February 9, 2014

Sunday Slog Thru the 2014 Recruiting Class

I ended up being a bit busier than expected with the kids and with some of my other hobbies this week, and never got around to unleashing the series of posts I had planned to review the 2014 recruiting class for Virginia Football.

The fact that I've probably never been colder on Virginia Football probably didn't help, either.  It puts blog posts like this a little further down the totem pole, for sure.  It also makes them harder to write.

Anyway, I'm sure that you've read newspaper articles or whatever about the recruiting class at this point.  If you want an excellent, comprehensive, player-by-player look at the class, I'll steer you in the direction of Streaking the Lawn.

If you'd prefer a slightly more cynical, biting, realist view of the class in a sweetened condensed format, I'd recommend From Old Virginia.

Of course, I have my own comments to add to the mix.

First, a quick player-by-player look at the class.  Because I'm keen on lists and rankings, the players are ranked in order of what I perceive to be their quality and ability to [positively] impact the program.  And naturally, they are organized into tiers.  You're welcome.

Tier One -- The Headliners

#1 - Quin Blanding, safety, 5-star
Anthony Poindexter 2.0 -- except Blanding probably isn't quite the hitter Dex was, but he's probably better in coverage.  In any case, this is the best safety prospect we've had since Dex (and Dex wasn't all that highly recruited), and Blanding has the chance to impact our defense the way Ahmad Brooks did in the early 2000s.  We've got a senior returnee at safety in Brandon Phelps, but I'm expecting Blanding to step right in this summer and eat Phelps' lunch.  London will be desperate to put talent on the field this season, and Blanding has "game-changing playmaker" written all over him.

The Mighty Quin

#2 - Andrew Brown, defensive tackle / defensive end, 5-star
He was one of the highest-rated prospects in the class of 2014; a real top-10 type of talent.  He's more of an under tackle than a strongside defensive end, but he should be able to play either position to great effect.  As a freshman, he'll likely challenge Mike Moore for starting privileges at SDE.  My expectations for Brown are pretty high, but I don't think he'll make the impact Quin Blanding will make a true freshman.  Still, Brown is the kind of player around whom you can build a defensive line - if not an entire defense.

Big Bad Brown

Tier Two -- Top Shelf

#3 - Jamil Kamara, wide receiver, 4-star
I like the term Brendan used on From Old Virginia: "feature-potential."  Kamara has #1, go-to receiver status in his future, but we won't see that during his true freshman season.  Instead, we'll see him battle against Darius Jennings for the right to start alongside Keeon Johnson.  Might not matter for much, given our sucking lack of a quality (read: competent) quarterback.  Anyway, Kamara is the kind of player who will emerge as a real offensive playmaker, once he gets a little experience, physical development, and seasoning.  He's got the complete package -- size, speed, hands.  He should be a good one for the Hoos.

Jamil Kamara makes a circus catch

#4 - Steven Moss, offensive line, 4-star
He has the physical tools and size to be an above-average OL recruit.  Moss should be able to step right in and battle (against a bunch of walk-ons) for a spot on the two-deep OL as a true freshman.  By the time he's done at UVA, he'll likely have been a three-year starter.  Some critics knock a lack of "killer instinct," but I've heard mixed reports on that.  Some others think he has the nasty streak that all great linemen possess.  I guess we'll see if he's a little soft or not; my guess is that he's pretty legit.

Tier Three -- Meat and Potatoes

#5 - Corwin "Turtle" Cutler, quarterback, high 3-star
He's riding in on a tidal wave of hype among the UVA message board crowd, but facts are facts: He's coming off of a serious injury, and he struggled to get eligible out of high school (never a good sign for a player at the most "cerebral" position on the field).  I'm working hard to take the Turtle hype with a grain of salt.  Expecting him to step right in and take the reins of this team as a true freshman is... well... it's expecting too much.  Maybe he'll be a good QB for us down the line - the physical tools are there! - but inexperience + rust = not a freshman starter.  All of this being said, we already owe Turtle a debt of thanks for helping to hold this class together and for mining the talent of his good friend, Jamil Kamara.

The hopes and dreams of Hoofans everywhere ride on Turtle's back.

#6 - Jeffrey Farrar, cornerback / wide receiver, high 3-star
He's a physical marvel, projecting as a "power corner" in our defense... which is exactly what Tenuta wants.  My only problem is that with the addition of Farrar, Latimore, and Blanding in this class, we'll have 18 scholarship defensive backs on the roster in 2014.  EIGHTEEN.  Kinda shitty when we're looking at just 12 scholarship offensive linemen.  But that's not Jeff Farrar's fault!  He's got a lot of potential, and I'm sure he'll be a good player for us someday, if he can survive the extreme roster scrum in the secondary!

#7 - Jordan Ellis, running back, mid 3-star
The comparison I've heard and really like is Wali Lundy.  Kind of a bellcow/workhorse/other barnyard metaphor kind of back.  A productive grinder.  KP2.  That's exactly what we need to replace Kevin Parks in 2015 and complement Smoke Mizzell.  As for 2014, a redshirt is definitely in order here.  We don't need him on the field yet, but I have no doubt that he'll be a good player for us in time.

Jordan Ellis: Wali Lundy clone?

Tier Four -- Solid Adds

#8 - Jacob Fieler, offensive line, high/mid 3-star
Big o-lineman who has been compared favorably to Austin Pasztor by FUMA's John Shuman.  Fieler seems like a fine prospect.  My problem - and it's a BIG fucking problem - is that he's just the second of two recruits on the OL in this class.  That's negligence on the part of the coaching staff.  NEGLIGENCE.

#9 - Darious Latimore, cornerback / wide receiver, mid 3-star
Another big corner, whose film is pretty darn impressive.  He's a fast, instinctive natural at the position, and has a better-than-average chance to bubble up as a starter during his UVA career, despite the numbers crunch in the secondary.

#10 - J.J. Jackson, pass rusher (OLB/DE), mid 3-star
I think he looks pretty positionless at this point, but he can certainly get after the passer.  To me, it's a mirror image of Max Valles, for better and worse.  My hope is that JJJ bulks up and forces his way into the defensive end discussion, because he'll be a liability in coverage at linebacker.

#11 - Evan Butts, tight end / long snapper, mid 3-star
Probably a ho-hum talent, but at a position of absolute need (given the fact that Mike London has landed precisely ZERO natural tight end prospects since Zach Swanson in 2010, and he fucked around with Black Swan at fullback for a while).  Butts looks pretty decent, and he's also a long-snapper... always a huge bonus!  (Not being sarcastic, long-snappers are important.)

Tier Five -- Sleepers

#12 - Cory Jones, defensive end, low 3-star
He just started playing football a year ago, so he's understandably raw, but he notched 26 sacks in that one season.  TWENTY-SIX.  That's a fuckload of sacks, people.  So I see Cam Johnson and maybe Darryl Blackstock upside here, but that's after he develops as a football player under the proper tutelage.  We've had pretty good luck turning basketball players into football players (*cough* *cough* Branden Albert), and Jones' film is freaking unbelievable.

#13 - Darrious Carter, defensive end, low 3-star
Temple decommit.  Will need to add some serious weight in order to cut it at defensive end (like, he makes Eli Harold look stout).  He's got great potential as a rush end, but he'll need major development.  Penn State was sniffing around late in the recruiting game, which is the one thing giving me hope that this wasn't just another reach at a position of need.

#14 - Chris Peace, outside linebacker, not rated
He didn't have any other D-1A offers, but he's the kind of athlete who was able to bounce around from safety to linebacker to the defensive line during his prep career.  I listed him on the "sleeper" tier instead of the "reach" tier because I think his athletic ability is good enough to warrant some hope and patience in what could eventually emerge as a starting-caliber player.  But the line between sleeper and reach is blurred and hazy sometimes.

Tier Six -- Reaches

#15 - Donovan Dowling, wide receiver, low 3-star
He's the kind of low-upside possession receiver that FCS programs turn into productive players.  Problem is, we're not an FCS program, and we don't need to be tying up scholarships on players with ceilings so low they might never see the field (see also: Kevin Royal, Bobby Smith).  Dowling has some nice film, but I have serious doubts about him ever making a dent in the wideout rotation at UVA.

#16 - Canaan Brown, outside linebacker, 2-star
He fits what Jon Tenuta wants in his OLB prospects -- long athletes who can move.  I'm good with that, but how long will Tenuta be around to mold Brown into his vision?  Meanwhile, Brown is exactly the kind of kid who succeeds at UVA... or ends up quitting football in order to play lacrosse.

But for some reason, I have a really
good feeling about this kid.

#17 - Michael Biesemier, defensive end, 2-star
Biesemier had one other offer: JMU.  Maryland was showing some interest at the time of his commitment to UVA, but this one screams "reach at a position of need!"  That's fine, we absolutely do need defensive ends in the 2014 class.  I have no problem with a guy or two like this at the bottom of the class, similar to Jack English last season.  My only fear - and it's a legitimate fear - is that we end up with too many of this level of player at a certain position group, and we paint ourselves into a corner when it comes to upside on the field.  85 scholarships seems like a lot... until you find the need to start recruiting over guys at 2, 3, 4 different positions.  Defensive end is on its way to becoming one of those scholarship black holes for UVA.

What I like about this class:
-- It's extremely top-heavy, but it did end up ranked inside the top-25 of most prognostications.
-- Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown are two of the highest-rated recruits in UVA history.
-- Quantity at defensive end.
-- Top-level playmakers on both sides of the ball in Blanding and Kamara.
-- A high-upside QB added to the mix.  A high-upside QB with certain leadership skills, I should add.
-- The recognition of the need for a true bellcow type running back.
-- Finally, a real-life tight end!
-- Cory Jones' insane upside.

What I don't like about this class:
-- Way too many sleeper/reach type players.  Of course, when things went south on the field, our options became very limited.
-- Continued overrecruiting of defensive backs.
-- Too many projections at linebacker, not enough actual linebackers.
-- Capping at 17.  I guarantee that attrition drops us below the 85 scholarship limit for 2014, and recruiting for a massive 2015 class with a lame duck coaching staff is going to be like passing kidney stones.
-- We added quantity at DE, but did we add quality?  If none of these sleepers wake up, we could be in trouble.
-- The fact that we only beat out schools like Toledo, Temple, JMU, Citadel, UMass, Delaware, Army, Miami (OH), WKU, Ohio, and ODU for about half of these kids.  There aren't nearly enough solidly-recruited 3-star types here.  It's either elite-level talent, or it's low-level sleepers.  Not enough in-between, really.
-- We have officially recruited over wide receivers and defensive backs that we brought in less than two years ago, during the Mike London era.  Wasted scholarships on guys who will now never play.
-- Way too much recruiting to fit Jon Tenuta's vision on defense.  This would be fine if the staff were on stable footing.  But with odds better than average that we'll have a whole new coaching staff by this time next year... it's a dangerous fact that could lead to a "bottoming out" on defense, in terms of a functional depth chart.
-- We enter the 2015 class recruiting cycle with absolutely no momentum.  Anti-momentum, really.  We didn't finish the 2014 cycle with a flourish or anything.
-- 17 kids, and I really only see about ten future starters for a winning team.
-- I already know we're going to see some redshirts needlessly burned.

What I fucking hate about this class:
-- Only two offensive linemen, when we really needed triple that amount in this class.

Now, the question of the week, and the one you pretty much have to ask as you review this recruiting class (and grab your ankles and lube up in preparation for the 2015 recruiting class, which is going to be akin to squeezing blood from a stone for the coaching staff):
Will Mike London get to coach any of these kids beyond their first season in the program?

I have to answer this question with a shitload of my own questions...

Will we [ever] develop a competent quarterback?

Will our offensive line block anyone?

Will our wide receivers be able to catch the damn ball?

Will the defense get stops? Will it generate some turnovers and points to help out what is certain to be a popgun offense?

Will the special teams not lose us games?

Will the timeouts be called smartly and appropriately?

Will the team avoid making numerous boneheaded penalties?

Will redshirts be applied intelligently? Will there be a clear and focused plan for the ongoing development of the team, in terms of roster management?

Will the substitution patterns make sense?

Will the position slotting decisions make sense?

Will the players develop their skills? Will the team end up being greater than the sum of its parts?

Will I feel renewed faith in Mike London's coaching ability? In his competence as a BCS conference head football coach? In his ability to ultimately take UVA to a level of sustained success (7+ wins and a bowl game every season)?

I need to see 7+ wins and a bowl game in 2014, along with all of these questions definitively answered "YES" before I jump back aboard the Mike London bandwagon. Until then, I'm spending my time not focusing on the 2014 season or 2015 recruiting, but instead on coaching and AD candidates Virginia may (and should) explore in December 2014.  Time to hit reset on the Playstation and start that Dynasty mode from scratch.

I am assuming 2014 will be a lost year, in terms of both on-field performance and recruiting, until/unless I see something totally compelling to convince me otherwise.  Sorry guys, just where I am right now as a Virginia Football fan.

To me, this 2014 class is only just the raw building blocks the new coaching regime will have to work with as they attempt to get this sinking ship buoyed and floating again.

I traded in my "orange and blue" tinted glasses for "Mike London is about to get shitcanned" tinted glasses.



    This kid is a great athlete but he has played one season of football. He's built like Eli Harold but he NEEDS a season to learn how to play football at this level. Don't make this Trent Corney 2.0.

    1. Well, yeah. He might need FIVE seasons to learn how to play at this level. He might never learn how to play at this level.

  2. Well you've done it again GOD BOY..... Took a big ole dump on CML's best recruiting class yet. No he didn't get a can't miss QB (hint-should've let the kid from Wayne Co. play last year after 5-6 games) but he did get a pretty awesome OL DL tandem that he (or a reasonable coach) can build on.. The invitation is still open...HOW BOUT THEM DAWGS!!!!! Come join the fans of MAJOR college football-Vitale is welcome as well. Vincent can blow me...

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  4. Will the Bayside pipeline continue with London gone?