Recruiting Classes of the Past: 1986

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Back in 1986, college programs were allowed to sign 30 players to letters of
intent, and that is exactly what Virginia Tech did in February of that year.
Bill Dooley hailed it as the best recruiting class he had signed since 1978, the
year he arrived in Blacksburg. The class featured several highly touted players,
and as usual, some no-names. But nevertheless, the Tech staff was high on the
class of 1986.

As I wrote in the 1985 recruiting class article, here is our system for
determining star rankings:

First of all, I’ll explain how I came up with my star ratings, considering
that the 1985 class was from a time before star-oriented rating services like
Rivals and Scout existed. Looking through the old Hokie Huddlers, there were
actually a few recruiting services in the 1980s. Joe Terranova, who basically
got recruiting coverage started back in the 1970s, did star rankings. His
ratings system went no higher than four stars, and the old Huddlers gave his
star ratings for many Tech recruits.

Using Terranova’s star ratings, as well as how recruits were viewed by Max
Emfinger, The Poop Sheet and a few others, and also by reading their
recruiting profiles, I gave each recruit a star ranking. There’s no exact
science to it, and I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it, so you may not
agree with some of them, or even any of them … kind of like today’s star
ratings.

Since Terranova’s star ratings went only as high as four stars, that’s as
high as mine will go. That means a three-star recruit from the class of 1985
would equate to either a four-star or a three-star in today’s recruiting
world. With that in mind, let’s see how the 1985 class shaped out in terms of
star ratings.

With that said, here is how the 1986 recruiting class looked:

1986
Recruiting Class

Stars

Player

Position
4-Stars
Chris Baucia

QB

Tony Merritt

QB

Scott Hill

DT
3-Stars
Tim Boitnott

FB

Derrick May

WR

Dave Neumore

TE

Mark Large

OL

Tom Hall

DT

Chris Matheny

DT

Darwin Herdman

DE

Jimmy Whitten

DE

Scott Rice

CB
2-Stars
Jock Jones

WR

Myron Richardson

WR

Ken Jefferson

OL

Larry Peey

OL

Rich Williams

OL

Scott Duckworth

DT

Al Chamblee

DE

Richard Saunders

DE

Todd Brown

LB
1-Stars
Ralph Brown

RB

Carl Coles

RB

George Bruce

FB

Jimmy Bryson

OL

Viktor Vali

OL

Brad King

S

Karl Borden

ATH

Keith Moody

ATH

Mark Briscoe

JATH

And now, here’s a position by position comparison of the 1986 recruiting
class. The Hokies did very well at certain positions, and not so well at others.

1986
Recruiting Class Position Comparison

Position

Total Players

Average Stars

Quarterback
2 4.0

Running Back
2 1.0

Fullback
2 2.0

Wide Receiver
3 2.3

Tight End
1 3.0

Offensive Line
6 1.8

Defensive Tackle
4 3.0

Defensive End
4 2.5

Linebacker
1 2.0

Cornerback
1 3.0

Safety
1 1.0

Athlete
3 1.0

Totals
30 2.2

The Hokies did particularly well at quarterback, and they also pulled in a very
solid class of defensive linemen, especially at defensive tackle. Some of these
players worked out, and some didn’t.

At quarterback, the Hokies signed highly-touted Chris Baucia out of DeMatha
High School in Maryland. Baucia was considered a national Top 100 prospect by
almost everyone, and a Top 50 prospect by some experts. He was considered one of
the top players in the state of Maryland. Sounds like he went on to have a great
college career, right?

Not so much. Baucia completed 2-of-3 passes during his career for 19 yards
and one touchdown. He spent the early part of his career as a backup
quarterback, but was moved to punter halfway through his sophomore season. He
served as Tech’s starting punter for the remainder of his career.

Besides Baucia, the Hokies also inked Antonio Merritt, a 6-4, 200-lb.
quarterback from Jersey City, New Jersey. Merritt was a JUCO player, and was
regarded by many as the best JUCO quarterback in the country. He chose Virginia
Tech over a number of well-known programs. Unfortunately for the Hokies, he
never qualified academically, so there is no way to know how good he could have
been.

In a perfect world, Merritt would have enrolled at Tech that fall and
immediately competed with Erik Chapman for the starting quarterback position.
Baucia would have been redshirted and groomed to be the quarterback of the
future. But that never came to pass, as Baucia never panned out and Merritt
never made it to Blacksburg.

At defensive tackle, it appears on paper that the Hokies signed a very good
recruiting class. But let’s take a deeper look. First of all, 2-star prospect
Scott Duckworth never even lettered. Tom Hall switched to offensive line, and
Chris Matheny spent his career bouncing back and forth between offense and
defense. Of the defensive tackles signed in this class, the Hokies really only
got production on defense from Scott Hill.

But Hill had enough production to make up for other recruiting misses. For
his career, Hill amassed 342 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. During
his sophomore season of 1987, he made 177 tackles. That mark tied the Virginia
Tech record for most tackles in a season previously set by Rick Razzano in 1975.
177 tackles, especially for a defensive tackle, is absolutely unbelievable. In
fact, it’s unheard of. That stat alone makes Hill one of the greatest
defenders in Virginia Tech history, and certainly the best defensive tackle, but
no one ever talks about him.

So what happened to Hill? He wasn’t drafted by the NFL, and he wasn’t
even picked up as a free agent. For a guy as productive as Hill was, that is
surprising, especially when you consider that Tim Sandidge, who spent his career
at Tech as a backup defensive tackle, just signed a free agent deal with the
Rams. But those were different times.

The Hokies were lucky in that 27 of the 30 players that they signed actually
enrolled in college. There was very little attrition from this recruiting
class.. Unfortunately the three that did not enroll were three of the top six
recruits in the class, according to the recruiting rankings. We have already
mentioned Tony Merritt above, but there were two other important recruits who
did not enroll for different reasons.

David Neumore was a highly-touted JUCO tight end, but like Merritt, another
JUCO, he was academically ineligible. Neumore was a big pickup for the Hokies at
the time. He was a JUCO All-American who chose Virginia Tech over Ohio State,
but he would never play a down for Tech.

The third signee who never made it to Blacksburg was Derrick May, a
highly-touted wide receiver/wingback prospect. May was also a baseball prospect,
and when he was drafted in 1986, he chose baseball over Blacksburg. May floated
around in the minors for awhile, and eventually broke into the Major League in
1990 with the Cubs. His last season was 1999 when he played for the Baltimore
Orioles. He was a career .271 hitter with 52 home runs. I remember May from
watching the Cubs play as a kid back in the early 90s, but I had no idea he was
a Tech signee until researching this recruiting class.

Those were some of the more interesting stories of the class of 1986. If
anyone has anymore that they’d like to share, visit our message boards or
shoot me an email. You can find a listing for the entire class of 1986 here,
including bios of each player.

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