With Virginia Tech making a football recruiting push in the state of North Carolina, nothing bad came from last Saturday’s 59-7 mangling of North Carolina. Another chance for a recruiting statement win comes this Saturday when Tech hosts Duke.
While No. 13 Tech’s thrashing of UNC this past weekend was about as convincing as possible in front of a critical cast of recruits in Lane Stadium, Hokies coach Justin Fuente dispelled Monday the notion he had a desire to lay a nasty beatdown on the Tar Heels more than any other team.
Tech wide receiver Cam Phillips said after the game “every player, every coach has a certain team that really gets under their skin, you know, they really want to beat them more than anybody else. I know for coach (Fuente) this is probably that team.”
Memo to Phillips from Fuente: Slow your roll, dude.
“Cam speaks for Cam,” Fuente said Monday. “Cam does not speak for me. OK? I want to win every game that we play. No one game is more important than another one. I wish Cam had not said that, quite honestly, because he does not speak for me. We try and get our guys ready to play every single week. I have a tremendous amount of respect for (UNC coach) Larry Fedora and the job he’s done at North Carolina. I know they’re going through hard times. … Do we want to absolutely win every time we take the field? You bet.”
As for whipping UNC by a combined score of 93-10 in the last two seasons, Fuente will defend the value of a couple of blowouts when it comes to making potential gains on the recruiting trail in North Carolina, but it’s just business. Nothing personal.
“Winning helps,” Fuente said.
“I mean, that is always a good thing in terms of helping you sell your program, because it’s tangible evidence of what you’re doing is working. When you’re not winning, you have to take stock in other things to measure your success, so those things are good. … There are a lot of other things that go into it, but having success certainly helps.”
So far, Tech (6-1, 2-1 ACC) has dipped into North Carolina to pick up class of 2018 commitments from linebacker Alan Tisdale, cornerback D.J. Crossen (who was once a UNC pledge, and narrowed his choices to UNC and Tech before choosing the Hokies) and receiver Tre Turner (who chose Tech from a final group that included UNC and Florida State). All three recruits are from Greensboro, N.C., and all are considered by recruiting analysts among the nation’s top 50 at their respective positions for the ’18 class.
In addition to the Greensboro trio, Tech has commitments from running back Nadir Thompson of Bailey, N.C., and defensive end Joe Kane of Wake Forest, N.C. Thompson is looked upon by analysts as one of the nation’s top 50 athlete recruits in the ’18 class, while Kane is perceived as a top-50 strong-side defensive end.
That’s five players from North Carolina out of 22 total commitments for Tech. The last time Tech had more than four players from North Carolina sign a letter of intent was the 2008 class, when receiver Jarrett Boykin, safety Eddie Whitley, offensive tackle Nick Becton, offensive lineman Michael Via and defensive back Lorenzo Williams all became Hokies.
Tech could draw more than five players from North Carolina in this recruiting class. More coveted prospects from Virginia’s immediate neighbor to the south are strongly considering the Hokies.
This past weekend, Turner and Tisdale were in Blacksburg for campus visits, along with undecided recruits KJ Henry and Dax Hollifield among a large group of other recruits. Both Henry and Hollifield are among the nation’s most sought-after defensive recruits in the ’18 class.
Henry, a Clemmons, N.C., product who is weighing offers from Tech, Clemson, Alabama and Georgia, is considered by most analysts one of the nation’s top three weak-side defensive ends and top 20 overall recruits in the ’18 class. Hollifield, a native of Shelby, N.C., who is pondering offers from Tech, UNC, FSU, South Carolina and Stanford, is rated by most analysts among the nation’s best five inside linebacker recruits in the ’18 class.
All year, the Twitter hashtag #NC2VT has been a popular battle cry for Tech’s ’18 class recruiting efforts. While Duke (4-4, 1-4) has lost three straight games by seven points each (at Virginia, against FSU and against Pittsburgh) and has taken a couple steps back in the last two seasons on the heels of four consecutive bowl seasons under coach David Cutcliffe, Tech’s determination to make further recruiting inroads in North Carolina makes this Saturday’s game an important one.
“I know they’ve lost a couple of close games here the last couple weeks, but we certainly know that we’ll have to be ready,” Fuente said. “I think if you look at the last four games that these two teams have played, they’ve split 2-2 and I think there’s one point differential between the two teams in the last four games (Duke led 95-94 combined in the last four meetings). So, we had to block a field goal and hang on to win by three (last season). We’ve had (a) four-overtime (game) and so on and so forth. … but it’s going to be a tough, hard-fought football game.”
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642 or Twitter at @normwood