Wednesday, November 9, 2011

the recruit: Eli Harold

Name: Eli Harold
Position: DE
Hometown: Virginia Beach
School: Ocean Lakes
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 220

24/7: 96; four stars; #4 WDE; VA #1; US #34
ESPN: 80; four stars; #18 ATH; VA #4; Atlantic #16; US #126
Rivals: 5.9; four stars; #6 WDE; VA #2; US #68
Scout: five stars; #2 OLB; US #37

Other offers: LSU, Florida, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Arkansas, Miami, Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, NC State, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, Syracuse, probably some others

Admit it: You've been waiting for this one.  First you waited patiently while Eli Harold shopped around a bit while calling UVA his favorite for most of the summer, and then you've waited patiently to hear about his future with the team.  Simply put, Harold is unanimously UVA's top recruit of the 2012 class per the services; either by himself or tied with Kwontie Moore.  And it'll stay that way unless something miraculous occurs and Stefon Diggs ends up a Hoo as well.

Harold is a freakish athlete.  He earned major-league offers before his junior season - even without a sophomore one, which was lost to injury.  He plays wide receiver and defensive end, not a combination you see every day.  In fact, he was playing DE at 210 pounds, such is his first-step ability and talents for getting around offensive tackles.  ESPN says the following: "(A)t this stage may be a better athlete than he is a football player."  Given his athleticism, that leaves a lot of room for football ability, but good God: if he's getting these kinds of ratings (and offers) based on not really being a great football player yet, he must be one hell of an athlete.

He earned offers from all over the fruited plain.  Les Miles wanted him.  Jim Tressel wanted him.  Joe Paterno wanted him.  Eventually he picked UVA over Florida and Penn State (and mainly Florida.)  It's another testament to UVA's newfound pull in its home base.

Athletically speaking, Harold could probably play half the positions on the field in college and at least do alright.  I could see him as a big safety; he's fast enough.  Could see him playing linebacker.  Could see him as a tight end or wide receiver.  Chances are good, though, that he's ticketed for defensive end, where his pass rush skills are already fairly well developed.  220 - or even 230, which is his listed weight at Scout - is awfully small for a DE, and it doesn't imply that he'll grow into a big ol' 270 pound run-stuffing type, and you wouldn't want him to anyway.  This is why those sites that call him a DE, call him a weakside DE.  UVA's coaches will have no interest in watching him try and take on double teams involving a tight end.  You want him in space, lining up wide, outside the tackle, with evil designs on the quarterback.  And since runs tend to go to the strong side, his skills are well-suited for backside pursuit and cleanup.

Next year's DE chart is pretty full; only Cam Johnson graduates, and UVA has dug past the two-deep in finding playing time for people.  Backups Bill Schautz and Brent Urban have gotten on the field plenty - though Urban is a strong-side guy and Schautz is a (very, very slim) candidate for a non-offer as a fifth year.  Thompson Brown is shaping up to be a player on the weak side as well, and we don't even know what Rob Burns might bring to the table.  If Harold comes in at 225, 230, there's little doubt UVA fans will clamor for him to be redshirted, but there's a pretty good chance Harold brings an immediate athleticism boost to the position, regardless of who's already entrenched there.  I don't think he'll enter fall camp with the coaches having a preset idea whether or not he'll play, but I imagine they'll be leaning toward it.  Depends, I suppose, on his football development.

As a pass-rushing defensive end, it'll be hard for UVA fans to avoid comparisons to one Christopher Howard Long.  Long, too, was a physical freak upon entering school - so much so that when he took a visit to practice during his senior year of high school, players who hadn't yet met him thought he was an alum, not a 17-year-old recruit.  Long played in his first year and steadily improved over the course of his career; still, he didn't turn into Chris Long until his senior year.  Harold may well follow a similar path.  "Chris Long" is the best-case scenario for any defensive end, whether it takes a year or four; in Harold's case, even his worse-case scenario is better than most players you might plug in.


Apologies: this post was supposed to go out yesterday, but I am plagued by connection issues at the moment.  There are a couple other items of interest:

-- The men's soccer team went to 2OT yesterday against Wake Forest and scored a golden goal to win it.  If there's one thing UVA soccer specializes in, it is tearing the heart out of Wake Forest in all the most evilest possible ways.  The next time we play Wake in any kind of a playoff, I predict a 1-0, 2OT game won by an own goal when a Wake defender trips over his shoelace.

UVA has probably secured a trip to the NCAAs again, but Friday's ACC semifinal will be against top-seeded UNC, which delivered a 3-0 smackdown at Klockner in the regular season.

-- ESPN3 is all over UVA this weekend.  First you have soccer: 5:30 on Friday against UNC.  Football on Saturday at 3.  And then basketball on Sunday at 2.  Yup, the season opener against South Carolina State.  God bless ESPN3.  I will twit at you during the football and basketball this weekend; unfortunately not the Friday soccer match since on Friday I'll be doing what they call "having a life."  So that'll be new.  If UVA upsets UNC on Friday, they'll play at noon on Sunday and then you can enjoy soccer tweeting too.  Follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo on Twitter to get my microthoughts.

No comments: