Countdown To National Signing Day 2017: Hoos Look To Close Strong In The Trenches

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The Countdown To National Signing Day 2017 provides you with the latest UVA class of 2017 football recruiting information as National Signing Day approaches. This will become a weekly feature in January.

What You Need To Know

National Signing Day for the 2017 Class: Wednesday, February 1

Football Bowl Subdivision Recruiting Calendar Update: Currently in a Dead Period that runs through January 11. During this time, there are no official visits. Also, no in-person contact between coaches and recruits is allowed. Phone calls to high school senior prospects are allowed during this time, though.

UVA Class of 2017 Commitments: Virginia has 22 verbal commitments in the class. Four of those prospects plan to enroll next month. The position breakdown is as follows …

QB – 1
RB – 3 (*Speed back Lamont Atkins and Big back Jamari Peacock plan to enroll next month)
WR – 1
OL – 4
NT – 1
DE – 2
OLB/DE – 1
LB – 3
DB – 5 (*Cornerback Zachariah Burton and defensive back Germane Crowell Jr. plan to enroll next month)
PK/P – 1

UVA’ class is currently ranked no. 44 overall in the nation by Rivals.com and no. 47 overall in the nation by 247Sports. Note that Rivals does not include Fork Union postgraduate prospect Darrius Bratton on its list.

Scholarship Situation: Including Notre Dame graduate transfer John Montelus, who has announced his intentions to play for UVA next season, as well as the 22 commitments, the projected scholarship total for the 2017 season is 82. The positional breakdown here is as follows …

QB – 4
RB – 5
WR – 10
TE – 3
OL – 13
DL – 13
LB – 17
CB – 11
S – 5
Special Teams – 1 (P/PK)

Note that while 82 is the current projected scholarship number, there always is attrition and Virginia should have some more room to work with. An FBS program is allowed 85 scholarship players in a given season. If the current projection of 82 stayed the same, the Cavaliers would have only three scholarships left to use in 2017 recruiting and on the transfer market.

Recent Developments

– Montelus, an offensive guard, announced he was transferring to UVA. The grad transfer will have one season of eligibility remaining. A career reserve, Montelus played in only six games for the Irish. A U.S. Army All-American in high school, he’ll have a chance to earn a starting role on a razor thin UVA offensive line.

Darrius Bratton, who verbally committed to UVA as a senior at William Fleming (Roanoke, VA) but did not sign a letter of intent last February, just finished a postgraduate semester at Fork Union Military Academy. The defensive back prospect will not return to FUMA for the spring semester but says he has gained admission to UVA and plans to enroll in July of 2017. Bratton expects to start his Cavalier career at cornerback.

– A pair of 2017 offensive line targets — Aaron Banks (Notre Dame) and Tyran Hunt (Maryland) — are off the board. UVA never really had a chance with Banks but was one of three finalists for the in-state prospect Hunt.

– Fresh off of landing a commitment from 6’10” offensive tackle Ryan Swoboda, UVA has offered another massive offensive tackle recruit in the class of 2017. Jonathan Stewart, a 6’8″, 300-pound senior out of Mountain View (Lawrenceville, GA), revealed this past Sunday that he has now been offered by the Cavaliers.

Central Florida, East Carolina, Iowa State, Southern Miss, and Vanderbilt are among the other scholarship offers he is considering.

– Virginia extended two more class of 2017 offers to wide receiver prospects (Shawn Smith and Tulane commit Davontavean Martin) last week, in addition to a handful of class of 2018 offers. UVA has now offered three high school wideouts within the past two months. Two of the three — Martin and Josh Johnson (Louisville) — are committed to other schools.

– UVA commit Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah received an offer from Michigan State this past week. Owusu-Koramoah is an outside linebacker prospect out of Bethel High School in Hampton (VA).

What to Watch

With the four commitments enrolling early, Virginia has some added flexibility in terms of scholarships in the class of 2017. An FBS program may enroll 25 players in a given class, so if you take away the four who are enrolling midyear that leaves the Cavaliers with seven spots to fill, assuming of course there is still room with the overall scholarship number.

The offensive line, the defensive line (both defensive end and nose tackle), and wide receiver are the top targeted areas as National Signing Day approaches. Two or three offensive linemen, two or three defensive linemen (one or two defensive ends, one nose tackle), and perhaps a wide receiver is how I think the staff rounds out the remainder of this class.

Expect Virginia to remain active in the transfer market as well, especially on the offensive line, at quarterback, and potentially on the defensive line.

With only 13 scholarship players projected on the roster next season, further addressing the offensive line through the transfer market is a no-brainer. At quarterback, I think the staff would like to bring in someone who would have multiple years of eligibility remaining and could bridge the experience gap between rising senior Kurt Benkert and rising redshirt freshmen Sonny Abramson and De’Vante Cross as well as incoming true freshman Lindell Stone.

On The Road

Coach Mendenhall and company took to the road as in-home visits began in late November. Here are some photos of the Virginia staff making the rounds, beginning with top offensive tackle target Mekhi Becton. Becton, a senior out of Highland Springs (VA), revealed that he will announce a top five soon. The rest of the tweets are from current Cavalier commits …

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