The Virginia Tech Friday Q&A: Sam LB Recruiting, Portal Talk, Olympic Sports Success

Virginia Tech
Caleb Woodson is being targeted by Virginia Tech for the Sam role. (@CalebWoodson3)

1) Related to your article yesterday, when considering the SAM LB vs Whip, which will it be easier to recruit long-term? A LB who has to play DB sometimes, or a DB who has to play LB a lot? Which is more likely to get more talented prospects? – atlhokie1

Chris Coleman: That’s a really good question. Let’s take a look at Penn State’s most recent Sam linebackers and see how they were viewed coming out of high school…

Curtis Jacobs: 6-2, 220, 5-star recruit out of high school, No. 24 player nationally
Brandon Smith: 6-4, 228, 5-star recruit out of high school, No. 12 player nationally

True linebackers seemed to be lining up left and right to play for Penn State. At first I thought Brent Pry had quite a lot to do with that, and I’m sure he did a good job recruiting them, but now it seems as if those guys just wanted Penn State/James Franklin more than anything.

Take linebacker Tony Rojas for example, currently the No. 3 prospect  in Virginia. He’s from Fairfax High School in Northern Virginia, and he was one of Brent Pry’s top 2023 targets at PSU. Ever since Pry came to Tech, Rojas has been receptive and has visited Blacksburg, but most people still consider him to be a big Penn State lean. Now he’s also picking up offers from schools like Georgia, and if it happens that he doesn’t go to Penn State, it doesn’t seem like he’s coming to Virginia Tech.

Rojas is a player who seemed set to go to Penn State with Pry. Now that Pry is no longer at Penn State…it seems like Rojas is still going to Penn State. I guess the most important thing there is PSU itself, or maybe the combination of both PSU and James Franklin. Tech is going to have to build back up. They are going to have to develop players and win games with them before they become consistent players with the top recruits in the state, in my opinion.

The thing about the Sam spot is that it’s a unique position. According to Pry, it’s the least cerebral of all his linebacker positions. It’s more about physical ability than anything else. Take Brandon Smith for example, and look how his run defense grades dropped after he moved from Sam to Will last season…

2021 as a Will: 47.6 run defense
2020 as a Sam: 69.7 run defense

Smith is a physical freak, but once he was moved to the Will position, which is more about natural instincts as a linebacker, his performance dropped off. I wonder if Pry wishes he had kept Smith at Sam and played Curtis Jacobs at Will instead.

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I’ve gotten off into the weeds a little bit, so let me restart. Pry wants traditional linebackers for the Sam role. The problem is that most seniors in high school who weigh between 220 and 235 and are physical freaks enough to play the Sam role in college are mostly going to be upper-level 4-star or 5-star players. Top 100 guys, basically. Everybody is going