Wednesday, March 2, 2011

the recruit: Darius Jennings

Name: Darius Jennings
Position: WR
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
School: Gilman
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 175

ESPN: 81; four stars; #15 ATH; US #98
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #10 ATH; MD #4; US #191
Scout: four stars; #43 WR

Other offers: Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Oregon, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Boston College, UCLA, North Carolina, Stanford, West Virginia, Maryland, Iowa, South Carolina, NC State, many others

Signing Day brought a bushel of good news for Virginia fans, starting around 9:30 or so with Darius Jennings's commitment, the first of two on the day. A look at that offer list - which isn't comprehensive - is all you need to know about why UVA's class got a lot of publicity on that day. Jennings filled a major hole in the class: playmaker. Dominique Terrell would join in a couple hours later, and the two players turned the offensive skill positions from a semi-question mark to a huge strength of the recruiting class.

Jennings conducted his recruitment in the classic style, naming a top 10 and then slowly whittling it down to six, then three, and finally choosing UVA at crunch time. As things went along, the coaches felt confident enough in their position to stop recruiting project players like Demetri Knowles and put their eggs in the biggest basket they could find. And by December, I was confident enough to predict that he'd end up a Hoo when all was said and done. It wasn't automatic, though: Jennings named a final three of UVA, Ohio State, and Wake Forest. Jennings played quarterback at Gilman, and Wake was the only one of the three offering him the chance to do so in college. And OSU is, you know, kind of good.

But the answer in the end was woohoo. Wide receiver is a significant position of need for the Hoos - not in terms of numbers, but just plain ol' talent. Proven quantities are Kris Burd and ???. (Matt Snyder is a proven quantity, and a solid player, but an offense that depends on the playmaking abilities of Matt Snyder is going to drag itself to another 4-8 finish.) Tim Smith was the only other four-star talent in the lineup, and he's coming off surgery. His playing time is limited, and E.J. Scott probably has talent but won't have any more time on the playing field than Jennings will.

And Jennings really has the pedigree. He dazzled on a big stage - the Maryland prep school circuit that includes powerhouses like DeMatha and Good Counsel - so much so that the Maryland HS Rivals affiliate named him the Maryland POY over higher-rated players like Cyrus Kouandjio and Blake Countess. He led Gilman to a 35-10 whomping of DeMatha; the Baltimore Sun gave him runaway Baltimore OPOY honors; and he joins Demetrious Nicholson as a Gatorade POY honoree as well. Hyperbole abounds whenever a high school coach is asked about him.

Fact is, Jennings has major potential to add a dimension to the UVA offense that hasn't been there for at least a decade: the electric, playmaking wide receiver. Billy McMullen was the last really great receiver at UVA. (Kevin Ogletree was pretty sharp too, of course, but really only for one year, and he left too soon.) And McMullen was a different kind of receiver - a taller, jump-ball-grabber that was fast enough. Jennings is probably only six feet tall on tiptoes, but he's explosive and allows Bill Lazor to make the playbook a little more interesting. Even though there are plenty of bodies in front of Jennings on the seniority chart, it'll be a surprise if he redshirts.


I'd be awfully remiss if I didn't celebrate, somehow, the outstanding effort on the JPJA floor last night. It seems like Senior Day always goes badly. Not this time. Will Sherrill and Mustapha Farrakhan were honored for their contributions - and truly, these are two players that worked their way up from absolutely nothing, and took advantage of the coaching change - and then went out and had a night to remember on the floor. Sherrill dropped 5-of-7 for 14 points and 8 boards. Yeoman's work was done on defense, especially on NC State's star senior Tracy Smith, who was held to just four shots. (Sidney the Big Red Coat bears some credit for that too. How do you play your best player just 18 minutes? It's not like he was in foul trouble. Criticize Dave Leitao how you will, but he never made Sean Singletary sit for over half of any game.) I said great three-point shooting would be needed, and the team came through with 10-for-21 - Sherrill and Joe Harris hitting eight of the ten makes.

UVA almost certainly won't drop below the 10th seed.** And it would take a very convoluted set of twisted circumstances that start with us beating Maryland on Saturday, and ends with the coming of locusts, in order for UVA to jump into the 7th seed. That means basically we're looking at the 8/9 game again, probably with Duke awaiting the winner, and almost certainly against Miami. Mark your calendars for next Thursday at 12:00 noon, and start game-planning for the Canes.

**For those who just have to know, a two-way tie for 9th and 10th would be between UVA and NC State, so obviously we win. A three-way tie would include Miami, which involves a 1-1 round-robin of results, so the next tiebreaker is how you did against the league's best team, then second-best, until you can break the tie. A three-way would be problematic, because it involves UVA, Miami, and NC State at 6-10 - and the only way NC State gets there is if they beat Florida State on Saturday. Not likely, but still. If FSU beats UNC tonight that would lock them into the 3rd seed, and nobody's beaten UNC or Duke in our little three-way mini-conference, so NC State beating FSU would be very bad for us. It would give NC State the 8th seed, and Miami gets the 9th because they beat UVA.

So basically, if you like the idea of the 8/9 game - and I do, at least, better than the 10th seed - root for FSU on Saturday. Or root for Miami to either win or lose both of its next two so that the tiebreaker is only between UVA and NC State.


phinshack said...

You keep saying that the winner of the 8/9 game will play Duke. Do you really think Duke is going to win on Saturday in Chapel Hill the way Carolina has been playing lately? It seems like you haven't been paying attention.

Erik said...

phinshack, don't be a pin head...if we play duke or unc it's going to be a very difficult game - pretty much the same monster

phinshack said...

Don't mean to be a pin head. Just surprised by the inaccuracy in what I consider a very good blog.