We hyped it yesterday, but it is here today. It is finally signing day. Where all the verbals get inked, and hopefully the players that will take over this team in the very near future. And this years class could be better, as a whole, than last years class, which is saying a lot. Why? First, the 2011 class produced 12 true freshmen that saw action, which was the most in a decade. Secondly, unlike last year, we did not have any surprises or decisions today; all our business was taken care of early in the process. Actually really early, which has its good and bad points. But never the less, it is seen as a top 20 class by many, and a lock to finish higher than last years “evaluations”. Let’s get to the class.
Overview: Virginia them last year was speed and impact players. This year the Hoos got bigger and deeper. The biggest immediate impacts will be along the defensive line and linebacker, with depth help coming at QB, WR, OL, DE, LB, and DB. London addressed the need of pass rushers that can finish tackles in the backfield and big possession receivers. Down the road, this class will fill out both lines and the defensive backfield as well as the starting quarterback. Two knocks on this class would be lack of a star defensive back and missing out on a “true” defensive tackle, but the Hoos have plenty of redshirted players to address those needs.
Here are the early returns on this class. As always we are broken up into four categories and our quick look at each one. Based on your feedback, we have cleaned up the sections this year. Note: Just because someone is not in the top section does not mean that he will not be a great play for the Hoos. We are evaluating players who will help the Hoos in 2012 to counter the senior/injury losses from last season.
Immediate Impact (players who might not redshirt and could see the field 1st year; Starter or 2 Deep):
Eli Harold, DE: He is a man among boys. His length and speed are perfect for weak side DE because he can cause issues for offensive tackles and can even stand up once and awhile and bat down a pass or three. The best part about him is things always seem to go his way, whether he causes, say, a fumble, or he picks one up and runs it back. I don’t see how this guy doesn’t start, or at least, AT LEAST, end up in London’s “3 or 4 man rotation” he uses for the D-line. With Snyder a lock to start, Urban a worthy candidate, and Brown another quality guy, look for a fun competition in August.
Kwontie Moore, LB: Easily the number one interior linebacker in the country. At 6-2, 243, he already has the size to be a run stopper, but running a 4.8 40 he can easily get back in coverage. He’s already got some polish as a signal caller for the defense, and just like his teammate Harold, can get in the backfield with regularity. Now Greer will be the starter, but Moore should be able to compete with Coley for the back-up spot.
Canaan Severin, ATH/WR: Canaan fills a huge need for the Hoos. Unlike the other receivers at UVa like Tim Smith, Jennings, or Terrell, he is a pure possession receiver. At 6-3, 215 he is perfect to set up in the intermediate game (something Rocco loves) and can be the perfect wideout for the redzone. He won’t beat most linebackers in a foot race, but with Burd and Snyder gone, and the need for increased TD scoring inside the 20, he will have a shot at the 2 deep from day one.
Michael Moore, DE: It is not hard to envision Moore and Harold will bookend this defensive line in the very near future. At 6-4, 260, he is the big physical strong side DE that can get through the tackle-tight end blockade and stop the running back. Again, with the depth, he should see the 2 deep or at least some good playing time. The most asked question is that, at 255, he would be perfect to put on some weight and play DT, but he has repeatedly said he wants to stay at the end.
Courtnye Wynn, DE/DT: UVa lists him as a DE, but we think Wynn will move over to play DT for the Hoos, which would be a smart move. With fellow teammates Kwontie and Eli slated to make to two deep, he sees the writing on the wall. At 6-6, 240, he has the frame for DT, but will need to put on a little more weight. What works out in his favor is that Will Hill is the only regular starter remaining, and with only Croce and Dean coming off redshirts, he should have a great shot at the 2 deep.
Demeitre Brim, ATH/LB/S: This is a very interesting pick. By no way it is a knock on Brim, whose 6-3, 215 size and frame is set to play one of 5 positions on the defense. But it comes down to playing competition. If he fills out, look for him as a Will Linebacker, but with Reynolds and Romero, he could redshirt, or at least start out redshirted. But if he stays slim, he could move into a Strong Safety role and then he has some real opportunity to make the two deep, and even play in nickel sets.
Eventual Impact (good probability of redshirt and impact will be seen in 2nd+ year; 2 deep player to Role Player)
Anthony Cooper, WR: He has the size (6-0) and speed (4.4) that you would wish every wide receiver possessed. The only issue is that there is a huge log jam at WR right now, with no seniors in the receiving core, it could be a little while before he sees the field. He is the most complete WR in the class and could blow away the coaches in August, but a redshirt year could give him the chance to develop. This one could go either way.
Mark Hall, LB: I really like Hall’s game. He looks like he is shot out of a cannon on every play, and can finish a tackle. He is slated for outside linebacker, and more over has the speed for the Will. It would help his cause if Brim ends up in the backfield. But it might be a year before he sees the game from the defensive side, but has the tools to play special teams. Now slept lost if he took a redshirt either.
Greyson Lambert, QB (currently enrolled): Attempt at the QB progression #2. For better or sort-a-okay, Rocco is our man for next year. Now at the end of last year, Watford was 2 and Metheny was 3. Now here’s where it gets interesting. It might be safe to say the time for Metheny to get any time under center has passed. Watford will still be in the mix, but in what capacity? Lambert is already at UVa and has the opportunity to learn a lot from January to August, and will participate in the Spring training. He is also a consensus Top 25 incoming QB and it was a big coup picking him up, so the talent is already there. It comes down to if Watford can further his development. If so, the Hoos could redshirt Greyson. But if he can push Watford for backup and time, he might be 2b in the mix.
Kye Morgan, RB: Rutgers loss is the Hoos gain. This guy is electric and can be a solid player at UVa in both the running and passing game. But with Jones as a senior and Parks, Richardson, and Shepard as sophomores, it might be hard to find time on the field. He could go the road as Parks and redshirt, but I think he will give Mike London and crew a lot to think about, especially if he can contribute in the return game.
Mario Nixon, WR: Very tall and athletic, another possession type reciever, but again might get lost in the WR mix.
Andre Miles-Redmond, OL/G: Virginia will be trying to fill a couple of slots this season in the 2 deep along the line at guard. If there is one from this class can compete for a spot, AMR would be the most college ready, although he might use a year to bulk up.
Sean Karl, OL/T: The other lineman that could move into the two deep, but will need to unseat Johnson, Cascarano, and/or Cwalina. At 6-6, 284 he has the size now to play the left or right tackle, but it is always good let OLs shirt for a year.
Role Players (very high probability of redshirt and will be a decent player down the line; Role-Player max)
Matt Johns, QB: He has the measurables to compete to get into the mix in a few years, but the line is long this year, and there is no reason why he should not shirt this year.
Michael Mooney, OL/G: Technique is evident from film. The more I hear about him, the more I want to move him up a slot. But as I learned last year, it is a crap shoot on how the staff views what the scouts see. And since OL and DL player usually need a redshirt year, I’ll keep him here.
C.J. Moore, DB: I know we are thin in the secondary, especially at corner, and he could step in an at least give the Hoos some bodies, but it looks like he might need some a year to learn the system.
Maurice Canady, ATH/DB: He played WR to start his high school career, then moved to QB this year. He still played CB in high school some, but with a year under his belt, should be a key role player against taller receivers, especially being north of 6 feet tall.
Kelvin Rainey, CB: Another tall corner, and he has been playing the position for a few years, but we will need how he will shake out against all the other corners.
Adrian Gamble, WR: He has had a year of prep at FUMA and could be a step ahead of the other receivers. But, again, it is a very crowded house at receiver and it looks like another year to try to work his way up the list.
Projects (will redshirt for one reason or another. Future status undecided)
Tyrell Chavis, OL-G/DT: At 6-3, 300, he is rated as high as the #22 best interior guard in the country. But as one to see a need, Chavis has stated his interest in playing DT. So much so that UVa lists him as a DT. If that is the case, he could be a massive run stopper/hole clogger that the Hoos do not have on the roster. But there is a BIG question with Chavis, almost as big as him. This one will play out over the next semester, but there is a 50/50 shot that he preps. If he doesn’t, he will have a very, very good shot at playing time this year, almost so that we think he will not redshirt. If he does, look for him to come to Virginia polished in 2013 ready to play.
Kyle Dockins, WR/TE: Kyle has vaulted to the top of this list for two reasons. One, while we think the Hoos will try him out at TE, they list him at WR today, which is what he played in high school. If that is the case, the line just got longer at WR, especially since he will be the third big, possession receiver in this class. Secondly, if he does move to TE, the Cavs are set at tight end next year, especially since Mathis made a nice transition to the offensive side of the ball two years ago and Jake McGee making good progress. He is built more like a possession WR, and will need to bulk up to see consistent play down the line. Either way, he will need a year to develop in either position.
Jamall Brown, WR: He was an interesting pick, as the Hoos were his first offer, and jumped at the opportunity to come. He has some size and speed, but will be a project as he played QB most of last year and might not see the field for a few years.
Ryan Doull, OL/G: Virginia is trying to go to the well again. And Canada is a pretty big well. Pasztor turned out to be a homerun for the Hoos, and Doull is a fellow Canadian with amazing size and speed for a pulling guard. But it takes a few years to adjust to the American game before it will or will not pay off. Now he has had a year at FUMA and is a year ahead of where Pazstor was when he came i. It really could be steal if Virginia did their homework, but at the least, will end up with a serviceable backup by his junior year.
Wilfred Wahee, ATH/CB: Also a product of Norfolk Christian, he might not get the name recognition as the other three in this class, but he can flat out play. But he is not very highly rated and will need a year or two to develop. (Editor’s Note: We don’t usually base our decisions purely off of “ratings”, especially when the player is from a small school. But since plenty of scouts were at NCA over the past few years and they all have about the same eval, I’m okay putting him here now).
Max Valles, ATH/DE: He was recruited to be DE, but at 6-5 could play a variety of positions on either side of the ball. If he goes the end rout, he will need a year to bulk up, but if he is moved around like Mathias, it could be a few years before he can find a home.
Divante Walker, RB: The last of the commitments in this class, Walker’s senior year didn’t garner a lot of interest, but a great year at Salem (Virginia Beach, Va.) got some attention. At the end of the day he chose Virginia over Richmond, and will play running back. But with Morgan in the fold and 4 non-seniors ahead of him, look for a year to show the staff he can work into the rotation at some point.
Conclusions: The Hoos get plenty of talent to evaluate at the DL, LB, DB, and WR slots, and don’t be surprised to see at least one player in this class significantly contribute at each of these positions. Virginia will be pleased down the line with the selections at QB, RB, and OL, but with the log jams at these spots, it is perfectly okay to not see many, if any, out on the field. I would have liked to see more “freshmen ready” defensive backs, depth at LB, or a fullback. But it is not dire, and can be addressed in 2013. Overall, it is the second strong class by London, and there is no “sophomore” slump at Virginia. Congrats to all the new Hoos and we will see you this summer!