Coming off a 6-7 season and a start to the offseason that featured uncertainty thanks to a couple of high-profile personnel losses, the Virginia Tech football program needed some good news. On Feb. 6, it arrived.
A late recruiting charge, highlighted by a major flip just before Signing Day, elevated the Hokies to No. 26 in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Considering all that occurred over the past five months, finishing that well has to be considered a major success.
Now it’s time to figure out which of these prospects can actually make an impact on the field in 2019. Justin Fuente's team has a lot coming back on defense, but there are a couple of potential contributors in the secondary that enrolled early. Offensively, the Hokies beefed up the line in a big way, added a running back that could push for carries, and a receiver that may provide a boost to the passing game.
Here are five newcomers that could see action for Virginia Tech this fall.
Bryan Hudson, OG
All of the linemen signed by Virginia Tech are projected as guards by 247Sports. Hudson was considered the 12th-best prospect at that position coming out of Scott County High School in Georgetown, Kentucky. With plenty of turnover on the interior of the Hokies' offensive front, the 6-foot-4, 292-pounder that had offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, and Louisville will get an opportunity.
Keshawn King, RB
When Deshawn McClease removed his name from the transfer portal, Virginia Tech was assured of having an experienced running back returning in 2019. But with Steven Peoples no longer on the roster, another ball carrier will have to emerge and King could be a candidate for touches. The Orange Park, Florida, product rushed for more than 2,000 and yards and scored 30 touchdowns as a senior.
Doug Nester, OG
The Huntington, West Virginia, lineman committed to Ohio State in August 2017. But when Urban Meyer stepped down as head coach of the Buckeyes, Nester looked elsewhere. Four days before Signing Day, the nation’s sixth-best guard prospect announced that he had decided on Virginia Tech. A player that Ohio State desperately wanted to retain, the 6-foot-6 Nester has the frame to play tackle, though most believe he will be a guard. As a side note, Virginia Tech also accepted the transfer of guard Brock Hoffman from Coastal Carolina. Hoffman was a two-year starter for the Chanticleers, but it is unclear at this time whether he will be immediately eligible for the Hokies.
Jaden Payoute, WR
There are positions on the field that are more conducive to freshmen making a difference. Running back is one, which is why Keshawn King is a possibility for early reps. Another is wide receiver, as Tre Turner proved in 2018. That is the reason, along with an opening due to the transfer of Eric Kumah, that Payoute could get a chance. The Chesterfield, Virginia, native was a consensus top-200 prospect and has good size (6-1,195).
J.R. Walker, S
Walker was a quarterback as well as a defender at Clayton (N.C.) High School. He is expected to play in the secondary, specifically at safety, for the Hokies. An offer list that featured the likes of NC State, South Carolina, Clemson, Tennessee, and Michigan State is stellar and Walker is already in Blacksburg, as is fellow top safety prospect Nyquee Hawkins.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.