Hokies Football: Virginia Tech’s Pursuit of Trio of Top 2016 Linebackers Ahead of National Signing Day

Since his arrival, Justin Fuente and the Virginia Tech Hokies have been busy with recruiting as they look to put together the finishing touches on the Hokies’ Class of 2016. Fuente has already done some damage on the recruiting trail headlined by the commitment of top JUCO QB Jerod Evans along with the pickups of 3* JUCO OT Demitri Moore and 3* OT T.J. Jackson, and recommitment of 3* WR Phillip Patterson.

With National Signing Day less than a month away, the Hokies are putting an emphasis on getting linebackers with two committed currently in Emmanuel Belmar and Tavante Beckett with Belmar being someone that could possibly move to defensive end.

Bud Foster and his defensive staff have their eyes on three senior linebackers in particular with the hopes of at least getting one of them to sign with the Hokies. With that said, let’s take a look at the three linebackers Virginia Tech has their eyes on.

4* ILB Jaquan Yulee

There is no doubt that Jaquan Yulee is the top linebacker target for the Hokies after decommitting from Alabama this past week. The Crimson Tide seem to still have a shot at gaining Yulee’s commitment once again, but the four-star linebacker’s recruitment seems fairly wide open with less than a month left in the process.

Since Yulee’s decommitment from Alabama, Virginia Tech has quickly emerged as one of the favorites to get the four-star inside linebacker’s signature on National Signing Day. The Hokies have been pursuing Yulee for a long time even after his commitment to Alabama with this decommitment giving Virginia Tech a real shot now at getting one of Virginia’s top recruits.

Virginia Tech has not had a great year in the state of Virginia, but getting Yulee could have a big impact not only on Virginia Tech’s in-state recruiting class for this cycle, but also in building momentum for the next class.

Yulee is one of the top three players out of the 757, one year ahead of one of the deepest classes from the Norfolk-Virginia Beach era in recruiting history. Yulee was teammates with Virginia Tech LB commit Tavante Beckett and highly-touted 2017 four-star athlete Devon Hunter at Indian River this past season, and getting Yulee could be a big boost in the Hokies’ hopes of also getting Hunter.

The Hokies are in the hunt to beat out some of college football’s best to get Yulee including Alabama, but this recruiting battle will be a fight all the way to National Signing Day. If the Hokies do get Yulee, it will definitely be the most important commitment so far in the Justin Fuente era.

3* OLB Keith Simms

Keith Simms was one of the top recruits that took an official visit with the Hokies back in December when Virginia Tech JUCO signees Jerod Evans and Demetri Moore were also on campus. Other than Evans, Simms was probably the most high-profile recruit visiting the Hokies, and has continued to be a top target for the Hokies.

Of the three linebackers on this list, Simms has the most national recruiting process with schools from the ACC, Big 10, SEC, and Pac-12 all having a shot at getting the Bethesda, Maryland native. Simms also has the most offers of the three linebackers as listed by 247 Sports with 37 total offers compared to 35 combined between Jaquan Yulee and Chase Pine (Yulee-19, Pine-16).

Simms has already taken official visits to Oregon, Maryland, and Virginia Tech with North Carolina receiving an official visit in a couple weeks and Stanford also being likely to receive an official visit. Based on the 247 Sports Crystal Ball, North Carolina and Maryland seem to be the favorites, but Oregon, Stanford, and Virginia Tech all seem to be still in the hunt while a sleeper could still sneak in.

At this point, the recruiting battle for Simms seems likely to not be decided till National Signing Day with two more official visits along with more unofficial visits to Maryland and Virginia Tech now that both schools have their full staff in place.

Like Yulee, the recruiting battle for Simms seems likely to last all the way till National Signing Day with the Hokies in an intense, national recruiting battle with programs that have had some significant, recent success.

3* OLB Chase Pine (Pittsburgh commit)

Chase Pine is the only one in this trio that is currently committed with the Williamsburg, Virginia native committing to Pittsburgh back in June. However, multiple schools with new head coaches are in hot pursuit of Pine including the Hokies, Minnesota, and Maryland.

Pine is definitely the most off-the-radar for Hokie fans of the three players on this list, but is a player that Virginia Tech is making a strong push to flip before National Signing Day. Pine has the potential to be a versatile player that could play linebacker or could move to defensive end since the Hokies prefer more athletic defensive ends.

One potential issue for the Hokies could be his relationship with the new staff as Pine’s previous primary recruiter was Cornell Brown who wasn’t retained by Justin Fuente.

However, the new Virginia Tech staff is making a hard push to get Pine who shows great athleticism and a high motor on his highlight tape. The question is can the Hokies beat out Minnesota and Maryland, and convince Pine to flip his commitment from Coastal rival Pittsburgh.

Pine could be a sneaky good get for the Hokies, and Virginia Tech will try to get him on campus before National Signing Day, but Justin Fuente and company have an uphill battle for one of the best recruits over the last several years out of the Williamsburg area.

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