Virginia Tech Football: Freshman Wide Receiver Tyree Saunders Ready to Make His Presence Felt in Blacksburg

Michael McDaniel

Virginia Tech concluded its 2020 signing period in early February with the second-iteration of National Signing Day. Fans and media alike criticized Virginia Tech for signing one of its worst classes in the modern recruiting era. 

By the metrics, Tech's 72nd-ranked 2020 recruiting class was not only the worst in the ACC, but also the worst in the Power Five.

One of the top players in the incoming class is 3-star wide receiver Tyree "Showtime" Saunders, a 6'0", 175 lbs. speed merchant out of First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Saunders is an electric player, one who is sure to make an impact the moment he steps on the field in Blacksburg.

Tyree was willing to sit down with us and chat about his recruiting experience with Virginia Tech, the relationships that he has already built with the coaching staff and current players, who he thinks is poised to breakout from the 2020 class, and much more.

Mike McDaniel (SI): So how are you feeling about this team? I know you won't arrive until the summer, but what is your sense on the 2020 Hokies as we sit here in mid-February?

Saunders: I know for the guys who are there, and the guys coming in, man...we're ready to try to make a run this upcoming season. We have our starting quarterback returning, who I think is one of the best in the country, and the offense will open up more with him back and the explosive playmakers on the roster. For myself, my goal is to make plays with this offense with Hendon at quarterback - he's special, man. 

And the defense? The defense is the defense - they will always hold it down....always going to feel good about them.

Mike McDaniel (SI): What coaches did you become closest with on the VT staff during your recruitment?

Saunders: There were a few. I was really close with Coach Wiles before he left VT. He was the one who got the ball rolling with me and Tech. He extended the offer to me and if it wasn't for our good relationship from the jump, I most likely wouldn't be a member of the Hokies. 

Besides him, I obviously was able to develop a really good relationship with Coach Fuente and Coach (Jafar) Williams. They were really honest and transparent with me throughout the whole process and it's been a good personal and professional relationship already.

Mike McDaniel (SI): Given your relationship with Coach Wiles, it must have been tough hearing about his departure.

Saunders: It was definitely tough. When I heard the news that he was let go, I was on the way home to Florida from my official visit in Blacksburg. I had just seen him on my official visit, so it was difficult. But the relationship that I had with Coach Fuente and Coach Williams held my commitment because of how they handled things with me during the process.

Mike McDaniel (SI): So I gotta ask, how about Coach Fuente and the Baylor rumors?

Saunders: Certainly that was tough as well at the time. But I understand it's a business too and there's a lot that comes with that. It should help our program in the long run with him sticking around.

Mike McDaniel (SI): Alright so we know what Coach Wiles, Fuente, and Williams all meant to your recruitment and making you a Hokie. But how about some of those Jacksonville, Florida guys in Keshawn King and Chamarri Connor who were already here at VT. Did they try to sell you on Tech at all?

Saunders: Oh yeah, for sure. I'm tight with the both of them but me and Chamarri have been close for a while. I've known him longer and we played for the same 7-on-7 team in Jacksonville. Keshawn was on the opposite side of town, so I had always heard about him in high school but didn't meet him until I visited Tech. He and I talked a lot about Jacksonville though and he and Chamarri definitely played a part in my recruitment.

Mike McDaniel (SI): This 2020 class you're a part of is not one of Tech's most highly-rated classes...let's call it what it is. With that being said, what are your feelings when people talk down about this class and the program because of it?

Saunders: I don't want to speak for the other guys, but a lot of us take it with a grain of salt. We know what we're about and what we're coming in to do. Recruiting rankings can sometimes be hit or miss anyway. The coaches scouted us and feel good about what we can do, and they are the ones evaluating us and our talents and giving us scholarships.

But to be honest with you, it's all motivation at the end of the day. We're coming in to make names for ourselves and win football games at Virginia Tech. 

Mike McDaniel (SI): You were one of the highest-rated recruits in this 2020 class for VT, but who is a guy that you think people are sleeping on?

Saunders: There are two. 

Cornerback Dorian Strong and safety Keonta Jenkins.

I like Dorian a lot because of his size and length at corner, plus he's got some speed to him too. It creates an advantage as a tall and fast defensive back.

Keonta is my boy. He's from my city so I know he is better than the recruiting ranking he got. He's a great athlete with a great body built to play safety. They can be hard on us with the recruiting rankings in Florida because it's an entirely different level of football players. There were guys I knew from high school who weren't ranked that I thought were better than guys who were ranked highly in Florida. There's just a ton of competition in our state for football.

Mike McDaniel (SI): How about the guys from the class of 2021? Have you been able to connect with any of those guys and start pitching Virginia Tech?

Saunders: I've been in contact a lot with Dee (Dematrius) Davis from Texas of course. He's solid on Tech and actively trying to recruit guys to come play with us on social media. I've also been talking to my boy Patrick Bryant who plays wide receiver in Jacksonville.** My pitch to players on joining VT is the opportunity to play with me and Dee, and that Virginia Tech is a place where you can play early and accomplish anything you want for your life both on the football field and off. This is an honest, hard-working family environment where we can focus on football and build great bonds.

**Patrick Bryant is a 2021 3-star WR from Atlantic Coast High School in Jacksonville. He's yet to receive an offer from Virginia Tech.

Mike McDaniel (SI): Bet you're excited to get on campus and get this thing rolling, huh?

Saunders: Can't wait.

Huge thanks to Tyree for taking the time to chat with us at SI All Hokies. He's a great kid with an extremely bright future.