National Signing Day was over two months ago for the Class of 2016 but after losing punter Marshall Long not long before that, the Hokies have been looking for a punter to be a preferred walk-on and compete with Mitchell Ludwig in the fall to replace A.J. Hughes. Of course, Ludwig likely will be the punter, but the Hokies have found a punter who will at least push Ludwig and could surprise him.
Punter Brandon Nickle of Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee committed to the Virginia Tech Hokies as a preferred walk-on. Nickle committed to Virginia Tech over other preferred walk-on offers from Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Middle Tennessee State, and Toledo.
Nickle is ranked as the ninth best punter in the country and given a five-star punter rating by Kohl’s Kicking, arguably the most prominent kicking and punting recruiting site. At a Kohl’s Kicking camp, Nickle reportedly had three straight punts with a hang time of 5 seconds which is extremely impressive.
Given that Nickle will not be on campus till the summer, Ludwig seems likely to be the top punter in the fall, but Nickle can’t be ruled out as a serious contender. Nickle seems likely to be redshirted even if he ends up dressing for every game and being the backup punter unless he earns the job or if Ludwig gets injured.
James Shibest was the primary recruiter for Nickle, and did a good job closing the deal for one of the top punters in the country against in-state Tennessee. Shibest’s reputation of being one of the top special teams coordinators in the nation likely had a big impact on Nickle in convincing him to come to Blacksburg.
Even though Nickle isn’t an on-scholarship recruit, he is from a part of Tennessee that has produced some talented recruits and the Hokies may see this as an opportunity to open a new recruiting pipeline in a border state that hasn’t been a common place for Virginia Tech to recruit in.
The future of the fourth-down quarterback spot seems secure in Blacksburg now with the addition of Brandon Nickle to join Mitchell Ludwig next fall.