As it stands, Hokie fans likely know Jalen Stroman as Greg’s younger brother who has a relatively similar profile as a prospect. To that end, Jalen is the second brother (Nick Gallo) Justin Fuente has brought into the program via scholarship since taking the reins from Frank Beamer, which is something the fanbase has been outspokenly in favor of doing more frequently.
While the comparisons to Greg are true in some regard, Jalen is also a more polished player than Greg was at this stage in his career. In high school, Greg was predominantly an option quarterback who played some defensive back on the side. He rushed and passed for a combined 2,777 yards and 32 touchdowns in his senior season at Stonewall Jackson and earned All-State honors.
As great as that was, his play was less likely to translate to the ACC, and he became a bit of a project (punt returning ability notwithstanding) before eventually blossoming into an All-ACC cornerback as an upperclassman – and subsequently a seventh round NFL draft pick.
Jalen, meanwhile, is essentially ACC-ready right now. He was named first-team All-Cedar Run District as a safety and second-team All-District at wide receiver in 2019. On defense, he recorded 58 tackles and three interceptions, and he also chipped in 18 catches for 470 yards and a team-high five touchdowns on the other side of the ball.
He has primarily been a free safety, which allows him to play the entire field (as opposed to one side as a cornerback), but his skill set as a wide receiver seems to translate to the other side of the ball, because he’s looked more than adequate at corner in limited reps.
Officially listed at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Stroman has a pretty rare combination of size, speed, ball skills and physicality. He also has the ability to return kicks, and he’s even served as a fill-in punter. Having said that, it’s quite possible that he’s underrated as a prospect.
Patriot High School (which opened in 2011) doesn’t have an extensive history when it comes to pumping out Power 5 talent. In fact, no one from the school has ever enrolled at as prominent of a football program as Virginia Tech – except for maybe South Carolina (offensive lineman Jakai Moore).
That naturally puts Jalen Stroman – like all Patriot football players – at a disadvantage, as he likely didn’t get the exposure that other players of his caliber did. Patriot’s status may have similarly impacted his prospect ratings, since it’s hard to gain positive marks in your resume if no one sees a reason to pay attention to you. Nonetheless, he certainly passes the eye test.
Jalen’s commitment also comes at a perfect time for a couple other reasons. First, it offsets the recent recruiting woes the Hokies have suffered through. Dematrius Davis is the easy example to point to, but the fact is that even with him, Tech was rated too close to the cellar of recruiting rankings. According to 247’s in-house rankings, Stroman is tied for the Hokies’ highest-rated commit in the last two recruiting cycles (the classes of 2020 and 2021).
Perhaps even more importantly, his addition addresses a position of substantial need in the coming years. While Jalen projects as a safety, a switch to cornerback doesn’t appear to be out of the question – he’s less similar to his brother than he is to Terrell Edmunds, in that regard.
Either way, all five of the Hokies’ supposed starting defensive backs in 2020 are juniors or seniors – thus draft-eligible – as is Tyree Rodgers. Plus, Jeremy Webb just entered the transfer portal last week and Khalil Ladler has already transferred to Louisiana Tech.
Divine Deablo is entering his last year of eligibility, Caleb Farley is a likely first-round pick after this season, and even Jermaine Waller and Chamarri Conner have outside chances of becoming Day 2 draft picks in 2021 if they can build upon their debut seasons as starters.
With multiple starters out of the equation entering 2021, Tech would be calling upon some unproven bodies – perhaps Armani Chatman, Brion Murray, and/or J.R. Walker – to step into major roles. That might be true even with Stroman, but he adds depth at a minimum, and it wouldn’t be a complete shock if he got major reps on defense as a true freshman. Whether he’d line up at nickel, rover, or free safety would depend upon how much weight he adds to his frame – although team need will certainly also come into play.
Jalen Stroman also has a chance to put Patriot High School on the map. Up until now, Stonewall Jackson (“SJ”) has been Tech’s feeder school from Prince William County – Ryan Williams, Tim Settle, Greg Stroman, Reggie Floyd, and beyond.
Since its inception, Patriot has stolen away some of the talent that SJ would’ve otherwise had, and it’s shown up on the field, but not in recruiting. If Jalen makes a splash, don’t be surprised if more players from Patriot start to be heavily scouted by the Hokies.
Needless to say, the newest Stroman has the potential to leave his mark in Blacksburg and shift the tides in northern Virginia recruiting. The ball is in his court; now it’s time to see how many plays he can make on the ball.