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For the second year in a row, here's a chance to step in the ol' wayback machine and revisit an old recruiting class. This is the 2010 class, the second one this blog tracked, and the bridge class between the Groh and London eras. It was a pretty rough year for recruiting. Not counting the two prep holdovers from the previous year (Morgan Moses and Cody Wallace) UVA had all of nine commitments by the time the season began. Groh was able to scrape one more, and then London had to scrounge around to fill the rest. It was a relatively small class and thoroughly lacking in the recruiting-stars department, mostly the low-three-star 5.5 rating as Rivals saw it, with only two players (besides Moses) above that.
The stars next to each name are what Rivals gave the player, just for consistency's sake with last year.
QB Tyler Brosius *** (Tuscola - NC)
Short version: Now a minor-league baseball player.
It's a little surprising that a transition class saw just the one decommitment, and none in the wake of the coaching change. Brosius committed in June but backed out in October, possibly after seeing the 0-3 start to the season that UVA pulled off, including the William & Mary loss. His destination was NC State.
At NC State, he lasted two years. He redshirted 2010, got a little mop-up duty in 2011, and then transferred out in the summer of 2012. Mike Glennon had one more year left, and Tom O'Brien had brought in freshman Manny Stocker (who himself left the NC State program this past winter) and Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas, the Pack's 2013 starter. Brosius departed for Walters State, a juco in Tennessee, to switch to a baseball career. There, he pitched in long relief and then was drafted last summer by the Atlanta Braves. It looks like a solid decision; the road to the bigs is tough for a 21st-round relief pitcher, but Brosius pitched well enough to earn a promotion from rookie leagues to low-A ball in the Braves' organization near the end of the 2013 season.
DIDN'T MAKE IT THIS FAR (4)
FB Ryan Cobb ** (Don Bosco - NJ)
Short version: Career backup TE at Delaware
Recruited as a linebacker, Cobb was switched to fullback by the London regime, redshirted one season, and then decided to transfer mid-camp 2011. He went to Delaware, where he was able to play right away, and was slotted at tight end by the Blue Hens.
Cobb has never been a regular for Delaware, catching 17 passes across the past three seasons, and has one more year of eligibility. He hasn't been wasting his time, though; he was picked as one of 22 Allstate Good Works team members this past season, and his Delaware bio notes that he's a ridiculously good bowler.
QB Mike Rocco ** (Liberty Christian - VA)
Short version: Moderately successful but unable to win over coaches or fans.
I think we're all pretty familiar with the story. Through no fault of his own, Rocco was one of the most polarizing members of the team, thanks to his battle with Phillip Sims in 2012. Before that, he had played some mop-up time as a true freshman, then battled it out with David Watford in 2011 before winning the job and guiding UVA to the Peach Bowl. Rocco left upon feeling he wouldn't get a fair shake, which is almost certainly at least partly true, and transferred to Richmond to play for his uncle. NCAA rules forbade him from playing this year, so, having not yet redshirted, he'll have one season left this fall.
WR E.J. Scott *** (Good Counsel - MD)
Short version: Talented but overlooked.
Almost unfair to put him here, having only announced his transfer a few weeks ago. Scott had a mini-breakout in 2012 after missing 2011 with an injury, catching 29 passes for 390 yards, but for whatever reason couldn't get on the field in 2013 and had only three catches. If I were one to judge I'd call it poor judgment by the coaching staff, given how badly the rest of the receiving corps played. Scott will finish his football career at Wake Forest as a grad student. A little bit of a wasted talent here, the blame for which falls on the coaches.
QB Michael Strauss *** (Gulliver Prep - FL)
Short version: Biggest loser in QB shuffle found his spot at Richmond.
Strauss was London's first-ever recruit at UVA and early-enrolled in 2010. He never threw a pass in a game at UVA; he finished fourth in a four-way competition in 2011 and transferred to Richmond after the season. One imagines he might be a touch annoyed at having to compete with Rocco again, but he got himself a head start this past season. His stat line: 3,808 yards, 26 TDs, 8 INTs, 65.4% completion rate, and 318 yards per game. UVA's loss was definitely Richmond's gain here, and Strauss, like the others, has one final year of eligibility.
NEVER PANNED OUT (4)
S Pablo Alvarez *** (Belen Jesuit - FL)
Short version: Injury-riddled.
The extent of Alvarez's career at UVA was three defensive plays and a couple special teams appearances, all against Richmond in 2012. He spent too much time on the training table, with a season-ending shoulder injury in 2011 and a season-ending knee injury following those Richmond plays. With players on the bottom of the depth chart, sometimes there's less urgency to hurry him up in rehab, so what might be a six-week injury for a starter sometimes becomes season-ending for a fourth-stringer. This is not to doubt the extent of Alvarez's injuries, because we really have no idea. Regardless, Alvarez's career was snakebit, and his 2013 blurb on his bio says "spent the season as a student assistant." He quietly disappeared from the roster during the offseason, either by not being asked back for a fifth year or just deciding it wasn't worth the bother, or both.
WR Miles Gooch *** (Towers HS - GA)
Short version: Lightly-used wide receiver.
Gooch was one of the large passel of quarterbacks London brought in after his hiring, but only spent a brief time there before becoming a WR. He hasn't been totally invisible, and really has been easily the most well-known member of this category. His career totals as a receiver. though: 3 catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. He appeared in every game in 2013, and has some leftover potential to make a jump from this category in 2014 for his fifth season. But so far he's been mainly a blocking receiver and generally a replacement-level player.
S Kyrrel Latimer ** (DeMatha - MD)
Short version: Ghost.
Has never appeared in a game for UVA, and spent 2013 in some kind of weird limbo, possibly academics-related although that's nothing more than idle speculation on my part.
DE Stephen Lawe ** (Maury HS - VA)
Short version: Almost ghost.
Got into his first game action this past year as a redshirt junior, at the end of three blowouts. (One by us and two of us.) If London finds himself with less attrition than expected, he and Latimer would be prime candidates to be disinvited.
RB Khalek Shepherd *** (Gwynn Park HS - MD)
Short version: Worked his way into a role as a change-of-pace tailback.
Shepherd's was a weird recruitment. His name literally did not come up for months, so I gave up and took him off the recruiting board, only for him to commit a couple weeks later. Al Groh's last ever. With one season left on his clock, Shepherd has become a decent change-of-pace back for UVA. He had 19 carries in 2012 and then really emerged in 2013 with 51 carries for 304 yards. It so happens that Shepherd holds the UVA single-season record for kick-return yardage, set in 2012.
I'd rather expect him to fit in a similar role this coming season as a senior. He won't unseat Kevin Parks and he'll face a major threat from Taquan Mizzell, but he was a consistent presence last year (best game: 10 carries for 81 yards against Maryland) and has carved himself a nice little role.
TE Zach Swanson *** (Katy - TX)
Short version: Should never have been a fullback, but is solid as a backup TE.
A pleasant late-cycle surprise, Swanson found himself jettisoned from Stanford, who gave him the ol' we-suggest-you-look-elsewhere routine in January. Forced to fend for himself, Swanson contacted several programs and ended up at UVA just a couple days before Signing Day.
An ill-conceived move to fullback set back his development, but he settled in at tight end, made some minimal contributions in 2012, and finally emerged this season as a quality backup, catching 19 passes for 173 yards.
S Rijo Walker *** (Bethel HS - VA)
Short version: Somewhat up-and-down occasional starter and career backup at safety.
One of the few members of this class not to redshirt, Walker spent basically his whole career as a backup safety with a sprinkling of starts here and there. An athletic interception as a sophomore against Indiana, early in the 2011 season, gave fans reason to believe in a bright future, and there was a general clamor for him to see more playing time. He played less in 2012 than in 2011, and moved into sort of a platoon in 2013 for a little while due to shaky play from Brandon Phelps; unfortunately, there were a few plays out of Walker that illustrated why he wasn't wresting the job away. Walker never really earned the full trust of the coaches, but he played well in stretches too.
CORE OF THE TEAM (2)
DT Chris Brathwaite *** (Holy Cross HS - NY)
Short version: Explosive DT who lost a year to academic ineligibility.
Based on results to date, I can't help but place him here (and considered putting him in the "useful" category), but Brathwaite has potential to be considered a star before his career is over. Originally recruited as a 250-pound linebacker (likely the Darryl Blackstock rush linebacker) he was quickly moved to DE in the 4-3 defense and then inside to DT. His 2012 season was a terrific one; even though he never started a game, he led the team in TFL with 10.5 and made everyone drool about what he might do the year after.
That turned out to be classwork on the road back to eligibility. Some players just decide to leave if the school decides they're not eligible to keep studying, and you can't really blame them, but Brathwaite took the Jameel Sewell path and worked his way back for his senior year. Having been rather excited about Brathwaite's potential ever since he signed on, I've been more than happy about his return. Given the off-year of no football, a repeat of his 2012 performance may be hard to achieve, but the chances of another explosive breakout year are just as high.
OT Conner Davis *** (Deep Run HS - VA)
Short version: Starter at left guard
Davis is no superstar, and probably not an NFL candidate when his eligibility is up after 2014. That said, two years going on three as a starter at left guard clearly makes him one of the top members of the class. He now has 20 starts under his belt and would have more if he hadn't missed a chunk of games in the middle of 2013 with an injury. Davis is no Branden Albert, but he's steady and often invisible, the latter of which is a perfectly good trait for an offensive guard. If I had a complaint it'd be that UVA needs much more strength and push out of the interior line than it gets, but Davis is good in pass protection and very technically sound.
LB Henry Coley *** (Bayside HS - VA)
Short version: Starting linebacker and team tackle leader
Coley's progression through the ranks has been remarkable. His first start was as a redshirt freshman, in the Peach Bowl, an indication of the high opinion the coaching staff has had of him, even when he played only five games that year. Ever since then he's been a starter, only missing time with injury, and progressed from a respectable, solid player in 2012 as a sophomore to the team's tackle leader in 2013. He and Daquan Romero were nothing short of rocks this past season, and their playmaking kept UVA in a lot of games. Coley is one of the football-smartest players on the team, and it shows.
TE Jake McGee ** (Collegiate School - VA)
Like Gooch, McGee was recruited as a quarterback, but quickly found a new position. He redshirted 2010 and had a thoroughly uneventful 2011, mainly as a special-teamer, until breaking onto the scene early in 2012. He did so by simultaneously drawing a pass-interference penalty and making a leaping, one-handed, 40-yard-bomb reception that rescued a floundering attempt at a game-winning drive against Penn State, a game which UVA eventually won. Another athletic game-winning grab against Miami pretty much cemented his rep.
Leading UVA in receiving wasn't really a hard task in 2013, but someone had to do it, and McGee did, with 43 catches and 395 yards. What little semblance of a passing game UVA had depended extremely heavily on McGee's athleticism. His blocking is a little suspect, so he's really more of a big, hand-on-the-ground receiver, but clearly indispensible all the same.
RB Kevin Parks *** (West Rowan HS - NC)
Short version: First 1,000-yard rusher since 2004.
I don't need to say much more than that, but I will. Parks ran for insane amounts of yardage in high school, routinely piling up 200 and 300 yard games and ultimately setting a national record in that regard. For his career he was just shy of 11,000 yards. Utterly amazing. So it should come as no surprise that Parks broke a futility streak at the running back position for UVA by piling up yards in college, too. Parks was a true workhorse, carrying 227 times and catching 38 passes, too, and the ACC media noticed and made him the second-team back. He's already put himself on a pedestal among UVA backs like Wali Lundy and Alvin Pearman and another 1,000-yard season ought to move him even higher in the estimation of the critics.
If you were counting, there were five players in the "core" and "stars" category, which makes the 2010 class a low performer. Last year, we found that 2009 produced ten such players, and four "useful" ones instead of three. And that was with some high-profile busts like Quintin Hunter and Dominique Wallace. None of this should be surprising considering the coaching change.
What I found interesting was the lack of any complete fadeaways, disciplinary problems, and dismissals. Nobody got kicked off the team except Brathwaite, and he's been working hard to make up for it. You might say "that's because London was now recruiting these guys" but London is responsible for only about half the class. Even the players who left, or decommitted, ended up as pretty high-character guys and didn't find themselves in handcuffs at any time, unlike various examples from 2009.
However. The general lightness on useful-or-better players is part of the reason for UVA's current swoon. It's not one bit of an excuse, because lots of programs go through coaching changes and don't go 2-10 four years later, but it's still a reason. It makes one hope that if 2015 is another coaching-change class, it won't be as light on both quantity and quality of its players.