Virginia Tech Football Inks 25 To 2023 Class On Early Signing Day

Virginia Tech picked up some solid signees on Wednesday. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

On Wednesday, Virginia Tech football inked 25 high school prospects to National Letters of Intent (NLI) on early signing day. While a few recruits could sign in the spring, the Hokies’ 2023 class is almost complete.

Below is a full list of players who signed with Tech in alphabetical order.

*Editors Note: Brent Pry & Co. signed four transfers on Wednesday. Ali Jennings III (wide receiver, Old Dominion) and Kyron Drones (quarterback, Baylor) previously committed. Temple defensive end Darian Varner and Norfolk State wide receiver Da’Quan Felton both signed with the Hokies.*

NamePosStarsHometownHtWtOur Take
Jason AbbeyDERichmond, Va.6-4225
Gabriel ArenaOLHarrisburg, Pa.6-5285
Marcell BaylorWRRadford, Va.6-0200
Jeremiah ConeyRBRichmond, Va.6-0195
Tavorian CopelandLBAppomattox, Va.6-3190
Antonio Cotman, Jr.DBRichmond, Va.6-2190
Ishmael FindlayterDEOntario, Canada6-4240
Chance FitzgeraldWRNashville, Tenn.6-2190
Cameren FlemingDBRichmond, Va.6-0190
Layth GhannamOLCharleston, W.Va.6-5275
Ayden GreeneWRPowell, Tenn.6-2175
Hannes HammerOLCologne, Germany6-7275
Takye HeathWRRichmond, Va.5-10165
Braylon JohnsonDBRichmond, Va.6-1165
Dante LovettDBLandover, Md.6-0185
Tralon MitchellRBMiddlesex, N.C.6-1190
Jonathan PennixWRAppomattox, Va.6-0175
Mose PhillipsDBNashville, Tenn.6-2190
Aycen StevensLBIndianapolis, Ind.6-4225
William Watson, IIIQBSpringfield, Mass.5-11180
Krystian WilliamsDBRichmond, Va.6-0170
Lance WilliamsOLAlcoa, Tenn.6-3295
Thomas WilliamsDBGreenville, S.C.5-11185
Dylan WittkeQBBuford, Ga.6-1200
Caleb WoodsonLBHaymarket, Va.6-3205

The Hokies spiced it up. In the recently renovated players lounge, the staff held an NFL Draft-style event where they called upon different individuals in the program to announce each signee in a special way. For example, Bud Foster announced the decision for Braylon Johnson; his father, Loren, played under Foster at Virginia Tech.

“We want this to be special,” Brent Pry said on Wednesday. “It’s just a really good way to celebrate and continue to build relationships and do something special at the end of a cycle with a lot of hours, a lot of investments by the families, the coaching staffs, everybody.”

Position Breakdown

Here is a complete position breakdown of Virginia Tech’s 2023 class. Signees are listed in alphabetical order by position.

QB: 2 – William “Pop” Watson III (MA), Dylan Wittke (GA)
RB: 2 – Jeremiah Coney (VA), Tralon Mitchell (NC)
WR: 5 – Marcell Baylor (VA), Chance Fitzgerald (TN), Ayden Greene (TN), Takye Heath (VA), Jonathan Pennix (VA)
TE: 0
OL: 4 – Gabriel Arena (PA), Layth Ghannam (WV), Hannes Hammer (VA), Lance Williams (TN)
DL: 2 – Jason Abbey (VA), Ishmael Findlayter (Canada)
LB: 3 – Tavorian Copeland (VA), Aycen Stevens (IN), Caleb Woodson (VA)
DB: 7 – Antonio Cotman Jr. (VA), Cameren Fleming (VA), Braylon Johnson (VA), Dante Lovett (MD), Mose Phillips (TN), Krystian Williams (VA), Thomas Williams (SC)

WR/DB Focus

Virginia Tech picked up five wide receivers and seven defensive backs on signing day. The Hokies needed some support in both areas, and they got it.

Wide receiver Kaleb Smith, one of Tech’s captains in 2022, entered the transfer portal in early December and committed to Notre Dame on Wednesday. As a result, a receiver room that already needed revamping got it a little bit more. Much of the success came in the last two weeks, too.

Baylor, Heath and Pennix were committed for a while, but Fitzgerald and Greene pledged their services just recently. They’re the second and third highest-rated recruits in the class, too.

“The sky’s the limit for that kid,” wide receiver coach and offensive recruiting coordinator Fontel Mines said of Fitzgerald. “He’s an awesome kid. He’s bright, he’s a football mind, he’s got a really good family. I think we did a really good job – myself, Coach Marve, Coach Pry, Coach Bowen – of rallying around him when he was here on his visit.”

Cotman Jr. was also a late pick-up. Once committed to Boston College, he aligned himself with the Hokies within the last week, and he’s Tech’s highest-ranked in-state prospect. He joins three other players from the Commonwealth in the defensive back room in Fleming, Johnson and Krystian Williams.

One of the biggest things to note: positional flexibility is key. Cornerbacks coach and defensive recruiting coordinator Derek Jones and safeties coach Pierson Prioleau value the ability to play any spot in the defensive back room, and many of those guys bring those attributes to the table. Jones used Williams as an example.

“Krystian Williams, we recruited him a long time ago and we liked him at corner at first, believe it or not,” Jones said. “I liked his length. He’s got a 24-foot long jump which means he’s an explosive guy. He’s got good hips naturally, he’s a really good receiver, so he has ball skills. So he’s a guy that even though you hadn’t heard anything about him playing corner is a guy that could potentially play over there as well.”

Late Decisions

Unlike the 2022 class, there were no decommits from Virginia Tech prospects around signing day. Instead, the Hokies earned a commitment from Phillips.

A 6-2, 190-pound defensive back from Nashville, Tenn., he was the last player to sign with Tech around 1 p.m. Otherwise, the day went as planned – or better.

Jones said the Hokies were very high on Phillips but tried to keep him off the radar of other teams. He only had a few offers, a list that included Virginia, Georgia Tech, Toledo and Tulane. And Tech succeeded in doing so.

“He’s a guy that we discovered a while back,” Jones said. “And to be honest, we didn’t want a lot of people to find out about it. Our strategy was to visit him late, to keep all of the dialog down about him. We didn’t like a lot of his posts, we didn’t follow him a whole lot because we felt like this guy brought something to the table that we didn’t have and that we’re going to need in the future.”

Jones described Phillips as a physical defensive back who is very aggressive. And thanks to the transfer portal opening in early December, other programs shifted their focus away from him. Tech didn’t, and he ultimately signed with the Hokies.

Quarterback Dylan Wittke, whom Brad Glenn celebrated, is one of the early enrollees for the Hokies. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

Early Enrollees

In his signing day press conference, Pry announced that 11 of the signees would enroll early at Virginia Tech. These players will start their collegiate careers at the beginning of the January semester, giving them a few extra months to get acclimated to the environment.

Eight of the early enrollees are on offense while three are on defense. Here’s how it breaks down by position:

QB: 2 – William “Pop” Watson III, Dylan Wittke
RB: 1 – Jeremiah Coney
WR: 2 – Ayden Greene, Marcell Baylor
OL: 3 – Layth Ghannam, Hannes Hammer, Lance Williams
DL: 1 – Ishmael Findlayter
DB: 2 – Antonio Cotman Jr., Mose Phillips

Class Rankings

At the time of this writing, Virginia Tech signed the No. 6 class in the ACC, per the 247Sports Composite rankings. Here’s how the rest of the conference shakes out with the national ranking on the left:

No. 4 Miami
No. 11 Clemson
No. 20 Florida State
No. 26 North Carolina
No. 30 Louisville
No. 35 Virginia Tech
No. 42 NC State
No. 45 Wake Forest
No. 46 Pitt
No. 49 Duke
No. 54 Boston College
No. 58 Georgia Tech
No. 60 Virginia
No. 69 Syracuse

Tech’s top five signees, per the 247Sports Composite rankings, are as follows:

OL Layth Ghannam, George Washington, Charleston, W.Va., No. 370 nationally
WR Chance Fitzgerald, Nolensville, Nolensville, Tenn., No. 456 nationally
WR Ayden Greene, Powell, Powell, Tenn., No. 545 nationally
LB Aycen Stevens, Decatur Central, Indianapolis, Ind., No. 619 nationally
DB Antonio Cotman Jr., Life Christian Academy, Colonial Heights, Va., No. 646 nationally

More Analysis

For the full signing day central coverage, click here. Chris Coleman’s subscription article with his thoughts on the class will be published on Thursday.

Below is a YouTube playlist on the Tech Sideline page with comments from Chris Coleman and Will Stewart on each signee. For analysis on each specific individual instead of the class as a whole, click a specific “Our Take” link in the signee table at the top of the page.

6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. The ranking of this class as 35 and sixth in the ACC is far different from what I saw on the ACC Network last night…seems like Louisville was higher than this article and VT was swimming near the bottom of the rankings below Duke…I was further depressed.

    1. Well shoot. I was happy and surprised with that rank until i saw your post. Can you share references to what you saw?

  2. We were no where near being the #35 team in the country this past year, so to sign the #35 recruiting class seems like a positive development.

  3. A very solid class. There’s not much difference between some of the high 3*’s that signed with VT – and some 4*’s that signed with the ‘name’ schools. Plus – quite a few 4* and 5* players from those ‘name’ schools have jumped into the transfer portal. Hmmm.

    Chaos is coming everywhere – as the new recruits and portal tranfers show up on campuses everywhere.

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