It came and went in a flash this morning, if you call 3 ½ hours a flash. While the four-letter networks will be sitting around with 13+ hours of coverage, for the second year in a row, Virginia wrapped up its National Signing Day with zero surprises either way. When the dust settled, the Hoos signed 15 players today to go along with the 2 early enrollees for a total of 17 in a very tight class. The Cavaliers were top heavy again, and hit their biggest homeruns by bringing in 2 of the Top 10 players in the country for the first time since the Terry Kirby/Chris Slade recruiting class of 1989. Now while some have compared this class to the blockbuster class of 2002, a lot still has to be decided. So let’s look at the young men who have joined our fold and see what impact we believe they will have with us.
‘Immediate Impact’ (players who might not redshirt and could see the field 1st year)
*Andrew Brown, DT (Chesapeake, VA/Oscar Smith/UVA)
Quin Blanding, SS/FS (Virginia Beach, VA/Bayside)
Let’s start at the top. Depending on who you look at for your recruiting notes, when you looked at it, or which direction the wind was blowing when a Rivals reporter passed gas, these two gentlemen represent the top players at their position in the country, and two of the top 5-10 players overall in the country. I have never seen or heard about this as it relates to Virginia since the Kirby/Slade days when the Hoos nabbed the best offensive and defensive player in the country at the same time. Virginia has also nabbed the No. 1 overall recruit twice before with the afore mentioned Kirby and OL Eugene Monroe back in 2005. Brown is just a man of size and speed and you can just plug him into the middle and watch him go. With a good, young depth at DT next year including Dean, Wilkins, and AMR, Virginia should be secure for years in the middle. Blanding is the same way. He looks like a 4th year, and plays like one as well. He is a massive ballhawk and has speed to run down WRs from the backfield. Harris and Phelps will be seniors, but you can easily plug Blanding in day one and have Phelps as nickel. Virginia can then develop players behind these 3 for when the seniors leave. Enjoy this folks, you might not see this again.
Corwin Cutler, QB (Fork Union, VA/FUMA): Let’s start the controversy. If it wasn’t for the above two man-children, this would be my personal favorite story. If you believe that Watford is the man to carry UVa forward next year, skip down to the next recruit. Okay? Now, since no one has left, let’s talk about QB…again. I raved about Watford last year and he couldn’t manage one game at all last year, so much so that the ‘oh it’s a new system’ argument cannot even be made, nor does UVa and London have time to work it out next year. I think that you have to let someone else take the reins next year, which brings us to Cutler. You have to let Lambert (and Johns and Marshall) into the mix as well as Cutler. If Virginia is going to move forward they need an accurate quarterback that can be mobile, but look down the field. Lambert could do that, but Cutler has shown that he can do both. Now will London even open it up, who knows? On top of this, Cutler still needs to get into UVa, which comes down to SATs now. But regardless of what happens, the fact that a/the top rated Prep QB comes to UVa, you have to say he will impact the QB spot.
Jamil Kamara, WR (Virginia Beach, VA/Bishop Sullivan): It is not prudent to put any WRs in the immediate impact area just due to the sheer number of players, but Kamara is special. He might not have any one ‘plus-plus’ skill, but there is not a skill this man lacks. Way above average size, speed, hands, and route running, he is the perfect player for the Hoos to move forward with, as long as someone can get it to him. Yes, he will have to go through the gauntlet of receivers, but there is no reason why we can’t possibly see Kamara and Johnson starting at least 1 game in 2014.
*Jacob Fieler, OG (Fork Union, VA/FUMA/UVA):
Steven Moss, OG (Fredericksburg, VA/Chancellor):
One of the key issues last year (well at 2-10, they were all key issues), was the play of the interior line. Virginia will be losing 2 big players on the line, C Luke Bowanko and LT Morgan Moses. Now it look like the tackles can be manned by some of the 1st years last year, namely Smith, Olanrewaju, and Mooney. But if London will open the interior competition up again, look for Fieler and Moss to get in the mix. Fieler played at FUMA last year and is already in school with Brown. Moss was a huge get from a usually Tech based area that can provide side and speed, especially if Virginia actually start using pulling guards. Look for one of both to end up on the 2 deep next year.
‘Eventual Impact’ (good probability of redshirt and impact will be seen in 2nd year)
Evan Butts, TE (Newtown Square, PA/Episcopal Academy): UVa has swung and missed on so many tight ends over the years, finally one has stuck. Butts is from the TE fertile state of Pennsylvania and is a solid blocker with solid hands. But he will have plenty of time to develop behind McGee and Swanson and could play next to Burns starting in 2015. No reason to burn a redshirt on a true TE next year, but should develop nicely
Jeffery Farrar, CB (Upland, CA/Upland): An unusual sign for a number of reasons, doesn’t mean it isn’t a good one. Height is hard to find in someone who wants to play CB, but at 6’1” he can be a great matchup on possession receivers. Now there isn’t a ton of wiggle room at the corners, but 2015 should open up for a lot of opportunities to crack the 2 deep.
Jordan Ellis, RB (Suwanee, GA/Peachtree Ridge): Another star that might see a number crunch, Ellis started as a ‘who?’ and ended as a ‘who!’ As a somewhat late bloomer, he fits the role as a big bruiser, with great inside running ability, but not a ton of speed. That’s okay, because we have been looking for someone to run between tackles for a while now. Still have Parks, Mizzell, Sheperd, and Morgan, Kiser, and Hamm, who all got touches last year, so a shirt year might not be the worst thing. If London wants to get cheeky, Ellis could develop into a FB and give the Hoos a great run/block/catch option that we have not had in a solid 5-6 years.
J.J. Jackson, DE (Purcellville, VA/Woodgrove): I know it was just yesterday we were talking about Moore and Harold in these articles, but they will be juniors next year, and if either are going to have a stellar year and get out of Dodge, we need to be talking future. Enter Jackson. A strongside DE, there is always a possibility that he could backup Moore this year, but there are a couple ahead of him. A real toss up whether he can grab some time or not this year.
‘Roleplayers’ (very high probability of redshirt and will be a decent player down the line)
Cory Jones, DE (Washington, DC/Archbishop Carroll): On the other side of the DL, Jones could fill in most likely at weakside DE or a Will LB, but he just needs some time to develop. Both spots could be looking for an upgrade starting in 2015 and might work his way into the WLB spot if he wants to change. Is not the biggest DE, but has the height and quickness to play WLB, with great movement.
Darious Latimore, CB (Lawrenceville, GA/Central Gwinnett): We’ve talked about corners and it looks like things won’t open up until next year. Even then, there are 5 CBs on the roster with Farrar, so playing time might be eaten up, but Latimore is 6’+ and runs 4.5, so decent all around, but shirt now, play later.
Darrious Carter, DE (Indiana, PA/Indiana): Carter is an interesting prospect. Originally committed to Temple, he is a very long tall defensive end like Jones, but could very well end up at 5 different positions. I think if he can come into UVa with an open mind, he will find his way into a 2 deep soon. If he is set on DE, it might be some time to mold his 195-200 lb frame into an edge pass rusher.
‘Projects’ (will redshirt for one reason or another. Future status undecided)
Caanan Brown, LB (Clearwater, FL/Central Catholic): Virginia heard the footsteps this year at LB and reached out for a project early on with Brown. He can be an OLB or WDE and has the size for that now, but really is a developmental project as the Hoos and UMASS were only scholarships.
Michael Biesemier, DE (Lynchburg, VA/Virginia Episcopal): Hoos continue the small school recruiting with Biesemier, following McGee and English. Another project passed by the larger schools, it will take a while to get him up to SDE strength, or might move to TE/FB in a few years.
Donovan Dowling, WR (Richmond, VA/Varina): A great WR from UVa rich Varina, he could be the next big possession receiver. But again, so, so many WRs.
Chris Peace, LB (Newport News, VA/Denbigh): As someone who lives in the same city as Peace, his name had not made it down to my part of town. Nevertheless, he will be another project for the Hoos who could plug him in any of the 3 LB spots. Time will definitely tell on him.
Opinion: Virginia does what they always do: work within the numbers. It is not uncommon for teams to take 25 each year, trim the fat off, and do it again and again. UVa does not do that intentionally and attrition happens at every school, but with only 17, recruiting services on see the overall numbers and dock you for it. Regardless, this is a borderline Top 25 class and addresses needs at DT, S, OL, and WR and future needs at QB, TE, RB, and CB. It pains me to say it but the Hoos whiffed on DE and LB for another year, turning a once highly competitive group into a dangerously thin area of concern. Also the loss of a top P/K again might hurt us down the road as well. Like we said, this is a very top heavy class, but you might only see 7-8 get playing time versus the 12 last season.