Recruiting Classes of the Past: 1988

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During the middle of the 1987 football season, first year head football coach
Frank Beamer got some bad news. Virginia Tech’s football program was being put
on probation for violations stemming from the Bill Dooley era. Not even a year
into his new job, Beamer was already playing from behind.

The Hokies were limited to 17 scholarships in 1988, and after handing out
three to key returning personnel, they had just 14 remaining for the 1988
recruiting class. There was no way the Tech coaching staff could sign the
numbers that they needed, so they had to make up for a lack of quantity with
high-quality recruits. They succeeded.

First of all, let’s take a look at the class and divide the players up by
star rating.

1988
Recruiting Class

Stars

Player

Position

3-Stars

Tommy Zban

QB

Tony Kennedy

RB

Phil Bryant

FB

Skip Pavlik

OL

Mark Verniel

OL

Stephan Holloway

DE

David Wimmer

DE

Anthony Pack

LB

Damien Russell

S

2-Stars

Chris Holt

DT

Don Davis

DE

Marcus Mickel

CB

Mark Poindexter

ATH

1-Stars

Greg Lassiter

WR

And now here’s the position by position comparison.

1988
Recruiting Class Position Comparison

Position

Total Players

Average Stars

Quarterback
1 3

Running Back
1 3

Fullback
1 3

Wide Receiver
1 1

Offensive Line
2 3

Defensive End
3 2.67

Defensive Tackle
1 2

Linebacker
1 3

Cornerback
1 2

Safety
1 3

Athlete
1 2

Totals
14 2.57

The Hokies would have loved to have taken more players in 1988, probably at
least 10 more if I had to guess, but they weren’t allowed to do so. Because of
such limitations, you see them focusing on the offensive and defensive lines in
the 1988 recruiting class. Tech signed four defensive linemen and two offensive
linemen that year. Games are won in the trenches, especially in Frank Beamer’s
style of football, so the lines were a priority, especially in a year where Tech
could only take 14 players.

It’s also interesting to look at Beamer’s first two classes combined.
Tech signed just 17 players in 1987, because of the coaching change that brought
Beamer to Blacksburg. With just 14 signees in 1988 because of probation, the
Hokies signed only 31 players in Beamer’s first two years! For a point of
comparison, Bill Dooley signed 27 players in 1985 and 30 in 1986.

Just like 1988, Beamer’s 1987 class featured a lot of linemen. In his first
two recruiting classes, Beamer signed a total of six offensive linemen and eight
defensive linemen, so 14 of his first 31 recruits at Tech were originally slated
to play up front.

The transition of Dooley to Beamer saw higher quality recruits being brought
to Blacksburg, if you believe the recruiting analysts, that is. Here is a
comparison of the recruiting classes from 1985 through 1988. The first two
classes were signed by Dooley, the latter two by Beamer.

Recruiting
Class Comparisons

Year

Number

Average Stars
1985 27 2.04
1986 30 2.20
1987 17 2.24
1988 14 2.57

The average star rankings of Hokie recruits rose each consecutive season from
1985 through 1988. But unfortunately, the number of recruits Tech signed was
nearly cut in half, because of the aforementioned coaching change and probation.

Beamer’s teams in the late 80s and early 90s were known for giving opposing
teams, even highly ranked ones, all they could handle before running out of gas
in the final stages of the game. That’s probably because they didn’t have
enough players. If the coaching staff had been able to sign 10 more players in
1988, and again in 1989, things could have been different in those early years.

Now let’s take a closer look at the 1988 recruiting class. When you
consider what Beamer was up against at that time — probation, no bowl tie-ins,
no tradition — it could be stated that he did his finest recruiting job ever
with the class of 1988. First of all, every player in the class developed into
some sort of a contributor. Only one player, quarterback Tommy Zban, failed to
letter for more than one season. Zban lettered in 1991, but that’s it.

In fact, everyone on the team except for Zban and offensive lineman Skip
Pavlik lettered for three or more seasons. And the only reason Pavlik lettered
for just two seasons was because he was a junior college transfer…he only had
two seasons of eligibility. Eight of the 14 recruits became 4-year letterman.
They were Tony Kennedy, Phil Bryant, Greg Lassiter, Mark Verniel, David Wimmer,
Anthony “Wooster” Pack, Marcus Mickel and Damien Russell.

That’s a pretty good group of players, and if Tech could have filled out a
regular-sized class with those types of players, Beamer’s early years in
Blacksburg might not have been so bleak. The 1992 Hokies finished 2-8-1, losing
numerous games that they were leading at some point in the fourth quarter. The
players from the 1988 recruiting class were r-seniors in 1992. Can you imagine
10 more r-seniors on the field in 1992, each providing depth (or maybe even
starring) at important positions? The current bowl streak might have gotten
started a year earlier, because Tech was very, very close in a lot of games that
season.

Soon we’ll be back to take a look at the 1989 recruiting class. Like the
1988 class, it featured some very good players but was short on numbers, which
helped lead to the depth crisis of the late 80s and early 90s.

You can find a listing for the entire class of 1988 here,
including bios of each player.

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