Saturday, February 05, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Should Hokies worry? You bet

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by The Verbal Commitment: Always take a man at his word -- unless he's 18, hits hard, throws well or runs fast.

Q: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer says he's pleased with the recruiting class the Hokies assembled this week on national signing day, but ESPN gave the group only a C-plus grade and ranked Tech's haul 10th out of 12 ACC teams. QB Lafonte Thourogood backed out of his verbal commitment to Tech and signed with Vanderbilt. Five-star linebacker Stephone Anthony went on TV to choose Clemson over Tech. Should Hokie fans be concerned?

A: Heck yeah. Combine this with all the top-five futility talk that came out of the Stanford game, and it's been a pretty depressing couple of months. You want to beat 4- and 5-star players, you need your fair share of 4- and 5-star players.

Q: Oh, come on. Those star ratings are just guesswork, aren't they?

A: Not nearly as much as they used to be, say 15 years ago. Now there's so much national interest in recruiting and so many independent services evaluating these high school players. Crosschecking improves the accuracy. Anybody who's massively overrated by one service will get a counter evaluation elsewhere.

Q: Well, the same ESPN article I cited earlier called this "a typical Virginia Tech class," adding that "it lacks much flash, but it consists of some good productive prospects that should help the Hokies maintain their winning ways." Frank and the staff will coach 'em up, won't they?

A: That's the hope. But that graphic we ran in the paper the other day was pretty telling. As good as Tech's coaches have been at developing overlooked players into strong contributors, some of their all-time greats have been 5-star guys. Tyrod Taylor, Macho Harris, Kevin Jones -- it sure seems to help the molding process when you're working with grade-A clay.

Q: How worried should the Hokies be about UVa's progress in recruiting?

A: A lot, although next year should provide a more accurate reading on the competition, given that the Hokies will have more scholarships available than they did this year and will be swinging with both fists. But the days of Tech being able to snap up all the good players from the Tidewater area seem over thanks to Mike London's efforts. It's an all-out battle now.

Q: Any other thoughts on recruiting?

A: Just that Jimbo Fisher continues to prove his competence at Florida State. I've been very high on FSU since listening to Fisher describe his philosophies at ACC media days last August. Now that he's added a top-5 national recruiting class to improved results on the field, Tech's days as the king of the ACC appear numbered.

Q: Wow, aren't you just a bundle of positive energy today?

A: Sorry. Let's talk about something else. Forward all further recruiting questions to our in-house authority, Doug Doughty.

Q: Well, the Super Bowl is tomorrow. If you were a betting man, which quarterback would you say has a better chance of enhancing his legacy with a big performance?

A: I am a betting man, which is why I'm not going to get caught up in the hype surrounding Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. If I fell victim to that, I'd be taking the Packers and laying the 2 12, because Rodgers has been more impressive. But instead, I'll back the NFL's top defense and the league's best player, Troy Polamalu. Give me the Steelers and the points.

Q: All right, then, betting man: What are the odds the Hokies make the NCAA tournament?

A: Seventy-five percent. It might not have seemed like it, but Wednesday's win over N.C. State was a huge test they needed to pass. On the road, in a place where they typically struggle, against a team desperate for a win, the Hokies dominated from the start. That's impressive. If Tech can somehow win today's matchup at Boston College, bump that percentage to 90.

Q: And if they win today and still don't make the tournament, you'll admit you were wrong in print, right?

A: Absolutely. You have my most sincere verbal commitment.

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