Virginia Tech won.
After vacillating between the Hokies and Virginia Cavaliers, highly-touted recruit Wyatt Teller made a verbal commitment Friday to play for the Virginia Tech football team in 2013.
The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Liberty High defensive end chose the Hokies over Virginia after recently narrowing down his wish list from 16 NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams that offered scholarships over the past two years.
“Wyatt was very close to signing with U.Va.,” Liberty coach Sean Finnerty said. “He had a great relationship with their coaching staff and it was extremely hard for him to choose Virginia Tech over Virginia. … I believe Wyatt made the right decision.”
Teller’s commitment isn’t binding until he submits a letter of intent on or after National Signing Day, Feb. 6, but Teller said he is steadfast despite making a difficult decision.
“It was a hard pick,” he said. “One team [Virginia] is on the rise and one team [Virginia Tech] has been great. … Both educations are great. I fell in love with both. But I only felt at home with one.”
Homes, of course, are filled with more than footballs. So, naturally, Teller’s decision came down to more than where to play a sport. The overall school atmosphere at Virginia Tech’s campus in Blacksburg made an impact.
“I have family that goes there, and fiends that go there, that have always said good things,” Teller said. “They say the football games are crazy and the campus is beautiful, and it's a lot of fun. Like they have a winter snow ball fight … just good stories.”
At Virginia, “I felt more comfortable with the football team,” he said. “But I just didn't feel at home there” on the Charlottesville campus.
Recruiting buzz over the past few months suggested that the Cavaliers sat atop Teller’s wish list until the Hokies rose to the top in the final few weeks. However, Teller said he never truly preferred one school over the other until his recent decision.
“I didn't try to pick favorites, but every time I went to a school somebody would say, ‘Oh, he's a U.Va.-lean’ after I went to U.Va., or ‘He's a Tech-lean’ after I went to Tech,” Teller said. “I guess I went to U.Va. more.”
Teller, who is interested in studying criminal justice, also received football scholarship offers from Michigan, Oregon, Notre Dame, Maryland, Penn State, Tennessee, South Carolina, Connecticut, North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson, Rutgers, Boston College and Duke. Most of those teams were at a disadvantage, though, because one of Teller's criteria was attending college close to home.
“I wanted to stay close to mom; to mom and dad,” he said. “I didn't want to go somewhere across the country where they couldn't go to games.”
However, Teller, who grew up a Hokies fan, said his parents didn’t influence his decision too much, and neither did outside forces.
“My family [members] weren't pushing me one way,” he said. “They kept an open mind. … They just said, ‘Which shirt should we buy?’”
Richard and Cheryl Teller can now buy maroon and orange Virginia Tech shirts.
If they get a shirt for their son, it might need to be a XXL. After starting his sophomore season at 205 pounds, Teller worked in the weight room over the past two years to add strength and mass. He played last season at 253 and is now 275.
Teller was recruited as a defensive tackle and wants to play that position at Virginia Tech, but with his increased size he’ll likely need to improve his speed to avoid being moved inside to defensive tackle.
“If I get faster, I'd love to stay on the edge, but if I have to move for the team, I will,” he said. “That's one thing I'm going to put in my weight program this year – do some lifts that get me faster.”
Whatever position he ends up playing, Teller should transition well from high school.
“Virginia Tech is a good fit for him because he feels most comfortable … with what they do on defense,” Finnerty said. “It is close to our scheme on defense here at Liberty. Virginia Tech getting Wyatt, who has a great motor, will help their defense for years to come. “
Hokies coaches have made no playing-time promises to Teller, but he expects to get on the field sooner than later.
“They haven't said anything special, like you're going to be the best kid ever,” he said. “They said if you work hard, do everything thing you're supposed to, you have a chance to play soon.”
Teller will leave Liberty as one of the most heavily-recruited players in its history, joining the likes of Brandon Gore (Virginia Tech), Alex Stadler (Alabama, Liberty U.) and Corey Lillard (Virginia, Liberty U). He is ranked No. 75 nationally among 2013 prospects by Rivals.com, and No. 6 in the state of Virginia.
As a junior, Teller made the VHSCA Group AA all-state second team, and was named Region II Player of the Year and Evergreen District Defensive Player of the Year. He accumulated 149.5 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 27 tackles-for-loss, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and five blocked kicks.
Teller led the Liberty Eagles to the AA Region II Division 3 championship game, which they narrowly lost. The Eagles finished with a 10-3 record, and Teller will try to help them improve on that mark in 2012.
“I feel I haven't been the best leader,” he said. “It's good that I got my recruitment out of the way so I can focus on the team and the season.
“It was huge decision for my future, and it took a lot of my time,” he said. “I was focusing on myself, and that's not fair to my team.”
Prior to Teller's commitment Friday, Rivals.com ranked Virginia Tech's recruiting class No. 19 in the nation and Virginia's No. 25. The Hokies have since moved to No. 16 and the Cavaliers to No. 26.
Teller became the 16th 2013 recruit to commit to Virginia Tech, including three other players ranked in the top-15: safety Holland Fisher (No. 7), quarterback Bucky Hodges (No. 12) and defensive back Cequan Jefferson (No. 15).
The Hokies finished last season with an 11-3 record, going 7-1 in the ACC and losing the conference championship game to Clemson, 38-10. Virginia Tech, which was ranked as high as No. 5 in the polls, also lost to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, 23-20.
Virginia finished last season with an 8-3 record, going 5-3 in the ACC, including a 38-0 loss to Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers also lost to Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, 43-24.
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