Wednesday, February 2, 2011

signstravaganza


Clifton Richardson signs his LOI. From the emailz.

With the festivities of the day, it's time to see just how that went. The answer: extremely well, just short of galactically awesome by not landing Curtis Grant. Disappointing; doubly so because he's a Buckeye. We're not here to talk about the imaginary class though, and make no mistake: the class of 2011 is every bit as good as the 2005 class and not far shy of the 2002 class on paper. It stacks up very well to 2005, which - in terms of star power - was better at the top with Eugene Monroe and Vic Hall but not as deep as 2011. And this class is almost certainly at less risk of having academic flameouts. If it can have the same success rate as 2005 it'll be indescribably amazing: pretty much everyone from that class that didn't leave the team for one reason or another turned out to be a starter.

The best part may just be the closing: the Signing Day commitments of two of the absolute most electrifying players in the whole class.

So as in the past, a position-by-position breakdown of the class:

QUARTERBACK

There're a lot of guys who played quarterback in high school - Darius Jennings, Clifton Richardson, Kevin Green - but only David Watford will stick at quarterback, and like Michael Strauss in 2010, he's already enrolled. Watford will have almost - not quite, but almost - an equal chance at winning the starting job as the other three contenders (Strauss, Ross Metheny, and Michael Rocco.) With an already large contingent of competitors, there wasn't a major need for a quarterback, but neither are we so beautifully situated that another one can't help. Watford adds another possibility to the mix.

RUNNING BACK

With two graduating players here, we needed at least one more, and we got a good one very early in the process in Clifton Richardson. He's the only full-time running back, but we could see Jennings and Dominique Terrell lining up back here at times too. The class is heavily slanted towards defense in general - only five skill position players on offense out of 26 total, so it's within the realm of possibility to see one of those defenders converted into a fullback the way Ryan Cobb was last year.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

Adrian Gamble committed to Al Groh really early in the process - we're talking fall of 2009 - so for about a year and a half there was exactly one receiver commitment on the recruiting board. Today the number tripled. There are some solid receivers on the roster, but big-time playmakers are few and far between. Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell are two of the most important recruits we have, because they fill a crying need for game-changers. Today this went from one of the thinnest positions on the board to the most exciting.

There are no tight ends unless someone switches from defense - Thompson Brown would be a possibility. But there's little need for one this year. we swung and missed on a few, but didn't seem to consider it a major priority, and with good reason - a lot of depth. Darius Redman was slotted here, but he decommitted, and the coaches made no effort to replace him, even with one-time target Ryan Malleck available. Both are now Hokies. Tight end is solid for the future, anyway.

OFFENSIVE LINE

You like to always see three or four commitments here - more if things look thin - and we got the requisite four. Jay Whitmire is the most heralded, and should have a bright future, but don't ignore the potential of Tim Cwalina. Kelby Johnson keeps the DeMatha pipeline open, and Ross Burbank is solid too - there are no slouches here, and no reaches either. None will see the field this season, but the offensive line is undergoing major upgrades under the London regime and this is a huge step toward rebuilding the depth here. Should see a few starters from this class.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Lord. London loaded this up but good. We thought we were done two or three times and the coaching staff just kept adding defensive linemen. Probably not all of them will stay defensive linemen. Thompson Brown has the kind of versatility to play either side of the ball. Some people are saying Vincent Croce could play linebacker, but I don't buy it, he's too big.

Two of the seven prospects - David Dean and Croce - are ticketed for the interior, and for now, five of them are defensive ends. Marco Jones could move inside, but Rob Burns is too crazily built to be anything but a defensive end. Daquan Romero has the distinction of being the only player to decommit from another I-A school (Mason Thomas left ODU but that doesn't really count) - Romero dropped UNC in the fall and added his name to the huge pile of DEs.

Expect big, big things from this group. Croce is the best of the bunch, but Burns, Romero, and Jones are big-timers too. Diamonte Bailey would've been a much higher-profile recruit in any class but this one. With the switch to the 4-3, there was a huge need for defensive linemen, especially ones who fit that system better than the old one. Right now the line is kind of crazy-quilted together, but this bunch could be dominating the two-deep as early as 2012.

LINEBACKER

The only place where we missed out. Caleb Taylor and D.J. Hill are decent players, but there's no high-end talent here. (I still can't believe we spent all year following the ups and downs of Curtis Grant and now he's a fucking Buckeye. There's no justice. Florida would have been tolerable, and I understand it's really nice this time of year.) Anyway, with those two, plus Darius Lee, and I think Kevin Green will end up here also, there's the needed depth, but a lack of playmakers.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Besides receiver, the other huge achievement in this class is the acquisition of prime-time talent at cornerback. Because of the shift to the 4-3, and the subsequent position changes, depth in the secondary was literally nonexistent without a massive infusion of talent, and we got just what we needed and more. Demetrious Nicholson is absolutely legit, and Brandon Phelps had offers from all corners of the globe. This is another place where players like Kameron Mack and Anthony Harris would've gotten a lot more pub in another class. Nevertheless, everyone here will be major contributors to the team, and sooner rather than later. That includes Kyrrel Latimer, who prepped a year at Fork Union before signing. Because of that and his DeMatha background, he just might be ready to go immediately, and I absolutely expect to see both Nicholson and Phelps on the field in 2011.

KICKER/PUNTER

There is a recruited walk-on, Ian Frye. Already too many scholarships being used on kickers. We'll need a punter after this season.

As with last year, and every year, we have lists for your perusal:

Five most likely to play as true freshmen:

Demetrious Nicholson
Brandon Phelps
Clifton Richardson
Darius Jennings
Dominique Terrell

Oh sure, just rattle off the four-stars. Well, it so happens they also play the positions of biggest need, especially the cornerbacks. All of them bring the kind of electric talent we just don't have in the program. Or, it's in very short supply. The secondary depth chart is so pitifully thin it's embarrassing. The offensive players there would have to force their way past a few players, but they have the talent that others don't.

There are other candidates, too: I expect one or two of the defensive linemen to step up. Vincent Croce is a good possibility, as is Marco Jones or possibly Daquan Romero.

Five I'm most excited about:

Clifton Richardson
Demetrious Nicholson
Dominique Terrell
Darius Jennings
Brandon Phelps

Oh sure, just rattle off the four-stars again. Can't be helped. That's where the damn talent is. This list is actually in order. Richardson is a running back, my favorite position, and that vaults him to the top; plus, he and Nicholson really stand out as the kind of people you want as Hoos. Just off the list are Croce and Jay Whitmire.

Five sleepers:

Tim Cwalina
Mason Thomas
Anthony Harris
D.J. Hill

Smallest five-man list ever. For consideration here, you must have been given the two-star of doom from at least one of the services. And I have to really like something about your game. Cwalina and Harris got their two stars from ESPN, Hill from that new service, 24/7, and Thomas from everyone. The reason this list isn't a full five is because there aren't many to choose from, which is yet another indication of the excellence of the class.

Cwalina is a lineman with a Wisconsin offer. Wisconsin is a great place to steal a recruit from, but for offensive linemen, it's as good as beating the Floridas and Ohio States for someone. Wisconsin always attracts good ones and turns them into better ones, because their preferred style of play is to run the shit out of the ball and kill you with the six-yard gain. So I love beating them out for Cwalina.

Harris and Hill are thought of much more highly by the other services than the ones that two-starred them; Rivals in particular is a bit inexplicably high on Harris. And as for Thomas, I know only this: Thomas got his offer at a time when we weren't quite sure how we'd fit this whole class in underneath the rules. We're chasing Terrell and Jennings, as well as Jeremiah Hendy and Curtis Grant, and promising them a spot, and we suddenly offer this guy Mason Thomas too? When we don't have room for a quality tight end to replace the one we lost, no less. I don't know what the hell London and co. see in Thomas, but it must be something big.

Eat it, Tech:

Darius Jennings
Dominique Terrell
Demetrious Nicholson
Kameron Mack
David Watford
Clifton Richardson
Brandon Phelps

These are the players Tech offered, and we got. A much longer list than last year, when it was a one-man show of Conner Davis. Also longer than 2009.

Eat it, Maryland:

Darius Jennings
Thompson Brown
Anthony Harris
Marco Jones
Dominique Terrell
Demetrious Nicholson
Jay Whitmire
Caleb Taylor
Vincent Croce
Rob Burns
Clifton Richardson
Daquan Romero
Brandon Phelps

Likewise, for the Terps. A really long list. There's only one player that we offered and ended up at Maryland: Jeremiah Hendy.

Eat it, Carolina:

Darius Jennings
Dominique Terrell
Demetrious Nicholson
Jay Whitmire
Vincent Croce
Daquan Romero

Likewise, for UNC. Both this list and the Tech list are shorter than the lists of players we offered that they got, but feed a Heel or a Hokie some truth serum and ask if they'd switch lists and I bet they'd do it. In a heartbeat. Especially the Hokie; Tech's list is only about half full of players UVA made a bona fide effort to get. Demetri Knowles, for example, only had a committable offer until such time as it became clear Jennings and Terrell were seriously thinking UVA. This outrecruiting our rivals thing is a healthy trend and needs to continue.

London made it a point of emphasis to recruit the home territory first - his plundering of the Hampton Roads area is going to be the media's story about this class - and the results are just what he was looking for. 23 of the 26 players in this class are from Virginia or Maryland. We basically annexed Maryland; now all we have to do is figure out how to dump the disagreeable parts of the state on West Virginia. Of the Rivals top 20 in Virginia, we have 10, and 13 of the top 30; Tech has 3 and 7, respectively. Of Doug Doughty's top 40, we've got 16; Tech has 7. I'm not even going to bother telling you how Maryland did in Maryland, because in the Fridge's last year, any school who wanted Maryland talent went in and took it. New Mexico did better in Maryland than Maryland did. We have 2 of Rivals' top 5 in that state, and 5 of 20.

I have to do this, if we're going to evaluate the class: who did we miss out on that we could, or should, have gotten, or would have liked to have? Not many, really. Good year that way. A list of a few of the more notable misses:

- Curtis Grant. Obviously.
- Kevin Hogan. Went to Stanford pretty early.
- Lafonte Thourogood. Once we got Watford, the writing was on the wall. Thourogood wanted to play quarterback and didn't want competition in his own class. But you can still count him as a happy ending: he was a Signing Day decommit from Tech and signed instead with Vanderbilt.
- Quinta Funderburk. Was dead set on going out of state.
- Landon Turner. Just was down on UVA from the beginning. I thought he'd be a Hokie for sure, but he signed with UNC.
- Corey Marshall. Hokie lean from the start. Appeared to consider a few other programs, but in the end couldn't be pried from VT.
- Travis Hughes. Seemed to prefer to play for a more historically successful program. (But signed with UNC.) We had a glimmer of a chance by showing something against USC, but that was probably always a flimsy reason.
- Jeremiah Hendy. The coaches made a valiant effort, but he stuck with Maryland in the end.

Big-picture-wise, with the total of 26 signed players, it means a total of six that must be pared from the current roster. I figure three can be relatively easily left off the re-invite list as fifth-years; more than that can be somewhat painfully left off, but it probably won't come to that. This being UVA, normal attrition can be counted on to take care of the rest. Further big-picture stuff later as we turn our attention to 2012 in a separate post.

So with all that under your belt, what about the rest of the ACC? Here's a small pile of links to get you sorted out:

- Gobbler Country's recruiting analyst goes so far as to call VT's class their "Worst in Modern History." The main dude there thinks it's not quite that disastrous but is still disappointed. The Key Play wants major upheaval in Tech's coaching staff to shake out the non-recruiting deadweight. They're not the only Hokies that do.

- Testudo Times is unsurprisingly phlegmatic about Maryland's class. It's the same situation as our 2010, anyway: a coaching change. They'll be a much more formidable competitor for recruits in 2012. Besides, Duke's in town tonight.

- FSU signed pretty much the nation's top class. As you might expect this has Tomahawk Nation thinking return to glory. I suppose it remains to be seen whether Jimbo Fisher can coach them up properly, but I'm not exactly nostalgic for the days of FSU's hegemony over college football.

- I'd let you know what UNC thinks about their annoyingly well-put-together class, but it's basketball season so nobody noticed.

- Here's the ACC Sports Journal's quick breakdown of our class.

Bottom line: Awesome. Mike London killed it this year. London took advantage of Maryland's coaching change and pushed the right buttons instate to beat Frank Beamer to most of Virginia's top talent. This is a top-25 class no matter who you ask: 25th to Rivals and Scout and 19th to ESPN. One class does not a program make, of course. And unless London can snag even more high-end talent in 2012, next year's class probably won't be as highly-rated, because it'll be smaller. But this is a time to feel really good about the direction of the program. It's a whole year's worth of honest-to-Jefferson talent. And when your Hokie office buddies remind you that this is just the offseason, and UVA still has to get past Tech on the field, that'll still be true. But you can rest easy in the knowledge that their words mask a real concern that this kind of recruiting haul will be the new standard instead of an anomaly, and that there just may be a new go-to school in the Commonwealth.

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P.S. I ran into the beginning of the basketball game and totally forgot. The last, final, finishing update to the 2011 recruiting board is here. That board will stay up for a little while. I won't "take it down" - in fact you can still go back and see the 2010 and 2009 boards if you look far enough back - but at some point in the future the link on the right will disappear. So the last update just moves Jennings and Terrell to orange, and removes everyone else but the decommits, just as a reminder. If you're wondering about the fates of the other stragglers left on the red part of the board: Troy Gray went to Central Florida, Max Mason went to Southern Miss, and Timmy Keith ended up at Western Michigan. And Nyjee Fleming, Adrian Gamble's teammate at Independence, sadly is nowhere, which tends to indicate an inability to qualify and would explain his drop through the ranks from blue all the way to red....and finally gone.

The depth chart is also updated. The policy there is to keep last year's seniors on until spring practice so you can see what we have to replace.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fuck yeah

Anonymous said...

Seems like the perfect time to thank and compliment you on your fantastic coverage of UVa recruiting. I don't know what I'd do without FOV. Seriously great stuff all year round, man. Thanks!

And I'll second that "fuck yeah"! Go Hoos!

TimNyc said...

Thanks for the summary, a great class indeed. What a job by London and his staff.