Revisiting the 1996 Recruiting Class

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My little project for this week has been entering the profiles of Tech’s 1996
recruiting class into our database. This class was an interesting mix of guys,
and there are enough good story lines to warrant a short write up. There are
trends, interesting facts, and what ifs, just like with any recruiting class. A few things stand out that make the 1996 class particularly eye catching.

First of all, you can view the 1996 class by clicking here.
Keep that open in a separate page, so you can follow the article better.

As discussed here plenty of times, Tech’s offensive line has been in steady decline
since the graduation of the Matt Lehr/Dave Kadela group following the 2000
season. In 1997 and 1998, they were also in decline from their production
throughout the first four years of the Beamer Bowl Era, 1993-96.

Why did the line get bad in 1997 and 1998? Small offensive line classes in
1995 and 1996 were part of the reason. At the very least, they hurt depth. The
Hokies signed exactly two offensive linemen in 1996, Josh Redding and Jeff
Dumbaugh. Redding developed into a good starter, but Dumbaugh never played a
down. That’s a 50% success rate for offensive linemen in 1996, which is a normal
percentage, but the numbers just aren’t there.

Especially when you consider that Tech had signed zero offensive
linemen the previous year, in 1995. So that’s two offensive linemen over two
years. That’s just not enough, and it’s not a surprise that Tech had no depth up
front in 1997 and 1998. Defensive tackle Anthony Lambo switched to the offensive
line following the 1997 season, and he became a starter.

Thank goodness the Hokies have had a lot of guys like Lambo over the years,
who started out at other positions but had the flexibility to play offensive
line. Without them Tech would have won fewer games through the years, because
offensive line recruiting just wasn’t there.

It’s somewhat surprising that Tech didn’t recruit more true offensive linemen
back then, considering the reliance on the power running game. Think about it:
the Hokies signed 47 players total in 1995 and 1996, and only two of them
were offensive linemen! That’s almost unbelievable