But after watching three of the team’s four high-profile undecided prospects pick the Hokies on Wednesday, cementing what Rivals.com now considers the No. 20 recruiting class in the country, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer couldn’t help but look forward to how this group could help with the wounds of last month’s Sugar Bowl loss and similar disappointments from years past.
“I think we took another step towards reaching our goals at Virginia Tech. There’s no question we won a lot of games, we just need to take that next step and win a lot of BCS games,” Beamer said. “We won a lot of big games to get to a big game in the BCS, but I think this class gives us a chance to, next time we get to that BCS game, to have more success.
“I really feel good about this class,” he later added. “I mean really, really good.”
With defensive end Ken Ekanem and wide receiver Joel Caleb both announcing Wednesday morning that they would be coming to Virginia Tech, the Hokies ended up landing seven four-star recruits, a record for the school since Rivals began tracking that sort of thing. Perhaps more importantly, 17 of the Hokies’ 28 recruits are from the state of Virginia this year.
Beamer said there was “a little nervousness there early in the morning,” also grouping recruit Joshua Stanford among the undecided after he stuck with his oral commitment to Virginia Tech following late interest from TCU and UCLA.
The Hokies only missed on two of their potential prospects, but unlike last year’s 33rd-ranked recruiting class, it didn’t take away from the luster of this year’s group. Early Wednesday, four-star defensive tackle Korren Kirven picked Alabama over the Hokies. Then in the afternoon, Beamer and the Hokies got involved in a Twitter-fueled controversy.
The conversation South Florida prospect Jawand Blue had with Virginia Tech, informing the coaching staff that he had changed his commitment, was aired publicly on the social media site through a Palm Beach Post reporter. Beamer offered a response Wednesday afternoon.
“I found it highly unusual that a newspaper guy would be tweeting a private conversation that was being had there,” said Beamer, who added that the reporter called Virginia Tech’s sports information department and apologized for the incident. “And then I’m interested in how a newspaper guy got on that conversation and us not be aware of it. That’s a bit unusual there. We’re checking on that.”
None of that, though, could dim Beamer’s excitement about this class, which is highlighted by five running back prospects that could fill the sizable void left by the departure of David Wilson.
Beamer began his teleconference with reporters by comparing Philadelphia area running back Drew Harris to former Hokies star Kevin Jones, another Pennsylvania product. Director of recruiting Jim Cavanaugh later raved about the vision of Chesapeake, Va., tailback J.C. Coleman, who is already enrolled in school for spring practice.
The Hokies also signed running back Chris Mangus of Raleigh, N.C. – “a speed merchant,” Cavanaugh said – and Jerome Wright from the Richmond area.
But no Hokies recruit garnered as much praise as Danville, Va., linebacker/running back Trey Edmunds, the son of former Maryland and Pro Bowl tight end Ferrell Edmunds. Beamer and Cavanaugh both indicated that Trey Edmunds is so talented that whether he focuses on offense or defense, the coaching staff will put together a special package for him on the other side. “He’s that kind of athlete and he has that kind of explosiveness,” Cavanaugh said.
Edmunds rushed for 2,596 yards and 33 touchdowns and also had 143 tackles this past season.
“We’re gonna give them all a shot and figure out what the best options are right now,” said Beamer, adding that the team’s recruiting priority for next year will be offensive linemen to block for all these tailbacks. “But certainly that had to be a priority and to come away with the quality of kids we did at that position, that’s gotta be a big plus.”
Here are more quotes from Cavanaugh about some of the Hokies’ other 2012 recruits.
LB Deon Clarke – “He can flat run.” Cavanaugh compared him to former Virginia Tech linebacker Xavier Adibi.
DE Jarontay Jones: “The defensive end position on our team has sort of been the star position and this kid can run and has a great sense of the ball … He fits our style of defense and our tradition of defensive end.”
DL Alston Smith, son of NFL Hall of Famer and former Hokies great Bruce Smith: “He’s one of these kids, every time you see him he’s about an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier.”
TE Dakota Jackson: Cavanaugh compared him to former Hokies tight end Jeff King, now in the NFL.
DBs Davion Tookes and Donaldven Manning: “They are cover corners who are worth their weight in gold these days.”