Recruiting Classes of the Past: 1989

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The 1989 recruiting class was the last that was affected by probation that
had been slapped on Virginia Tech in 1987. The Hokies signed just 16 players in
1989, two more than they signed in 1988, which was the first year of recruiting
restrictions. With just 30 new players in two years, it’s easy to see why
Frank Beamer’s early teams suffered from lack of depth and generally didn’t
win many games.

The Hokies signed some very good players in 1989, as well as some total
busts. Unfortunately, since they were only allowed to sign a handful of players,
Tech couldn’t afford any busts. Here’s a look at the 1989 recruiting
class. You’ll probably recognize a lot of names.

1989
Recruiting Class

Stars

Name

Position

4-Stars

Vaughn Hebron

RB

P.J. Preston

WR

3-Stars

Billy Jackson

FB

Kevin Bennett

WR

Michael Sturdivant

WR

Jerome Preston

TE

Bernard Basham

DE

James Wilson

DE

Jeff Gallman

JATH

2-Stars

DeWayne Knight

WR

Rusty Pendleton

LB

Dennis Spain

CB

Harold Bank

S

Marcus McClung

S

Kirk Alexander

ATH

1-Star

Lamar Gilchrist

LB

And here’s a look at the class, position-by-position:

1998
Recruiting Class Position Comparison

Position

Players

Ave. Stars

Tailback
1 4

Fullback
1 3

Wide Receiver
4 3

Tight End
1 3

Defensive End
2 3

Linebacker
2 1.5

Cornerback
1 2

Safety
2 2

ATH
1 2

JATH
1 3

Totals
16 2.63

Generally it seems like Virginia Tech always gets their share of good defensive
prospects, but struggles to recruit high-profile offensive players. In 1989, it
was the other way around. The Hokies signed just one offensive player that TSL
rates below a 3-star prospect. Three-star jumbo athlete (JATH) Jeff Gallman was
expected to play along the offensive line as well. Tech signed a very good
offensive class in 1989.

However, did things turn out as well for the offense as it appeared they
would in February of 1989? Not quite. First of all, two of the most highly-rated
prospects, P.J. Preston and Jerome Preston of Martinsville, VA, never played
offense for Tech. P.J. settled in at outside linebacker and developed into an
outstanding player. Jerome turned into a starter on the defensive line. Just
like that, the offense lost a 4-star recruit and a 3-star recruit.

To add to it, fullback Billy Jackson never lettered for the Hokies, while
wide receivers Michael Sturdivant and Kevin Bennett never became impact players.
The fourth wide receiver of the class, DeWayne Knight, moved to defense and was
the starting whip linebacker on the 1993 Independence Bowl team. And to top it
off, Gallman never lettered for Tech.

That leaves just Vaughn Hebron as the only heavy contributor on offense from
the 1989 recruiting class. But on the bright side, some of those guys did become
very good players on the defensive side of the ball, so it’s not like the
Hokies didn’t get any production out of them.

Now let’s compare the 1989 class to previous classes that we have rated.

Recruiting
Class Comparisons

Year
Players
Ave. Stars
1985 27 2.04
1986 30 2.20
1987 17 2.24
1988 14 2.57
1989 16 2.63

Virginia Tech’s recruiting improved steadily throughout the late 1980s. And
recruiting under Frank Beamer took a huge jump when you compare it to the
recruits Bill Dooley brought to Blacksburg. The 1987 class was by far Beamer’s
worst recruiting year at Virginia Tech, and that’s because he didn’t get to
start recruiting players until a month before signing day.

Early in his career at Virginia Tech, Beamer was already bringing in better
prospects than Bill Dooley, from a star ratings standpoint. The problem was that
he could only bring in half as many players because of NCAA probation that the
NCAA smacked VT with, thanks to violations committed while Dooley was head coach
and athletic director.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say that VT signed 20 more recruits
total in the years 1988 and 1989, when they were on probation. If just half of
those players had gone on to be contributors, that’s 10 more juniors and
seniors on the field in 1992. That’s probably the difference in at least two
or three games. And possibly the different between 14 straight bowls and 13
straight bowls.

Only one player from the 1989 recruiting class made an NFL roster. That was
tailback Vaughn Hebron, and he went on to a successful career with the
Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos. He started at tailback in six career
games and scored eight touchdowns in five seasons. He was also a very good kick
returner for the Broncos. In 1998, his last season in the NFL, Hebron averaged
26.4 yards per return, including one returned for a touchdown. Despite a
somewhat injury plagued college career, Hebron only missed one game in five
seasons in the NFL.

Other members of the 1989 recruiting class got shots in the NFL, but never
made it past training camp. Those players are Michael Sturdivant (Seattle
Seahawks), Jerome Preston (NY Giants), P.J. Preston (San Francisco 49ers),
Bernard Basham (New England Patriots) and DeWayne Knight (Philadelphia Eagles).
There was definitely talent in the 1989 recruiting class, but because of NCAA
sanctions, just not enough of it.

Things would turn around quickly however. The next few seasons on the
gridiron would not be good, simply because of the limits placed in the 1988 and
1989 classes. The 1990 recruiting class would be Beamer’s first full class,
and sure enough, the Hokies started benefiting from this in about 1993. If the
Hokies had their full complement of scholarships during Beamer’s first few
seasons, he might never have found himself on the hot seat following the 1992
season.

You can find a listing for the entire class of 1989 here,
including bios of each player.

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