Monday, August 9, 2010

the recruit: Vincent Croce

Name: Vincent Croce
Position: DT
Hometown: New Market, MD
School: Our Lady of Good Counsel
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 260

ESPN: 79; three stars; #34 DT
Rivals: 5.7; three stars; #36 DT; MD #9
Scout: three stars; #37 DT

Other offers: Michigan, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Stanford, North Carolina, West Virginia, Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers, Purdue, Maryland, Louisville, Cincinnati, Duke, Central Florida

Since Rich Rodriguez took over as head coach at Michigan, the Wolverines' recruiting grounds have suddenly been overlapping UVA's a lot more than in the past, and it's the kind of competition UVA can ill afford. Several of UVA's top targets - Anthony LaLota and Kenny Wilkins are two that come immediately to mind - had UVA very high on the list, only to commit to Michigan in the end. So Vincent Croce is a big, big deal: this is where UVA first struck back.

Croce comes from a high school similar to DeMatha - in fact, Good Counsel is one of their bigger rivals. Being one of the top defenders at a high-profile school means Croce had a big pile of offers from a lot of the schools that you want to be able to beat for his services. By May he had it narrowed down to UVA, Michigan, and strangely, Michigan State; in the end, the difference was Mike London. Croce committed on Junior Day together with Marco Jones.

You can look and look and you'd have a really hard time finding another recruit that the three services agree so closely on. Croce is a high three-star sort and in the top 40 defensive tackles. Scout and ESPN are in agreement that his intensity is top-notch - ESPN notes that he played his junior year with not one, but two torn-up knees - but that he needs to work on a lot of technique stuff, pad level and "moves" being the two they mention. His highlights show him making plays from end, tackle, and even linebacker, and his athleticism is such that he plays not on the offensive line, like most prospects, but tight end. And he's got brains to match: Croce is a 4.0 student, at a place like Good Counsel no less.

Good Counsel would be a great place to get a pipeline going, by the way; this is the second year in a row UVA has secured a commitment from there. Last year we picked up E.J. Scott, who's just begun his freshman year, and fellow DT Nick Jenkins is a Good Counsel grad too.

Croce's future involves a very likely redshirt, even though the DT depth chart is so thin at the moment. Playing so many positions in high school doesn't really give him what he needs to really learn a position. Even though "pass rush moves" might not be the most important thing at DT, "pad level" will be, and the recruiting services are so much in agreement that you have to believe what they say. But once Croce gets the hang of things, look out. He and David Dean have the potential to make a really formidable pair of tackles.

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