Tuesday, March 30, 2010

big-picture recruiting

Slow news day today. There's no midweek lacrosse game and baseball is taking on Towson, which is terrible. I thought I'd take the opportunity to take an early stab at projecting the 2011 recruiting classes in both basketball and football. Not with names, mostly, but a big-picture kind of look.


There are 14 seniors departing after the 2010 season, and the team is one shy of the limit of 85 after Riko Smalls' departure, so there are 15 for-sure openings. There is always attrition and you can always count on some redshirt juniors not being asked back for a fifth year. I think there are two or three candidates for that. So a class size of roughly 20, plus or minus a couple, is what I'd expect.

On offense, the staff is probably going to be pretty judicious with the offers they send out at the skill positions. Lazor's offense doesn't need a whole lot of receivers; in fact, with Adrian Gamble on board, the staff probably wouldn't have a lot of heartache if he was the only one. There are a couple guys on that board that you take no matter what, like maybe Quinta Funderburke, but the numbers at receiver look about right for now.

Same for running back. Clifton Richardson is basically onboard already and Nyjee Fleming appears likely enough to follow; once those two are in the bank, that'll be all we need. Quarterback too; London scooped up everyone he could find at the end of the last recruiting cycle and the only real reason to take one this year is the principle that you basically want one every year because you never know. They've offered who they like, if they find another they like they'll offer him too, but there's already a whole bunch coming in the fall and there's no need to cram a whole bunch more into that tight a space. One is all we need.

O-line, however, is a place where you always, always want to stack up as much depth as you can, and take three or four in every class. Thus the offer cannon has been readied. Between the Rivals offer list and the recruiting board here, there are probably 10 or 12 linemen already out there for the looking, and maybe one of them will end up at UVA. Offers are going to be flowing out of Charlottesville to offensive lineman all spring and summer.

So on offense: say two running backs, one or two receivers, a quarterback, and 3-4 linemen. Throw in a likely tight end as well, and of the target 20 scholarships, about 9 or 10 for the offense.

There's a slightly greater need on defense. Starting with the defensive line, where thanks to the switch from the 3-4 to 4-3, defensive tackles are suddenly in demand, big time. One is already in the house (David Dean), I really like our chances with DE Rob Burns, and we still need more. Ends and tackles alike have been offered with regularity, and my thought is that four, maybe even five linemen is the target.

So you'd think that linebacker would take a corresponding drop in demand, but I'd guess not. The staff moved Ausar Walcott and LoVante' Battle down to linebacker with the idea of increasing the speed at that position, but what that did to the numbers is give us five scholarship sophomore linebackers, and six scholarship linebackers in all the other classes combined. That means two things: one, someone like Battle or Connor McCartin is a prime candidate to put the redshirt back on this year so as to even out the numbers a bit, and two, in the long-term - like, 2012 or 2013 - we're going to be slammed with departures if we don't do something to soften the blow. That means at least two, possibly three linebackers in this class of 2011. Travis Hughes and Curtis Grant are both take-no-matter-what prospects if we can get either one, and there are a couple other LB's in blue on the recruiting board. Offers will continue to roll here.

And hey, we're suddenly thin in the secondary too, thanks to the aforementioned position switches. Plus, one of my biggest heartaches over Groh's recruiting was the near-complete lack of true cornerbacks recently. I think Demetrious Nicholson is one of the biggest must-gets in the class for that reason. Must collect defensive backs - both safeties and cornerbacks. There's already one in Matt Bailey, but five defensive backs is not too many, split about evenly between CB and safety. Four seems like a more likely number.

All told, that's 4-5 linemen, 2-3 linebackers, and 4-5 DBs. No way do we clock in at all three upper limits, but I think UVA takes 10 defensive players at a minimum and probably more like 11, maybe 12.


Basketball recruiting is grimy as hell, so I try to avoid it as a topic, but this is big-picture stuff so it's OK. There is an open scholarship in 2010 and it looks like it's going unfilled, except for maybe giving it to Will Sherrill as a senior present. Regardless, it makes four openings in 2011.

Tony Bennett's no dummy, and he knows that tying ten scholarships in two classes (it'd be six in the '10 class and four in '11) makes for some ugly numbers. You don't want your back against the wall when it's time for them to go. So Bennett's actively going for a two-year transfer. This would have a lot of benefits, but one of them is that his scholarship would free up again in 2013, one year before this six-man monstrosity of a class finishes their eligibility. Help spread the schollies around. If he can't get Justin Hamilton, and I hope I hope I hope I hope he can, he'll find someone else.

That leaves three for the '11 class, which is a perfectly normal size. And one of them is a stone-cold lock to go to a big man as long as Tony can find one that can fog a mirror and not be a defensive neanderthal. You know as well as I do that if Marshall Plumlee wants to be that guy at UVA, there's a spot for him.

Two big men would be an even better deal for the class and that's probably what Bennett will press for. Thing is, though, of the six coming in 2010, only two really qualify as big guys. Being as we lose Mike Scott and Sherrill after this season, that'll leave us with - as of now - Assane Sene, James Johnson, and Will Regan to man the interior. Hence the push for Hamilton and Plumlee. If by some miracle we get both, then what we'll need is a 6'8" power forward type. If we don't, then whoever has the best combination of size and skills, whether that be a seven-foot tree or another Scott type that can be asked to bang down low despite being a bit undersized for the job.

Lastly, a point guard. The guard offers out so far are all point guards. About the only true, honest-to-god point guard we'll have going forward is Jontel Evans. Sammy is a two guard with some one-ish abilities, and Billy Baron is a point guard on the same concept of having your best athlete play quarterback: whatever gets the ball in his hands the most. Baron might stick at the one, or shift to the two.

Bottom line here: the 2011 class has some very, very clearly defined needs. A true point guard and a true center. And a pony, while we're asking. We're awfully needy at both positions, but so is 90% of the nation. If Bennett can score one player who perfectly fits the description of a true 1 or a true 5, that'll be pretty good. To make a safe prediction: three guys in the class - two tall and one short. Plumlee tops the wish list; Angelo Chol would look pretty good as Tall Guy #2. I sort of suspect the point guard will be someone we haven't heard of yet. Someone who plays Bennett Ball, whatever that is.

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