NCF On The Trail: Virginia Tech Hokies

Ohio State and Oregon have different recruiting philosophies, but both have made it work on the way to an appearance in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.

Two ESPN 300 prospects announced their commitments during the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Sunday night, as Dwayne Lawson committed to Virginia Tech and Austin Joyner pledged to Washington.

Lawson's commitment to Virginia Tech is huge for the Hokies, as coming into the game, Frank Beamer's 2015 recruiting class Insider contained 21 prospects but was without a quarterback. Now the Hokies boast the nation's No. 211 prospect and a former Miami commit.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Lawson chose Virginia Tech over Mississippi and South Florida, and said he was drawn to the stability of the coaching staff and Virginia Tech's agribusiness program. He is the fourth prospect from the state of Florida in this Hokies' class and is the second ESPN 300 prospect to commit to Virginia Tech in the past three days, as the Hokies scored Insider No. 17 overall prospect Tim Settle during Friday's Under Armour All-America Game.

Joyner's recruitment has seen more than a few twists and turns. After originally committed to Washington and head coach Steve Sarkisian, Joyner backed away from that commitment when Sarkisian and many of his defensive assistants moved to USC. Joyner then committed to Washington State this past April, but made the decision to decommit shortly following the dismissal of two defensive assistants -- namely defensive coordinator Mike Breske -- from the Cougars following the season and two days before taking an official visit to Washington.

The 5-foot-10, 186-pound running back is the nation's No. 268 prospect and will head to Washington as a cornerback, though the Huskies' coaches have shown they will give players a look on both sides of the ball, and Joyner could be one of those to play multiple positions at the next level.

The Huskies now have 22 commitments, including two ESPN 300 prospects. Head coach Chris Petersen also continues his strong work with in-state recruits. After coming in late during the 2014 cycle and securing a commitment from Budda Baker, the state's top prospect last year, the Huskies now have commitments from four of the top six Washington prospects, including Joyner, the state's No. 1 recruit.
Five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle committed to Virginia Tech during the Under Armour All-America Game. Here's what keeping this elite defensive tackle in-state means for Virginia Tech:

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Day 2 of practices for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl took us to the East squad, where one ESPN 300 prospect remains uncommitted -- for now -- and the only other uncommitted position player could be getting familiar with his future home city.

Lawson ready to announce

Only three of the top 20 dual-threat quarterbacks remain uncommitted at this stage, and ESPN 300 prospect Dwayne Lawson is ready to reduce that number to two.

The four-star quarterback and No. 211 overall prospect is a former Miami pledge, but said he will announce his commitment during halftime of this Sunday's game among a final group that includes Mississippi, South Florida and Virginia Tech.

"I already know what school I'm going to," Lawson said. "I made the decision probably last month. I kind of knew what the best opportunity was to play right away, the best opportunity for me to come in and be around guys that have the same goal in mind."

Lawson took an official visit to Virginia Tech in late November, but didn't take official trips to either of his other finalists -- though he added that he has been to USF on unofficial visits numerous times.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound quarterback said he's eager to make his announcement because he's looking forward to start learning the offense.

Horton still committed to UF

Offensive guard Mike Horton is one of only eight commitments in Florida's class, as the Gators struggled to develop much in-season momentum with poor play and a rumored coaching change. Now that Jim McElwain has taken over and is looking to get things moving in the right direction, keeping Horton in the fold is a priority.

"Right now I'm still committed," Horton said of his Florida pledge. "I haven't talked to everybody on the new staff, but I've talked to Coach Mac twice. Basically he's been telling me to believe in the vision and know that we have something that we're trying to accomplish. It's going to get better here and we're going to bring Florida back to what it was."

Horton will take his official visits in January though, and said Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee will receive his trips.

Still considered a Florida pledge, Horton said things could solidify completely for the Gators once, or if, he can fully buy into McElwain's pitch.

"I just have to believe more," Horton said of what would end his recruitment. "Just like he said, believe in the vision and know that we're trying to accomplish something and we have something coming."

Wheatley looking at four

Three-star tight end T.J. Wheatley Jr. will likely be headed far from home to play his college football, as the Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius product is looking at a final four of Alabama, Oregon, UCLA and USC.

While Auburn, Michigan and Penn State could still make a mark in his recruitment, as Wheatley is in contact with those programs, the four finalists have either received or will receive an official visit from the 6-foot-6, 250-pound athlete.

The Trojans brought Wheatley in on an official visit before the dead period began, and he will take trips to Alabama, UCLA and Oregon on consecutive weekends beginning Jan. 16.

During that visit to USC, the Trojans received a commitment from ESPN 300 tight end Tyler Petite, but that hasn't stopped the Trojans' pursuit of Wheatley.

"Coach Tui [Marques Tuiasosopo] wants me to play tight end, but they're recruiting me as an athlete," Wheatley said. "They see me at tight end, defensive end, if I put on weight. Depending on what happens when I get into the program, they see me playing left tackle, so we'll see what happens."

Wheatley believes he is likely to announce a commitment on signing day, but added that it could come earlier if something changes on one of his trips.

Coach speak

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video Malik Jefferson's commitment could alter recruiting landscape in Texas, says one Big 12 coach. Plus, where do the Power 5 conferences stack up when it comes to ESPN 300 commitments.

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Early Offer: Hokies score super sleeper 

December, 16, 2014
Once again, Frank Beamer has landed an under-recruited prospect with “unlimited potential.” Plus, how much progress has been made by the committee looking into whether or not there should be an early-signing period?

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Early Offer: Isaac Nauta keeps FSU rolling 

December, 15, 2014
The addition of No. 1 2016 TE Isaac Nauta shows that the Florida State recruiting machine shows no signs of slowing down. Plus, Tennessee continues to impress with its 2015 defensive class.

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Are four-star DT Carlos Davis and his twin, three-star tackle Khalil Davis, still committed to Nebraska? Good luck figuring that out. Plus, handicapping the finalists in advance of Josh Sweat’s Wednesday decision.

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Go ahead and debate who should have been in the inaugural College Football Playoff, but there’s no debating Bama, Oregon, FSU and OSU dominate in recruiting.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

December, 2, 2014
The big visit weekend in the ACC is now in the rearview mirror with Florida State having hosted a very impressive collection of talent, and Virginia Tech playing host to the top target on the board.

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James Franklin comes up big again on the recruiting trail, playing a key role in landing talented cornerback Garrett Taylor. Plus, don’t be surprised if the silly season produces some major recruiting drama over the next two months.

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Class rankings: Nov. 5 update

November, 5, 2014

Three top-50 ESPN 300 prospects made commitments in the past week and sparked some changes to the class rankings. No moves were made among the top five, but one week after moving into that group Florida State strengthened its position by adding the nation's No. 5 CB, Tarvarus McFadden, to its class. After finishing third in the 2014 class rankings, the Seminoles remain very much in the running for another top-three finish.

Torrance Gibson became the 10th five-star prospect to commit and the third to join Ohio State's 2015 class. The addition of the No. 2 athlete helped the Buckeyes to push closer to the top five.

Oregon picked up a win over Stanford on Saturday and followed that with a big recruiting win after ESPN 300 DE Canton Kaumatule chose the Ducks. With its sixth ESPN 300 commit, Oregon has pushed past UCLA for the second-best class in the Pac-12.

Virginia Tech might be fighting through a three-game losing streak on the field, but in recruiting the Hokies were able make some positive strides. The Hokies landed former South Carolina commit Austin Clark, an in-state four-star OT, and moved into the top 40.

To see the full class rankings, click here.

UA jersey tour: Josh Sweat

October, 22, 2014
ESPN 300 defensive end Josh Sweat received his Under Armour All-America jersey on Wednesday. The No. 5 ranked prospect received the honor in front of his classmates, teammates and family and spoke about his accomplishments on and off the field.

A short video played on a projector before the ceremony, giving everyone in attendance a better look at who Sweat really is as a person.

Sweat took some time to answer a few questions to help expand on who he is, where he has been and what makes him tick.

What one player are you looking forward to competing against?: Yeah, probably the biggest person I was looking for was Martez Ivey. Great guy, I played against him at a camp and I believe that's the person I would have been going against anyway. That would be a good matchup.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?: Give me the best corners, defensive backs and linebackers. Everybody who can cover the best so I can get to the quarterback. That's a defensive end's best friend is the secondary.

What was your earliest football memory?: Probably knocking off Oscar Smith middle school in the city championship. The middle school I went to never won a game two years before and then I came out there and we won everything in every other sport for this one year. We beat them in the city championship and now I'm at Oscar Smith high school. So I played against a lot of the guys that are my teammates now. That’s a good thing to brag about. When they bring it up, I had to brag.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?: Honestly, no one. Other than my two older brothers. I watch it more now that I'm heavy into football.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?: I would like to race Usain Bolt. I would challenge LeBron James to try to dunk on me. I would challenge him to try to. I would also swim against Michael Phelps.

Why do you wear your number?: I wear No. 9. The person that previously wore it was a real good guy, a tight end and linebacker. But, my favorite number is 2. I always wanted to wear that number.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?: I used to video game heavily. I mostly played "Call of Duty." I play a little bit now, but not as much as I used to. I used to sit in the house and play before I was heavy on football.
Michigan commit Garrett Taylor will visit Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech, but keep a close eye on the Buckeyes. Plus, LSU’s elite running back class is starting to fall apart.

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UA jersey tour: Garrett Taylor

October, 15, 2014
RICHMOND, Va. -- Garrett Taylor looked out at the crowd in the chapel at St. Christopher’s High School before his Under Armour All-America Game jersey presentation ceremony. At first he let out a sigh of frustration and shook his head slightly, but eventually he started to smile.

For Taylor, Wednesday’s ceremony created some bittersweet emotions. Taylor, the nation’s No. 111 player and 10th-best cornerback prospect, suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice earlier this season. The follow up surgery is keeping him off the football field for another four or five months. And while the honor of being recognized as one of the best high school football players in America makes him “thank God every day,” he also admits he’s frustrated because the injury won’t allow him to play in the prestigious all-star game.

“It's been pretty tough,” said Taylor, a longtime Michigan commitment who continues to look at Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech. “All you do over the summer is lifting, running and doing all that, being with the team and getting ready for the season. Then it's gone in a second. I've had my family there keep me in good spirits.

“But I'm looking at it in a good way now. I'm taking this as an opportunity to challenge myself. I have to do everything I can to overcome it. My goal is to come back even stronger and once I do step on the field I want to prove to people I haven't lost anything. It's a chance to prove myself again.”

Unfortunately Taylor knows that chance won’t come at the UA Game, though. He will travel to the event and get to spend some time at the practices leading up to the game, but he’s disappointed he won’t get the opportunity to work with high-level coaches and against the best receivers in the country.

“That’s something I’m going to really miss,” he said. “I knew in the past they had Deion Sanders coaching and some other great coaches. I’m still going to try to learn from those guys, but I’ll just have to do it off the field. I was also hoping to challenge myself and see how I can do against some good receivers. Guess, that’ll have to wait until I get to college.”

What uniform he’ll be wearing when he does that is something that is still up in the air.

Taylor still calls himself a Michigan commitment, but he admits Brady Hoke’s uncertain future in Ann Arbor has him looking at Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech. He’ll take official visits to Blacksburg on Oct. 23, Columbus on Nov. 22, and Happy Valley on Nov. 29.

“It's a little shaky up in Ann Arbor,” said Taylor, who committed to the Wolverines in March. “The program isn't where Coach Hoke wants it to be. It's definitely not where the fans want it to be. There's definitely some pressure on him. For me and my family, I want to make sure we have other options, just in case Coach Hoke gets fired, in case something goes terribly wrong this season. We want to make sure we have other options, and that's why I'm taking my officials.”