Name: Zach Bradshaw
Hometown: Damascus, MD
24/7: 88, three stars; #38 ATH, MD #14
ESPN: 73, three stars; #158 WR, MD #29, #146 Atl.
Rivals: 5.6, three stars; #48 OLB, MD #22
Scout: three stars; #71 OLB
Other offers: South Carolina, Michigan, Penn State, West Virginia, Georgia Tech, NC State, Arizona, Michigan State, Maryland, Northwestern, Boston College, Illinois, Purdue, Rutgers, Duke, Wake Forest
I've been sitting on this for over two weeks now. When I started writing it, Maryland was still in the ACC. (Yes, they still technically are. Just go with it.) In a way, it's fitting. Zach Bradshaw's presence in the UVA recruiting class is the product of Penn State's own turmoil. Bradshaw committed to PSU in June, but when the sanctions came down in August, the magnitude of the punishment apparently surprised him, and he flipped to UVA on a visit to Charlottesville. His original strongest interest was South Carolina before he was swayed to State College.
Bradshaw is among the most versatile athletes in the class. He'd be one of the most versatile athletes in any of the classes he was recruited to. Some schools wanted him as a receiver, others as a linebacker, others mentioned H-back or even safety. Bradshaw himself even figured the only reason his team didn't make him punt was because they needed him at long-snapper.
As a receiver, Bradshaw would've been a definite possession type. Good height and not quite having the speed for the outside would've dictated it. The fact that Bradshaw makes an uncanny amount of plays with the ball in his hands - both as a receiver and a punt/kick returner - would've given him a good chance to be a very good one. Receiver is where Penn State had him. UVA, however, slots him at linebacker. He'll play on the outside, which gives the Hoos an excellent lineup of linebackers in the class; Micah Kiser likely on the inside, Bradshaw almost definitely on the outside, and LaChaston Smith who could do either.
It's a testament to the athleticism of Kiser and Smith that Bradshaw is 3rd of 3 in the athleticism department, because he's not lacking at all. Bradshaw, however, is a solid four inches taller than Smith; at a legit 6'3", strong side linebacker makes a ton of sense. One source lists him at 215 pounds, and that was in March well before the season; it's both believable and a good thing because 205 pounds would mean the necessity of adding 20-30 before being linebacker-ready. 215 gets him closer to the field. At 6'3" he shouldn't have any trouble at all carrying that kind of weight, and he'll be strong and physical enough to cover tight ends in the passing game and take on their blocks in the running game.
Bradshaw's guru ratings are amazingly lukewarm. In ESPN's case they evaluated him as a receiver and stuck in a sentence at the end saying he'd be a better linebacker, but still. The disconnect between the relatively schlummy ratings and the impressive offer sheet is one of the larger ones I've seen. Offers from perfectly good, legitimate programs across all five power conferences should at least say "high three-star," if not borderline four. Damascus is a highish-profile school (a lot of the coaches that first saw Bradshaw were there to look at Brandon Phelps) so that accounts for maybe some of the extra attention, but damn. To add to that, I could hardly write a Senior Seasons post without noting that Bradshaw had caught a long touchdown pass or taken a punt to the house. The ratings belie the playmaking results, and one wonders if Bradshaw doesn't happen to be one of those guys who just MAKES PLAYS regardless of measurables. (See: Jones, Perry.)
If Sam is indeed Bradshaw's ultimate destination, he'll have the longest uphill road to climb, and probably won't see the field his freshman year unless as a special-teamer (a place where he has the potential to excel.) Henry Coley currently mans the SLB, unlesss he is still in the doghouse, and Daquan Romero did a fine job filling in. After Romero, Demeitre Brim is next on the pecking order and is probably also on track to get on the field regularly, and pretty soon. However, Coley and Romero will be seniors when Bradshaw is a redshirt freshman (if he redshirts, and I'd like him to.) A little delayed gratification here will be a good thing, though; the bottom line is this is a smart, heady player who makes the most of the ability he's got, and he gives the impression of a guy to whom football just comes easy.
Apologies for skipping yesterday. My Internet went fritzy last night about a couple paragraphs from completion. Later today we get back to basketball.