Wednesday, February 3, 2010

signing day special

Just like last year - a year ago tomorrow, if you want to get specific on me - it's time to take stock of what we managed to do on the recruiting trail. Close out the 2010 class with a Signing Day Special. Actually, since I did this last year, I suppose technically that means I can call it the Second Annual Signing Day Special, just for that little extra je ne sais quois.

What you get in this fascinating extravaganza: a summary of the top storylines, a position-by-position rundown, and a few Top Five lists. Everyone loves Top Five lists.

The stories:

- Morgan Moses is still a Hoo. Actual qualification remains up in the air, to be honest, but we're closer on that front than we were at this time last year, so hopefully he will be on Grounds in the fall. I'm just going to assume for purposes of this post that he will.

- Kevin Parks is awesome.

- The class is short one member. Kyrrel Latimer has to go to prep school for a year, so he'll be pushed back a year. (London doesn't mention him by name because he's not allowed to, but Latimer is the one listed as "not signed" and you can put two and two together here.) Latimer is now a member of the 2011 class for accounting purposes around here, and the depth chart and recruiting board and such will reflect that once I get around to updating them.

- This class is absurdly heavily weighted toward the offense. Of the 17 commits, just five are defensive, and one (Lawe) might end up there but isn't categorized as such for now.

- It's kind of a weak class. Rivals ranks it 10th in the ACC. But from a pure star-ratings standpoint, it's still better than the '08 class, which has already turned out a few real players in guys like Austin Pasztor, Cam Johnson, and Steve Greer. Kudos to Al Groh for being able to recruit a pretty fair class in the face of extremely difficult circumstances, and kudos to Mike London and the holdover coaches (Price and Poindexter) for not losing a single commitment and keeping the whole class together through the coaching change. That's rare. It's not a strong class, but it's not bad at all for having spent the whole year in coaching purgatory.

And a P.S. to this bullet: Price deserves extra credit for being a consummate professional throughout all this. He had no idea what his future would hold - and he's not even listed as an assistant coach any more - but he put himself out there and helped hold this group together while the head coaching search was going on. Bravo to Bob Price.

- With 17 signees, and assuming all fifth-years are asked back (they won't all be) we have 89 scholarships promised out. This isn't a number that concerns me - we'll be at 85 in the fall without much effort.

Going position by position....


We have a whopping four in this class, which is at least two too many, and we'll definitely see some positional movement. In order from least likely to switch to most, the list is: Strauss, Rocco, Gooch, McGee. McGee is basically already tabbed elsewhere anyway. Every single one of these guys is a Mike London recruit, and Strauss is already enrolled, which will put him through spring practice and give him a mostly-even playing field with Ross Metheny in the competition for places on the depth chart. Riko Smalls may or may not stick at quarterback, which will open up the gate just a little bit for Rocco and/or Gooch.

Running back

Last year I called this section of the class a big disappointment, because we only had one. A good one, but only one. More RB's decommitted than signed. This year things look much better, largely because Kevin Parks looks like the real deal, and we have Khalek Shepherd for insurance. Running back is my favorite position on the field and we got our best player of the class there, so I'm excited. There's plenty of room for true freshmen to get on the field, too.

Wide receiver/tight end

Only one true receiver in the class, but that's fine - we took such a huge haul last year that there's no worry. Zach Swanson was a late and badly, badly needed addition to the class, because we have only three scholarship tight ends on the roster and one of them graduates after this season.

Offensive line

Half this year's class is made up of last year's class. Conner Davis is one of the more significant additions, for reasons I'll go into below, and hopefully Morgan Moses will get the ol' academic situation squared away because the offense could very much use his help on the left side.

Defensive line

There is nobody. What we have is one guy recruited as a linebacker that'll likely move to DE - Brathwaite. That's the worst part about this class is a general lack of bodies at a position that we just expanded this offseason. We did pick up a mess of defensive ends last year, but a lot of shuffling is going to be required in order to have anything resembling a depth chart on the D-line. DE's will move inside and OLB's will move down, else we won't have enough linemen to fill out a proper 4-3 defense. This needs to be a priority for 2011.


Little thinner than we're used to, but we only need three on the field now. Both Ryan Cobb and Henry Coley were for the most part lightly recruited, but Groh made them priorities. Trust Groh to know his linebackers.

Defensive back

Argh. Once again, a shortage of true cornerbacks. We should be OK at safety this year and going forward - plenty of depth, and we might even have the room to put a redshirt back on Corey Lillard. But after 2010 we are going to be experiencing a significant cornerback crisis. Rijo Walker was a huge, huge pickup because we didn't recruit a single true cornerback last year, but he's all by himself.


We didn't need any and didn't get any.

OK! Lists. You know you want them.

Five most likely to play as true freshmen:

Morgan Moses
K.P. Parks
Khalek Shepherd
Zach Swanson

By "five", I meant "four." That's really about it. Even before we knew last year would be a major freshmanfest with 14 of them hitting the field, it looked like there'd be opportunity for true freshmen to see playing time. Not so much this year. By the way, I got three of five last year and would have gotten four of five if Moses had qualified. Moses makes the list for the second year in a row because his talent is going to be hard to ignore. The same is true for Parks. He and Shepherd go into a situation where very few of their competitors have much time on the field, and playing time will be up for grabs. Swanson also plays a very thin position.

Five I'm most excited about:

Morgan Moses
K.P. Parks
Rijo Walker
Christopher Brathwaite
Michael Strauss

We've discussed Moses and Parks in great length. Walker, I'm just happy to finally have a cornerback in a recruiting class. I have this inexplicable gut feeling about Brathwaite. I liked him a little better as a 3-4 rush linebacker than a true DE, but something about Brathwaite strikes me right. And Strauss has enrolled early, which you cannot underestimate the value of doing, especially for a quarterback. It's like a free seven months of playbook study and a whole bunch of practices that the rest of the guys don't get.

Five sleepers:

Ryan Cobb
Christopher Brathwaite
Miles Gooch
Michael Strauss
K.P. Parks

The criteria for this list: I have to like something about your game, and you have to have been ignored or shat upon with the Two-Star Of Doom by at least one of the major scouting services.

For Parks, I make an exception because this is a guy who'd be a high four star if one of two things were true: if he were 5'11", or if he'd waited til October or November to commit. Neither is the case, so the services just lazily left him with the middling ranking they'd given him based on his size and speed.

Cobb comes from one of the elite programs in the country and is a two-way player there - worth something for sure. Brathwaite I've talked about a bit. Very hard worker, smart guy, very athletic. Strauss and Gooch get to be on the list because Scout was like "whatever" and gave them two stars. You might be able to understand that with Strauss, whose other scholarship options were mainly the MAC and Sun Belt. Actually the same is true for Gooch, but the services are all over the map with him - ESPN believes he's our best non-Moses recruit. (Which is part of the reason Parks makes this list, when you think about it.)

Five top-rated:

Morgan Moses
K.P. Parks
Zach Swanson
E.J. Scott
Khalek Shepherd

Purely mathematical here, or almost purely. Just a composite of the three rating services - these are the guys that come out on top.

Last year, I finished up with two of the most fun lists of all: who we'd beaten out Maryland and VT for. This year is much sadder: the lists are so small they're hardly worth it. We have precisely one recruit that chose us over an offer from VT: Conner Davis. They have five that we offered. It's not as bad it sounds: truth be told, most of those guys are like Mark Shuman, Nick Dew types - they really were going to be nigh-impossible to pry loose anyway. That many kids growing up dreaming of wearing the ugliest colors imaginable, that is a problem in and of itself and will require a few winning seasons to rectify. But with a narrow focus on this season, we got our guy, they got theirs, and what more can you do?

Things are brighter on the Maryland front. Davis had an offer from the Terps as well, as did E.J. Scott and Khalek Shepherd, which you'd expect because that's where they're from. Tyrek Cheeseboro is the only recruit that picked them over us, a much better showing than last year when they pried Caleb Porzel directly out of our hands.

And that wraps up another Signing Day. We're not quite ready to close the book on the class, because I still have to get around to writing up several of these guys. Then it's onto 2011 with a vengeance. Already three recruits in what looks to be a big class.

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