Virginia Tech got commitments each of the last two nights, getting a pledge from Chesterfield defensive back/wide receiver Shawn Payne on Monday night and Ramsey, N.J., offensive lineman Tyrell Smith on Tuesday. Here’s a little bit more on both of them:
Payne flew under the radar through most of the recruiting process, having only one other offer (from Charlotte) but drawing interest from Maryland, Virginia, Old Dominion, James Madison, Richmond and William & Mary.
It was his performance at Tech’s one-day camp in early June that caught the coaches’ eyes, however. The versatile athlete played on both sides of the ball there, doing drills as a cornerback and receiver.
“A lot of kids go there and just concentrate on one position,” L.C. Bird coach David Bedwell said. “They didn’t get to work with him as much as they wanted, so they actually held him after and worked with him a little bit. I think that’s when they impressed him. …
“I think that’s what caught their eye: a kid this all and this athletic that can run and turn his hips, so I think that’s why they got very interested very quickly.
Payne’s got size and versatility. Although listed as 6-foot-2 on most recruiting sites, Bedwell says he’s actually pushing 6-4, having grown about two inches in the last year, giving him good size for a corner. He’s in the 185-190 pounds range.
He played safety, receiver and even some tight end last year, but projects as either a corner or receiver in college. Does he have a preference?
“No. I just want to be on the field,” said Payne, a Virginia Tech fan since he was little. “They said that the biggest thing was to get me down there and then from there on, they’re going to put me wherever they think I fit best at.”
He was probably more valuable on L.C. Bird’s Group AAA, Division 6 championship run last year as a defensive player, although Bedwell said he still caught 25 or 26 passes with seven or eight touchdowns as a receiver in the Skyhawks’ run-first offense. Payne was the only one of Bird’s three receivers to play both ways, however.
Having good friend and linebacker Deon Clarke, a former Bird teammate, at Tech helped Payne’s decision.
“I think Shawn is a kid who I think his best football is in front of him,” Bedwell said. “He’s matured physically as a player here over the last year and is a very, very athletic kid that all of a sudden, he’s gotten in the weight room a little bit more and has gotten himself in real good condition. So I think that under the radar but also very deserving of the offer.”
After attending Virginia Tech’s camp earlier this month, the New Jersey lineman had done a few camps recently at Boston College and Maryland (and drew interest from Rutgers and Miami), but he hadn’t drawn any other offers than UMass and Florida Atlantic.
“I think people watch him on film and they see how athletic he is and they say, ‘Hey this is a guy that we should probably pull a trigger on,’” Don Bosco Prep coach Greg Toal said. “And I think Tech beat some people to it. He went up to Boston College and played well up there. But hey, you guys beat him to it, so there.”
Smith comes from a football powerhouse at Don Bosco Prep, which has won 14 state championships and finished the 2011 season as the USA Today’s top-ranked team in the country. Toal, who arrived there in 1999, played fullback for Virginia Tech, lettering in Jimmy Sharpe‘s first season in 1974.
Smith’s biggest asset, according to Toal? Athleticism. Smith played left tackle for the Ironmen last year, although Toal thinks he could play a variety of positions.
“He’s the most athletic guy we’ve got up front,” Toal said. “That’s why we have him there, trying to protect the quarterback. But he can play defense or offense in college. He runs well. … He’ll probably center/guard or possibly defensive end [in college]. He could possibly be an offensive tackle.”
There’s some debate about his height — Smith told TechSideline.com that he’s 6-foot-3, so that should end it — but Toal said he’s up around 255 -260 pounds now after playing last season in the 225-230 range.
Virginia Tech hasn’t dipped into New Jersey too often for recruits lately. Since 2007, tight end Ryan Malleck, from Point Pleasant, N.J., has been the Hokies’ only signee from the Garden State, although from 2004-06, Tech signed six New Jersey athletes, including defensive end Jason Worilds (then Adjepong).
I’ve not yet been able to get a hold of Smith (and if I do, I’ll update his post), but here’s a story from NJ.com in December that should give some insight into him.