The Week In Review is back for the 2014 season. This feature is a look at how University of Virginia commitments — both class of 2015 and class of 2016 — have performed on the gridiron so far this season. In most weeks we will have a “Player Spotlight”, and this week’s “Spotlight” is on Lakota West (OH) linebacker C.J. Stalker.
Lakota West opened the season with a 49-46 shootout win over Loveland. Stalker had nine total tackles (4 solo), including the game-saving tackle on the game’s final play. The Firebirds have since lost two straight, losing at Elder HS by 30 and to Wayne at home by five. Up next is a trip to Middletown tonight.
Stalker, a 6’3″, 230-pound linebacker, started off his junior season on the outside before moving in to the middle, where he thrived. Lakota West head coach Larry Cox has said before that he feels middle linebacker is CJ’s best and most natural position. Stalker received scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Northwestern and others before committing to the Hoos this summer.
Virginia’s current starting middle linebacker is Henry Coley, who is playing terrific football but runs out of eligibility after this season. There is a clear opportunity for playing time at middle linebacker next season. Projected incoming freshmen linebackers Stalker and Jahvoni Simmons — both 4-star recruits — will certainly get a chance to compete for playing time at the position and possibly earn the starting job. The Ohio native said this week that he will enroll at UVa in January of 2015, and that experience could help him in the competition.
To date, what is your favorite moment in your high school career?
C.J. Stalker: “It came on week one of this year. We played the Division 2 state champs of 2013. We didn’t play as well as we should have at all. It came down to the last play. Eight seconds were left on the clock and they had the ball at the 4-yard line. They were running inside zone all night, so I thought that’s what it would be. I audibled to Mike blitz. I went through the Strong A gap and the quarterback kept the ball. I was able to bring him down short of the goal line. Rolling over, I saw the clock and saw we won.”
What are the main reasons why you picked UVa?
C.J. Stalker: “Honestly, the combination of athletics and academics as far as being in the ACC and being the number one public university in the country was a big factor for me. The coaches as well. Coach Tenuta has been extremely honest with me. Seeing a lot of recruiters and having them tell you what you want to hear, and then Coach Tenuta telling me what the deal was, I appreciated that. Coach London as well. I didn’t meet another coach as personable as he was. We sat in his office and talked about everything. He talked about family.”
Coming off a 2-10 season, what did Coach London tell you about his future and the future of the program?
C.J. Stalker: “He just told me he was going to continue to coach the same way he has always coached. Obviously, getting a win over number 21 Louisville… who thought they would win? Seeing that, watching that, it relayed to me what he told me about the team having faith. Me as well… I have faith in him.”
Is there any one thing that Coach Tenuta has said that resonated with you?
C.J. Stalker: “I wouldn’t say any one thing pops out. He doesn’t sugarcoat stuff, to say the least. That’s one thing I learned I like about him. He told me I was his guy and a linebacker he really wanted.”
What did Coach Tenuta say he likes the most about your game and how it fits with what he wants to do?
C.J. Stalker: “He likes my ability to run and be in on every play. He thinks I am similar to [former Boston College star and current Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke] Kuechly. I’ve been compared to him several times. He is from Cincinnati. He’s another guy I look up to.”
What do you like most about playing linebacker?
C.J. Stalker: “Coming downhill and hitting running backs. Just coming downhill and hitting people.”
Who is your favorite player and why?
C.J. Stalker: “I’ve always been a big fan of Clay Matthews of the Packers. A lot of people don’t know much about him. He walked on at USC before getting a scholarship. Now look at what he has done. It shows what happens with hard work.”
A big Green Bay fan?
C.J. Stalker: “I wouldn’t say I have a particular team. UVa, obviously. I really just like to watch football. We’ll have friends or family over, or I’ll go to a friend’s house. There will be a bunch of food and we’ll watch football.”
What do you see yourself doing after you leave UVa?
C.J. Stalker: “My dream has always been to play in the NFL. My parents told me to dream big. It’s my dream to play in the NFL. If that doesn’t happen, of course I want to come away with a great college experience. I plan to study Kinesiology and Pre-Med. I’d like to be an orthopedic surgeon. Getting my practice going would be obviously something I’d like to do. I’d love to work with a college team or an NFL organization, so I could stay close to the game I love.”
HOW THE REST OF UVA’s CLASS OF 2015 PERFORMED LAST WEEK
Here are how Virginia’s other committed players have performed on the field so far this season…
– Ryan Bischoff, OL, Plymouth Whitemarsh (Plymouth Meeting, PA)
Bischoff and the rest of the offensive line paved the way for 346 rushing in Plymouth Whitemarsh’s 35-6 win over Norristown. The Colonials gained their first win of the season and are now 1-2.
Next: Home versus Upper Merion on Friday, September 19
– Richard Burney Jr., TE, Hickory (Chesapeake, VA)
Hickory fell to Western Branch, 55-14. Burney had a touchdown for the Hawks (0-2), and you can check out his highlight below (Burney’s TD is at the 1:03 mark).
Next: Away versus Deep Creek on Friday, September 19
– Rasool Clemons, DE, South Aiken (Aiken, S.C.)
South Aiken captured its first win of the season, defeating Glenn Hills by 21 (35-14). Clemons and his teammates take on Strom Thurmond tonight. In this preview of tonight’s game, Thurmond head coach Antwuan Hillary calls Clemons “a long, rangy guy who can play multiple positions. We’ve got to know where he is and keep a hat on him.”
Next: Home versus Strom Thurmond on Friday, September 19
– Tanner Cowley, TE, Manasquan (N.J.)
Manasquan dropped its season opener to Raritan, 41-27. Cowley, who plays linebacker and tight end, and his teammates fought back from down 20 to tie the game at 27, but Raritan scored the final two touchdowns of the game to get the win.
Next: Home versus Monmouth Regional on Saturday, September 20
– David Curry, S, Buford (GA)
The Wolves (3-0) had a bye last week. Curry traveled to UVa and saw his future team defeat Louisville, 23-21.
Next: Home versus White County on Friday, September 19
– David Eldridge III, WR, Kettle Run (Nokesville, VA)
Eldridge returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown for the game’s first score, sparking Kettle Run on to a 42-10 halftime lead and ultimately a 55-21 victory. Eldridge had three catches for 105 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter to give the Cougars a 20-0 lead.
The win is Kettle Run’s first of the season. The Cougars lost the season opener to Tuscarora.
In total this season, Eldridge has eight catches for 146 yards and one touchdown.
Next: Home versus Sherando on Friday, September 19
– Kareem Gibson, CB, Greater Johnstown (Johnstown, PA)
Greater Johnstown handled Bishop McCort, 36-7, for its third straight win to start the 2014 season.
Next: Home versus Bedford on Friday, September 19
– Eli Hanback, DT/OL, Patrick Henry (Ashland, VA)
Patrick Henry’s first two games came against two very tough foes in Hanover and Atlee. The Patriots lost to Hanover in week one before losing to Ricky DeBerry Jr. and Atlee last week, 56-0. Two-way lineman Hanback and company look to rebound tonight.
Next: Away versus Lee-Davis on Friday, September 19
– Nick Johns, QB, Gonzaga College (Washington, D.C.)
Gonzaga (3-0) continues to roll in 2014. Last week, Johns completed 10 of 14 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 38-3 victory over Georgetown Prep. Johns has five touchdown passes and three rushing touchdowns on the season.
Next: Away versus McKinley Tech on Friday, September 19.
– Kareem McDonald, LB, Woodrow Wilson (Washington, D.C.)
Wilson rallied from a 32-7 halftime deficit but ultimately fell to Friendship Collegiate last Friday, 52-44. The Tigers are now 1-2.
Next: Away versus Surrattsville (Clinton, MD) on Saturday, September 20
– Gladimir Paul, DE, Northeast (Philadelphia, PA)
Northeast has dropped three straight to start the season. Last week, the Vikings lost to Benjamin Franklin by a score of 39-20.
Paul has at least two sacks on the year.
Next: Home versus George Washington on Friday, September 19
– Grant Polk, OL, Charlotte (Punta Gorda, FL)
The Fightin’ Tarpons (2-0) had a bye last week. Polk used the free weekend to travel to Charlottesville for an official visit to UVa. He left having signed financial aid papers, another step towards him enrolling at UVa in January of 2015.
Next: Home versus Venice on Friday, September 19
– RJ Proctor, OL, Liberty (Bealeton, VA)
Liberty (2-0) had a bye last week.
Next: Away versus Mountain View on Friday, September 19
– Myles Robinson, ATH, Good Counsel (Olney, MD)
Good Counsel blanked Calvert Hall, 23-0, to improve to 3-0.
Next: Away versus Gilman on Friday, September 19
– Christopher Sharp, RB, The Hun School (Princeton, N.J.)
Next: Away versus Wyoming Seminary College Prep in its season opener on Saturday, September 20
– Jahvoni Simmons, LB, Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, VA)
The Dolphins (2-0) cruised to a 42-3 win over Green Run.
Next: Away versus Green Run on Friday, September 19
– Juan Thornhill, DB, Altavista (VA)
Thornhill, AltaVista’s starting signal caller as well as free safety, has five touchdowns in two games this season. AltaVista (2-0) had a bye last week.
Next: Home versus Galax on Friday, September 19
– James Trucilla, DT, Cathedral Prep (Erie, PA)
Cathedral defeated McDowell, 24-10, to improve to 3-0. The Ramblers defense has allowed only 22 points in three games.
Next: Home versus DuBois on Friday, September 19
– Olamide Zaccheaus, RB, St. Joseph’s (Philadelphia, PA)
St. Joseph’s Prep fell to St. Ignatius of Cleveland (OH), 42-34. Zaccheaus had two touchdown runs in a losing effort, giving him at least four touchdowns through the first three games. The Hawks (1-2) have a bye this week.
Next: Away versus St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.) on Saturday, September 27
CLASS OF 2016
– Cole Blackman, WR, Glen Allen (VA)
Glen Allen (1-1) had a bye this past week.
Next: Away versus Mills Godwin on Friday, September 19
– Joseph Reed, WR, Randolph-Henry (Charlotte Courthouse, VA)
Randolph-Henry lost to Nottoway, 54-13, to fall to 0-3 on the season. It doesn’t get any easier this week as the Statesmen host always tough Goochland.
Next: Home versus Goochland on Friday, September 19