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January 29, 2013

Strongest VT Recruiting Class?

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The 2013 recruiting class for Virginia Tech got off to a roaring start nearly a year ago.

Manchester (Va.) four-star safety Holland Fisher became the first commit to the class, following an unofficial visit for junior day Feb. 18 of last year. He was followed that same day by Henrico (Va.) three-star defensive back Cequan Jefferson.

Now that the final Rivals100, Rivals250 and positional rankings have been released, we take an overall look at the class, currently ranked No. 19 in the country and No. 2 in the ACC behind Florida State.

Over the next few weeks, we'll also be breaking down each position and comparing it to Hokies classes of the past.

Overall Depth And Quality

Since Fisher's and Jefferson's commits, the Hokies have added 18 more pledges to what might be their best overall recruiting class in the past decade, as evidenced by the final Rivals.com rankings, released last week. Three commitments are ranked in the Rivals100, the most for Virginia Tech in one class since 2002, while 11 of the 20 commitments are ranked at their position.

The headliner, Good Counsel (Md.) five-star Kendall Fuller (No. 9 overall and No. 2 at cornerback) is the Hokies' fourth-highest ranked recruit by Rivals.com in those 12 years. Only quarterback Marcus Vick ranked higher, No. 8 in the 2002 class. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor (No. 27 in 2007) and defensive back Macho Harris (No. 28 in 2005) are the only other five star recruits to sign with Virginia Tech.

But what makes this class so special is that there are more than just a few quality players.

"Overall, it's a pretty well-balanced class," Rivals.com mid-atlantic analyst Adam Friedman said. "You've got your marquee player in Kendall Fuller, one of the top players in the nation and one of the guys who I think has the most upside as far as NFL future. Yeah, you've got four other four-stars who definitely fill needs and a bunch of three-stars who have the potential to be a very solid group, especially on the offensive line. There's Braxton Pfaff, Parker Osterloh, Jonathan McLaughlin who's a monster, Charles Clark with a lot of upside. There's a lot of potential here and just a complete class."

Plenty Of Star Power

Compared to other classes, this class won't field as many players numbers-wise. Virginia Tech lost just 17 seniors this fall, making for a smaller incoming class.

But the Hokies did well with their smaller numbers, hauling in four four-star recruits, an addition to Fuller, all ranked in the Rivals250. Fuller was ranked as high as No. 3 in the country this summer and the No. 1 cornerback. It wasn't that he did poorly afterward, but Rivals' analysts felt Vernon Hargreaves III had a sensational finish to his season and moved to No. 2 overall and the top cornerback.

Still, Fuller, an Army all-American, gives the Hokies plenty to be excited about.

"Top two class in the ACC heading down the stretch to Signing Day so Virginia Tech did very well," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. "Fuller is obviously the headliner here and I think he will be special, could be the best cornerback Virginia Tech has had in years and that's saying something considering the talent they've produced."

Liberty (Va.) defensive end Wyatt Teller made one of the biggest jumps in the final rankings, moving from No. 103 to No. 59 overall and the No. 6 strongside defensive end. Teller, also an Army all-American, had an impressive week leading up to the game that really boosted his stock.

"During our last re-rankings for the 2013 class, we all thought Wyatt Teller had an awesome performance at the Army Bowl," Friedman said. "Even though he didn't do a ton in the game, he had a really good week and the coaches couldn't say enough good things about him."

Also making the cut in the Rivals100 is Fisher, who was ranked as high as No. 68 at one point, dropped to No. 72 and finished at No. 83, but still the No. 10 safety in the country. Salem (Va.) quarterback Bucky Hodges also made the Rivals250, coming in at No. 171.

"Fuller and Holland Fisher will be a great 1-2 punch but we all know the success of this class will ultimately come down to Bucky Hodges," Farrell said. "He could be an absolute home run with his size and mobility and if he develops as a passer a bit more, he could dominate. Wyatt Teller is a beast, reminds me of Chris Long a bit out of high school and that's saying something."

Challenge At Quarterback

With Logan Thomas coming back for his senior season at Virginia Tech, the Hokies have one more year with a dependable quarterback, albeit one who still has work to do after last season's 7-6 finish.

But that will allow the quarterbacks behind him to get more time to develop. Thomas already has two understudies from this past season in sophomore Mark Leal and freshman Brenden Motley and now he'll have two more.

Hodges brings more praise and hype with him with his four-star ranking. And although Statesville (NC) commit Carlis Parker has been moved to athlete and saw his ranking drop from the No. 17 dual-threat quarterback to No. 73 athlete, he'll get a shot at quarterback as well. Parker has already enrolled for the spring semester.

Friedman said he still believes Hodges will be the one most likely to follow in Thomas' footsteps.

"Bucky Hodges is a pretty solid player," Friedman said. "He's definitely gonna be an heir-apparent at quarterback when his time comes. He has a big arm, can move around a little bit and pretty accurate. A lot of people compared him to another quarterback out of Virginia Beach, Corwin Cutler. We liked Bucky a little better with his potential and where he's at right now with his development process. Turtle's injury hurt him a little bit."

Offensive Line Help Arrives

The Hokies introduced their new offensive line coach Friday in Jeff Grimes, formerly at Auburn. Though he and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will look to make a number of improvements to a line that helped just two players, Thomas and J.C. Coleman individually reach 100 yards in a game and allowed 25 sacks, they'll have plenty to work with.

The biggest newcomer might be Fork Union (Va.) three-star tackle Jonathan McLaughlin, who committed to East Carolina a year ago out of Mauldin (SC). His year of prep school might make him the most likely to see time early.

But the Hokies also have a trio of linemen in three-stars Pfaff, Osterloh and Kyle Chung, son of former Virginia Tech great Eugene Chung. Pfaff and Osterloh also impressed at the Chesapeake Bowl last month as Pfaff made a significant jump, to a 5.7 rating and the No. 39 offensive tackle in the country.

"Throughout the whole process, we didn't know a ton about Pfaff, Osterloh and some of these offensive linemen," Friedman said. "When I ended up seeing them at the Chesapeake Bowl and at a camp or two, we were able to see some improvement in them. It was nice to see that some of the lower-rated guys were putting in the effort to increase their stock."

The Hokies' two running back additions, four-star Drew Harris and three-star Jerome Wright, both signed with Virginia Tech last year, but were ineligible and spent the fall at FUMA. Both will be welcome additions to the offense.

Is It A Wrap?

The class will officially be wrapped Feb. 6 on signing day, but it might not be over yet. Virginia Tech still has one spot available, though it still might not use the spot for 2013.

All 20 commitments are fully expected to sign. Three-star defensive back Brandon Facyson, Parker, Osterloh, McLaughlin and Wright have already enrolled for the spring semester and will participate in spring practice.

It's hard to believe after such a strong class, but the Hokies strong class could get stronger.


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