February 22, 2017

Tests for Tony

Before I get to it, I want to say two very important things:

1) We have an awesome coach in Tony Bennett.  In no way, shape, or form am I suggesting anything otherwise.  I love Tony.  I appreciate Tony.

2) History is littered with teams and programs that bubbled up to challenge Duke and UNC atop the ACC hierarchy, but failed to deliver on long-term promise to become truly elite-level college basketball powerhouses.  Consider:

  • NC State under Jim Valvano in the late '80s
  • Georgia Tech under Bobby Cremins in the late '80s / early '90s
  • Wake Forest under Dave Odom in the early-to-mid '90s
  • Clemson under Rick Barnes in the mid '90s
  • Maryland under Gary Williams in the late '90s/early 2000s
  • Georgia Tech under Paul Hewitt in the early 2000s
  • Wake Forest under Skip Prosser in the early 2000s
  • Florida State, very sporadically, under Leonard Hamilton
  • Miami, very sporadically, under Jim Larrañaga

Is "Virginia under Tony Bennett from 2012 to 2016" the latest to join that list?

Have we plateaued?

Have we seen the last of our specific and profound challenge to the ACC hegemony?

Or have we - under Bennett - and along with conference newcomers Syracuse and Louisville - officially joined that hegemony... always and forever?

It might all hang in the balance, as Tony faces two huge tests here in 2017...

Test #1 -- With three games left in the regular season, plus the ACC Tournament, plus the NCAA Tournament, can Tony coach this flawed, limited team to another winning record in ACC play, to the ACC semis, and to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament?

Test #2 -- With as many as five scholarships to offer in the 2018 recruiting class, can Tony deliver the goods on a top-25 type of haul, including at least one top-50 and two top-100 talents?

Meet Jahvon Quinerly, probably THE single most
important recruit for our 2018 class.

Not saying he can pass these tests, not saying he can't.  Not saying he will or he won't.  The results remain to be seen, which is why I call them "tests."  But make no mistake -- it's all on Tony right now.

He passes both tests, and I'm willing to say that Virginia Basketball is special, and something better than any of those 'almost-were' programs I listed above.

I'm nervous as hell, but I can't wait to see what happens.

February 21, 2017

The Great Lakes Avengers!

[Another] tough loss last night.

I really think what we're seeing right now is a regression to the norm.  Our talent level is not particularly high.  We don't have a Batman, we only have Robins.  Hell, we don't even have Robins, we have something more obscure, an island of misfit toys type of ensemble.  What we have is...

...dramatic pause...

...excuse me for wanting to steer this thing toward a bit of levity...

...with the reminder that if you want doom and gloom, you can get it literally anywhere else...

...sticking with the Batman/Robin/superhero theme, what we have is:

The Great Lakes Avengers!

Never heard of 'em?  You're not alone, I'm sure.  Read up on the Great Lakes Avengers HERE.  Or maybe HERE.  Or HERE, instead.  HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE.

Anyway, maybe a slightly masturbatory exercise right now, but fuck you, I need something that'll cheer me up.

Here is 2016-17 Virginia Basketball, Great Lakes Avengers style!

London Perrantes = Squirrel Girl

Squirrel Girl is the GLA's star in so much as the GLA has a star.  She's not an alpha... or even a beta... but she's a fan favorite and she's kinda crafty, and maybe sorta kinda heroic.  Kinda.  Sometimes.  Not really.  But a fan favorite, for sure.

Devon Hall = Mr. Immortal

No superpowers other than... he... just... won't... die...  So, he's on the team for what feels like forever, but doesn't do a whole lot to help them win any fights.  To his credit, he keeps getting back up to absorb more punishment, and there's something to be said for that, I guess.

Jack Salt = Big Bertha

She's big, strong, and clumsy.  Easy enough.

Isaiah Wilkins = Flatman

Two-dimensional (instead of three-dimensional!), but fantastically stretchy.  He's the quintessential "glue guy."  *Snikt!*

Darius Thompson = Doorman

He teleports things... to the next room.  So, like, OH MY GOD, THAT'S FUCKING AWESOME, HE CAN TELEPORT!!!  But then you discover that it's only from the kitchen to the living room, and you're pretty fucking disappointed.

Mamadi Diakite = Dinah Soar

She flies.  Superhuman strength and toughness, that kind of shit.  By far the most dynamic and impressive member of the GLA.  But, look, she's a weird pink alien dinosaur who is just mostly unconventional and unpredictable.

Kyle Guy = Deadpool

He's technically a member of the team, but only sporadically and mostly in comic misadventures.  If he was a regular, recurring member of the GLA, he'd no doubt be its wisecracking, quick-witted star, but alas...  The GLA insists on trying to build its squad around the clunky talents of misfits like Mr. Immortal and Flatman.  *sigh*

Jarred Reuter = Leather Boy

Leather Boy was a founding member of the team, but got left out of their adventures once they discovered that he did not in fact possess any super powers.  Feeling ostracized, he quit the GLA and joined some other team, and became one of the GLA's primary villains.

Marial Shayok = Grasshopper

He jumps around, is gangly, kinda herky-jerky, and has some amount of compelling unconventional talent, but he can't stop getting his ass kicked and coming out on the losing end.

Ty Jerome = Good Boy

A frail teenage girl who can occasionally - very occasionally - turn into a fucking giant killer werewolf.  Yeah!

2018 Recruiting...

And there you have it.

Sometimes, you just have to laugh, right?

Here's hoping London gets some rest and gets his legs back under him, and the team pulls it together enough to win a couple down the stretch and secure a halfway-favorable NCAA Tournament seed.

February 17, 2017

Hoops Recruiting

So (more for my benefit than any of yours) here's the recruiting under Tony Bennett.

#47 KT Harrell
#71 James Johnson
#132 Joe Harris
#155 Will Regan
#248 Akil Mitchell
#308 Billy Baron

#95 (South Carolina) Anthony Gill
#99 Malcolm Brogdon
#114 Paul Jesperson
NR Darion Atkins

#50 Justin Anderson
#79 Evan Nolte
#81 Mike Tobey
#243 Taylor Barnette
#245 Teven Jones

#22 (Memphis) Austin Nichols
#123 Devon Hall
#124 London Perrantes
#191 (Tennessee) Darius Thompson

#98 B.J. Stith
#145 Isaiah Wilkins
#163 Marial Shayok
#353 Jack Salt

#33 Mamadi Diakite
#158 Jarred Reuter

#38 Kyle Guy
#44 Ty Jerome
#60 Jay Huff
#92 DeAndre Hunter

#345 Marco Anthony

Current Roster:
#33 Mamadi Diakite
#38 Kyle Guy
#44 Ty Jerome
#60 Jay Huff
#92 DeAndre Hunter
#123 Devon Hall
#124 London Perrantes
#145 Isaiah Wilkins
#158 Jarred Reuter
#163 Marial Shayok
#191 (Tennessee) Darius Thompson
#353 Jack Salt

Are we like-minded that 2016 is more the ideal, "best case" sort of scenario, and maybe not the sweet spot?

To me, the sweet spot is #75-100 types with the occasional #35-50 guy and a very occasional top-35 guy. Average recruit: #75.


Recruiting Tier 1: Duke, Kentucky, Carolina, Kansas... they have the fish jumping into the boat. They don't recruit, they shop. We'll never get to that level. At least, I'd never expect to. I'd probably never aspire to (screw AAU, screw cheating). We'll never be an OAD destination.

Recruiting Tier 2: Arizona, Louisville, Ohio State, Florida, UConn, Syracuse, Texas, Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, Indiana, Maryland, maybe a few others are top-15 recruiting fixtures. Maybe we can get to that level, but I wouldn't expect it. Maybe in filling the vacuum left by retirements of K, Roy, Boeheim, Pitino, etc. it becomes possible. (I think 2020-2030 is the new *most important decade ever* when it comes to setting a new, higher-than-ever trajectory for Virginia Basketball.)

Recruiting Tier 3: This is where we probably are now. Maybe, kinda, sorta. Oregon, NC State, Purdue, Georgetown, Villanova, Pitt, Florida State, Xavier, Marquette, Illinois, Notre Dame, Mizzou, West Virginia, Arkansas, Baylor, Cincy, Cal, USC, Miami, Vandy, LSU, Texas A&M... that's our recruiting scrum.

To get to Duke level, we have to unequivocally rise at least to Recruiting Tier 2 while maintaining our culture, system, and pillars. Five fingers have to make a fist.

To rise higher than we are, others have to drop. Who drops? That might be another way to attack this. If Virginia Basketball remains a constant force, who drops down to allow us space to rise up?

February 16, 2017

March Forward

Chin up, Hoofans.  We all said we'd take some lumps this year.  Last night was what taking a lump looks like.

I had an interesting exercise posed to me this morning:

1) What is the difference in level between us and Duke?

2) What do we have to do to reach their level?

3) And what do we mean when we talk about their "level"?

My response:

1) What is the difference in level between us and Duke?

Our level: Great, unique, cohesive (but limited) system fueled by above-average talent.

Their level: Good, quasi-unique, cohesive (unlimited) system fueled by the best talent in the nation.

Our level: Hoping to win.

Their level: Expecting to win. (I'm saying top-to-bottom program confidence is a pretty big differentiation between the two programs.)

Our level: Zero go-to scorers.

Their level: At least three go-to scorers, maybe as many as five depending on where you think their frosh are in terms of development.

2) What do we have to do to reach their level?

Honestly, I just think we need to keep knocking on the door for another 3-5 years and we'll end up getting as close as we ever could. Seasons like this one are the ones that will build up the baseline confidence level within the program and elevate that all-important yet intangible expectation of winning. We're rebuilding but we're still winning. We're rebuilding, but we're still a tournament team. Big picture, that really means something.

I also think Tony is fine-tuning his shopping list for what - exactly - he needs on the roster. Maybe his system is more static than dynamic, but roster construction is dynamic by nature. For example, would 2018 Virginia recruit Devon Hall like 2013 Virginia did? Would 2018 Virginia recruit Jack Salt like 2014 Virginia did? Knockdown shooters, dribble-drive combo guards, wings who can shoot, power guards / point forwards, stretch-4s, and pogo stick bigs... that's the shopping list now, and I don't think that specific recipe was in place four years ago.

Eventually, I think the blocker/mover has to evolve a bit, too. Just a bit. It's an effective offense against 80% of our competition. It just needs some wrinkles that can make it work better against the other 20%.

Lastly, we just need to get lucky on a kid or two. We need to find our Frank Kaminsky, so to speak.

3) And what do we mean when we talk about their "level"?

Short-term: Top of the ACC; Final Four.

Mid-term: National top-8 to 12 fixture, year in and year out. Destination school for top-40 talent who fit the system.

Long-term: True blueblood status, ala UConn's ascension from 1990-2010. (No reason Tony Bennett's 25 years at the helm can't look very similar to Jim Calhoun's... minus the general scumbaggery. This is a parallel I can draw out with a lot more detail, maybe someday.)

The bottom line for right now is that we have a program we can be proud of -- it's an NCAA Tournament fixture (never thought I'd be able to say that after the disastrous end to the Jeff Jones era, then Pete Gillen, then Dave Leitao), we recruit good kids, we play the right way, we run a good system and do unique things, and our guys generally don't do shit to embarrass the school.  We're in a good spot.  Nothing to be ashamed about here, just lots to be proud of now and excited about for the future.


February 7, 2017

The Day After The Day After The Weekend After The Day After The Day After National Signing Day 2017

Our 2017 recruiting class finished ranked #56 nationally, good for 12th in the 14-team ACC.

ACC Rankings (Composite Score):
#6 Florida State (291.60)
#13 Miami (247.52)
#16 Clemson (238.31)
#25 Virginia Tech (217.80)
#27 North Carolina (211.65)
#32 Louisville (203.89)
#35 Pittsburgh (201.91)
#46 Georgia Tech (184.01)
#47 Duke (183.08)
#52 NC State (180.46)
#55 Syracuse (175.34)
#56 Virginia (173.16)
#65 Wake Forest (161.99)
#66 Boston College (161.03)

Bronco Mendenhall described last year's class as "transitional" and this year's class as "foundational," as in, building a foundation, as in, many of the glaring holes on the roster were addressed.  That's fine, but if we want to rebuild this program to the level of annual bowl game appearances, we need to raise this #56 up to inside the top-40.

Consider this fine piece from Streaking the Lawn:

Virginia football recruiting: An orange-and-blueprint for a winning program

I took that and ran with it, yielding THIS VISUAL.

2017 Season5th YearSeniorJuniorSophRS FreshFresh
2013 recruit2014 recruit2015 recruit2016 recruit2017 recruit
QBBenkert (.8364)Zanders (.8169)Abramson (.8493)Stone (.8559)
Cross (.8046)
RBHamm (UR)Ellis (.8442)Atkins (.8493)
Peacock (.8463)
Kier (.8143)
WRLevrone (.8568)Dowling (.8100)Eldridge (.8544)Reed (.8575)Smith (.8616)
Zaccheaus (.8529)Dubois (.8550)Pratt (.7939)
Blackman (.8529)
Cowley (.8320)
Craft (.8313)
TE/FB/H-BackMarshall (.8453)Butts (.8432)Burney (.8169)
OLMontelus (.9330)Pertile (.8275)Moss (.9157)Bischoff (.8215)Knutson (.8400)Nelson (.8668)
McGovern (.9188)Fieler (.8800)Proctor (.8148)Reinkensmeyer (.8194)Glaser (.8433)
McDonald (.8519)Fannin (.8428)
English (.8059)Swoboda (.8365)
Vollmer (.8285)
DLPowers (.8349)Brown (.9941)Trucilla (.8417)Brooks (.8113)Christ (.8463)
Moye (.8391)Baumgardner (.8071)Kirven (.8350)
Wright (.8346)Crutchfield (.7987)Buell (.8219)
Abdullah (.8032)Alonso (.8256)
Hanback (.8023)
LBKiser (.8778)Stalker (.8690)Simmons (.9310)Snyder (.8150)Zandier (.8616)
Cook (.8727)Gallon (.8195)Sheppard (.8575)Gahm (.8328)
Peace (.7000)Mack (.8537)Snowden (.8246)
Word (.8305)Brown (.8153)
Paul (.8120)
Terrell (.8016)
SBlanding (.9966)Thornhill (.8587)Sharp (.8286)Nelson (.8418)Blount (.8100)
Moore (.8043)
CBHarris (.9150)Latimore (.8457)Gibson (.8265)Davis (.8298)Crowell (.8646)
Garner (.8761)Robinson (.8382)Grant (.8199)Jana (.8387)
Hall (.7906)Burton (.8096)
Bratton (.7989)
K/PDelaney (.7877)

This 2017 class produced four guys rated .8600 or above -- OL Ryan Nelson, CB Germane Crowell, WR Shawn Smith, and LB Zane Zandier.  We really needed three or four more high-3☆ guys to hit the talent standard set forth in Paul Wiley's article.

But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, here!  There are many things to like about this recruiting class!  (Cue bulleted list...)

  • OFFENSIVE LINE!  Maybe it's light on sheer quality, but the quantity is exactly where it needed to be: five strong.  High-upside projects in Ryan Swoboda and Gerrik Vollmer capture the imagination while sure-things Ryan Nelson, Tyler Fannin, and Chris Glaser buoy the haul.  Would I have liked to have had Mekhi Becton as part of this class?  Of course I would have.  But I do like this quintet of additions to the OL, they are like manna from heaven.
  • PLAYMAKERS.  Jitterbug Shawn Smith and near-elite tall corner Germane Crowell could provide some real sizzle to this class.  D.J. Pratt has an intoxicating size/speed combo, safety Joey Blount brings bluechip ballhawking to the table, and twin tower OLBs Charles Snowden and Elliott Brown could develop into great edge blitzers.  There's plenty of juice for a winning cocktail here.
  • MISSION ACCOMPLISHED ON THE SECONDARY.  In Crowell, Blount, Riah Burton, Darrius Bratton, and [most likely] Terrell Jana, the reinforcements have arrived.
  • THREE-HEADED MONSTER AT RUNNING BACK.  I love all three of our running back recruits.  P.K. Kier is the burner, Jamari Peacock is the thumper, and Lamont Atkins is the all-around dynamo.  They complement each other very well.
  • #56 is low, but there are some programs below us that I found interesting: #57 West Virginia, #58 Minnesota, #60 Kansas State, #61 Boise State, #63 Indiana, #64 Vanderbilt, #67 BYU, #68 Kansas, #69 Houston, #70 Purdue, #71 Cal, #100 UConn.

And a few things I dislike:
  • Low rankings.  We needed more .8600+ guys in this haul to pull that number up into the top-40.  Recruiting at a #56 level will only serve to sustain a losing program.
  • No true nose tackle.  Mandy Alonso probably fits there, but this class really needed a can't-miss type of nose... and we whiffed on too many of the guys we pursued.
  • Mostly "plan B" guys on the o-line.  The OL quintet could have included Becton (Louisville), Tyran Hunt (Maryland), Bryson Speas (NC State), Mo Unutoa (Utah), Billy Ross (North Carolina), Nick Brahms (Auburn), and/or Harry Crider (Indiana) -- all higher-rated dudes we recruited hard but ultimately missed out on.  And as you can see, it's not like they were ditching us in order to go to Alabama or USC.
  • Not enough wideouts.  If we're eschewing the TE / FB / H-Back position in order to go 3- and 4-wide, then shouldn't we have three or four wide receivers in each class?  This class has 2.5 wideouts (Terrell Jana could end up at either WR or DB).
  • No real headliner.  Nelson/Crowell are great, but this class lacks the real star power at the top.  There's no Brown/Blanding, no Taquan Mizzell, no Eli Harold.
  • Programs who finished ahead of us in the recruiting rankings that specifically hurts my feelings to see: #18 Maryland, #29 Kentucky, #42 Rutgers, #53 Iowa State, #54 UCF.  It's difficult to acknowledge that these guys have passed us by in the pecking order.

Okay, enough intro and overview.  Now I'm just going to give you my thoughts on these dudes...

Mandy Alonso, Nose Tackle, 6-2, 290, Gulliver Prep (Miami, FL)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
He's big and active, with nice potential.  I would say the most fair projection for him is that he focuses on playing the nose, and develops into a strong member of the two-deep with a chance to start as an upperclassman.  The reality is that we potentially need to recruit over him... but for now, in the rebuilding of the our program, we need bodies at certain spots.  I know that's damning Alonso with faint praise, and I don't do that intentionally --- I do think he has some untapped upside that hopefully our coaches can coax out of him.

Face of the franchise?

Lamont Atkins, Running Back, 5'10, 200, Lake Braddock (Burke, VA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star, 2016-17 Virginia Football Player of the Year
A dynamic do-everything speed back who should be able to step right in and challenge for carries as a true freshman.  My guess is that Atkins is the #3 in 2017, Jordan Ellis' primary complement in 2018, and then our bellcow runner in 2019 and 2020.  I consider him one of the steals of this recruiting class, a guy with a Kevin Parks / Cedric Peerman / Wali Lundy type of career arc.

Joey Blount, Safety, 6'2, 180, Landmark Christian (Fairburn, GA)
247Sports 3-star, Rivals 2-star
I think he's a bit underrated because he was an early commit and then didn't get out there on the recruiting circuit much after that.  Good ball skills, good instincts, centerfielder type safety.  Most likely the heir apparent to Juan Thornhill.

Darrius Bratton, Defensive Back, 6'1, 160, Fork Union Military Academy (VA) by way of William Fleming (Roanoke, VA)
247Sports 2-star, Rivals NR
Committed as part of the 2016 class, spent a season at FUMA, and joined our 2017 class.  He's a tall corner (which fits the Broncoball system) with some speed.  Might be a depth chart guy for his career; the expectations aren't particularly high for him.

Elliott Brown, Outside Linebacker, 6'6, 220, Taft School (Watertown, CT)
247Sports 3-star, Rivals 2-star
An under-the-radar type for whom we swooped in at the end of the recruiting cycle.  I like that he's [very] tall and can form sort of a "twin towers" thing with 6-7 Charles Snowden at outside linebacker.  Brown is an athletic guy, but undoubtedly pretty raw.  This will be a good litmus test for the staff's ability to: a) recognize, b) scout, and c) develop talent.  If Brown gets on the field within the next couple of years, then that's a win.  At that point, if he shows that he's capable of rushing the passer, then it's a giant win.  Time will tell...

Isaac Buell, Defensive Lineman, 6'4, 260, Knoxville Central (Knoxville, TN)
247Sports 3-star, Rivals 2-star
THE VIKING.  On our defensive line, things are about to go from bad to norse.  Whenever Buell tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, it is known as a ransack.  So on and so forth, I could go all day.  Val-holla at'cha boy!  Anyhoo... Buell is a big, tough battler.  Not a dynamic pass rusher, but projects as a good 5-technique defensive end with the requisite size / strength / tenacity to control two gaps versus the run.  He's the kind of guy you'd expect to see percolating for a couple of years before he really starts getting on the field.  Once he's up to 280+, he should be ready to pillage and burn.

I think you get the idea.

Riah Burton, Cornerback, 6'1, 180, William Penn (New Castle, DE)
247Sports 3-star, Rivals 2-star
Burton and Bratton are somewhat interchangeable; tall fast guys with low expectations.  Both guys fit the system to a tee, so you have to give them a fair expectation to develop into impact players.

Tommy Christ, Defensive Lineman, 6'5, 270, Dominion (Sterling, VA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
A key recruit along the defensive line.  Not sure he projects to the nose, but as a 5-tech he has awesome upside.  Between Christ and Buell, I think we've got a good future at end.  Conceivably, Christ could bulk up a bit and play the nose, but at 6-5 I just think he's a bit too high-slung.  That said, he is a certified game-wrecker... so... we'll see.  Just know that this is a future starter somewhere on the d-line.


Germane Crowell, Cornerback, 6'3, 185, Carver (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
Crowell is the gem of this recruiting class, as a near-elite, playmaking corner.  He's tall, fast, fluid, and capable of making an instant impact in a secondary that is already stocked with quality young players.  Don't be shocked to see Crowell starting as a true freshman.

Brian Delaney, Kicker/Punter, 5'11, 200, Westfield (Chantilly, VA)
Kohl’s Kicking 5-star as a punter and kicker (No. 1 punter in nation, No. 18 kicker)
He's got a booming leg.  He's a better punter than kicker, but is really good at both.  The expectation is that we'll bring in preferred walk-on kicker(s) and allow Delaney to focus on punting and on kickoffs.  I think we're looking at a four-year starter here.

Tyler Fannin, Offensive Lineman, 6'3, 290, Mill Creek (Hoschton, GA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
He's just a big ol' center, man.  I'd say Tyler already has most of the cerebral parts down.  Tujague will need to brew a toughness and edge to his game, but once that's in place, look out.  Fannin will also need to transform some fat into muscle.  He's listed at 290 now.  That needs to get down to around 275... and then back up to 290.  My guess is a redshirt, then a season to soak, then a three-year starter at center.  We won't know if he's become nasty enough until we know.  Recent Hoo comp: Ian-Yates Cunningham.

Matt Gahm, Linebacker, 6'3, 225, Highland Park (Highland Park, TX)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
He's a Texas linebacker.  'Nuff said.  Tough, instinctive, great in pursuit, strong tackler.  Projects to ILB for the Hoos, and should be able to start seeing the field once the Stalker/Simmons/Sheppard trio graduates.

Chris Glaser, Offensive Lineman, 6'4, 255, Solon (OH)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
The staff loves him because he's a wrecking ball who could play anywhere on the o-line or d-line.  That being said, I think his ceiling is probably the lowest of the five OL recruits.  Not sure he has the frame to get much bigger than around 285 or so, which is perfectly fine for the college level.  The projection I like best for him is pulling guard, because I think he's got the mobility to be a real bulldozer ushering backs out around the tackle.  Get Glaser blocking linebackers or safeties on the move, it's a win.  Ask him to grind for 60 minutes in pass pro against DTs and interior blitzers, and it may be a problem.  Recent Hoo comp: Brian Barthelmes.

Terrell Jana, Wide Receiver / Cornerback / Safety, 6'1, 190 pounds, Woodberry Forest (VA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
I like him best as a defensive back, but he's pretty versatile.  More of a possession receiver on offense and a free safety type of defense, he earlier said that UVA's staff had recruited him to play cornerback... so we'll see where he ends up.  If it is in fact at corner, he's another long, athletic guy to add to the mix.

P.K. Kier, Running Back, 5'11, 200, Millbrook (Winchester, VA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
He's the fastest of our three RB recruits.  He's also the most lightly-regarded.  Not sure if he's destined for a Marquis Weeks type of career at UVA or if he'll be able to push for a more prominent role.  One thing is certain: Kier needs to come ready to play special teams!

John Kirven, Defensive End, 6'5, 260, Woodberry Forest (VA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
Mike London recruited him at tight end, Mendenhall recruited him at defensive end.  I view Kirven as sort of a blank slate --- he'll need to add strength and refine his game before he's ready to play.  This is likely a 2-3 year project, and the best hope is that it yields a pass rushy nickel type who can complement the 5-techs we have in Christ and Buell.

Ryan Nelson, Offensive Lineman, 6'5, 280, Buena Park (CA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
Needs to get bigger/stronger, but possesses literally every trait you want in a left tackle.  Already has a near-complete skillset, and everyone raves about his work ethic.  Once he adds 25 pounds, I think we're looking at a multi-year starter at LT.  My $0.02 is he's the best recruit in UVA's 2017 class.  Recent Hoo comp: Brad Butler.

Jamari Peacock, Running Back, 6'0, 245, Yulee (FL)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
From the same high school that gave us Derrick Henry, the 240-pound bulldozer who won a Heisman Trophy at Alabama.  Now, Peacock isn't on the same level as Henry (who was a 5☆ recruit in 2013), but many parallels can still be drawn.  Peacock is a big human who [obviously] is considered a "big" back in UVA's system.  That's the Albert Reid grinder role from 2016.  Peacock has to survive the offseason conditioning program, but a golden opportunity awaits him as a true freshman in 2017 on a roster that lacks a power back beyond Jordan Ellis.

D.J. Pratt, Wide Receiver, 6'3, 170, Good Counsel (Olney, MD)
Rivals and 247Sports 2-star
Tall.  Fast.  Those two things add up to some nice upside.  Watching his video packages, the thing that pops off the screen to me is Pratt's skill and tenacity as a blocker, which is a pretty unique trait for a wide receiver prospect.

Shawn Smith, Wide Receiver, 5'11, 175, Brunswick (GA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
He's quick, but lacks the size and top-gear speed to be a downfield threat.  With his quickness and wiggle, he can be explosive on the underneath stuff.  Think Olamide Zaccheaus.

Charles Snowden, Outside Linebacker, 6'7, 200, St. Albans (Washington, D.C.)
247Sports 3-star, Rivals 2-star
I'm just going to copy and paste what I said about Elliott Brown, because it's all directly applicable here, too...

An under-the-radar type for whom we swooped in [near] the end of the recruiting cycle.  I like that he's [very] tall and can form sort of a "twin towers" thing with [6-6 Elliott Brown] at outside linebacker.  Brown Snowden is an athletic guy, but undoubtedly pretty raw.  This will be a good litmus test for the staff's ability to: a) recognize, b) scout, and c) develop talent.  If Brown Snowden gets on the field within the next couple of years, then that's a win.  At that point, if he shows that he's capable of rushing the passer, then it's a giant win.  Time will tell...

Lindell Stone, Quarterback, 6'2, 205, Woodberry Forest (VA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
He's not a 'Thor-terback' in that he's not a pulverizing runner nor does he have a rocket arm, but he's a pretty damn good QB.  Quick, compact release, good accuracy, precision passing savant.  You can run an effective spread with him playing cube.  I'm excited about adding his potential to our stable of quarterbacks.

Ryan Swoboda, Offensive Lineman, 6'10, 270, Windermere Prep (Windermere, FL)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
It's all about learning proper bend and balance for him, along with adding enough upper body strength to be able to produce punch.  He does that, and he could be a real force.  But that process won't be quick.  I'd put the odds at 50/50 that he either ends up just being a career backup who enters the two-deep in his third season but never starts OR he develops into a starter/star/future NFL player.  It's all about bend, balance, and developing strength.  With those long arms, he could be the absolute ideal tackle in a modern, pass-heavy offense that utilizes wide line splits.  (X-Factor for Swoboda: We don't recruit many TEs and instead endeavor to spread with four wide... however... A big, tall, long, physical freak like this guy could be an absolute ideal 6th OL for an unbalanced line. Something to look for in the future.)  Recent Hoo comp: ???  We've never had a 6-foot-10 lineman before.  This will be a fun situation to watch develop.

Gerrik Vollmer, Offensive Lineman, 6'5, 280, Taft School (Watertown, CT)
247Sports 3-star and Rivals 2-star
Raw technique, outstanding natural blend of size/strength/athleticism.  Tujague is going to either love this guy or hate him.  He'll love him if he's able to learn fast and make strides, he'll hate him if he's an instructional albatross.  I could envision a Trent Corney type of career arc here (though I hope not, because it never really came together for Corney).  Vollmer is sort of the anti-Nelson.  Ryan needs the size and strength, Gerrik needs the refinement.  If Vollmer is a fast learner with a good level of aptitude, he could be a mult-year starter for UVA.  Recent Hoo comp: Oday Aboushi.

Zane Zandier, Linebacker, 6'3, 205, Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson Hills, PA)
Rivals and 247Sports 3-star
Last but not least, it's Zane Zandier, a guy destined to dent the depth chart at ILB sooner than later.  He needs to add some size, but otherwise he's pretty prototypical to what Bronco is looking for in his inside 'backers.  Sideline-to-sideline range, sure tackling, good in coverage, nasty at the point of attack, plays with an edge.  Plus, Zandier is a smart guy who studies the game in the 'gym rat' sense of the cliché.  A whole lot to like, here.

So there you have it, the 2017 recruiting class in a nutshell.

A quick snapshot of the positional slotting:
Quarterback) Stone
Big Back) Peacock
Speed Back) Atkins, Kier
Wide Receiver) Smith, Pratt, maybe Jana
Offensive Tackle) Nelson, Swoboda, maybe Vollmer
Guard) Glaser, maybe Vollmer
Center) Fannin
Defensive End) Buell, Christ, Kirven
Nose Tackle) Alonso
Outside Linebacker) Snowden, Brown
Inside Linebacker) Zandier, Gahm
Safety) Blount, maybe Jana
Cornerback) Crowell, Burton, Bratton, maybe Jana
Kicker/Punter) Delaney

Go Hoos.

February 2, 2017

The Day After National Signing Day

Of course I'm going to talk about the incoming recruits.  But first, you need to watch Bronco's National Signing Day press conference.