Virginia Tech has made a concerted effort to restock the linebacker cupboard in recent recruiting classes. The Hokies signed three linebackers in the Class of 2016 and four more in the Class of 2017. That’s seven linebacker signed in two years, even though Emmanuel Belmar has recently moved to defensive end. Still, the Hokies want to keep the talent flowing, and could accomplish that with Payton Wilson.
Wilson is a high-end 4-star recruit out of Hillsborough, NC., which is just outside Durham. He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, making him the prototypical build for a linebacker. Wilson is rated just outside the top-100 by the 247Sports Composite, and is considered the fourth-best player in North Carolina for the Class of 2018. As you would imagine, Wilson has quite the offer list, including offers from Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State and Stanford.
Why so many offers from Power 5 programs? Well, that’s because Wilson is a pretty tantalizing recruit.
First, he’s a heck of an athlete. Wilson contributes in all three phases of the game, playing running back, wide receiver and linebacker, all the while returning punts. Wilson moves fluidly with his 6-foot-4 frame and shows no problem making plays from the back side. He also tackles well, and drops the hammer regularly. He’s got some serious speed, which should give him potential as a coverage guy. He plays the run well, and is very good at getting to the gap to make tackles.
Wilson put up gaudy stats in his junior season, finishing with 127 tackles, 39 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.
The only real concern is level of competition. There are four classifications of high school football in North Carolina and Orange High School, where Wilson plays, competes in the second-to-lowest. When you watch his highlight film, many of the players he’s facing are much smaller and Wilson never seems really tested physically by any of them.
However, if Alabama is offering, chances are your ability to compete against physically-gifted athletes isn’t an issue.
Even though Alabama has offered, they don’t seem to be in Wilson’s top group. Wilson visited North Carolina last weekend and has visits planned to Ohio State and Virginia Tech in the coming weeks. Wilson is slated to visit the Hokies on April 8, which is his last scheduled visit before his planned commitment date on May 1. Clemson and Georgia are two other schools to keep an eye on.
Linebacker is an interesting position for Virginia Tech in the 2018 cycle. Because the Hokies have signed so many in the last two classes, Tech will likely take no more than two linebackers in this class. However, Virginia Tech is in on several linebackers so far and might simply run out of spots. Dax Hollifield has been one of the top targets on Virginia Tech’s board for a long time, and the Hokies really like Keshon Artis and Alan Tisdale, too. Virginia Tech also offered Channing Tindall out of South Carolina on Wednesday.
A commitment from Wilson would put Virginia Tech in position to land an incredible haul from North Carolina in the Class of 2018. Virginia Tech is in good position with several of Carolina’s top guys, including Wilson, Hollifield, Tre Turner and Alim McNeill. The Hokies are also in good position with DJ Crossen, Dyami Brown, Jamal Elliott and Nadir Thompson.