Strategy Session: Virginia Football Enters The Final Stretch In Class Of 2020 Recruiting

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Four-star senior outside linebacker Brandon Williams pledged to Virginia football last month. He is one of three Louisiana natives who have committed to the Hoos in the class of 2020. ~ Photo/picture courtesy of Williams

The University of Virginia football program is up to 12 verbal commitments in the class of 2020 after recent pledges from 4-star outside linebacker Brandon Williams and in-state defensive end Lorenz Terry. Position-wise, the breakdown of the class right now is almost even between offensive and defensive recruits.

Offensive commits (5) – Ira Armstead (dual-threat quarterback), Lavel Davis Jr. (wide receiver), Josh Rawlings (tight end), Jimmy Christ (offensive lineman) and Jestus Johnson (interior offensive lineman)

Defensive commits (7) – Sam Brady (outside linebacker), Jahmeer Carter (defensive lineman), Ja’Darius “Bud” Clark (defensive back), Dave Herard (cornerback), Donovan Johnson (safety), Lorenz Terry (defensive lineman) and Brandon Williams (outside linebacker)

(Note: Herard is a true “athlete” with potential on both sides of the ball; however, for now I have him projected to play defense.)

Bronco Mendenhall, who is working on completely his fourth full recruiting class as Cavalier head coach, predicted that UVA’s class of 2020 would be small in terms of overall numbers. With the Early Signing Period (December 18-20) getting closer and closer, it appears his prediction is right on point.

“Our next class we don’t have the same numbers, so the numbers will be fewer, anywhere between 12 and 15,” Mendenhall said on February 6. “This will be our fourth class basically that we’ve chosen, and so that’s about right. By the time you hit class four, the numbers should have come down and the emphasis on quality and specificity has a chance to go up, and that will really determine the outcome for this class.”

The projected scholarship count for Virginia in the 2020 season is currently 89, including 43 offensive players, 43 defensive players, and three special teams players. Football Bowl Subdivision programs can have 85 scholarship players, so obviously there will be attrition – 5th-year eligible players not invited back, players who give up football, etc. I don’t foresee enough attrition for Virginia to go much above (if at all) the 15-recruit range Mendenhall mentioned, especially if coach is trying to keep a spot or two open for the graduate transfer market.

Position Breakdown

Below is a look at the projected scholarship breakdown (by position) and recruiting outlook for the 2020 season. With the remaining scholarship spots left in 2020 (estimating about 3-5 right now), the likeliest positions I see the staff addressing are offensive line, defensive line, inside linebacker, wide receiver and defensive back.

South Bend (IN) Adams star Ira Armstead is Virginia football’s lone quarterback commit in the class of 2020. ~ Photo credit: Tom Noie South Bend Tribune

Quarterback – 5 projected scholarship players in 2020 season

Lindell Stone (R-Jr), Brennan Armstrong (R-Soph), RJ Harvey (R-Fr), Luke Wentz (R-Fr), Ira Armstead (Fr – 2020 commit)

Summary: Armstrong is the heir apparent to Bryce Perkins as Virginia’s starting quarterback and Stone returning would give the Hoos an upperclassman with strong knowledge of the offense despite the lack of live-game experience on the college level. I have some questions behind Armstrong and Stone. Mendenhall and Kelly Poppinga have publicly praised Harvey as a dynamic performer as a runner. He certainly has a strong arm as well. However, how the 5’8” freshman translates to playing quarterback on the major college football level remains to be seen. Luke Wentz, who is redshirting, faces similar questions. I still feel at least one of those players likely will switch positions. Dual-threat Ira Armstead is UVA’s lone quarterback commitment in the class of 2020.

The coaches seem content with the quarterback situation next season, so at this point I don’t expect another quarterback to be added in 2020.

Running Back – 6

Lamont Atkins (Sr), PK Kier (Sr), Jamari Peacock (Sr), Wayne Taulapapa (Jr), Mike Hollins (Soph), Seneca Milledge (R-Fr)

Summary: Virginia will field an experienced group of running backs in the 2020 season. Note that I have Seneca Milledge listed here, but I acknowledge he could wind up playing more of an H-back role as a receiver. With three seniors on the roster next year, landing at least one running back is absolutely a need in 2021. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the staff take one in 2020, but UVA has the luxury of being very selective considering the current group in place.

Wide Receiver – 10

Chuck Davis (R-Sr), Terrell Jana (Sr), Tavares Kelly Jr. (Jr), Billy Kemp IV (Jr), Darnell Pratt (R-Jr), Ugo Obasi (R-Soph), Dorien Goddard (R-Fr), Dontayvion Wicks (R-Fr), Nathaniel Beal III (R-Fr), Lavel Davis Jr. (Fr – 2020 commit)

Summary: Former walk-on Chuck Davis was awarded a scholarship for at least one season. If he returns as a fifth-year senior next season, I have to think he’d be on scholarship. Terrell Jana, who is emerging as a consistent threat this season, headlines the 2020 scholarship group of receivers. There are some talented players for sure and a good mix of size and speed, though not much in the way of proven, consistent playmakers at this point. I could see Virginia adding another high school recruit to the class. I could also see Mendenhall scouring the graduate transfer market once again at this position.

Tight End – 3

Christian Baumgardner (R-Sr), Grant Misch (R-Soph), Josh Rawlings (2020 commit)

Summary: Rawlings is an outstanding prospect to put in the pipeline behind Misch, who is the likely projected starter, and Baumgardner. The Cavaliers also have some intriguing walk-on tight ends already on the roster. UVA appears to be finished recruiting this position in 2020.

Offensive Line – 19

Interior (11)
Chris Glaser (Sr), Tyler Fannin (R-Jr), Olusegun Oluwatimi (R-Jr), Gerrik Vollmer (R-Jr), Joe Bissinger (R-Soph), Micah Mariteragi (R-Soph?), Martin Weisz (R-Soph), Kariem Al Soufi (R-Fr), JaQuay Hubbard (R-Fr), Zachary Teter (R-Fr), Jestus Johnson (Fr – 2020 commit)

Tackles (6)
Alex Gellerstedt (R-Sr – Med. Redshirt possible?), Ryan Swoboda (R-Jr), Bobby Haskins (Jr), Derek Devine (R-Soph), Jonathan Leech (R-Fr), Jimmy Christ (Fr – 2020 commit)

Both (2)
Dillon Reinkensmeyer (R-Sr), Ryan Nelson (R-Jr)

Summary: A numbers note first. Micah Mariteragi remains listed on the roster as a redshirt freshman, but I am not sure of his status on the team at this point.

UVA has landed two quality 2020 commits on the offensive line in 4-star Jimmy Christ and center/guard Jestus Johnson, who plays for Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) in the talent-rich WCAC. The scholarship numbers are good, but Virginia does appear to be in the market for at least one more offensive lineman in this class. In fact, the Hoos extended at least one new offensive line offer recently in in-state prospect James Pogorelc.

Defensive Line – 10

Mandy Alonso (Sr), Isaac Buell (R-Jr), Aaron Faumui (Jr), Tommy Christ (R-Jr), Jordan Redmond (Jr), Samson Reed (R-Soph), Jowon Briggs (Soph), Ben Smiley III (R-Fr), Jahmeer Carter (Fr – 2020 commit), Lorenz Terry (Fr- 2020 commit)

Summary: Virginia has two defensive line commits in this class in Carter, who could play nose, and Terry, who seems likely to be an end. UVA loses some important players such as Eli Hanback and Richard Burney after 2019. The returning group looks promising, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hoos added another prospect to the fold in 2020.

Linebacker – 14

Inside (5)
Rob Snyder (R-Sr), Zane Zandier (Sr), T.C. Harrison (R-Soph), Nick Jackson (Soph), Josh Ahern (R-Fr)

Outside (9)
Elliott Brown (Sr), Matt Gahm (Sr), Charles Snowden (Sr), Noah Taylor (Jr), Jairus Satiu (R-Fr), Hunter Stewart (R-Fr), D’Sean Perry (R-Fr), Sam Brady (Fr – 2020 commit), Brandon Williams (Fr – 2020 commit)

Summary: Virginia has recruited very well at linebacker, especially on the outside in the 2019 and 2020 classes. The Hoos could use another player on the inside in my opinion – there is good talent in place, but Snyder and Zandier will be seniors in 2020.

Cornerback – 11

Nick Grant (R-Sr), Myles Robinson (R-Sr), Darrius Bratton (R-Jr), Germane Crowell (R-Jr), Heskin Smith (R-Jr), Jaylon Baker (R-Soph), Tenyeh Dixon (R-Fr), Fentrell Cypress II (R-Fr), Major Williams (R-Fr), Ja’Darius Clark (Fr – 2020 commit), Dave Herard (Fr – 2020 commit)

Summary: UVA landed some promising young talent in 2018 and 2019 and has commitments from highly regarded prospect Ja’Darius “Bud” Clark and the athletic Dave Herard in 2020. Clark’s recruitment, though, will be one to watch until he signs on the dotted line. If he were to de-commit I would see Virginia trying to add another corner in this class.

Safety – 8

De’Vante Cross (R-Sr), Chris Moore (R-Sr), Brenton Nelson (R-Sr), Joey Blount (Sr), Joseph White (R-Soph), Antonio Clary (R-Fr), Chayce Chalmers (R-Fr), Donovan Johnson (Fr – 2020 commit)

Summary: Safety should be one of the strongest units on the team next season. Not only will the Hoos boast four senior standouts, but Antonio Clary has shown promise and Donovan Johnson is a good-looking prospect. Adding another safety isn’t out of the question with four seniors being on the roster next season.

Special Teams – 3

Brian Delaney (Sr – PK), Nash Griffin (R-Sr – P), Hunter Pearson (R-Soph – PK)

Summary: Don’t look for the staff to add another scholarship player on special teams next season.

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