Mark D’Onofrio: Getting Gems in the Garden State

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Mark D’Onofrio has helped UVa regain a recruiting stronghold in New Jersey.

The state of New Jersey is unquestionably one of the most important football recruiting states in the East. The Garden state has a history of producing some of the best high school football talent in the country. Recent years suggest that the talent level continues to be high with many prospects earning Division I-A scholarships.

In 2004, had 28 players from New Jersey ranked at three stars or more. In 2003 the number was 25, and in 2002 the number was 17. This year, has 18 players currently ranked at three stars or more and five players ranked in its national top 100. had 26 Jersey players ranked at three stars or more in 2004, 41 players in 2003 and 21 players in 2002. They also have five players ranked in their current 2005 national top 100 list and have seven players listed at four stars or higher.

Given its proximity to Virginia, the state of New Jersey has always had some measure of importance to UVa football recruiting. When Al Groh took over in December of 2000, he brought with him a wealth of experience and connections in New Jersey high school football. His experience naturally boosted the importance of New Jersey as a state UVa could successfully recruit.

The impact was immediate. UVa signed three Jersey standouts in 2002, which was Groh’s first complete recruiting class. Three more signed in 2003. But in 2004, despite being involved with many highly-rated targets, UVa failed to land one player out of New Jersey. The Cavaliers fell short on top targets such as Dwayne Hendricks , Dwayne Jarrett , Marquise Liverpool and Phil Trautwein .

Soon after Signing Day 2004, Virginia filled one of its coaching vacancies with Mark D’Onofrio. D’Onofrio, who spent