Time for one final big-picture look at the recruiting class of 2011. Signing Day is in, oh, about seven weeks, and in about a month I'll debut the 2012 recruiting board. First, get up to speed by checking out the recruiting board as it stands now, and the updates:
- Re-added WR Dominique Terrell to green. Terrell was long thought to be choosing between VT and WVU, and UVA was far enough out of the picture that I long ago dropped him from the red section. He's now a name to watch.
- Re-added LB Nick Menocal to red. UVA was briefly in pursuit of Menocal before he committed to Miami in June; with Miami undergoing regime change, Menocal has opened things up just a little bit. If you ask me he'll be a Cane at the end; he appears to be simply going about things the right way and re-evaluating after a sea change. UVA will make an effort, but I don't think it'll matter. Nevertheless, he'll hang out here for a while.
- Moved LB Travis Hughes from green to yellow. Going....going.....soon to be gone. The truly unfortunate thing is, he's probably going to land at one of our three biggest rivals.
- Moved WR Darius Jennings from green to blue.
- Moved CB Jeremiah Hendy from red to green. Vanderbilt's hiring of Maryland's OC and coach-in-waiting James Franklin caused Hendy to decommit and is the catalyst for the upward moves for Hendy and Jennings.
- Moved DE Horace Arkadie from green to blue.
- Removed S Avery Walls, who committed to Cal.
At the moment there are 24 commitments, and two early enrollees are expected. One is David Watford; the other name is behind various paywalls but maybe you know who it is anyway. (Edit: it's Daquan Romero, and here's the first place I've seen the name outside of a paywall so there you go.) At any rate, for purposes of NCAA rules, the 2011 class at this point includes 22 players. Additionally, it's probable that not every single one of them will qualify, so it's clear by now the coaches will zoom past 25 verbal commitments and sign very close to that many on Signing Day. (Those who enroll in January will have no need to sign.)
London is actually in a great spot: he has the ability to be choosy with who he takes a commitment from, and is in terrific position for several of those that he would. Of the honestly realistic possibilities, here's one man's guess on how things stand:
- Demetrious Nicholson and Darius Jennings will eventually be Cavaliers. Nicholson is an excellent student, he plays a position of great need, and the fit is just too right for the choice to be anything else. UVA was in a solid second place for Jennings before Franklin left Maryland, and despite the fact that Jennings has Ohio State on his list, I think UVA will overcome that and get Jennings's commitment in January.
- Horace Arkadie, Jeremiah Hendy, and Dominique Terrell will not be Cavaliers, but it wouldn't surprise me if I were wrong. I think ultimately Arkadie will stay closer to home and play for Arkansas, and for no necessarily good reason I think Hendy will end up at Iowa. As for Terrell, my guess is the lead that VT built up on him over the summer and fall will end up winning the day. In these three cases, though, I wouldn't bat an eye if any of them did verbal to UVA. I think I'm most likely to be wrong about Hendy, followed by Terrell, and then Arkadie.
- Nobody in yellow or red will end up at UVA. As the recruiting year drags on, the "yellow" prospects slip further and further away. Way things go. Some of them are there because UVA is sort of using them as placeholders; not so much that they'd automatically commit to UVA if they could, but I think if London put the full-court press on, say, Brandon Reddish or Troy Gray, they'd commit. The full-court press is elsewhere, though.
- Demetri Knowles will commit to UVA if London misses out on both Jennings and Terrell. Knowles could probably have committed any time between June and September and London would have gone "woot woot." Once things got late, though, and the squeeze came on, and guys like Jennings started to make their inner feelings known, Knowles was given the Heisman treatment a little bit. I'd guess the ship hasn't completely sailed here, but if Jennings gets on board, which I think he will, they'll pull the lines in and hoist the sails.
Now, how to fit all these people in? As you know, the rules say you can sign 25, and you can't have more than 85 on scholarship come fall. The team breaks down like this for now:
- 13 seniors
- 22 juniors
- 18 sophomores
- 13 freshmen
- 14 redshirted freshmen
The math majors among you will note that that adds up to 80, meaning there'd be room for 18 if every player on the depth chart returned. Obviously that won't happen. This being UVA, you can figure that three or four players will be dismissed for the usual array of numbnuttery ranging from academic troubles to law-type troubles, or just quit the team or transfer. But some decisions will have to be made on fifth-year seniors.
Of the 22 juniors, five have never redshirted and thus will almost definitely (barring some strangeness or the aforementioned numbnuttery) return as seniors: those are Jared Detrick, Jimmy Howell, Cam Johnson, Rodney McLeod, and Austin Pasztor. Even if they were going to be fifth-years, only Detrick would be in any danger at all of losing his scholarship; the rest are crucial to the team.
Of the other 17 players, nearly all are also on the two-deep. Many are irreplaceable or nearly so: Max Milien, Kris Burd, Anthony Mihota, Zane Parr, Nick Jenkins, Chase Minnifield, and Corey Mosley are all starters. Some of them (the defensive backs, for example) play a position that has no depth at all. For that reason, Dom Joseph will be back; so will Matt Snyder and Matt Conrath, who do their jobs far too well to be let go.
That's 15 players, leaving seven who I do think are at some risk of not being asked back. In order from most likely to least likely to depart (again, one man's guess), they are:
- Ray Keys. He walked on during his sophomore year; his freshman year was already lost to the winds because NCAA rules don't let you just keep your eligibility the whole time you're there. I'd guess his scholarship was given him with the understanding that he was graduating after this year anyway.
- Chris Hinkebein or Robert Randolph. Two kickers on scholarship is a luxury we can't afford. I anticipate a kicking duel in spring camp. If Hinkebein can develop consistency kicking field goals, he could be the full-time 2011 kicker since he's got about 15-20 yards of kickoff distance on Randolph. But Randolph is the more dependable kicker where scoring points is involved, so he's more likely to win the job; Drew Jarrett could take over kickoffs if Randolph still can't get it past the 5-yard line.
- Terrence Fells-Danzer. UVA operated just fine this year with only two fullbacks (Ryan Cobb redshirted) and now that Cobb can take the shirt off, Milien will hang on to the job and TFD will probably be an odd man out.
- Jared Green. There's enough receiver depth to absorb the loss of Green, who's got speed but has never been able to crack the rotation full-time. Burd, Snyder, and Tim Smith make for a quality top three, and there are younger players waiting in the wings.
- Aaron Taliaferro. Now we're really getting into the contributors. Despite his Lazarus-esque rise from the dead in spring and fall camp, Taliaferro still got outplayed by Steve Greer, who's still got too much of a head for football to be left off the field. Greer should take over the MLB position full-time with Darnell Carter graduating. Taliaferro got moved to the outside midseason in an effort to find a better linebacker combination, and both starters on the outside return next year as juniors with plenty of capable backups waiting in the wings.
- Landon Bradley. Bit of a surprise, I bet you're thinking. Bradley had gotten reasonably well-established as the right tackle and was much improved over 2009. But his spate of injuries and the surgery required to recover from them will cause him to miss spring camp and maybe even part of the fall. If the scholarship situation gets extreme, Bradley could end up with a medical scholarship instead of a football one.
Note that I said "extreme." Just because these seven players are listed doesn't mean I think they'll all not return. I'd be very, very surprised if the cuts went as deep as Taliaferro and Bradley. What you see is what I think the priority looks like, with Keys being the first not to be asked back if the combination of failure to qualify and other attrition don't conspire to fit the whole recruiting class in, and then a kicker, and so on and so forth, progressing down the list.
Best guess: Two to four attrites, a failure or two by an '11 recruit to be academically qualified, and two or three fifth-years not asked back, and you end up with a tidy 85 by fall. Unlike Alabama where players are routinely shoveled off to medical-scholarship land as punishment for failing to crack the two-deep by their junior year, this is UVA: tricky challenges in making the limit of 85 always take care of themselves, often enough thanks to those pesky professors who keep assigning suboptimal grades to our players. And the best part is this: we can't ever be accused of fudging the numbers by shunting off a few backups to spend a year at PVCC because they always seem to be the players we can least afford to lose. Like, you know, our starting quarterback. Yay! Chances are the news will drop at some point in the next couple months that someone we were all really counting on won't have made the grade, and we can once again go through the whole ARGH routine. C'est la vie, but it's also the flip side of the coin of having all these exciting possibilities to finish up the 2011 recruiting class.