Peter Casey-US PRESSWIRE
The lowly-ranked class is performing much better than experts (and history) projected.
As we endure yet another week wondering what's wrong with the Virginia football team, it's time to note an under-appreciated bright spot in the evolution of the program. A few weeks back we talked about the disastrous recruiting environment Mike London walked into in December 2010. The 2008 class was poorly regarded and suffered massive attrition. The 2009 class was better, but suffered key losses as well. Ironically, the 2010 class, Virginia's worst since Rivals started ranking classes in 2002, has performed darn well on a relative basis. That might not be reason to pop any champagne, but in a season of disappointments it's definitely a pleasant surprise.
As I noted previously, the '10 class was ranked 64th in the country and 11th in the ACC. It only included 17 players, which was a likely product of the coaching change. By the time London got his staff in place, there wasn't much time left to recruit. But even so, the class has already provided five starters - Morgan Moses, Mike Rocco, Zach Swanson,Henry Coley, and Connor Davis. Moses, if he sticks around another year and improves his play, could contend for All-ACC honors. Next year, the class will likely provide three more - Jake "The Kid" McGee, Kevin Parks, and Chris Brathwaite. All eight players could conceivably be multi-year starters by the time their careers are finished. Not too shabby for members of such a lightly-regarded crop.
Part of the trouble with Al Groh's recruiting efforts was that his lowest-ranked recruiting classes also were some of his worst when it came to attrition. London so far seems to be stopping that trend, as the attrition that plagued the '08 class has yet to hit the '10 class. Only two players have left the program - Michael Strauss and Ryan Cobb. Of the remaining non-starters - EJ Scott, Cody Wallace, Rijo Walker, and Khalek "GET OFF THE FIELD" Shepherd - are all contributing this season and should continue to do so in the future. Only Stephen Lawe, Miles Gooch, and Pablo Alvarez have struggled to find the field. Alvarez has been unlucky with injuries in particular. If there's attrition, it wouldn't be surprising if it comes there.
Despite its poor ranking in the recruiting services this class has potential to be quite important to the Virginia program by the time it's all said and done. If the eight players listed above turn out to be multi-year starters, and attrition continues to be low, this class could top 85 production points (for more on my point system, read this post). That would make it the third-most productive class on a per-player basis since '02. Throw in the talent of the '11, '12, and '13 classes behind it, and the '10 group could serve as the cornerstone for a sustained run of success starting next season. By then, many of them will have the experience and seasoning needed to help the program rebound.
So what does this mean for the state of the program? Well, right now it's fair to say that there are questions surrounding the coaching staff's gameday decisions. Some think Lazor has too vanilla of an offense, London doesn't get the X's and O's like he should, and Poindexter needs to be moved off of special teams. If you're a Virginia fan, you're hope (whether you know it or not) is that either the coaching improves or the talent level rises enough to mask the coaching shortfalls. London's ability to get production out of the '10 class could give him the breathing room for that second scenario to take hold as his later classes mature.