While Virginia Tech's 2022 class is largely in place at this point, there is one glaring hole at linebacker that the Hokies will be looking to address still especially after four-star LB Xavier Simmons flipped his commitment from VT to Missouri.
At this point, it's clear that Tech will take at least one linebacker this cycle with two seeming like a strong possibility though not a guarantee looking at the board, and the increased value now of pursuing transfers. With that said, here's a look at the top linebacker targets to watch.
3* LB Tyler Banks
Any conversation about Virginia Tech's linebacker pursuits has to start with the clear top target, talented in-state LB Tyler Banks.
Banks, the cousin of former VT standout Rayshard Ashby, has put together an impressive offer list that has left most scratching their heads as to why Banks doesn't have a higher rating especially since it seems clear that this isn't some inflated offer list full of schools that won't take him.
Tech has been considered the favorite for a while in part because of the family connection via Ashby and the high priority he has been for a long time. Tech did host him on the first of four official visits he took this summer with Michigan, California, and Vanderbilt also receiving two visits. The latter two visits to Cal and Vandy showed that academics are definitely an important piece of the puzzle for Banks in his recruitment.
SEC schools like Ole Miss have also been rumored to get involved more lately as it becomes clear that Banks is a high caliber linebacker that many Power 5 schools have evaluated to be capable of playing high level football.
Tech's family connection and in-state status definitely is a big boost here while, according to 247 Sports, Ryan Smith is the primary recruiter for Tech in this recruitment. Smith has emerged as a recruiting ace since his arrival in Blacksburg and to see him involved has to be encouraging to many Hokie fans who closely follow recruiting.
Banks has always been a take for the Hokies and with Simmons headed elsewhere, Tech's massive prioritization of him at linebacker for this class should only increase even more with the hope of him following his cousin's path to Blacksburg.
LB Reid Pulliam
Banks isn't the only in-state linebacker that Tech is showing interest in as the Hokies are also involved in the recruitment of Reid Pulliam out of Richmond private school Life Christian Academy. LCA is also the same school that current Hokies' DL commit D'Andre Martin plays at.
The LCA program is starting to be a rising program with Martin and Pulliam being among the talented football recruits starting to pop up out of it.
Pulliam previously released a top 3 of Virginia Tech, Duke, and Maryland with schools like Arizona State, Indiana, Houston, East Carolina, and others missing out. In July, Pulliam told us that prior to the summer dead period (which has harsher rules on communication than the COVID dead period), he had been in contact "frequently" with the Hokies.
At the time, Pulliam seemed like a backup target to those of us on the media side of things for the Hokies given that Simmons was in and Tech was in strong standing with Banks. Now, Simmons' departure opens up the door some here with Pulliam with this recruitment seeming potentially similar in some ways to Tech's pursuit of Mansoor Delane which ramped up after Cam Miller committed to Penn State over the Hokies.
Unlike Delane, Pulliam isn't necessarily the only linebacker target that seems to slide up the board with the departure of Simmons which makes Tech's pursuit more unclear. However, Pulliam also doesn't seem to be near a decision especially since he hasn't taken any of his official visits yet though he did visit Tech as part of a camp visit in June where he received his offer.
While Banks may be top of the board, keep an eye on Pulliam in what could be a full VA linebacker class for the Hokies.
3* LB Austin Howell
Heading out of state, Virginia Tech has also shown lots of interest in three-star LB Austin Howell out of Alabama who received an offer in June after a camp and took an official visit the week after.
Howell has a fascinating offer list headlined by Virginia Tech and Mississippi State but with Tulane being the next largest offer which shows some of the divide that schools have currently on Howell. Similar to Pulliam, he's also a player that has flown much below the radar of the national recruiting sites in part due to the circumstances of the past year and a half that have flipped the recruiting process upside down.
Now the fact that Tech hosted Howell on an official visit does appear to be a notable sign of Tech's interest in him, but there are players that Tech hosted that were known to be more on the cut line of this class rather than clear top or take targets. Mississippi State's involvement is also unclear especially since unlike the Hokies, Howell did not tweet out an official offer sheet from the Bulldogs with it being unknown if he received an official offer or not on August 1st.
One thing that is clear is that Howell has quite the athletic profile having a 41 inch vertical jump and a 4.5 40 during his Virginia Tech camp visit that led to an offer according to his Twitter. He also received his Mississippi State offer after a camp which may be a sing of a player who maybe has questions about the competition he faces during the season, but passes the eye test at camps.
What is clear is that Tech is definitely involved in the recruitment of Austin Howell with answers on how involved and how much of a priority he is set to be answered in the coming weeks as the Hokies' linebacker evolves following the Simmons' decommitment.