Virginia Tech announces 18-player recruiting class

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(Below is Virginia Tech’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

BLACKSBURG – Seven All-America caliber players highlight a football recruiting class composed of 18 student-athletes, as announced by Virginia Tech on Wednesday. While the traditional magazines of SuperPrep and PrepStar are not composing All-America teams anymore, for the purpose of this release, anyone ranked in ESPN300, 247Sports Top 247 or Rivals 250 is considered All-America level caliber.

“I think this will go down as an outstanding recruiting class,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “Time will tell, but I really like the athletic ability in this class and the size in our linemen. We are extremely pleased with the caliber of players we got from Virginia and equally happy with the quality of prospects we were able to attract from our neighboring states. I think there are pluses to being within driving distance of Blacksburg.

“As always, we researched the character of our recruits, and overall, I believe it is very high.”

Leading the way this year is a familiar name to Tech fans in five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller out of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Baltimore, Md. The brother of Vincent, Corey and Kyle Fuller is listed as the No. 9 overall player in the country and the No. 2 cornerback in the nation by Rivals. He was an Army All-American and is also rated in the top 20 nationally by ESPN Recruiting Nation and in the top 40 by 247Sports. Six players from the Commonwealth also earned All-America level honors: Liberty High defensive end Wyatt Teller (No. 59 on Rivals 100; No. 110 on 247Sports), Manchester High linebacker Holland Fisher (No. 83 on Rivals 100; No. 98 on ESPN150; No. 36 on 247Sports), Salem High quarterback Bucky Hodges (No. 171 on Rivals250; No. 114 on 247Sports), Henrico High cornerback Cequan Jefferson (No. 229 on ESPN300), Thomas Dale High tailback D.J. Reid (No. 234 on 247Sports) and Liberty Christian Academy offensive lineman Braxton Pfaff (No. 254 on ESPN300).

Tech announced 18 players total Wednesday, including 14 who signed NLIs. Twelve of those 18 players are from Virginia and all of them are ranked among the top 31 in the state according to The Roanoke Times. Highlighting this year’s in-state group are the six All-America level players – Hodges (No. 4 by The Roanoke Times), Fisher (No. 8 by The Roanoke Times), Teller (No. 11 by The Roanoke Times), Reid (No. 22 by The Roanoke Times), Pfaff (No. 27 by The Roanoke Times) and Jefferson (No. 31 by The Roanoke Times).

Fuller, the consensus No. 1 player in the state of Maryland, was named The Army All-American Defensive Player of the Year. He had three interceptions, eight pass breakups and 28 tackles, including a sack this past season, as teams shied away from his side most of the year. Teller is ranked the No. 6 strongside defensive end in the country by Rivals, while Hodges is listed as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country by 247Sports. Fisher is rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the country by Scout, Reid is ranked as the No. 12 “athlete” in the country by 247Sports, Jefferson is listed as the No. 25 “athlete” in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation and Pfaff is ranked as the No. 14 offensive guard in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation.

Six players from five different states also joined the Hokies. A pair of North Carolina products – Statesville quarterback Carlis Parker and Elizabeth City linebacker Jamieon Moss – will make the trek from the Tar Heel State. Parker is rated as the No. 8 combo quarterback in the country by MaxPreps, while Moss is ranked as the No. 68 outside linebacker in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation.

Offensive lineman Kyle Chung hails from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and played at Ponte Vedra High. His father, Eugene, was an All-American offensive lineman at Virginia Tech who played in the NFL who now coaches with the Kansas City Chiefs. The younger Chung is ranked as the No. 23 tight end (Y) in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation, but will move to the interior line when he arrives in Blacksburg. With Chung joining the program, it marks the 23rd time in the past 26 years (1988-2013) that Tech has brought in at least one player from Florida.

Tech also welcomes one player from the Peach State and one from the Palmetto State. Defensive back Brandon Facyson hails from Newnan, Ga., and is ranked as the No. 26 cornerback in the country and the No. 39 player in his state by ESPN Recruiting Nation. Offensive lineman Jonathan McLaughlin, from Mauldin, S.C., via Fork Union Military, is rated as the No. 3 prep offensive tackle in the country by 247Sports and was ranked the No. 69 offensive tackle in the country by Scout coming out of high school.

Six other players from the state of Virginia are ranked in the top 29 in the state by The Roanoke Times. They are: North Stafford High free safety Anthony Shegog (No. 16), King’s Fork High free safety Charles Clark, Jr. (No. 21), Salem High linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka (No. 24), Patrick Henry High athlete David Prince (No. 25), Warhill High offensive lineman Parker Osterloh (No. 28) and Hampton High athlete Deon Newsome (No. 29).

Shegog is ranked as the No. 46 “athlete” in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation while Clark is listed as the No. 26 cornerback in the country and the No. 14 player in his state by 247Sports. Motuapuaka is rated as the No. 20 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals, Prince is ranked as the No. 35 “athlete” in the country by 247Sports, Osterloh is rated as the No. 46 offensive tackle in the country by 247Sports and Newsome is ranked as the No. 50 cornerback in the country by 247Sports.

Of the 18 players in the class, nine are projected to play on the defensive side of the ball (one on the line, two linebackers, six defensive backs). Of the seven players slated for offense, three are coming in as skill players (quarterback/running back/receiver), while four are coming in as offensive linemen. Two players (Newsome and Prince) are listed as athletes.

Facyson, Osterloh and Parker all graduated from high school early and enrolled at Tech in January, and thus, did not sign an NLI on Wednesday. McLaughlin came after a semester at Fork Union Military and also enrolled at Tech in January. The four are already participating in offseason workouts. Woody Baron (nephew of former Hokie defensive lineman Jim Baron), Seth Dooley and Jerome Wright who signed with Tech in 2012 and deferred their enrollments, also enrolled in January. Fourteen players signed with Tech on Signing Day.

The class, which is ranked 13th nationally and second in the Atlantic Coast Conference by by 247Sports *, is being lauded by national recruiting pundits.

“On paper, this is one of, if not the highest-rated class that Frank Beamer has signed at Virginia Tech. Getting two difference-makers like Fuller and Fisher in the secondary gives the Hokies more talent to work with there and winning the in-state battles for offensive linemen Braxton Pfaff and Parker Osterloh really helped set the tone for this class,” said 247Sports National Director of Scouting J.C. Shurbett. “They have an elite quarterback prospect in Bucky Hodges and plenty of outstanding, versatile athletes like D.J. Reid, Brandon Facyson and Charles Clark that really make up the backbone of this class and are the type of prospects Virginia Tech has made a living on over the years.”

* – as of release time

Kyle Chung, ol, 6-4, 280, Ponte Vedra HS, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Charles Clark, Jr., fs, 6-0, 180, King’s Fork HS, Suffolk, Va.
Brandon Facyson *, db, 6-2, 173, Northgate HS, Newnan, Ga.
Holland Fisher, fs, 6-2, 200, Manchester HS, Richmond, Va.
Kendall Fuller, cb, 5-11, 180, Our Lady Of Good Counsel HS, Baltimore, Md.
Bucky Hodges, qb, 6-5, 230, Salem HS, Virginia Beach, Va.
Cequan Jefferson, cb, 5-9, 175, Henrico HS, Richmond, Va.
Jonathan McLaughlin *, ol, 6-4, 310, Mauldin HS/Fork Union Military, Mauldin, S.C.
Jamieon Moss, lb, 6-2, 210, Northeastern HS, Elizabeth City, N.C.
Andrew Motuapuaka, lb, 6-0, 225, Salem HS, Virginia Beach, Va.
Deon Newsome, ath, 6-0, 180, Hampton HS, Hampton, Va.
Parker Osterloh *, ol, 6-8, 301, Warhill HS, Williamsburg, Va.
Carlis Parker *, qb, 6-3, 180, Statesville HS, Statesville, N.C.
Braxton Pfaff, ol, 6-4, 285, Liberty Christian Academy, Lynchburg, Va.
David Prince, ath, 6-0, 185, Patrick Henry HS, Roanoke, Va.
D.J. Reid, tb, 6-0, 205, Thomas Dale, Chester HS, Va.
Anthony Shegog, fs, 6-2, 200, North Stafford HS, Stafford, Va.
Wyatt Teller, de, 6-5, 250, Liberty HS, Bealeton, Va.

RB Justin Crawford to skip West Virginia’s bowl game, begin preparing for NFL draft

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Sometimes the personnel gods giveth, and sometimes the personnel gods taketh away.

Thursday evening, West Virginia announced that quarterback Will Grier will return to Morgantown for the 2018 season.  Not long after, the same football program confirmed that Justin Crawford has decided to eschew playing in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Instead of preparing for Utah in the postseason, the senior running back will instead begin preparations for the 2018 NFL draft.

“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”

Crawford has led the Mountaineers in rushing each of the past two seasons.  He’s the first WVU player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Noel Devine in 2008-09.

After finishing third in the Big 12 this season with 1,061 yards on the ground, he was named second-team all-conference for the second straight season.  Following the 2016 season, he earned the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor.

SMU graduate assistant GJ Kinne to call plays in Frisco Bowl

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New SMU head coach Sonny Dykes has been busy assembling his staff as he prepares to jump right in the saddle to coach the Mustangs in the Frisco Bowl next week, but he will have one holdover from the previous staff to help call the shots on offense. Graduate assistant GJ Kinne will call the offensive plays for the bowl game, according to Adam Grosbard of The Dallas Morning News.

This would seem to be the most logical choice for Dykes to make in this scenario. Kinne has been working in the SMU system all season long under former head coach Chad Morris, who has moved to Arkansas with a handful of assistants. Having the most experience with the current roster and a better comfort level makes sense to have Kinne take on this responsibility so close to the bowl game. This will be a major promotion for Kinne, the former Tulsa quarterback, even if just for one game.

I certainly trust G.J. It’s going to be fun to give him an opportunity to be highly involved and it’ll be one of those things he remembers for the rest of his life,” Dykes said of the decision to have Kinne calling the offense from above. “When you’re a GA and you get to call a bowl game, it’s a pretty awesome opportunity.”

Just how smoothly this all goes is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, if things go awry, Kinne and Dykes can always just resort to going back to a chuck-it-deep mentality and see what happens.

SMU faces Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20.

Pitt loses second QB to transfer in as many days

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Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi may have been signed to a contract extension recently, but the Panthers are quickly getting shallow at the quarterback spot on the depth chart for 2018. For the second time in as many days, Pitt is losing a quarterback to a transfer.

Ben DiNucci is the most recent of the two to announce his decision to leave the program. Though DiNucci did not say where he is heading next, he did say in a brief message on Twitter he will be enrolling in January. He will have two years of eligibility to use, although he would have to sit out the 2018 season if he transfers to another FBS program. He would be eligible to play right away if he transfers to a lower division football program. A report from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests the latter will be the case, with James Madison and Towson the two leading candidates to add DiNucci.

DiNucci was Pittsburgh’s leading passer this season with 1,091 yards and five touchdowns, although he was used mostly as a backup for Max Browne until Browne was injured after appearing in six games. DiNucci also added 126 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown, which came in Week 2 against Penn State.

DiNucci’s announcement comes just one day after Thomas MacVittie announced his own decision to leave the Panthers behind. The redshirt freshman did not appear in any games this season and was passed over on the depth chart by freshman Kenny Pickett. Pickett now becomes the top option in the passing game for the Panthers heading into the spring, unless Pitt happens to add a transfer to the mix.

Pitt will have another scholarship quarterback on the way in 2018 with the addition of incoming freshman Nick Patti out of New Jersey. Patti is not expected to be enrolling early, so he will not be around in the spring.

Royce Freeman will not play in Las Vegas Bowl

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Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman will not play in this weekend’s Las Vegas Bowl, thus bringing his collegiate career to a close before he moves on to the NFL next year. Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal announced Freeman’s lack of availability to reporters today ahead of the bowl game against Boise State.

Freeman played in all 12 games for the Ducks this season, rushing for 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns. Freeman’s career at Oregon has been a highly productive one under two different coaches. As a freshman in 2014, Freeman rushed for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns to quickly begin gaining some national attention as the Ducks advanced to the national championship game in the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff (but some guy named Marcus Mariota was doing some good things too at the time to grab the majority of the national attention).

Freeman rushed for 5,621 yards and 60 touchdowns for Oregon, and he was also responsible for four touchdown receptions.

Freeman will join a growing list following a growing trend of sitting out of a bowl game before moving to the NFL.