So about this time of year, I like to go back a few years — five in this case — to see how past signing classes at Virginia Tech have panned out.
The Hokies’ 2008 class was ranked 18th nationally and fourth in the ACC, according to Rivals. It included 31 signees, with no five-stars, six four-stars and 22 three-stars. Here’s how their careers panned out:
Ben Barber, WR, 3-star: After having his enrollment delayed by NCAA Clearinghouse issues, he never amounted to much at the college level. He redshirted in 2009, was buried on the depth chart in 2010 and left the team by 2011.
Nick Becton, OL, 3-star: The quiet, massive lineman rotated reps for a few years before assuming the starting left tackle job his senior season. He started all 13 games as a senior and, mostly in anonymity, had a solid year, emerging as the Hokies’ most consistent lineman. He’ll attend the NFL Combine later this month.
Xavier Boyce, ATH, 3-star: The promising receiver from Virginia Beach had his Tech career derailed when he was arrested for felony child endangerment in March of 2011 after his 1-year-old daughter was treated for head injuries. (The charge, after months of review, was dismissed in November.) He transferred to Norfolk State, where he had 126 catches, 1,373 yards and eight touchdowns in his final two years.
Jarrett Boykin, WR, 3-star: Relatively unheralded when he arrived, Boykin left Virginia Tech as the school’s all-time leading receiver. He played in 54 games, starting 45, and finished with 184 catches and 2,884 yards, both tops on the school’s all-time list, to go with 18 touchdowns. He’s currently playing for the Green Bay Packers.
Ju-Ju Clayton, ATH, 2-star: A third-stringer who battled Logan Thomas for the backup job to Tyrod Taylor in 2010, Clayton decided not to come back for the 2012 season. He attempted five career passes, with his one career completion being an 80-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Davis against Boston College in 2009. He left with a degree from Tech.
D.J. Coles, WR, 4-star: After a junior season in which he had 36 catches for 480 yards and three touchdowns, Coles was slow to come back from offseason knee surgery. He re-injured himself in the opener against Georgia Tech and will get another shot at his senior season in 2013.
Marcus Davis, ATH, 3-star: The mercurial receiver was long on talent but short on consistency (and occasionally blocking) throughout his career. He had 510 receiving yards his junior year before catching 51 passes for 953 yards and five touchdowns as a senior, earning honorable mention All-ACC from the coaches. He was nine yards shy of Andre Davis‘ single-season school receiving record and now hopes for a shot in the NFL.
Randall Dunn, WR, 3-star: He bulked up to play tight end but had his senior season limited by a hand injury. He caught 15 passes for 147 yards in 2012, adding a nice coda to his career with touchdown catches against Boston College (the game-winner in OT) and Virginia.
Austin Fuller, WR, 3-star: Buried on the depth chart at Tech, Fuller transferred to Southern Methodist prior to the 2011 season. After sitting out a year, he had 15 catches for 162 yards in 2012.
Lyndell Gibson, LB, 3-star: After starting 18 games and making 119 tackles in 2009-10, Gibson was arrested and later found guilty of driving under the influence the following offseason. Facing a semester suspension by the school’s Office of Judicial Affairs, Gibson instead transferred to Hampton, where he had 191 tackles and 25 tackles for a loss his final two seasons, earning first-team All-MEAC recognition as a senior.
Jeron Gouveia, ATH, 3-star: He added a hyphen and a Winslow to his name and recently finished up his career at Tech, where he played 40 games and started 16. He caught flak early in the 2010 season (unfairly vs. Boise State, fairly vs. JMU). When he started to hit his stride as a junior, he went out with a Lisfranc injury. Gouveia-Winslow eventually lost his starting job as a senior, finishing up as a backup rover.
Tony Gregory, RB, 3-star: He prepped at Fork Union, then redshirted, then suffered through back-to-back years with ACL tears. He was part of a four-headed rushing attack in 2011, carrying it 64 times for 299 yards and a touchdown. His senior season is coming up.
Isaiah Hamlette, DE, 3-star: A backup for all of his Hokies career, Hamlette transferred to James Madison before last season after earning his undergraduate degree from Tech. He had five tackles in four games for the Dukes last year.
Antoine Hopkins, DE, 3-star: The oldest of the Hopkins brothers, Antoine played in 46 games in his Tech career, starting 21. He was a starter in 2010, finishing with 45 tackles, and again in 2011 before an ACL injury cut short his season in the sixth game. He came back to play in all 13 games as a senior but mostly as a reserve, finishing with 13 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss.
Jake Johnson, LB, 3-star: he started eight games in 2009 and made 55 tackles, including 13 in the opener against Alabama, but he decided to transfer the following spring, unhappy with his move to defensive end. He picked South Alabama, where he led the Sun Belt with 131 tackles as a senior last year, earning first-team all-conference honors.
Joe Jones, DE, 2-star: An end who moved to tackle, he never appeared in a game, eventually leaving the program. He graduated from Tech with a degree in human development last spring.
Leon Mackey, DE, 3-star: The Hargrave product signed with the Hokies but never enrolled (whether he qualified is a messy story that Doug Doughty wrote about several years ago). He committed to Clemson but later signed with South Carolina, eventually ending up at Texas Tech after more qualifying issues and a year at community college. He played in 21 games for the Raiders his final two years and made 34 tackles and four tackles for a loss.
Eric Martin, TE, 2-star: The big-bodied tight end played 32 games at Tech, starting six. He had only six career catches, although two of them went for touchdowns.
Derrick McCoy, WR, 3-star: He didn’t qualify coming out of Amherst County High and ended up at Georgia Military Academy. From what I can gather, he didn’t catch on anywhere after that.
Quillie Odom, LB, 4-star: A holdover from the 2007 class who prepped at Hargrave for a year, he played sparingly his first two seasons at Tech. He didn’t get any action in 2010 and left the team prior to 2011.
Vinston Painter, OL, 4-star: The well-chiseled lineman always had tons of potential but really only tapped into it his senior season. He bounced around the line for a few years (and even to defense his first year on campus), but eventually settled in at right tackle, where he started all 13 games in 2012 and was an honorable mention All-ACC pick by the coaches.
Kendrick Pressley, ATH, 3-star: Another holdover from the 2007 class who prepped a year at Hargrave, he was released from his letter of intent to sign with Kent State. He made 42 catches for 453 yards and three touchdowns in his career.
Dyrell Roberts, ATH, 4-star: A home run threat whose career was riddled by injuries. Roberts had 96 catches for 1,363 yards and six touchdowns in his career and finished as the school’s all-time kick return leader, despite not doing it his senior season. But his 2010 season was cut short by a thigh bruise that developed into compartment syndrome and his 2011 season ended after he broke his arm in the third week. He returned to have a decent senior season.
Peter Rose, ATH, 3-star: Virginia Tech rescinded its scholarship for Rose, the Group AA player of the year out of Amherst County, after he was arrested in spring of 2008 on felony charges of selling drugs near a school property, part of a 10-month undercover sting at the high school. Rose got probation and eventually the charges were dismissed. He went to James Madison with his brothers and, after charges were dropped following another legal run-in, is a weak safety who played in nine games last year. He’ll be a senior this season.
Allen Stephens, LB, 3-star: He redshirted before transferring to Morgan State in 2009. He was on pace to lead the Bears in tackling in 2010 before an injury cut short his season. He had a team-high 80 tackles in 2011 and finished up his college career with 67 tackles in 2012.
Bruce Taylor, LB, 4-star: A team captain who played in 40 games and started 33 in his Tech career, Taylor had 226 career tackles, 33.5 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks, despite losing half of his junior season to a Lisfranc injury. He was got an All-ACC honorable mention as both a junior and senior and hopes to make it with an NFL team.
Dwight Tucker, DT, 3-star: He never found solid footing on the depth chart, playing in 14 games (11 of which came in 2010) and finished with six career tackles. With eligibility left after the 2011 season, he decided not to come back, although he did get his degree.
Michael Via, OL, 3-star: A utility lineman who played all five positions up front by the end of his career, Via played in 37 career games at Tech, starting 12. He started nine games as a senior, shuffling between guard and center and earned an honorable mention All-ACC nod by the coaches.
Eddie Whitley, DB, 3-star: A two-year starter who had 189 tackles and four interceptions in his career, Whitley was an integral part of the Hokies’ secondary and earned second-team All-ACC honors as a senior. He finished 2012 on the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.
Lorenzo Williams, DB, 3-star: He bounced between rover and whip linebacker but was slowed by a Lisfranc sprain that caused him to miss the 2010 season. He didn’t return in 2011.
Ryan Williams, RB, 4-star: One of Virginia Tech’s stud running backs, Williams ran for what was then a single-season school record 1,655 yards in 2009 (since broken by David Wilson). Injuries slowed him in 2010 and he went pro that offseason. Taken by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round of the 2011 draft, he’s had nothing but bad luck on the injury front, missing his rookie season with a ruptured patella tendon and nearly all of 2012 with a shoulder injury.
All in all, it was a class with varying success (like pretty much any signing class). Some thoughts ….
– There were plenty of solid starters to emerge from the class. Becton, Boykin, Coles, Davis, Gouveia-Winslow, Hopkins, Painter, Roberts, Taylor Via, Whitley and Williams were all starters for good parts of their college careers. That’s nearly 40 percent of the class.
– Who were the studs, as in NFL-caliber players? Williams, obviously, if he can ever stay healthy. Boykin is on an NFL roster. Whitley’s on a practice squad. Of this year’s class, Davis has the most physical talent, if he can come around on the mental side of things. Taylor, Painter and Becton will have a shot.
– The class produced the school’s all-time leading receiver (Boykin), someone who at one time the school’s single-season rushing leader (Williams) and another who nearly set the school’s single-season receiving record (Davis), in addition to defensive captains like Taylor and Whitley.
– But it was also marred by legal messes. Boyce, Gibson and Rose all spent time in court for various offenses. Rose never got to Virginia Tech. Boyce and Gibson went elsewhere because of those legal problems and actually went on to have solid careers in their new stops.
– Two others — Johnson and Stephens — had productive careers after transferring to lower-division teams. Reading up on Johnson, who I was unfamiliar with once I got to Tech, that’s probably one of the biggest what-ifs of the class. He had a very good career at South Alabama.
– Four players didn’t make it to Tech for varying reasons — Mackey, McCoy, Pressley and Rose.
– How many made it to the finish line at Tech? Twelve of the 31 went through their entire eligibility with the Hokies. Two more — Coles and Gregory — have a chance to do it this year.