Thursday, February 02, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Recruiting class offers Tech plenty of tailback options

Assuming you didn't have time to listen to every college football coach in the country on Wednesday, here's what they all said: "We're really happy with this recruiting class."

Frank Beamer is, too, and he has a right to be. Virginia Tech bagged three of its four previously undeclared targets on national signing day to round out a 28-player class that's getting more respect than usual from the recruiting services.

The next move, typically, is to wait. Three years. Maybe four. Only then is it fair to judge the legitimacy of a recruiting class.

But in Tech's case, a large chunk of this haul will need to be in top form right away.

Tech's featured offensive position is wide open, and five freshmen will get a chance to fill it. With David Wilson off to the NFL, Josh Oglesby finished with his eligibility and third-string tailback Tony Gregory recovering from a knee injury suffered in the Sugar Bowl, there's an immediate need for somebody who can lead the Hokies' ground attack.

"We're going to give 'em all a shot and figure out what our best options are right now, but certainly that had to be a priority," Beamer said. "And to come away with the quality of kids we got at that position, that's got to be a big plus."

Three of the tailbacks - J.C. Coleman, Drew Harris and Trey Edmunds - were named All-Americans by SuperPrep and PrepStar. Edmunds was a Parade All-American as well - the first such honoree to choose Tech since Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans in 2007.

Edmunds could wind up at linebacker. But even if he does, Tech's coaches say they plan to explore multiple options with 6-foot-2, 200-pound athlete out of Dan River High School.

"He's one of those kids who more than likely could play on both sides of the ball," said Tech's director of recruiting and high school relations, Jim Cavanaugh, who was on the staff at Maryland when Edmunds' father, Ferrell, starred there. "Whatever side he concentrated on, on the other side of the ball we'd have a special package that he could play. He's that kind of athlete. He has that kind of explosiveness."

Beamer and Cavanaugh mentioned former Tech tailback Kevin Jones three times when describing Harris, a consensus four-star recruit out of Pennsylvania. He finished 23 yards shy of 5,000 in his career and profiles as a bruiser in the Evans mold.

"He hurt his knee his senior year toward the end of his season," Cavanaugh said. "When he gets here he'll be evaluated, and we'll see where he is and go from there. We obviously have a need at that position."

It's less likely to be filled immediately by Jerome Wright, an ex-home-schooler who might spend a season in prep school to hone his developing skills.

The fifth tailback recruit, Chris Mangus, wasn't as heralded as the others but could be a sleeper.

"He's a speed merchant," Cavanaugh said. "He can flat go."

Coleman has a bit of an edge on the others. He enrolled at Tech last month and has been participating in offseason workouts. The coaches will get a look at him in the spring, while the others will have only August practice to open eyes.

Still, they all will get a chance. Tech never has been shy about playing freshman tailbacks immediately, and this year, the Hokies have no other choice.

"I think all these guys are competitive and all of them want a chance to play," said Beamer, who couldn't recall the last time he'd brought in five tailbacks in the same class. "When you get guys like that, there's different things you can do with them. I think all of them look forward to the challenge of playing tailback."

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