to gain a significant amount by maintaining its on-field supremacy over its in-state rival.
“It’s important for both teams, because if Virginia wins, Virginia can say to the recruits: ‘See, we have closed the gap. We’re the same as Tech now,’ ” Morgan said. “So anybody that might be considering going to Tech now would look at Virginia. On the other hand, it’s very important for Virginia Tech because if Virginia Tech comes out and wins the game, Virginia Tech can claim, ‘See, there’s still a gap between us, so come to our school.’
“So both schools can ride this into recruiting and say the gap is there or the gap is now over and we’re both equal. I think it will sway kids’ opinions a little bit as to which school they choose. I think it will matter.”