A lot has been made of late about the perceived deficiencies of this coaching staff and the lack of perceived progress made by the program as we enter the third season of the Mike London era. Coming off this weekend's loss to Louisiana Tech you started to hear some of these rumbles get pretty loud. In fact, I openly put Saturday's loss on the coaching staff. But you need time to grow. Virginia is a dormant program which faces a ton of obstacles as it tries to rise up. High academic standards makes it hard for us to get every single player we could want, ask Michael Parker. While an extremely fairweather student fanbase makes it tough to provide the kind of atmosphere needed for big time football. This, coupled with a national level program right in our backyard, makes the task in front of Mike London a tall one. But there is a blueprint for success, and it lies 3000 miles to the west.
Attendance was poor, academics were tough, and Stanford is geographically bracketed by Oregon to the north and USC to the south. It would be extremely tough for Harbaugh to get his foot in the door. So he just kicked the door down. In this article we will examine the similarities between the first two years of UVA under Coach London and Stanford under Coach Harbaugh, and hopefully this will make everyone feel just a little bit better.
Recruiting Class of 2007/2010
Both coaches had to salvage classes as their first task on the job. Both classes were similar in that they were not strong, but would provide some key pieces for the future. Stanford's 2007 class featured players like Coby Fleener and Doug Baldwin, both of whom developed quite nicely into NFL players. It also featured QB Kellen Kiilsgaard (awesome name) who eventually moved to fullback, but also was a baseball player. Truly a one big star but overall solid class. Compare this with the UVA class of 2010. Though they are only juniors this class is very similar to Stanford's in that it is a one star class with some other very solid pieces. The jewel of this class for the Hoos was Morgan Moses, but other solid players include Kevin Parks, EJ Scott, and Jake McGee on offense, and linebacker Henry Coley and DT Chris Brathwaite on defense. A solid class, not a game changer, but very solid.
2007 Season/2010 Season
Recruiting Class of 2008/2011
2008 Season/2011 Season
Both teams entered the second season under their respective coaches looking to show some improvement, and while both teams looked good at times, there were also some definite signs that it wasn't quite time yet. However the Hoos managed to pull off a miraculous season of close wins, and big wins, that could end up skewing the expectations of the fans more than they should be. In 2008 Stanford went 5-7, just missing a bowl game. They took a vengeful tail whipping from the Trojans at the Farm and also lost the Big Game to Cal in Berkely. However they did show some fight in a lot of games. The season featured a 48-0 beatdown of Wazzu, and a near victory at Notre Dame. The Hoos eeked out wins at FSU and at home against Idaho before crashing back to earth with a 38-0 drubbing at the hands of the Hokies and a 43-24 loss to Auburn in the Peach bowl. The season didn't really end the way either coach had planned, but both programs showed life.
Recruiting Class of 2009/2012
2009 Season/2012 Season
This catches us up with UVA. Currently the Hoos sit at a disappointing 2-3. Expectations going into this year were somewhat overinflated due to the success of previous seasons, however there should be an expectation for some visible improvement. London's players are starting to become the majority of the players on the team, and while young, they bring a newfound energy and excitement to the field that hasn't been seen before. 2009 was Andrew Luck's first season under center starting as a redshirt freshman, and boy was there a buzz about him. He burst onto the scene throwing beautiful deep balls and possesing an unbelivable ability to understand every aspect of the offense. And that made everyone at Stanford very excited.
The Cardinal went on after their 2009 success to burst onto the national stage in 2010 behind the young gunslinger Andrew Luck and the power run game of Toby Gerhart. It also became a mainstay in the top 25 and developed the reputation nationally as a good football school with great academics. There is absolutely no reason to think that with seasoning Phillip Sims can't become an above-average to very good ACC quarterback next season. And the Hoos are already doing great things on the recruiting trail. Coach London has established himself as a tremendous recruiter, and one who will make kids succeed at a great University. Year four is when we should expect the breakout, just let the storm brew a little longer everyone.