I don't know about you but I think Virginia just had the best kind of signing day that it's possible to have: no losing recruits to UNC or Ohio State, minimal drama over a player who was pretty likely to pick UVA anyway (and did), and a little bonus surprise to top it off.
Mike London added two Signing Day additions to the class, in the forms of offensive linemen Eric Tetlow and George Adeosun. Tetlow is a near-complete surprise, at least to me. UVA tried to pry him from Wake Forest, where he'd been committed for about six weeks, in December around the week before Christmas. Tetlow was like "nope." So that, I thought, was that. Adeosun was less surprising; he was a late bloomer who I'd have tracked a little more heavily (or, like, at all) if the 2013 board was still in operation. He was at UVA on the big official visit weekend and after that was over his recruitment went nuclear. Oklahoma and Georgia were probably the biggest two schools to offer him and make a run, after he'd spent most of the recruiting cycle committed to William & Mary.
In fact, Adeosun's UVA offer was probably what tipped off the rest of the world to his existence. Fortunately, he's the studious type who isn't kidding when he says academics matter. As for Tetlow, there's one thing that's worth getting out in front of. His signing with UVA was probably as big a surprise to Wake fans as Brad Henson's flip to UNC was for us. I reserve the right, of course, to be a raging hypocrite about the whole thing. Can I criticize Henson for being sneaky and surreptitious and going along with Larry Fedora's spy games, and never say a word about Tetlow? (Who literally called UVA in the dead of night to commit.) Yes, I can. It's my blog. I don't have to, though: one interesting nugget that came out of Mike London's press conference was that our staff actually called the Wake staff and kept them apprised. Talk about a rare sight in the world of recruiting. So any comparisons between Henson and Tetlow are basically a non-starter.
Their commitments - nay, signings - bring the total class size to 22. Will it fit? A cursory check of the depth chart reveals 69 scholarship players, 68 if you don't count Kameron Mack. That means 16 or 17 actual spots. One obvious candidate and one maybe-candidate exists to be non-invited for a fifth year. Expect a prep or two (I know one name but I don't think it's public enough for me to put out there), and I know of one other name that's a "longshot" to still be on the roster in the fall - that would be Kelby Johnson. (There's a reason the staff suddenly went balls-out after offensive linemen.) So there won't be much difficulty, again, fitting the class into the limits. Mike London continues to do a nice job of hitting the sweet spot between being an oversigning dickhead and leaving his team undermanned.
Let's deal with each position one by one now.
QUARTERBACK - Corwin Cutler, Brendan Marshall
I really thought we were done when Marshall came on board early on, but Cutler was too good to pass up. He wasn't much of a name last spring, with a "big three" dominating the QB discussion in the state. Cutler's senior year turned that into a big four real fast. Marshall is tough to gauge because Good Counsel didn't let him throw much, but he'll be the one with the tougher road to ever earning the starting job. Cutler has a great arm and from the way the recruiting cycle played out, appears to be a natural leader that guys gravitate towards.
Virginia now has six quarterbacks, which is probably one more than I'd call ideal but setting us up well regardless. I desperately want to have a conveyor belt going where a guy starts for two or three years and then another guy starts and then another and then so on, because nothing says "good, solid program" like stability at quarterback. That doesn't happen overnight, though, and it's easily derailed, but we seem to be getting there.
TAILBACK/FULLBACK - Taquan Mizzell, Connor Wingo-Reeves
If you're diehard enough to read this blog you don't need to be told where to find the gem of this class. Smoke Mizzell is primed to be a potential starter from day 1. Scouts rave about his quickness, vision, pass-catching abilities, and general ability to put the hurtin'est hurt possible on opposing defenses. We have plenty of good running backs, but if Smoke the player is anything like Smoke the hype, they'll be doing a lot more watching than they used to.
I list Wingo-Reeves here because fullback is his likely ticket to the field. We don't have a proper one on the roster really, so there's a niche to be filled just waiting for him.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END - Keeon Johnson, Zack Jones, Andre Levrone, Max Valles
There isn't a plethora of game-breaking talent here - it's less than what we're used to seeing - but we didn't need much in this class. We loaded up like crazy last year. This group brings more solid depth to a position chock-full of depth, and they'll have the luxury (if they're patient) of redshirting and spending a year or two apprenticing before they're needed. When they finally do see the field I expect a lot of polish on their games, and I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the size they bring to the position. This is a group of big receivers, which is something currently lacking from the unit, at least among those who see the most playing time.
The only player currently labeled for tight end is Max Valles, a FUMA-prep holdover from 2012's class. What Valles brings to the position kind of depends on what happens to the position in the future. It's sorely lacking that one multidimensional player who can block and get open consistently. Mainly it's lacking in the blocking category now that its two largest occupants have graduated. Valles may be part of the answer there as he already weighs 240.
OFFENSIVE LINE - George Adeosun, Jack McDonald, Sadiq Olanrewaju, Eric Smith, Eric Tetlow
What a weird year for recruiting this position. At the start it looked like it wouldn't be one of need. When Olanrewaju, McDonald, and Brad Henson were aboard, that looked like a perfectly good group. It matched our needs and none of them were mere filler. When the class looked pretty full, though, the coaches kept hunting for linemen. Not a bad idea, really, as the strategy for recruiting them is that more is always merrier. Tim Cwalina's heart issue opened a slot. Then Henson decommitted and the coaches must've had some idea that Kelby Johnson wasn't going to last, so they went into full overdrive mode and now three of the last four additions to the class (Smith, Adeosun, Tetlow) are offensive linemen.
It would seem that Virginia made a good trade by swapping Henson for those three, even if they didn't mean to. Adeosun is the most intriguing given the stunning explosion of interest in his services. I would bet on his career being better than Henson's when the final tallies come in. Henson had both the scouting grades and the offers, but when Oklahoma and Georgia are frantically trying to pull someone in, that someone must be pretty damn good too. (And OU already has the Big 12's top recruiting class.)
So this year the O-line depth will be a little on the uncomfortably thin side, but the coaches did a good job of acting quickly to make sure that situation doesn't last too long.
DEFENSIVE LINE - Tyrell Chavis, Jack English, Donta Wilkins
We are looking a little thin here; I wouldn't at all have minded one more defensive end. If I could have just one wish for this class it'd be another pass-rusher at DE. That said, we completely owned D-line recruiting last year, so focusing on other positions won't hurt, and we're in awesome shape for the D-line in 2014 as well. English is a project, so there isn't any field-ready talent at defensive end, but Wilkins was someone that more than one school tried extremely hard to pry from Virginia, and Chavis's prep year at FUMA could make him a candidate to jump right into the lineup. Chavis has been described as a manchild, just in time to inject some needed depth into the interior line after the loss of Chris Brathwaite.
LINEBACKER - Zach Bradshaw, Micah Kiser, LaChaston Smith
I love the balance and talent in this group. From left to right, you've got a Sam, a Mike, and a Will all in one class, and the athleticism here is a big deal. Three outgoing linebackers (Greer, Reynolds, and Windle) and three incoming - at one position at least, the universe is in perfect harmony.
It would be nice to redshirt Kiser so as to provide some separation between him and Kwontie Moore. If Bradshaw is ticketed for the strong side, a redshirt year for him would be nice too, since that's where the most current depth is. Smith will supposedly get a look at running back, where he starred for South Iredell, but he's going to be more in demand at linebacker and ultimately will end up there. Smith, by the way, is already enrolled at school and will be present at spring practice.
DEFENSIVE BACK - Malcolm Cook, Kirk Garner, Tim Harris
We must have done alright here too because the DBs were some of the vultures' prime targets when the coaching staff changes went down. Only Garner was left alone; UNC wanted Tim Harris like crazy and VT was all over Cook. Cook is the lowest-rated of the bunch as Garner and Harris are both four-stars that provide quite a bit of the star power here, but the staff thinks Cook is the steal of the year.
Slotting-wise, Cook is a safety all the way and Garner and Harris are likely cornerbacks. A third cornerback, Hipolito Corporan, defected to Utah in January, but that's not of much concern to anyone - we have a ton of CBs from last year and the depth chart is crowded. It's really best to have been picky and go with excellent quality over quantity at this position.
KICKER/PUNTER - none
Let's get on with the traditional Signstravaganza lists:
Top five stories of the year in recruiting:
1. Holding onto the class in the wake of staff changes. Henson was the only casualty linkable to the changes, really. Corporan's departure was likely in the works for a while. And Henson's position coach didn't go anywhere, so it wasn't totally about that either. But the staff had to do a lot of work keeping the rest of the class in the fold. Malcolm Cook had Shane Beamer in his ear constantly and Penn State might've sent an offer his way if he'd acted more interested in them. UNC tried like hell to loosen up Tim Harris and Donta Wilkins, and people were always dialing Taquan Mizzell's number - again, Carolina in particular. Micah Kiser had a very brief Maryland flirtation, and the new staff at Boston College was working Jack McDonald hard. (And let's not forget that USC made a run at Andre Levrone very early in the cycle and was politely told no.) On the one hand it sure is nice to have players that people want. On the other hand, piss off, vultures. But everything held up well. The mid-January official visit weekend just about sealed the deal for everyone.
2. Offensive line blitz and Signing Day surprises. Circumstances conspired to turn offensive line into a major need, and the coaches were up to the task, unearthing George Adeosun and flipping Eric Tetlow, and the addition of Eric Smith in December also provides needed depth to the class. Adeosun and Sadiq Olanrewaju - besides both having jawbreakers for a last name - are two guys that the Virginia staff did yeoman work in finding before anyone else did and they may just be the top two linemen in the class.
3. Smoke. He made us wait til August (which when you think about it isn't really that long of a wait) but he made the call he'd long been expected to make and gave Virginia's class its headliner.
4. Decommitments. Last year's class was mostly free of decommitment drama. Mario Nixon was the only player we got that had been committed elsewhere, and it's not like that was a huge surprise since he was the only Hokie on a high school team full of Hoos. It was really the Hokies that made a big ol' kerfuffle out of it. And Virginia suffered no decommitments of its own. This year, we've mentioned Henson and Corporan, and Tetlow as well, but Adeosun was also technically a decommitment (William & Mary) and don't forget Bradshaw, whose commitment to Penn State understandably lost its flavor when PSU received their crippling sanctions.
5. Package deals. Fans always seem to think they'll happen when two players are friends coming from the same school, and they never do, but Virginia tried. Actually, I guess you could consider the Good Counsel trio - Levrone, Marshall, and Garner - a small success in this regard. Virginia also tried to convince a Massachusetts trio (none of whom went to the same school, but were close regardless) that Charlottesville was the place for all three of them; ultimately, they all went to three different schools and Jack McDonald was the only one that picked Virginia. (Maurice Hurst called Virginia his runner-up while heading to Michigan and Tevin Montgomery stayed instate for BC.)
Five most likely to play as true freshmen:
1. Taquan Mizzell
2. Tyrell Chavis
3. Connor Wingo-Reeves
4. Malcolm Cook
5. LaChaston Smith
Mizzell because duh. Chavis has that FUMA year under his belt and is coming into a position that could be thin - I think he has a chance to strut his stuff and nose his way into the rotation. There is basically nobody at fullback anymore. Zach Swanson could be moving back to tight end. Vincent Croce is making the switch from D-line to fullback, but that gives him just as much college experience there as CWR. If Wingo-Reeves does indeed get slotted at fullback, as I hope he does, playing time is completely up for grabs. The coaches seem to really, really like Cook, and there could be room to nose into the two deep at safety. Ant Harris and Brandon Phelps are likely locked in as the starters, but there could be backup snaps to be had, and Cook is a top candidate for special teams if not. LCS is an early enrollee and likely ticketed for the thinnest part of the linebacking corps, where D.J. Hill and Mark Hall are set up to battle for playing time.
Five I'm most excited about:
1. Taquan Mizzell
2. Corwin Cutler
3. Micah Kiser
4. Tim Harris
5. George Adeosun
Mizzell because duh. Plus this section has a bias toward skill-position guys. Offensive guards don't exactly light the lamp. Cutler is way intriguing. I was skeptical of the idea of offering him because frankly I'd never heard of him and we didn't seem to need any more quarterbacks, but I was more than willing to keep an open mind and see what happened his senior year, partly because ESPN's scouting report basically said "it's BS this guy has no offers." Let's just say he had a very convincing senior year.
Kiser and Harris are two guys at playmaking defensive positions who have consistently high guru ratings and high-level offers to match. Kiser had offers from Florida, Oklahoma, and Stanford; Harris from Michigan andOhio State. And then there's Adeosun. The frenzy around his whirlwind January is hard to ignore, plus there's this: he's another Will Hill in the classroom. And this is Virginia, after all.
1. George Adeosun
2. Malcolm Cook
3. Tyrell Chavis
4. Connor Wingo-Reeves
5. Eric Tetlow
Inclusion here means two things: each prospect got two stars from at least one service (or in some cases, totally ignored - Malcolm Cook can't have been entered into the Scout database longer than two weeks ago) and I have to have some reason to be excited about what they bring. Adeosun (Rivals two-star, Scout ignoree), we've covered, extensively. Cook and Chavis (Scout two-stars) as well. Wingo-Reeves (two stars across the board) has that excellent potential at fullback that we've discussed. And Tetlow (Scout two-star) has a decent offer list and very good size for a high-schooler.
1. Taquan Mizzell (4.25 stars)
2. Tim Harris (4 stars)
3. Micah Kiser (3.5 stars)
4. Kirk Garner (3.25 stars)
5. Corwin Cutler (3.25 stars)
Simply a matter of averaging the four services' stars. Donta Wilkins would be sixth; he has 3.25 stars as well, but among he, Garner, and Cutler, he's third of those three to three services.
Eat it Shaney:
The list of players with Tech offers. The list going the other way is rather larger, going by Rivals' database, but I'm calling BS on a few of the listed names. Tech wins head to head, but I'm not buying some of the listed offers (Jonathan McLaughlin, for example) and there are others where they won the battle but we ended up better off anyway (offensive line.)
Eat it Randy:
The same list, but for Maryland. Randy Edsall is not good at keeping Virginia out of his stomping grounds; three of those guys are from the state of Maryland, and only one player with a Virginia offer ended up at Maryland: linebacker Yannick Ngakoue from DC.
Eat it Larry:
The same list in powder blue. There are six players that went the other way, most of which we offered but either weren't that serious about or they were never serious about us. Brad Henson is the obvious name that comes to mind; Dajaun Drennon is another that we were in the running for, for a while anyway. I do question Carolina's dedication to Eric Smith once they'd picked up Henson, and I dunno how big they were on McDonald or Johnson. They wanted Harris bad, though. Wilkins, too, as well as, duh, Mizzell, and they definitely also tried to at least get into Cook's ear. Larry Fedora has basically declared war on Virginia with pronouncements that he's making the 757 and the state in general a huge priority - but Virginia pulled two guys out of his state and he struck out in Virginia. That may not last into 2014, but it sure is fun for now.
The ones that got away:
Adam Breneman (Penn State)
Maurice Hurst (Michigan)
Peter Kalambayi (Stanford)
Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame)
John Montelus (Notre Dame)
Wyatt Teller (Virginia Tech)
These are the biggest misses. They all fill positions of need (which is why there's no Derrick Green or Christian Hackenberg - they're good but we got other good ones), are high-quality players, and at one time we had a legit shot at getting them. OL is generally a position where there's always room for one more, and McGlinchey and Montelus are hell of nice pickups for Notre Dame. Kalambayi picking Stanford was a bit of a disappointment, as was Hurst going to Michigan. Hurst was all Virginia til that offer came from Ann Arbor, really. Breneman is an outstanding tight end who decided to waste his talent in Happy Valley. But the biggest killer of all is Teller. At one point he was very damn close to picking Virginia, but the pendulum slowly swung back toward Blacksburg, and didn't I say we really could use a pass-rushing defensive end in this class? Tech beat us for a lot of players, but at this point, none of them would I really want to bother adding to the class (well, maybe Kendall Fuller, but he's not on the above list because he never seriously considered the Hoos) - except Teller. Damn.
Finally, for amusement purposes, here is the 2013 recruiting board as it originally looked. There are future UVA signees on it in every section but one - curiously, that's the green one.
And thus we put the bow on the recruiting class of 2013. Class of 2014, assemble.