The Virginia Tech football team will open the 2013 regular season against two-time defending BCS champion Alabama, but assistant coach Shane Beamer has been battling the Crimson Tide for months now.
Beamer and the Hokies’ coaching staff had been high on safety Holland Fisher, a consensus top 100 recruit out of Midlothian, Va., even before he orally commited to Virginia Tech last February. But he wowed them during a recruiting camp last summer – they compare him to former Hokies safety and Seattle Seahawks All-Pro Kam Chancellor — dominating drills when most recruits of his caliber chose not to participate.
By the fall, Alabama assistant Lance Thompson had begun showing up for Fisher’s games at Manchester High. Beamer knew it was serious at the end of September when Fisher and his family went to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for an official visit, where Coach Nick Saban tried to convince Fisher he was the next Mark Barron, an Alabama safety who was picked No. 7 overall in the 2012 NFL draft.
But Coach Frank Beamer’s son remained resolute, a trait that allowed Virginia Tech to keep Fisher in the fold and enjoy a successful National Signing Day on Wednesday, on the heels of the team’s worst season on the field in 20 years.
“We’re not gonna back down from anybody,” Shane Beamer said. “I constantly sold what Virginia Tech has to offer and in my mind we have as much to offer as Alabama. There was never an, ‘Uh oh, Alabama offered’. It was: ‘All right. Go to work. Let’s compete.’ ”
Virginia Tech’s smallest recruiting class since 1995 will also go down as one of its best in the Frank Beamer era, ranked among the top 22 in the nation by every major recruiting service. Among the 18 players who signed national letters-of-intent were the program’s first five-star recruit since 2007, a quarterback prospect who could be the heir apparent to current signal-caller Logan Thomas and four offensive linemen, a position of need in recent seasons.
Unlike the past two years, the Hokies also did not have any recruits de-commit at the last minute.
“This year in a lot of ways, you feel great about the players, because we had an unusual season for us,” Frank Beamer said. “Time will tell, but I really like the athletic ability in this class and the size of our linemen.”
The top recruit in this year’s class is Good Counsel cornerback Kendall Fuller, the younger brother of current Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fulller and former Hokies Corey and Vincent Fuller. He becomes the school’s first consensus five-star prospect since former quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster indicated Kendall Fuller could receive playing time right away because cornerback Antone Exum suffered a torn ACL last month. Beamer said Fuller, the All-Met Offensive Player of the Year at wide receiver this past fall, may be used in some offensive packages as well.
“He has that wow factor and I fully expect him to come in and be that guy with a little swagger. . . . He’s going to make an immediate impact,” said Foster, who called Fuller and four-star defensive end Wyatt Teller of Bealeton, Va., the future “faces of this defense.”
Virginia Tech also signed two quarterbacks who could eventually supplant Thomas following the 2013 season, most notably four-star prospect Bucky Hodges of Virginia Bech. Quarterback Carlis Parker of Statesville, N.C., whose left-handed throwing motion and athleticism reminds Beamer of Michael Vick, is one of four signees who graduated high school early and already enrolled at Virginia Tech to work with new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler during spring practice.
In addition, the Hokies also received commitments from legacy recruits Kyle Chung, son of former Virginia Tech offensive lineman Eugene Chung, and Deon Newsome, son of former Hokies linebacker Myron Newsome.
It wasn’t all good news for the Hokies, though. Running back Drew Harris, a 2012 recruit who spent this past fall at Fork Union Military Academy, did not sign his national-letter-of-intent. Harris has yet to be academically cleared by the NCAA, and one person familiar with the situation said the issue wouldn’t be resolved until June, at the earliest.
This day, though, was about looking toward the future after a season that brought about the most drastic coaching changes this program has seen in 20 years.
For the first time ever, Virginia Tech broadcast an innovative two-hour show that was live-streamed on its Web site and featured profiles of every signed recruit. New recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring, meanwhile, said the team will “spot recruit” going forward, allowing Virginia Tech’s assistant coaches to be more involved in the recruitment of prospects at their position.
Stinespring also announced that new wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead will recruit Maryland and Washington for the Hokies. Foster and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray will remain Virginia Tech’s primary recruiters in Northern Virginia.
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