September 13, 2006
BLACKSBURG -- On a lazy summer afternoon, several of Virginia Tech's assistant coaches sat around in one of their offices just shooting the breeze. It was one of those calm-before-the-storm days a couple weeks before preseason practice.
With four new coaches on the staff, all nine aides liked to take advantage of the opportunities to just chat and get to know their new colleagues better. The subject at this point was recruiting.
Tech had a mammoth July, ringing up 19 commitments in a three-week period. The Hokies started the season with 23 players already declaring their intentions to sign in February. Many of the top prospects in Virginia were among the commitments.
Just that afternoon, offensive lineman William Alvarez of C.D. Hylton High in Woodbridge had stopped by the football offices to say he'd be among the February signees. The coaches were waiting for a call from tailback Josh Oglesby of Garner, N.C., a call that came later and produced more good news.
Lord, someone wondered. Recruiting is going so well during the summer that the coaches might have more time to actually coach during the season.
Not so fast, they said. Besides assessing the talent in the next year's class, one big order of business remained for the current group.
"Babysitting," one coach said. "We have to do a lot of that."
Babysitting is the recruiting lingo for staying with your recruits even after they've committed. Commitments, remember, are non-binding. Recruits can, and often do, change their minds. As excited as coaches get about commitments, they can get just as angry at de-commitments.
And if a coach out there says he always backs off a kid once he has committed to another school, trust this 100 percent: He's lying. Clemson's Tommy Bowden admitted as much recently, when he said, "no means go."
So the other side of Tech's rush of commitments is that it needs to do more babysitting.
The biggest worry for the Hokies is Hampton High quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was among the rash of commitments. Taylor is ranked No. 1 in the state by a variety of sources, and he's among the top quarterbacks in the country.
They're not worried about Taylor himself. He's said several times since his press conference that he is a very solid commitment and he's glad to have the recruiting out of the way so he can concentrate on leading the Crabbers to another state championship.
What they're worried about is that Taylor's phone is not going to stop ringing and that the right pitch from another school could flip a switch in his head somewhere. Hey, it's just a visit. That kind of thing. Kids, even those of seemingly high character such as Taylor, are impressionable. Oklahoma is said to be among the schools that continues to make a hard run at Taylor.
Tech remains confident that Taylor will sign in February. In fact, Taylor is looking into the possibility of graduating early and enrolling at Tech in January. That would let him get a head start on school work and his football education, as he'd be able to participate in offseason workouts and spring practice.
But until he signs or enrolls early, it isn't a done deal.
If one had to take bets on the Tech commitment who won't sign in February, the smart money would be on offensive lineman Kyle Nunn of Sumter, S.C. He was one of the July commitments, though he said two days after his commitment was widely reported that he had not committed to the Hokies. About 10 days later, he said, well, yeah, he is going to sign with Tech.
South Carolina is said to be pushing hard for that to change, and that's a situation the Hokies have experienced before. Two years ago, tight end Jonathan Hannah ended up signing with the Gamecocks after committing to the Hokies.
TIRADE BEHIND WALL SUSPENSION
Start the clock. How long will it be before redshirt freshman defensive end William Wall is no longer part of Tech's program? Not very long, most guess.
Wall is a very promising prospect who enjoyed an excellent spring practice that established him as one of the Hokies' future stars. But his history doesn't suggest longevity.
During his redshirt season, he was given time off from the team to get his academics in order. It took him an extra year to qualify, after switching high schools and then going to a prep school.
He may have cooked his goose last week, when he laid an expletive-laced tirade on Tech coach Frank Beamer, an act that led to his suspension for the Hokies' game at North Carolina.
Beamer had a number of players stay after a practice to do extra conditioning as punishment for not filing necessary paperwork about the personal cars they used while at school. Wall did not react well.
Understandably, Beamer didn't either, following Wall's outburst. You can count on one hand the number of times Beamer really yells over the course of the season. This was one of them.
"You cannot talk to the head coach that way," one Tech athletic staffer said. "You just can't."
BASKETBALL: ON SCHEDULE MATTERS
On the basketball front, Tech is looking for one more non-conference game to fill out its schedule.
Look for the Hokies to announce soon that they will play Seton Hall of the Big East at Madison Square Garden sometime close to Christmas. Tech has to juggle some other games to make the matchup work. It almost had a similar deal with Pittsburgh, but that fell through.
Tech coach Seth Greenberg had talked about trying to schedule a game with Division III Roanoke College and tie it into former Tech coach Charlie Moir's induction into the Hokies' athletic Hall of Fame.
Moir coached at Roanoke before getting the job at Tech. His son Page is the long-time (and current) head coach at Roanoke.
That game did not pan out, probably a good thing given the criticism Tech would have received for scheduling a Division III team, no matter how honorable its intentions with regard to its former coach.