Monday, February 7, 2011

2012 early look

If you think it's too early to care about 2012 recruiting, that's why you're not a recruiter. It's time already to take stock of next year's class and what to expect on the trail. Opinions here are my own, of course, and not really backed up by insidery, but in re-checking last year's early account of the makeup of the class, I think I'm damn accurate. Biggest mistake was severely underestimating the size of the defensive portion of the class, by about six players. Otherwise, hey, not bad if I do say so myself. And I do.

The recruiting class of 2012 probably won't quite get to 26, but it won't be far off. In other words, look for another big class. There are 20 juniors on scholarship right now after the early departures of Zane Parr and Jared Green, and probably three or four more won't be asked back, leaving 16 or 17 spaces as a starter number. That's huge; for 2011 we were looking at 13, I think. Add in the ability to cut a few fifth-years and the usual UVA attrition, and I think we'll easily cruise past 20 in the class - probably around 22-24.

There are a couple limiting factors that we didn't have this year. We don't have unlimited ability to zoom past the yearly limit of 25 like we could have here, because the 2011 class is near full. In 2012, we might enroll a few players early but only one can be retroactively applied to 2011, meaning 26 is the hard cap.

The other is the sleeping giant in Blacksburg, which I think we just poked in the eye. Frank Beamer's no dummy and I don't expect him to underestimate Mike London like he did this year. London, for his part, can be expected to up the ante when it comes to ideas like that practice at ODU, but much of that work last year was done while VT twiddled its thumbs, and then ran madly to catch up. It's an advantage we won't have this year.

First up tonight is the year's first recruiting board update, as follows:

- Moved WR Anthony Cooper from green to blue based on this Rivals article which makes no secret whatsoever of his favorite school so far. Cooper plays at Bayside, former home of Henry Coley and Demetrious Nicholson.

- Added RB J.C. Coleman and ATH Devin Fuller to green.

- Moved LB Devon Johnson from blue to red. Johnson committed to Marshall, and while the chance exists he could reopen that decision, I think it'll stick. He's talented enough to get interest from bigger programs, but still, as of now, among just the top 20 or so prospects in the state. So not an absolute must. If the staff can find equal or better guys that they don't have to pry loose from an established relationship, Johnson will be left alone.

- Added QB Zeke Pike to red. Pike was originally left off the board because he's one of those guys that everyone tried to get in on early, and as a result has a stack of offers up to the ceiling. They usually hang out in the red section for a couple months and end up committing to Alabama. Similar to Eddie Goldman, though, Pike's interest in UVA is something north of zero - I have no idea what but at least you don't need an electron microscope - so what the hell.


So in the old FOV style, let's go position-by-position and assess the needs for this class:


I would guess this isn't a major need, but that depends on how the summer and fall go. I've predicted in the past that one of the three 2010 QBs (Metheny, Rocco, Strauss) will eventually transfer. If that doesn't happen this year, then I think the staff passes on a quarterback unless the guy's a can't-miss. They've offered Pike, of course, because you don't not offer a guy like Pike. And they're in early on Brendan Nosovitch of Pennsylvania. Those are the only two I know of so far with offers, and it might stay that way for a while.

Not taking a QB in 2012 means definitely needing one in 2013. But the need to infuse talent into this program across the board means there's little point in using a scholarship on a mid-level guy similar to who we've been taking already. I think we'll probably recruit the guys we offer early, and if they commit, great; if not, you won't see a protracted quarterback hunt.


We'll need some players here. This'd be a good year for a pair of running backs, since Clifton Richardson is the only one in 2011. None will graduate this year, but Torrey Mack, if he can't finally crack the rotation, is an obvious candidate for a non-invite as a fifth-year. You can see on the recruiting board that running backs are well-represented, and I think the staff will take two and maybe three.

Fullback will probably be manned via position switch rather than recruiting an actual fullback. That might come from within the team, or it might be a Ryan Cobb kind of situation where we recruit a linebacker and put him on the offense. We might see both. Neither Terrence Fells-Danzer or Max Milien will be on the team in 2012 (TFD might be a 2011 cut) and there'll be a major need for a couple with Cobb the only one on the roster.


Tight end was, at best, a nice-to-have for 2011, so we didn't get any. I expect to take one in 2012. There's a big freshman group right now, but Colter Phillips and Paul Freedman graduate after 2012, so next year we'll want someone for depth and grooming up to follow behind the current group of freshmen.

Wide receiver is one of those positions where you always get at least one. I think two is the target for 2012, as Kris Burd and Matt Snyder graduate after this year. That would keep the pipeline moving. Because Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings are likely to get immediate playing time, the 2012 receivers can redshirt and get two years' separation, and there won't be any worries about too many hands and not enough receptions to go around.


You don't take fewer than three unless you just took six last year. Or unless you've decided to screw up the recruiting class. Even in the lean years of 2008 and 2010 we took four linemen. (Two of the '10 linemen were holdovers from '09, which counts. And we took six in 2009.) There may not be a need for more than three in 2012, but, look for four. It's a big class and there's room.


We just loaded up on defensive linemen. Doesn't matter; expect to do the same again. Some of the positions are still a little fluid, and this is the last season for three starters. It probably won't be another six-man extravaganza, and the staff can be a little choosier this year. But still: four linemen is probably the order of the day.


Some of the linebackers on the current roster, as well as those in the '11 class, are liable to be shifted elsewhere, like fullback, in order to free up playing time. This is because they're logjammed into a just a couple graduating classes - it's not a healthy situation having five guys in the post-2012 graduating class and maybe five more coming into the program this year, and exactly one in the two classes in between. The staff will look for ways to spread them out (they'll do this on the DL, too); meanwhile, they'll be looking for a healthy, but not overwhelming, number for the 2012 class in order to smooth out the long-term distribution. They'll also try like hell to get the big talent they missed out on in 2011. A lot of eggs went into the Curtis Grant basket last year; this year, the staff will cast a wider net (see the offer to Timothy Cole of Texas) in an effort to grab some bigger names. I think they'll look for three linebackers, and they'll work hard to make sure at least one of them is a marquee name.


This remains an interesting situation. Demetrious Nicholson and Brandon Phelps almost certainly won't redshirt, but there's room for others to give the field a try, too. It's just a mystery who, and how many - maybe one or two others. Three safeties graduate after 2011, and the depth chart above shows four coming in. That being only about half what we need, look for more safeties to flood the class. Cornerback will be a priority too, but the top recruits will see Nicholson and Phelps as three or four-year guys, and probably look elsewhere. There's plenty of playing time to offer top-notch safeties, but cornerbacks will probably only be depth types for this year. Total number crunch: probably six again.


Ian Frye is a 2011 recruited walk-on, but as a kicker or punter? Probably kicker. I do expect the staff to recruit a scholarship punter this year, since it's Jimmy Howell's senior season. It wouldn't be crazy to also see a scholarship kicker, but I think that'll hold off a little while since Drew Jarrett just redshirted and he doesn't seem like too shabby a kicker; he'll be in line for the job as a redshirt junior in 2012.


To summarize all that, here are your targets for the season:

2 RB
2 WR
1 TE
4 OL
4 DL
3 LB
6 DB
1 P

That adds up to 23. If we get a QB, 24. Obviously, recruiting doesn't go that smoothly, unless you're Texas and you just invite all your favorite players to your junior day, offer them, and set up your Commit Here table on the way out so they can verbal en masse. There's plenty of fudge room on the lines and in the secondary there, and numbers can change, but these are the target numbers. Happy hunting.

P.S. Now that the first recruiting board update is in the books, I've saved the original, original board, so that we can go back at Signing Day next year and play a game of What Happened.

P.P.S. I meant to add these points, and there wasn't a natural place for them, and then I forgot. You remember that just three of 2011's recruits were from outside Virginia and Maryland, and one of those three was a Groh recruit. I expect that number to grow in 2012. Maybe it only doubles to six, but in any event London will undoubtedly cast a wider net. He'll have to; it's not healthy in the long run to only recruit VA and MD (and DC) regardless of how well 2011 went. You can already see old stomping ground New Jersey back in the gunsight on the recruiting board.

London will be able to continue to sell the "program on the rise" line until September. This season will be exceedingly important in proving that's not just a line. Fortunately, the schedule sets up well along those lines. The OOC is really weak, with Southern Miss the toughest game, and that's at home. (They're no slouch, but seriously, we ought to be favored to win.) And no mid-October OOC as with Eastern Michigan last year. Here's the schedule so far - ACC games have yet to be added - and it sets up well to start 4-0 or even 5-0, depending on who fills the 9/17 and/or 10/8 slots. That would give a major boost to the fall recruiting efforts.

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