Recruiting surge boosts Virginia Tech football for future
By Mark Giannotto,
BLACKSBURG, Va. — The small talk and campus tours were finished, but as 235 football recruits and their parents prepared for the on-field portion of Virginia Tech’s one-day recruiting camp Saturday afternoon, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring decided Good Counsel running back Wes Brown deserved some special attention.
“Long time no see,” Stinespring said to Brown, a rising senior considered to be one of the Washington area’s top recruits. “Where ya’ been?”
Though Stinespring was referring to Brown’s first-ever visit to Virginia Tech that day, he could have easily been talking about Brown’s high school. Since Coach Bob Milloy arrived in 2001 and transformed Good Counsel into one of the area’s powerhouse football programs, none of the Falcons players has signed a scholarship with the Hokies.
But Brown was one of five top recruits from the Olney private school to make the five-hour drive to southwest Virginia this past weekend, underscoring the type of in-roads Virginia Tech has made on the recruiting trail after Coach Frank Beamer implemented the most drastic offseason coaching changes his program had seen since 1992.
With almost seven months remaining until college football’s National Signing Day, Virginia Tech has 19 oral commitments for its 2012 recruiting class. Just three other Bowl Championship Series-conference schools — Miami, Michigan and Texas A&M — have more.
NCAA rules prohibit Virginia Tech’s staff from speaking publicly about a specific recruit until they sign a national letter-of-intent, but it hasn’t stopped the Hokies from figuring out the reasons for an earlier-than-usual recruiting surge.
In a twist, this run of success dates from the limited number of scholarships the Hokies had available for its 2011 class. Virginia Tech’s group of 21 signees were ranked No. 33 in the country by Rivals.com, behind in-state rival Virginia and three other ACC schools.
“Since the  class was pretty much already finished when we were out recruiting this past year, we were already looking at many of these kids that have committed,” said Virginia Tech’s director of recruiting Jim Cavanaugh, who added that the head start also meant the Hokies had more 2013 recruits than usual at this weekend’s camp. “By the time our junior day came around in February, we had a lot of kids visiting who already had verbal offers.”
Cavanaugh also thinks his move to an administrative role — for the past nine years he served as recruiting coordinator and outside linebackers coach — allows Virginia Tech to devote more individual time to recruits. For instance, he said, when recruits visited campus during spring practice this year, his new role “freed me up to give these kids a lot of attention.”
As part of his coaching changes this offseason, Beamer brought back his son, Shane, as running backs coach. Shane Beamer, who was previously the recruiting coordinator at South Carolina, has landed four 2012 recruits for Virginia Tech. On Monday evening, the Florida Times-Union reported that former Georgia offensive lineman Brent Benedict, who was also being courted by Beamer, will transfer to Virginia Tech.
More important, though, is the fact that 11 of those 19 oral commitments hail from Virginia, where the Hokies landed just eight recruits in 2011. Virginia Tech received four in-state oral commitments following this weekend’s camp alone, most notably defensive lineman Alston Smith, the son of NFL Hall of Famer and former Hokies great Bruce Smith.
One question that remains is the Hokies’ ability to land the nation’s top talent. According to Rivals.com, the last five-star prospect to commit to Virginia Tech was former quarterback Tyrod Taylor in 2006, and none of the Hokies’ 2012 commitments have earned the distinction either.
Even that, though, could be changing.
Also in attendance Saturday was Good Counsel senior wide receiver Stefon Diggs, considered by every major recruiting service to be one of the country’s top 10 prospects this year. By the time afternoon football drills were getting underway, Diggs was already convinced Virginia Tech would be one of his top choices when he makes a college decision.
“They’re on the rise for the national championship. I can sense it,” said Diggs, who added he’ll “definitely” be back this fall for an official visit with his mother. “Other people sense it, too. That’s why they’re committing here. They want to be a part of it.”