Virginia Tech kicked off their first real day of bowl preparation on Saturday, as the Hokies begin digging into their gameplan against Oklahoma State for the Camping World Bowl. However, Tech is having to also balance their bowl prep with recruiting, and that balance is seemingly more difficult this season.
The reason? A new National Letter of Intent signing period, beginning on Dec. 20 and running through Dec. 22. The new signing period has pushed up the recruiting calendar significantly, and has forced coaches to put an even larger emphasis on recruiting down the stretch.
“Obviously, we are managing several things going on right now,” said head coach Justin Fuente. “We’re excited to go to the Camping World Bowl in Orlando. Great destination vs. a fantastic opponent. The coaches have been on the road recruiting during the week, and trying to practice and host official visitors on the weekend. That’ll continue through next week.”
Fuente, like every head coach, is going through this new recruiting calendar for the first time. Tech is allowed to recruit in-person and off campus until Dec. 17, when a quiet period begins. Then the dead period begins on Dec. 18. But until then, coaches are hitting the trail as often as possible. The extra obligations have given coaches an even bigger workload, as they try to leave their bowl preparation schedules intact.
“It used to just be dead. Now we’re going to have a signing day on Wednesday, or the first signing day,” Fuente said. “I don’t know that it changes your preparation model all that much. I do think you’ve got a chance to breathe a little easier during the dead period, after the early signing day is over. We won’t completely be done on the early signing period, but we’ll have whittled it down significantly heading into the next contact period.”
The extra recruiting has pushed Tech’s gameplanning for Oklahoma State back a little, as coordinators Brad Cornelsen and Bud Foster didn’t come off the road until the middle of this week.
“Obviously to get back to the bowl game, you need to have good players. So we’re working hard to get those guys in place,” Foster said. “I came off the road myself, and Brad came off the road and got in late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, however you want to look at it, and came in and had a couple days to look at these guys. The other staff, they really haven’t. I mean they have iPads and computers, but the way our travel schedule is, it’s kind of hard to work in some things. But we’ll settle down and really lock in. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what we want, it’s just getting everybody together to put it all on paper, and get it taught.”
Foster says the new recruiting changes have made this period the busiest time for coaches in the entire year, but Foster wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Without a doubt, without a doubt,” Foster said. “But that’s the livelihood, and I’m excited about the kids we have committed to us and that I hope will sign on the 20th, and a couple guys that we’re still chasing. I like this class, I like the direction we’re going. I know this, I’d rather be busy this time of year, between recruiting and a bowl game.”
Speaking strictly in terms of recruiting, the new signing period is changing the recruiting process for most players. Instead of waiting to sign on National Signing Day on Feb. 7, some recruits will sign in the new 72-hour period. In fact, Fuente is expecting all of Virginia Tech’s 22 current commitments to sign during the early period.
“Well if you’re committed, I expect you to sign,” Fuente said. “If you don’t sign, then you’re not committed… I’m sure that won’t — we’ll see what happens. But that’s what I expect.”
Of course, Virginia Tech’s Class of 2018 won’t be completed during that period, as the Hokies aim to fill the remaining spots in their class. Depending on how the numbers shake out, the Hokies could have 3-4 more spots to sign players such as linebacker Dax Hollifield and offensive lineman Walker Culver. The Hokies had an extra spot open up on Saturday night, as offensive lineman Jordan McFadden flipped his commitment from Virginia Tech to Clemson.