In Five Years, Hokie Fans Should Know If 2001 Recruiting Class Is The Best Ever
The Roth Report
February 19, 2001
By Bill Roth

OK, so you've pretty much convinced yourself that Virginia Tech just finished its best football recruiting season ever.

You're boasting to the UVa alum in your office how the Hokies signed three of the top four prospects in the state and a record 11 off The Roanoke Times top 25 list.

You've clipped the USA TODAY article which proclaimed Tech had the nation's eighth-best recruiting haul and tacked it up on your office bulletin board.

And your wife keeps complaining that you're calling out "run, KJ, run" in your sleep.

How good of a class did Tech just sign?

Well, you'll have to wait to really learn the answer.

"We'll know," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said, "in about five years how good this class really is."

Those were the words the Hokies' coach said to then-Hokie Huddler editor Chris Colston back in February of 1996, although it's been an annual quote of the Hokies' main man every February.

Think back now. The Hokies, coming off their Sugar Bowl win over Texas and their first BIG EAST championship, signed 28 players in February of '96. The class was not rated among the nation's top 30 by any of the 'recruiting experts.' In fact, Tech's class was rated just fifth-best in the BIG EAST by SuperPrep magazine.

Well, it's five years later and the Hokies, coming off back-to-back 11-1 seasons, signed a class rated among the top 10 nationally by the same SuperPrep. Do we know for sure how good a class Tech signed two weeks ago? Of course not!

Just look back at Tech's recruiting class of 1996 and you'll see that even the 'can't misses' never really contributed to Tech's success, while some of the overlooked signees turned out to be among the best players ever at Tech.

For fun, we broke down Tech's 1996 recruiting class, five years later:

Defensive Linemen (6): Robert Adams (Gladys, Va.), Carl Bradley (Lynchburg, Va.,), Stan Brown (Tallahassee, Fla.), William Flowers (Vicksburg, Ms.), Anthony Lambo (Bloomfield, N.J.), Corey Storr (Miami, Fla.).

Without question, Adams was the most highly regarded of the six. He was ranked the No. 4 prospect in the state by The Roanoke Times and picked Tech over Tennessee, UVa, North Carolina and N.C. State. The Hokie Huddler proclaimed him as Tech's top signee and suggested he might be the 'next Charles Haley.'

Well, as you know, Adams never panned out as a player here at Tech. The star of the group, of course, was Bradley, who became an All-BIG EAST player. Lambo eventually moved to the offensive line, where he had a very successful career. So, of the six defensive linemen Tech signed, only two contributed to Tech's program, and only one -Bradley - became a full-time starter on defense.

Linebackers (5): Manny Clemente (New York), Jamie Forrest (Lynchburg, Va.), Jeremy Kishbaugh (Berwick, Pa.), Sean Ruffing (Downingtown, Pa.), Phillip Summers (Clewiston, Fla.).

Clemente was the most highly touted of the group, rated No. 22 in Virginia and the eighth-best prospect in the Mid-Atlantic region by Blue Chip Illustrated. As it turns out, Clemente, unfortunately, made more news off the field. Kishbaugh got hurt in an all-star game before enrolling at Tech, got homesick and left school.

Meanwhile, Summers ended up being the top linebacker in what was - looking back today- a weak group overall. Summers made big plays during his career at Tech, although he was never a full-time starter.

Defensive backs (6): Ike Charlton (Orlando, Fla.), Lorenzo Ferguson (Chesapeake, Va.), Donald Harris (Washington, D.C.), Tony Joe (Elmira, NY), AndrZeacute; Kendrick (Lynchburg, Va.), Anthony Midget (Clewiston, Fla.).

Five years later, it's clear that this was a terrific group of players. Charlton and Midget were three-year starters and Ferguson would have been if not for off-the-field troubles.

Kendrick was moved to tailback, where he had an outstanding career as a backup. Of the group, Ferguson was the most highly-touted, rated No. 12 in Virginia by The Roanoke Times. But Charlton was the best of the bunch, bolting for the NFL after his junior year.

This was the best group of athletes Tech's signed at any one position in many years. We'll see how Tech's defensive back recruits of 2001 stack up to this group in about five years. That will be an interesting comparison.

Offensive line (2): Jeff Dumbaugh (Alachua, Fla.), Josh Redding (Hanover, Pa.).

Dumbaugh never played a snap for the Hokies, while Redding became an All-BIG EAST and probable NFL lineman. Recruiting offensive linemen was not a key focus for the Hokies in 1996, but they signed a stud in Redding, who the Huddler did not even consider one of the top five at that time. Shows what we knew back then, right?

Running back (2): Cullen Hawkins (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Shyrone Stith (Chesapeake, Va.).

When you consider that Kendrick eventually moved to tailback, this turned out to be a very strong area for Tech's recruiting class in '96. Stith became an All-BIG EAST tailback, although he was at the bottom of The Roanoke Times list. Yep, for the record, Stith was rated the No. 25 prospect in the state in 1996. Hawkins became a terrific fullback for the Hokies even though he was not considered one of the top 25 players in Pennsylvania.

Clearly, both of these young men were under-rated coming out of high school and developed into outstanding players in major college football. Here's the formula: Good kid + redshirt year + Mike Gentry + Billy Hite = darn good college player.

Quarterbacks (2): Dave Meyer (Ramsey, N.J.), Nick Sorensen (Vienna, Va.).

You know the story with both of these kids. Both were terrific backup quarterbacks who led the Hokies to some key victories during their careers when injuries felled Al Clark and Michael Vick. They became the best of friends after rooming together for three years, and both will graduate from Tech this spring. In terms of leadership, hustle and heart, these two were the top recruits of the class. You'd sure recruit 'em again, wouldn't you?

Wide receiver (4): Cory Bird (Mays Landing, N.J.), Walter Ford (Hampton, Va.), Greg Myers (Wapwallopen, Pa.), Brian Remley (Berwick, Pa.).

Remley tore his knee up and never was able to recover the speed he had in high school. Myers moved to tight end and saw spot duty. Both will graduate from Tech.

Ford played right away during the 1996 season and nearly cost Tech the Akron game with his spotty kick returns. He was eventually dismissed from school for off-the-field problems. Ford was rated one of the top picks in this class since he had been the 1993 Newport News Daily Press football player of the year. The Hokies had hoped he would be the next Bryan Still. It didn't happen.

That brings us to Cory Bird, who ended up being one of the most solid, dependable defensive players during the Beamer era at Tech. Recruited as a wide receiver, Bird played several different defensive positions, but excelled as a rover in the Hokies' scheme. He became a leader on Tech's young defensive unit during the 2000 season and one of the most fundamentally sound tacklers in the program. Now, five years after signing as a wideout, he's got a shot at an NFL career as a defensive back.

Kicker (1): Shayne Graham (Pulaski, Va.).

A Parade All-American from Pulaski County High School, Graham became the Hokies' all-time scoring leader after a wonderful career in which he was named first-team All-BIG EAST during all four years of his career -a feat matched only by Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb). Graham was rated as Virginia's 10th-best player by the Roanoke Times back in '96, but looking back, he should've been ranked higher. He's the BIG EAST's all-time scoring leader and is the kicker on the league's 'All-Time Team.'

Five years ago, after consulting with Beamer, his staff and other 'experts,' Colston ranked the top-five Tech signees as follows:
No. 1 Robert Adams
No. 2 Carl Bradley
No. 3 Shayne Graham
No. 4 Lorenzo Ferguson
No. 5 Ike Charlton

Replace Adams with Stith, and get Midget and Redding in there somewhere, and that's a pretty good group. Overall, 14 of the 28 players who signed letters with the Hokies in February of 1996 became legitimate, solid contributors to Tech's program.

The four-year guys in the group (Graham, Midget, Bradley, etc.) finished their careers with a record of 37-11 (.771). The five-year players who redshirted in '96 and who will all graduate this spring (Kendrick, Meyer, Sorensen, Redding, Meyer, Summers, Lambo, Hawkins and Bird) finished their Hokie careers with a mark of 48-12 (.800), the winningest class in Tech history.

So, looking back, Tech's class of 1996 was better than the experts thought because unheralded guys like Stith and Charlton ended up becoming big college stars who now earn NFL paychecks. And even though Adams, the Hokies' top signee in that class, never materialized, Tech ended up with a stud lineman in Bradley. Bird and Sorensen became starters on defense and Graham became the best kicker on the East Coast since Gary Anderson starred for Syracuse in the late 1970's.

This was also a great class because 14 of the players became key contributors during their careers. If every recruiting class had 14 key contributors, you'd have 70 good players in your program over a five-year period. That's Tech's goal and a reason why the Hokies have been ranked in the top 10 for the last couple of years.

The group of athletes Tech signed two weeks ago is the most highly-touted in the school's history. Will it win 80 percent of its games like the class of '96?

Call us back in five years.

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