Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the recruit: Darius Lee

Name: Darius Lee
Position: OLB
Hometown: Alexandria
School: St. Stephens & St. Agnes
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 205

ESPN: 78; three stars; #65 OLB
Rivals: 5.4; two stars
Scout: two stars; #104 S

Other offers: Duke, Kansas State

Usually there's a recruit in every class that makes me go, "oh yeah, he's there too." Doesn't have anything to do with star ratings and the like; this year, it happens to be Darius Lee, largely because his recruitment was so short and his high-school team is low-profile. Lee appeared once or twice on a few radars, committed at the end of the last wave of verbals (and in among three of the state's higher-profile players at very-high-profile programs) and then played his way to a one-win season on one of the state's worst teams.

Because of the small-time team, Lee had to go to camp to get each one of his offers, but he earned one at every camp he went to. At 205 pounds he's clearly outgrown safety (at least in London's program - under Groh he probably would not have) and will be an outside linebacker. But he's going to have to pack on about 20 pounds first, because tight ends eat 205-pound linebackers alive.

Two of the services give him the ranking you'd expect for a three-offer guy from a terrible program; ESPN is unexpectedly effusive. To them he's the best linebacker in the class:

Lee may not be an immediate starter however if a red shirt year is not deemed necessary he could see early situational playing time on defense and special teams.
Earlier in the writeup they suggest that he's already big enough to play linebacker, which he's not. So a redshirt year will be deemed necessary. But the way the depth chart shakes out, that was going to happen anyway.

Thing about the depth chart is, there were ten scholarship linebackers on it this year and six were sophomores. Two of those sophomores were starters (Walcott, Reynolds) and one of them (Greer) got enough playing time that he might as well have been. Until that large clod of players moves its way through the system, which will take two more years, none of the three or four linebacker commits will see any meaningful playing time on defense. Lee, and the rest of the linebackers in his class, will be redshirt sophomores when their time comes.

When that happens, though, it'll happen in a big way. Two years is more than enough time for a group of players to develop into contributors, so Lee has an excellent chance of being a three-year starter and should be a lock for significant playing time for the duration of those three years, starter or not. Henry Coley is the only player between Lee's class and the giant sophomore cluster. Whether or not a player currently slotted as an "athlete" (such as Kevin Green) ends up at linebacker is probably immaterial to Lee's playing time. If he's as quick as advertised by ESPN, that sophomore year should remind you of the 2010 version of Laroy Reynolds.

P.S.: If I may be excused for borrowing a small piece of TheSabre's older pay content to make a point:

TheSabre: Do you know what you want to major in at UVa?

Darius Lee:
"I think I'm going to major in Kinesiology and minor Business Law."

How did you become interested in those areas?

Darius Lee: "
When I started training with Jordan Haden's dad, I started taking a liking to it. That's when it all started. Then I went down to Dallas to visit family and they knew a trainer as well. I came away liking it more. I like helping people get better, telling them what to eat and helping them out."

Unfortunately Darius won't be majoring in kinesiology because UVA doesn't offer a kinesiology major. When I said there are players who excel at football, know they're still a long long longshot for the NFL, and want to use their football skills to set them up for their post-college careers because that's what they're good at, this is what I meant. Darius Lee is a 3.3 student at an excellent Alexandria private school. He's not interested in kinesiology because he's not smart enough for a "real" major, he's interested in it because he's interested in it.

I guess you could say that UVA was able to attract this kind of player without a kinesiology major anyway so why do we need one, but how many others are we missing out on? Lee has the kind of academic profile that ought to make alums and fans alike ecstatic to have him as a student-athlete and future graduate. This is the kind of major the school needs to offer if it's serious about better academic support for its athletes.

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