Virginia Tech has not put up as many wins as it has wanted over the last several seasons as coach Frank Beamer has come under increasing scrutiny, raising the level of negative recruiting the Hokies have encountered along the trail.
Yet Virginia Tech still finished with a class ranked in the Top 25 in the ESPN RecruitingNation rankings, holding on to No. 25 despite missing on some of the top prospects in its state. While that was a disappointment, Virginia Tech has to be pleased with the group it signed given the circumstances.
“People concentrate on the moment Virginia Tech was 5-6,” said recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring, referring to this past season. “We’re more conscious of the fact that we won our final game and our bowl game and finished 7-6, and we’re excited about the way we finished the season and what the future holds, and that 80 percent of our points were scored by freshmen. The future is bright and our track record, our consistency, how we do things does mean a lot to these particular young men and that means a lot to us.”
There is little doubt that the pressure is on Beamer and his staff to get back into contention for the Coastal Division title 2015. There already is reason for optimism given the strong performance of the 2014 freshman class. Stinespring sees many similarities with the 2015 class just signed, which should also provide hope if last year is used as a blueprint.
“It’s very similar because the strength of this class is the entirety of the group,” Stinespring said. “We played a bunch of guys last year, but we were still able to redshirt guys like Vinny Mihota who can step in and play this year or Jaylen Bradshaw, there’s a group still waiting and anxious to get on the field, and I feel the same way about this class. There’s going to be guys to step on field and play right away, and there’s going to be guys we can redshirt and get bigger, get a little stronger.”
Last year, Virginia Tech had an influx of freshmen make plays at the skill positions. But this year, the Hokies are going to have to rely on offensive and defensive linemen to come in and play. Stinespring anticipates at least two defensive ends who can play right away. That does not count their top recruit, Tim Settle, a defensive tackle who will be given an opportunity.
Offensive line has the more immediate need, considering this has been a weak spot for three seasons. Last year, Virginia Tech got hit with a rash of injuries, depleting a group that already was lacking quality depth. Already, top offensive linemen Austin Clark and Tyrell Smith are enrolled and available to participate in spring practice.
“We need to get the guys we have back healthy, we need to get a couple of these redshirts that didn’t play, get them out there and we need to get Austin Clark, Tyrell Smith, Mike Arnold, and we’ve got to go,” Stinespring said. “It’s a combination of not just who’s coming, but who’s here also to get them healthy.”
Virginia Tech must use that combination not only on the offensive line but across its team. The Hokies took injury hits everywhere, losing three running backs, its top defensive tackle, one of its best cornerbacks and several others as well.
If they can stay healthy and mature the way they think they can, Virginia Tech has a chance to get back to its winning ways.
“I think our kids are hungry,” Stinespring said. “It was important to win that bowl game and get that momentum. We finished up with a good recruiting class and now getting into spring practice, I like the feeling that we have.”