Over the last 20 years, Virginia Tech has done more with less (on paper), than any other school in the country. Frank Beamer and Co. have developed countless 2-3 star players and sent them on to the NFL. Kam Chancellor will be taking the field Sunday in the Super Bowl. He is arguably the best Safety in the NFL, and he came to Virginia Tech as a 3-star QB/ATH. Current Hokie, Luther Maddy, was an afterthought when he signed with the Hokies as a 2-star prospect in 2011. Through the course of his career, Maddy has developed into the most consistent player of his class, and with a strong year in 2015, should be the highest drafted player of his class.
That’s what Virginia Tech has been about the past two decades; from 3-star to All-Star, and from 2-star to NFL Draft pick. However, this year’s class is shaping up to be one of the better groups in recent memory. Currently, Rivals has Virginia Tech ranked 20th, while ESPN has the Hokies sitting 23rd. Those numbers will move over the next few days with numerous top prospects waiting to commit, but we know for certain that Virginia Tech has seven players already on campus from this year’s class. Let’s get familiar with some of Virginia Tech’s future playmakers.
When you think playmaker, you probably don’t think offensive line, but if you’ve watched the Hokies over the last three or four years you understand there is no position on the team in greater need of an upgrade in talent than up front on offense. Rated a consensus 4-star recruit, Austin Clark is absolutely an upgrade and by enrolling early, he gives himself a legitimate chance to be in the two-deep this fall. Clark already possesses great size standing 6’5″ 297 lbs. and with spring workouts and summer lifting, Clark will have every opportunity to get into prime playing shape. Hokie nation had their collective hearts broken last year, when Clark, a native of Rockbridge County, VA committed to South Carolina. However, as the story played out, The Hokies were able to sway Clark to stay in-state, and make the gem that is Blacksburg home for the next four years. Virginia Tech fans should be as thankful for Austin Clark as they have been for just about any commit in the past, as he has the potential to be an All-ACC offensive lineman. He drives defenders off the ball, plays to the whistle, and any other cliche you want to throw in. He also seems to have no problem attacking defenders on multiple levels.
At 6’7″ 277 lbs, Nijman is one of the largest defensive ends to ever enroll at Virginia Tech. Long-term, end may not be the best position for Nijman, but if he can maximize his frame and still maintain great speed and quickness, then I’m sure Bud Foster will have no problem leaving him on the edge. Ultimately Nijman will end up at defensive tackle but for 2015 the Hokies will need him at end, and Nijman will likely see the field this season. Enrolling early was the best decision the 4-star commit could have made, as this spring will allow him to learn the scheme and techniques necessary to be successful in 2015. Physically, Nijman is ready. He has all the tools at his disposal, and hopefully after an entire spring and summer, he’ll enter the fall at a point where his mind won’t tie up his feet. While the starters are set at defensive end, Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem, the depth behind those two is shaky at best. I expect Nijman to break into the two-deep this season, at the very least, Nijman will provide much needed competition and push those currently ahead of him on the depth chart.
Mook Reynolds is poised to be the next great one in the #DBU legacy. After watching that interview, I get as excited about what he can do as a team leader and a spokesman for the program as I do for his on the field potential. Not taking anything away from his on-field ability, because that is substantial, but Reynolds talks like you would expect a QB to talk. He gives complete confident answers that are well thought out. Reynolds is the kind of guy that wins games on the field, wins fans to your program, and will win recruits over during those on-campus visits.
Enrolling in January will allow Reynolds to digest Bud Foster’s complicated scheme. This also means extra time for Reynolds to pick Kendall Fuller’s brain and learn all he can, as I expect Kendall will declare for the draft after this coming season, opening the door for Reynolds to potentially be THE guy in 2016. While there is considerable depth and talent returning in the secondary for 2015, it remains to be seen exactly where that talent will be slotted and who will play what position. While I don’t foresee Reynolds starting, I think he provides quality depth for next season. His presence alone could allow the Hokies to experiment with Greg Stroman — who seems to be a playmaker in his own right — on the offensive side of the ball this Spring, .
Smith originally signed with the Hokies in 2014 but needed a prep year. Smith enrolled at Virginia Tech earlier this month, sporting a 3-star rating from Rivals and a more college ready body. At 6’4″ 284 lbs, Smith has already begun to transform himself from the 260 lb prospect from a year ago. Like Clark, Smith will have Spring and Summer workouts to gear up for the 2015 season and he too, should find himself in the 2-deep come this fall.
The added size and strength will help Tyrell Smith with his run-blocking. If he is able to maintain his quick feet with the extra 30-40 lbs he will have added to his 260 lb body (in the video above) by the Fall, then the Hokies have a real sleeper on their hands in a player that was once rated a 2-star prospect.
This is just a sample of the guys already enrolled this Spring for the Hokies. We’ll have much more on the guys waiting to sign in the next few days, especially once signing day arrives and commitments become official.