Friday, May 15, 2009

omg our recruiting o noez

Some time back, a reader pointed out in a comment the alternating nature of our recruiting classes, in which odd years are awesome and even years suck. This as you're likely to know is a trend going back to about 2004 or 2005, depending on how you think the 2004 class as a whole panned out. I answered the question - that is, will 2010 be any better? - optimistically. I wonder if I was right.

Since the 2004 class yielded Chris Long, Cedric Peerman, Chris Gould, Clint Sintim, and sort-of* Branden Albert, as well as sort-of Olu Hall who had a very studly star rating, let's arbitrarily say this trend began in 2005, when we plucked Eugene Monroe out of New Jersey. 2005 was a very good class. Now, what's got UVA fans really uneasy is the number of commitments at this point in the year: One. Duke has five. In past years, here's how we stood with commitments as of May 15:

2005: 11
2006: 0
2007: 6
2008: 3
2009: 7
2010: 1

There's a very clear up-and-down pattern to that, although I probably ought to caveat the 2009 number by pointing out one of those 7 is eventual decommit Alex Owah; what I didn't count was Caleb Porzel, who'd already committed and disappeared by this time. No matter how you slice it, the best even-year performance as of May 15 is half as good as the worst odd-year performance.

There's also no denying that the even years have been a disappointment in the star ratings. Rivals had all our odd-year classes 6th in the conference and our even year ones as high as 8th and as low as 11th. The best player we got out of the '06 class is Nate Collins, who was also the lowest-rated.

Taking stock honestly, I see no reason why this trend won't continue. If you like to go by nothing but star ratings and recruiting service rankings, you're probably going to be one sorry Wahoo come Signing Day 2010. All the factors are there. By this point in the year most teams have a list of commits; our list is one. It's going to be a small class; any genius who's been keeping track of the scholarships could guess that. We're already overbooked and losing only 12 to eligibility at the end of the year. The recruiting services, when ranking classes against each other, bias the rankings toward big-ass classes. And those who are most likely to commit sometime soon (Conner Davis, E.J. Scott, Marcus Rush maybe, Kyrrel Latimer, etc.) have low-to-medium three-star rankings. Nothing like 2007 when four-stars Peter Lalich and J'Courtney Williams committed within three days of each other in April.

Now. Not a lot of our offered targets have actually committed elsewhere. So while we're not exactly raking them in, we're not losing out in great numbers, either. The biggest losses are probably Silas Redd, Philip Sims, Mark Shuman, Seth Betancourt, and Justin Hunter. Redd and Shuman were in love with their particular school and the only thing that would have stopped them going was a lack of an offer; Sims, we had a shot at, but he was always going to be a hard get, and the same is true with Hunter only minus the part where we had a legit shot.

So there's that for consolation, but it's also very indicative of the coaching staff slow-playing this thing. They're not going to go all-out to fill up the class, because that's the last thing they want to do, lest they lose out on someone they want badly.

Conclusion, then: Star-gazers are going to be sorely disappointed. If this class ranks 10th or lower by the recruiting services, it won't surprise me one bit. But! You might notice I chose two flame-outs from the '07 class as my earlier example; that's on purpose. The strength of the '07 class is not in the seven four-stars, most of whom will probably not have four-star careers. Likewise, the '08 class was badly panned by UVA fans as a huge recruiting disappointment. It was small and sucked ass in the star department. It's also yielded at least seven players who figure to play a major role on the depth chart this year, and that's while these guys are sophomores or redshirt freshmen.

So, actual conclusion: Star-gazers, you're still going to not like the class. I think from a rankings perspective, the top end of the class will look a little better than 2008, in which Ausar Walcott and Torrey Mack were the only headliners. It's still going to be a small class though and most of them will be in the unexciting range. But I think, like 2008, a few years after the class is in the books, we'll learn the lesson for the umpteenth time that star ratings don't mean everything. Kevin Parks, for example, I think will be brilliant. If Ken Wilkins signs up, I think he'll be brilliant. There will be at least one really excellent receiver in the class, and I think we'll be happy with the quarterback we sign, whoever that is.

After some of our big summer events, like Big Fancy Blue-Chip Shindig Day in June and the camp in July, we'll have a lot better notion of how this thing is going to shake out.

*Sort-of, because they prepped and ended up in the following year's class.

Many many many apologies for skipping yesterday's post, but it was Game 7 of Wings-Ducks, y'see. All ended well in that department, and to make it up to you, the Maryland lacrosse game highlights will be on YouTube by Sunday evening.


PO13 said...

I’ve always thought that Virginia offered a ton of prospects very early in the process, hoping to catch a few players that they normally wouldn’t have a chance with due to the fact that UVA would be the “first offer”. Early articles on Virginia’s Rivals page are usually not worth reading, considering most of the players show interest in UVA due to their offer and then fade out when more offers come in. This is still the best chance for UVA to get their name out there in my opinion. My guess is they take in a big class using this strategy and then slow-play the next one by being much more frugal with offers. Hence the slow starts and decent hail of prospects, although not with the star power of the classes where they offer hundreds of players.
What’s interesting to me is that the recruiting game is changing in that many teams are now offering prospects earlier and earlier in the game. Take my alma mater Michigan: the Wolverines under Rodriguez have offered a ton of prospects this year, much more than they ever did under Lloyd Carr. The commits they are getting are starting to become more and more like the players UVA normally goes after, along with the high-end players as well. Do you think this poses a problem for schools like UVA? Its fine when UVA gets out early and surprises prospects by offering early, but when Michigan starts doing the same it really hurts Virginia. It’s tough supporting two schools with vastly different recruiting expectations though. Virginia’s players often seem much less exciting than Michigan prospects, although UVA always puts its fair share of players into the NFL, an area of struggle for Michigan lately.
On another note, I see a lot of similarities with the Tony Bennett hire and Michigan’s hire of John Belien. Belien has a lot more experience, but I see a realization among the AD’s of both school of manageable expectations. Michigan had Amaker, a coach that tried to recruit the big boys, had initial success, and then an ultimate failure to develop his gaudy classes. I see a lot of similarities with Leitao, especially in regards to recruiting the big names and finishing second. I was roommates my third year with Tim Mein, the former video coordinator and student manager under Leitao. He stressed the importance to the program to getting Ed Davis, and felt good about our chances. When UNC swooped in and got the player late in the game, it was a real blow to Leitao. I see Bennett has a way to get a system here that will get less heralded players here but with more chance for success. I think Bennett will do a bit better in his first year due to Landesburg, but less improvement might be seen in year 2. What do you think?

Brendan said...


no, just kidding - I read all the comments. It's not like I'm flooded with 'em. I'm really surprised at the overlap this year between the prospects U-M is going for and the ones UVA is. That's never happened before, not at this level. I think it's due to two things: one, now that Michigan has that "spinner" position, that's the same type of player UVA looks for as an OLB in the 3-4. And two, RR's typical recruiting grounds from his days at WVU are a lot closer geographically to UVA's territory than Michigan used to be. I don't think it really hurts UVA a lot - even if Michigan snags both Ken Wilkins and Marcus Rush, our battles will still be mostly against the same schools as always: VT, Maryland, PSU, BC, Rutgers, etc.

As for basketball, I agree that it'll be hard to imagine a lot of improvement in Year 2 of Bennett's tenure if Landesberg goes to the NBA, which is a huge possibility. But if he stays (which would probably baffle the scouts) then this should almost certainly be a tournament team, with Landesberg, Sene, and Zeglinski as juniors, Scott as a senior, Spurlock as a sophomore. Hard to say even what Year 1 would look like until we see Bennett in action though. Anywhere from a 10/11 seed tournament bid to the CBI wouldn't surprise me.