It often gets lost, but high school senior football recruits don't have to sign their letters of intent on the first Wednesday in February, also known as national signing day. But it still doesn't happen often, unless that recruit has a good reason. North Rowan (NC) three-star defensive end Zion DeBose had a good one, as he waited until this afternoon to announce his decision to sign his letter of intent with Virginia Tech.
What does his decision mean for the the Hokies? We break down DeBose's pledge and how he got to this point.
DeBose had been on Virginia Tech's radar for months. And throughout that time, he was plenty hopeful an offer would come.
But on July 22, DeBose went with what offers he had on the table. He committed to Appalachian State and at the time, seemed very solid with that choice. At that point, though, DeBose's offer list included East Carolina, Duke, Charlotte and others.
Assistant coach Charley Wiles, DeBose's primary recruiter, stayed in touch throughout the fall. He also was on hand to see DeBose play. And DeBose showed his interest, even when an offer wasn't there, when he unofficially visited Blacksburg in September for the Hokies' game against East Carolina.
And midway through his senior season, DeBose added more interest, including offers from Cincinnati, Missouri, Kansas and Western Michigan. Illinois and Pittsburgh soon followed and on Dec. 23, Virginia Tech joined them.
Over the next few weeks, DeBose went through what schools stood out to him most and where he fit best. He announced a top four and set official visits to Illinois, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. DeBose officially visited Missouri Dec. 9. Wiles and special teams coordinator James Shibest meanwhile visited DeBose Jan. 12, the first day of the open period and again with coach Justin Fuente a week later for an in-home visit.
The Hokies received DeBose's last visit, on Jan. 27. And as expected, the visit appeared to blow him and his family away.
DeBose announced he would decide Feb. 3. That would coincide with his mother's birthday. And this afternoon, in an announcement at his school, DeBose signed with Virginia Tech.
What it means for the class
DeBose is a good capper on the class as a whole. But he further accentuates the work the Hokies did to address replenishing the depth on the defensive line.
With DeBose's addition, Virginia Tech now has at least four defensive linemen in the class. Scout300 member Nathan Proctor is listed as a linebacker, but has a good chance to move down to defensive end.
DeBose might only be three stars, but he's a sneaky good athlete. He's good good quickness off the snap and good vision to get to the ball.
Defensive end, particularly, was a huge point of emphasis for the Hokies in the 2017 class. And they've now got a group that in the next few years, could make a rather large impact.
"Obviously, I think it's a very big pickup for Virginia Tech. DeBose has always been a good player, but he got a lot better between his junior and senior years. Starting at The Opening in Charlotte, he was one of the best defensive linemen there, played extremely well and was virtually unblockable all day. He put on some weight, added about 15-20 pounds in the off-season.
Fast forward to this past fall and he finished with 85 tackles, 27 for loss and 20 sacks. He had a great senior year, just really explosive off the edge and got so much stronger. He just plays really hard, has a great motor. He's also a real high-character kid, great academically and will be a good guy in the locker room and a leader for the team. He's got a magnetic personality. People like to be around him, so he's a really important member to this class, a guy who down the road could be a really, really good player for that defense."
-- Michael Clark, Scout.com Mid-Atlantic analyst
What it means for Virginia Tech as a program
It's mentioned above, but DeBose is a very high-character kid. He's one of those you just don't worry about off the field.
On the field, he'll need some work, like adding some weight, but that will come once he gets in the Hokies' weight program. That said, he'll likely redshirt this fall, especially since he won't arrive until this summer.
It's always hard to project how a kid will translate at the college level, but DeBose has the makings of a great player over the next few years. That's also more likely given the way he progressed this past year.
And with losses to the defensive end spot like Ken Ekanem and Seth Dooley, it's some much needed help.