Hoos Have Successful Signing Day

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Coach Mike London had plenty to smile about on National Signing Day.

It was all smiles and congratulations Wednesday as Virginia’s letters of intent rolled in on National Signing Day. Coach Mike London cleaned house during his first full recruiting year, netting 26 signees, 17 of which hail from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“First of all, I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of my staff,” London said. “They did a tremendous job going out into the various areas representing the message of the University of Virginia very well and establishing relationships with players, coaches and communities, and it’s led to, what I think, has been a very successful recruiting class for us.”

It isn’t just London who thinks so, either. Five of Virginia’s new recruits are ranked in the ESPNU Top 150, which helped push the Cavaliers into the No. 19 slot overall in the national recruiting class rankings. Only three ACC programs rank higher; Florida State snagged the top spot overall, while Clemson and North Carolina rank at Nos. 10 and 13, respectively.

One of Coach London’s goals for the program was to recruit the state of Virginia and establish relationships in areas previously under-recruited by the Hoos. With his strong ties to the Hampton Roads area, London was able to deliver on this promise. Out of the 17 recruits from Virginia, nine of them hail from the Tidewater area, including Gatorade State Football Player of the Year Demetrious Nicholson . The defensive back from Virginia Beach was an Under Armour first-team All American, and was rated the No. 4 corner in the nation by ESPN. For those of you keeping score at home, Virginia Tech only signed one recruit from the “757” area.

London not only raided the state of Virginia for talent, but also ventured into border states to score even more high-caliber players. This year, six new Wahoos hail from Maryland, while one from North Carolina decided to take his talents to Charlottesville.

“This year it worked out that a high percentage of the players, not only came from Virginia, but came from states that touch,” London said. “When you talk about driving to a game, whether it’s a home or away game, then there are opportunities for parents to see these young men play.”

One of the most exciting announcements of the day was that Darius Jennings , the Gatorade Player of the Year in Maryland, had decided to don the orange and blue next season. Jennings is excited about the prospect of playing for Coach London next season, but also understands the non-athletic benefits of attending UVa.

“I feel as though I can achieve more [at Virginia]. I can be more than just a football player there. I can achieve all my other goals in order to help carry me through life,” Jennings told The Baltimore Sun. “If I did play 10 years in the NFL, I’d still be 34, 35, so I need something to fall back on. I believe UVa can definitely help me carry on not for the next four or five years, but for the next 40.”

Jennings, another ESPNU Top 150 recruit, is just one member of an academically strong recruiting class. London is looking for well-rounded young men who can contribute on the field, and in the classroom. It’s also a big help to the coaching staff when they only have to worry about getting a player ready physically when the mental side of things is already strong coming in to UVa.

“A lot of these men that decided they wanted to come to Virginia, as you look at the profile of them, not only are they high achievers on the football field, but they have the highest GPA that any recruiting class has had in quite some time also at UVa,” London said. “High achievers on the field, high achievers in the classroom, and that’s one of the things we want to continue to do. We want to bring young men to the University of Virginia, guys that when they get here, are high achievers in the community as well.”

Rounding out Virginia’s Top 150 prospects are Dominique Terrell , a multi-faceted player from Manassas, VA, cornerback Brandon Phelps from Damascus, MD, and Newport News’ Clifton Richardson . These players, along with many of their new classmates, may have the opportunity to contribute on the field early in their careers. Virginia’s 2011 class is one of the most athletic groups the school as recruited in years with many players able to potentially contribute at multiple positions.

“I’ll tell you, I think this class will represent young men that have the ability to play and make some impact for us,” London said. “When you look at these guys from top to bottom, the different positions that they played, quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back, kick returner, then there’s a sense of skills and ability that it’s now our job now to fit it into the process of making us a better football team.”

Worth Noting

  • UVa’s 17 Virginia natives are the most since 1990.
  • Two signees, QB David Watford and LB Daquan Romero , enrolled in January to get a jump on their careers as Wahoos.

Worth Quoting

“It’s interesting that one recruiting site’s star is another recruiting site’s lesser star or more of a star. But I think consistently that what has been recognized is the fact that the types of young men that are here again have those qualities that make you take a double look. If you watched our highlight tape I know they’ve been running maybe during the course of the day – there’s some phenomenal runs, phenomenal plays that make you really excited about it.” – Mike London

“As people have said, these guys have to play. They have to go on the field and they have to play. So all the rankings and everything like that, that’s good. But I think you find out maybe a year or two afterwards if the class was as highly touted as what it may have been or what it was perceived to be because now the guys have to go and play against college guys.” – Mike London

“I appreciated the fact that Curtis likes us, he likes our staff. I know his mother enjoys the Virginia opportunity. And Curtis is a very personable person. He made a decision that he thought was in the best interests for himself. It’s unfortunate that he’s one that got away. But as I said before, the ones that are here – that are staying, that if there’s another Curtis Grant or there’s another five-star or four-star that’s out there, the ones that we have on our team can talk about the experiences that they’re having now with our staff, with the school, with academics, with the community, that they could say, ‘Listen, let’s build it, stay in state and let’s build this thing.'” – Mike London

Coach Bill Lazor will have a whole host of new offensive weapons to work with.

“When I look at Anthony Harris , when I was here before, we like long rangy guys and that’s what a safety looks like but he’s got corner skills. He can run. He was a quarterback. And so the correlation between Anthony is he can play several positions he’s so athletic but I think he has a pretty good chance being a safety, down safety or even middle of the field safety – he will come down and hit you.” – Mike London

“When you look at Darius, it happens really fast. He’s such an electric guy with the ball in his hands. I think he’s a guy that can do a lot of different things and you can only predict what the future will be based on your best guess. I think that throughout his career, Darius will get on the stats page with a pass attempt; hopefully it ends up as a touchdown. Time will tell.” – Bill Lazor on WR signee Darius Jennings

“Since he’s been on campus, every single person that has come in contact with him has come back to us with unbelievable things to say about the personality, the maturity level. The first time I had a chance to meet him, I came away from the meeting and said ‘We want to have that kid on our team, we want to have that person on our team.'” – Bill Lazor on QB David Watford

“When you look at the four guys that we brought in this year as offensive linemen, if you just stood the four of them up next to each other and looked at them, you’d say ‘Wow, that’s what Virginia’s line looks like on their way in here.’ They’re big guys who can bend, move, and be tough.” – Bill Lazor

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