It's not often that a recruit is committed somewhere for 15 months, then changes his mind a week and a half before national signing day. It had been brewing for months and on Sunday, Sherando (Va.) four-star linebacker Dylan Rivers made the flip from Penn State to Virginia Tech.
What does his decision mean for the Virginia Tech? We break down Rivers' commitment and how he got to this point.
The Hokies were among the first to look at and even offer Rivers, during his freshman year. Former assistant coach Aaron Moorehead was first to spot Rivers and offered just after his freshman season.
After Moorehead's departure for Texas A&M in early 2015, former assistant Torrian Gray took over as lead recruiter. And through the whole process, defensive coordinator Bud Foster also developed a strong relationship. So when Gray left for Florida on national signing day last year, Foster took over as lead recruiter.
After Moorehead's offer, it appeared that Virginia Tech was the overhelming front-runner. Rivers visited the Hokies multiple times, for junior days, camps and games. He was on hand in September of 2015 for Virginia Tech's game against Ohio State, as seen in the photo above. And afterward, Rivers appeared to be blown away.
But he never committed. And starting that summer, Penn State had gained plenty of momentum. Rivers committed to the Nittany Lions in November of 2015, still a surprise given his relationship with the Hokies.
For a while, Rivers appeared solid with that commitment. But it wasn't long until Virginia Tech came back into the picture. His girlfriend was set to enroll in Blacksburg for school this past fall. And it wasn't long until Rivers was back as well.
Rivers was on hand for the Hokies' Blacksburg Bash barbecue in July. He tried to keep low-key, even putting a hand over his face to avoid this reporter when he unofficially visited in November for Virginia Tech's game against Georgia Tech. And on Dec. 9, Rivers officially visited the Hokies. By that point, the momentum had fully moved from Penn State.
Even as Foster and other members of the Virginia Tech staff visited him and made an in-home visit, Rivers remained committed. And as signing day approached, it wasn't a given he would make the switch. But on Sunday, Rivers decided to make the flip many had anticipated, to the Hokies.
What it means for the class
Rivers is exactly the kind of piece Virginia Tech needs on its defense. A smart, never in trouble kind of kid off the field and one who will work his butt off on the field to accomplish what he needs to.
Rivers is an athletic, rangy player who moves incredibly well. He's also better in man coverage than many other linebackers.
Talk about reloading at linebacker, though. Coupled with fellow Scout300 standout Nathan Proctor, Rivers helps form a tandem that can do some major damage over the next few seasons. And that's not even counting three-stars Rayshard Ashby and Jaylen Griffin on the inside.
Rivers has the ability to play in the WHIP position when need be. He has that kind of ability in coverage and against the run to be a jack of all trades kind of player.
The Hokies are done at linebacker in the class. And they hit a grand slam with the four that they're set to sign, not to mention Aundre Kearney, who enrolled early.
"Obviously, a huge pickup for Virginia Tech. He's just a great overall football player. He's a big linebacker, really physical, strong. He's a good athlete. I really like Dylan because he's so aggressive. He's relentless when he plays. There's just a lot to like overall about him. He's also a really smart player. I feel like he can play any defensive scheme and play multiple linebacker positions, whether it's inside, outside. He's very good against the run and pass.
Overall, just a really good football player and a complete player, which is extremely important with the way the game is played at the collegiate level these days. There's really not much he doesn't do at a really high level on the football field."
-- Michael Clark, Scout.com Mid-Atlantic analyst
What it means for Virginia Tech as a program
The starters at linebacker, Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds, will be a senior and junior this fall. And there's no guarantee that Edmunds will return for his senior season, as high a level as he's played at.
Behind them, you've got Emmanuel Belmar, Sean Huelskamp and Tavante Beckett. And at WHIP, Anthony Shegog will be a senior. There are bodies, but with the possibility of losing at least three, maybe four in that group, it's always good to reload and have another group ready to go.
Kearney, Proctor and Rivers have a chance to play right away this fall, but there's also no rush. All five incoming linebackers have time to develop in what will likely be a redshirt season, barring underperformance by the earlier mentioned linebackers or injury.
But make no mistake, Rivers has a very, very high ceiling. He's the type of linebacker you look for in a number of ways. And under Foster, he should continue to grow, develop and when the time comes, make a big impact on the field.