As I’ve been reading the various Willie Byrn features that have been popping up, I’m constantly reminded of a recent conversation with Virginia Tech assistant Bryan Stinespring.
Stinespring was on a recruiting trip to the Tidewater in the winter of 2010 when he stopped by First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach. The only other First Colonial product on Tech’s roster is fifth-year running back Tony Gregory, now injured, so it’s unclear whether Stinespring was recruiting a particular player or just paying a courtesy call.
In any case, Stinespring said he ran into Byrn in the First Colonial lunchroom.
“I asked him, ‘Where are you thinking about going to school?’ “ Stinespring recalls. “He told me, ‘I think I’m going to go to Virginia Tech.’
“So, I told him, ‘Come on down.’ “
“Come on down?” Isn’t that what Bob Barker used to tell the contestants on the “Price Is Right?”
So, Byrn picked Door No. 1 – or was it Door No. 2 – and got himself a walk-on spot on the Hokies’ football team.
OK, it didn’t happen exactly like that, but it made me wonder who some of the top receivers in Virginia were that year.
That was the year that Oscar Smith quarterback Phillip Sims was the No. 1 prospect in the state and Ocean Lakes wide receiver Justin Hunter was No. 2.
Hunter, who was committed to the LSU at the time, ended up signing with Tennessee and was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans.
He had a game-winning touchdown pass Sept. 22 against San Diego and had another catch Sept. 29 against the New York Jets that was featured on many highlight shows.
He’s for real, I think you could say.
ACTUALLY, AS I look at the list, I see where First Colonial linebacker Nick Dew was the No. 8 player on The Roanoke Times Top 25.
Ah, ha. So, that’s why Stinespring was at First Colonial.
Dew was redshirted by the Hokies in 2010, played as a reserve in 2011 and reportedly transferred to Old Dominion before the 2012 season. He’s not on the current Monarchs’ roster and is not listed as having any defensive statistics in 2011.
The 2010 signing class wasn’t a big one for wide receivers but the Hokies did land the second-highest rated wide receiver on the list, No. 25 E.L. Smiling from Brooke Point in Stafford.
So, what kind of career is E.L. Smiling? On the Tech depth chart from Oct. 1 that appears on hokiesports.com, Smiling and one-time quarterback prospect Carlis Parker are listed co-No. 3 at split end.
Smiling was redshirted as a freshman in 2010, suffered a season-ending injury in 2011, didn’t see any game action in 2012 and played for the first time this year against Western Carolina. He’s still looking for his first college reception.
THAT’S NOT TO demean Smiling. His Tech career has had a better outcome than Dew’s,
So has Dew’s old First Colonial teammate, Byrn, whose 21 catches rank second on the team behind Demetri Knowles’ 24. It wasn’t an easy road for Byrn, who was redshirted in 2010, played a total of 12 plays in 2011 and 20 plays in 2012. He had one career reception before this year.
Before reviewing the Roanoke Times Top 25 from Christmas 2009, I seemed to remember putting Byrn on the list and I was correct. He was listed as No. 100, which means I probably had somebody else on the list and substituted Byrn at the last moment. Or maybe I only had 100 names.
Looking at it today, I started at the bottom of the list and scrolled up to see what other diamonds in the rough I might have missed. At No. 91 was Derek Dinardo, a quarterback at Cox High School in Virginia Beach who plays on special teams for the Hokies and scored a touchdown following a blocked kick against Marshall.
Moving up a few spaces, I found Drequan Hoskey at No. 79. Hoskey, a Richmond recruit who switched to Virginia when Mike London got the UVa, is expected to start at cornerback for the Cavaliers tomorrow at Maryland. It won’t be his first start
Then there’s Stephen Barnette, the player I was discussing with Stinespring before the conversation turned to Wille Byrn. Barnette, a 6-3, 180-pounder from Salem who was listed as a defensive back, was 53rd on the list and that may have been giving him a hometown discount.
All Barnette has done following a redshirt year in 2010 is catch 136 passes in 2 ½ seasons and I dare say there’s not a better college receiver in the state.