Since his arrival, Justin Fuente has been busy on the recruiting trail for the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the dividends of his hard work have shown already. Fuente has been able to secure the recommitment of three-star WR Phillip Patterson plus the commitments of four-star JUCO QB Jerod Evans, three-star JUCO OT Demetri Moore, and three-star OT T.J. Jackson.
However, the Hokies still have several scholarships available and plenty of top targets on their radar.
One of those is former Florida commit and three-star defensive end JaQuan Bailey of Raines High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Bailey is ranked as the 53rd best defensive end by ESPN and the 59th best weak-side defensive end by the 247 Sports Composite. ESPN ranks Bailey as the 77th best recruit in the Sunshine State while the 247 Sports Composite ranks him 127th among Florida recruits.
Bailey plays with a high motor that will make him a highly-liked player by coaches wherever he ends up playing his college football. Bailey looks like a player that has the talent to come in and be a quality backup defensive end as a true freshman as a quality athlete that has show a solid ability at shedding blocks quickly.
Bailey likely can add another 15 to 20 pounds to his 6’3”, 235-pound frame, but already has a solid amount of size for a defensive end of his athletic skills.
The Hokies have been pushing for Bailey for months, and his decision to decommit from Florida on December 16th was not a major surprise. Right after Bailey’s decommitment, the Tennessee Volunteers offered Bailey and have become a top contender to get the Florida native along with the Hokies.
Right now, it looks like the Hokies and Tennessee are the top two contenders for Bailey with the Louisville Cardinals being the only other challenger at this point. It is unknown if the Florida Gators still have a chance, but all indications since Bailey’s indications suggest that the Gators are out of the hunt.
The Louisville Cardinals are the sleeper in this recruiting battle, and could be ready to pull a surprise. Todd Grantham is one of the better defensive coordinators in the country, and the Cardinals have developed some talented defensive linemen including Sheldon Rankins. However, the Cardinals seem to be a longshot with this recruiting battle coming down to the Hokies and Volunteers.
One thing that has helped the Hokies maintain their position as favorite to get Bailey is the fact that Justin Fuente made the decision to retain DL Coach Charley Wiles. Wiles has been the primary recruiter for Bailey, and keeping him has clearly allowed the Hokies to remain a top contender to get his commitment.
Both the Hokies and Volunteers will be able to give Bailey the opportunity to play in his home state whether it is Virginia Tech at Miami or Tennessee at Florida. Both programs have also been touted as programs headed in the right direction with Butch Jones’s impressive recruiting at Tennessee and the talented offensive-minded head coach-defensive coordinator duo of Justin Fuente and Bud Foster.
Despite a down season, Virginia Tech’s defensive line has been quite impressive over the years piling up high sack totals led by great defensive ends including Corey Moore and Darryl Tapp. Virginia Tech also could offer Bailey the chance to compete for playing time early in his career with Dadi Nicolas graduating and Ken Ekanem set to enter his senior season.
Meanwhile, Tennessee has been trending in the right direction under Butch Jones with many pointing towards 2016 as a potential breakthrough season. The Volunteers have also been developing some very talented defensive players recently including DE Derek Barnett who definitely has a future on Sundays.
Butch Jones and the Volunteers likely have been keeping an eye on and staying in contact with Bailey for some time, and a scholarship likely opened up that allowed them to make the offer. However, the fact that the Hokies have had an offer on the table for a significantly longer time could prove beneficial along with the potential to play early.
Both schools have a lot of similarities especially in how most see both programs on a very positive trajectory in the coming years. Right now, the Hokies still seem to be the favorite given their long pursuit of JaQuan Bailey, and the expectation that he would end up being a Hokie before Tennessee offered. However, this recruitment seems far from over with National Signing Day not too far away.