The second national signing day for the 2019 class in southwest Virginia meant a couple of key acquisitions for our Commonwealth colleges, and lots of local talent continuing their athletic and academic careers.
In the college ranks, Virginia Tech added three players to the 19 they inked in December, including four star offensive lineman Doug Nester, who flipped from Ohio State to the Hokies.
"Quite frankly, when you look at the offense of classes to come in it's not hard to figure out why we are becoming more attractive to these types of players. You look at what's happened here statistically over the last three years in terms of where those offenses have ranked, some with veteran players, some with young players here, where they ranked in the annals of Virginia Tech history it's pretty impressive," VIrginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said.
Meanwhile at Virginia, the building process continues with head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The Cavs have already signed 21 players back in December. Today they add three more, including a grant-in-aid for a graduate transfer. It's going to be hard to miss 6-foot 6-inch, 311-pound offensive lineman Alex Gellerstedt from Penn State.
"We had a need for an offensive lineman as a grad transfer like we have every year. We filled that with Alex from Penn State. He has two years of eligibility remaining and he's a really strong student which is a perfect fit for UVA," Mendenhall said.
At Liberty University, new head coach Hugh Freeze finished up his first class in Lynchburg. He signed 14 players in December, and today added eight more. He didn't have much time, but says Liberty University was the selling point.
"My message was very simple to all the families in the short amount of time I had after Christmas break to to try and convince kids in a short amount of time to join us was--'Come and see'. The ones we were able to get on campus we batted a very high percentage," Freeze said.
Meanwhile, our area high schools were awash with signing ceremonies. We start in Blacksburg where the Bruins had eight athletes moving on. Linebacker Drew Babcock chose William and Mary, golfer Ben Carroll will tee it up at Charleston Southern, soccer star Sam Dickinson is headed to Christopher Newport, Jakob Duncan will play golf at Maryville College, Linebacker Cole Epperley is headed to Averett University, Anna Kender will take her track and field skills to Bucknell, Melody Scales will play volleyball at Xavier university, and Jacob Lucas will play football for Ferrum College.
Hidden Valley had three student-athletes sign today. Tackle Josmeer Blake and receiver/cornerback Aaron Moore both signed letters of intent to play for Glenville State College in West Virginia. Austin Thompson will head east to play for Christopher Newport University. Coach Scott Weaver said this was a special signing class.
"They all three were captains. They were seniors, four-year players and leaders and those are the kids that you want being the face of your program. Giving an example to the younger kids that one day being on that stage is possible," Weaver said.
At the home of Vikings, former 1st and 10 player of the week quarterback Jalen Jackson made it official, signing on to play football for UVA-Wise. The multi-sport athlete passed for more than 1,800 yards and rushed for nearly 1,000 this past season, accounting for 25 touchdowns.
Three time defending VIS state champion Roanoke Catholic signs a pair of talented Celtics today.
Defensive lineman James Carpenter is headed to James Madison University, and teammate Alex Vaught, an all-state wide receiver, is headed to Washington and Lee University.
At Gretna high school, the Hawks inked wide receiver Dajon Hicks to Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas. Hicks heads to a football-rich area that moves players on to D-1 and beyond.
"Well, I had a lot of offers, I had a motivator -- I had some offers but then they offered me a full scholarship and put people in the NFL before so I'm excited to go," Hicks said.
Other signees from our area schools today included 1st and 10 player of the year Jabari Blake of Heritage headed to Delaware State. Other Heritage athletes moving on included KJ Burks and Naseni Rivera to Ferrum, Darius Randolph to Wingate, Vonte Pannell to Concord and Chris Megginson to Liberty.
At GW Danville, both Carl and Carlos Poole are headed to Old Dominion. Other Eagles moving on include Quenton Elam to Virginia State and Marquis Carter to Ferrum.
Jefferson Forest is sending Nathan Pribble to Ferrum, Tiffany Carey to EMU and Gracyn Draney to Randolph-Macon.
Rustburg's Chase Droog will play football at UVA-Wise and Lord Botetourt's Trey Rice will take his placekicking skills to VMI.