Virginia Football Recruits: How have they stacked up?

Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

A look at the lack of upperclassmen production helps explain Virginia's 2-4 start.

One of the most common explanations concerning Virginia's 2-4 start centers on lack of talent among the upperclassmen. The final recruiting classes of Al Groh's tenure in Charlottesville left a lot to be desired, the theory goes, and that's causing some pain in 2012. Let's dig a little deeper to see how some of Groh's final recruits have panned out. Beware: that digging involves numbers.

Over the years, I've gone back and rated the careers of Virginia's recruits on a scale of 0-10. The ratings are as close as I can get to being objective. My scale is below - I'm happy to get more specific in the comments section if you're interested.

Player Production Ratings System

0

Player never qualified to play

1

Player qualified - but never played

2

Player was a career reserve who left early

3

Player was a career reserve who exhausted eligibility

4

Player made the two-deep but left early

5

Player made the two-deep and exhausted eligibility

6

Player started one year

7

Player started multiple years

8

Player was All-ACC 1st or 2nd Team

9

Player was All-American or had his jersey retired

10

Player was All-American and had his jersey retired

For this week, let's look at Virginia's 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes. The 2007 class finished its eligibility last season and contributed much of Virginia's success. It boasted 24 players total and had a deep group of superb contributors: one All American (Chase Minnifield), two All ACC honorees (Matt Conrath and Ras-I Dowling) and seven other multi-year starters (Danny Aiken, Kris Burd, Landon Bradley, Nick Jenkins, Anthony Mihota, Max Milien and Corey Mosely). Moreover, it only had a handful of flameouts: J'Courtney Williams and Peter Lalich were the most notable.

When I add the player production ratings for members of the 2007 class, I come to a total of 131 production "points" for the class as a whole. Dividing that number by the number of players, I get a 5.46 production per player ratio. To put that into context, of all of Al Groh's recruiting classes, only the 2005 class (Vic Hall, Jameel Sewell, Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, Mikell Simpson, etc.) produced more on the whole (137 production points) or on a per player basis (5.96 production per player ratio). Not surprisingly, both classes made deep runs at the ACC Coastal Division title and went to high-profile bowl games.

The 2008 class will exhasut its eligibility this season, but most of its tale has already been written. The class had 18 players total, including a nice group of significant contributors. Austin Pasztor was an All American, Steve Greer has been All ACC, and Cam Johnson, Jimmy Howell, Rodney McLeod, and Ausar Walcott have been multi-year starters. But 2008 also had a high number of flameouts. Eight players, including 4-star running back Tory Mack, never cracked the two-deep. Ultimately, the class has a total of just 83 production points. Only the 2004 and 2006 classes have performed worse.

We can take this exercise a couple of steps further. For the sake of argument, let's take recruiting ratings and use them as a proxy for talent (imperfect though they may be). Using Rivals data, the 2007 class averaged 3.04 stars per player, one of the best averages of the Groh era. The 2008 class averaged 2.44 stars per player: that's the worst average of the Groh era.

Finally, if we multiply the stars per player number by the production per player, we get what I'll call a "class power" rating. This tells us how powerful a class has been based on talent and results. What we see here is that the 2007 class had a "class power" rating of 16.60, while the 2008 class has a current rating of 11.27. When you take into account preexisting talent, and multiply it by on-field performance, the 2007 class was the second most powerful class of the past decade. The 2008 class has been the second weakest.

The bottom line here is that the 2012 offseason saw the graduation of one of the most productive and talented groups of players Virginia has seen in recent memory. Along with the '07 class, a handful of the most productive '08 players (Pasztor, Johnson, McLeod, Howell) finished their eligibility as well. Those facts can't be undersold, and they definitely help explain why this team isn't yet producing like fans hoped it.

The good news for Virginia fans is that the majority of the talent on the Cavalier roster is still very young. The 2010 class has been surprisingly solid so far. And the 2011 and 2012 classes look like they'll be foundational groups in the rebuilding of Virginia football. The problem is that it will take time for these Wahoos to become seasoned and ready enough to lead.

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