Name: Brandon Phelps
Hometown: Damascus, MD
ESPN: 80; four stars; #7 CB; USA #132
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #20 CB; MD #3; USA #184
Scout: three stars; #58 WR
Other offers: Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Penn State, LSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, West Virginia, UCLA, Pittsburgh, many others
Brandon Phelps is, not to overstate the matter too much, the most important recruit of this class by a long shot. He'll be slotted at a position of immense need, and judging by the offers he got, he brings immense talent to the position. Phelps has already contributed mightily to UVA simply by verballing up: his commitment to UVA over ten zillion other offers cemented the Mike London Can Hella Recruit belief.
Phelps is nominally a two-way player and a hell of a good one; UVA wants him at cornerback because there will be exactly four on the team following the season's final whistle, one of whom really ought to be a safety. Other schools recruited him as a receiver. Not that he won't be a damn good cornerback; in fact, that's mostly all he does these days after straining a hip flexor in Damascus's second game of the year. Damascus is undefeated, and there's enough talent on that team to make up for his absence on offense, so Phelps has focused on defense this year.
His recruitment was a little bit strange, but in the best way possible. Holding enough scholarship offers to choke an elephant, Phelps talked in late June about taking visits everywhere and needing a while to make a decision. Five days later, Phelps was sitting in the family car, talking over his visit with London with his parents (who both happen to be UVA alums.) Out of the car he went, knocked on London's door again, and five seconds later London had made the biggest catch of his recruiting career. In fact, in terms of sheer volume and quantity of offers, Phelps just might be the biggest recruit UVA's ever landed. Even more so than Ahmad Brooks.
The scouting services certainly give him plenty of love, even despite ESPN's application of the UVA bonus in dropping him from an 81 to an 80. Even Scout's far less enthusiastic review (middling three stars) is useful; it's as a wide receiver, and it's a perfect highlight as to why Phelps was usually recruited at cornerback. He's got perfect size for the position, and ESPN's only beef is the occasional lack of "sudden, explosive top end speed or change-of-direction." The rest of the review glows with words like "wonderful athlete," "quick feet and fluid hips," "excellent technique in man-to-man," etc., etc. The whole thing would almost be embarrassingly over-the-top if it weren't backed up by piles of offers from the cream of the crop.
As far as his career at UVA, well, like I said, there will be four returning scholarship cornerbacks next year. As with Jordan Lomax, playing time is available immediately. And when I wrote that about Lomax, Devin Wallace hadn't yet proven himself eminently leapfroggable on the depth chart with a rash of poor tackling. Assuming no early enrollees, the spring depth chart at corner is Chase Minnifield, Devin Wallace, two redshirt frosh, and a host of walkons. There's absolutely no reason to believe that Phelps and Lomax won't be in the mix from the get-go. They'll likely have to prove themselves unready in order to be left out of the conversation. Lomax might have a slightly higher initial readiness because he's not currently injured and DeMatha players seem to be ready sooner than most, but Phelps's ceiling is close to unlimited. Top student, top athlete - all we need to rebuild this program is about thirty more Brandon Phelpses.