FanPost

2013 Recruiting: A Glance at the Depth Chart (Part Two)

After taking a look at the offense in Part One of the Depth Chart breakdown, we look at the defensive side of the ball in Part Two. The defense has a lot more question marks and new faces this year, as well as the biggest recruiting need, Linebacker. Replacing all the departing players with fresh blood is a daunting task, but as Corey Mosley says, "We ain’t scared of nothin’ baby!"So without further adieu, here’s where Virginia’s defense stands now, and the moves they could make on the recruiting trail in 2013 and beyond.

Defensive Tackle

Current Depth Chart:

Both starters from last year, Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins, are gone. Conrath made a major impact on both defense and special teams in 2011, with two forced fumbles and three blocked field goals. He will be tough to replace. As things stand heading into April, Sophomore Chris Braithwaite and Senior Will Hill are penciled in as the starters. Two others who could also see playing time at the position are redshirt Freshman David Dean, and Junior Justin Renfrow. Renfrow, a mountain of a man at 6’6’’ 300, could be effective in eating up blockers in the middle and opening up lanes for pass rushers coming off the edges in Jim Reid’s defense. A couple other redshirt freshmen, Vincent Croce and Marco Jones, basically round out the Depth Chart at the position. The only Defensive Tackle commit in the 2012 class (unless one of the Defensive End commits grows into the position) is Tyrell Chavis, who is expected to prep at Fork Union this fall, and enroll either in January or in the summer of 2013.

Recruiting Outlook:

If you ask a lot of college coaches about the difference between the SEC and the rest of the country is that the SEC schools have speed, strength and athleticism all over their defensive lines. A defensive line with elite speed off the edge, like Eli Harold for example, combined with size and strength clogging the middle, like Terrence Cody, can help a team win a ton of games. So with that in mind, Mike London and his staff have emphasized recruiting D-Linemen in his first few years at the helm. The prize recruit at Defensive Tackle for UVA this cycle is Henry Poggi from Baltimore. Poggi is the son of a coach, has a massive list of scholarship offers, and looks a lot like that kid on Two and a Half Men. He also was a high school teammate of UVA sophomore wideout Darius Jennings, so there is a connection there. Right now, UVA is in the mix, but the competition will be stiff to land Poggi’s services. Other targets at Defensive Tackle include Donta Wilkins from the Woodbridge area, and Demetri McGill from Virginia Beach.

Defensive End:

Current Depth Chart:

The depth chart at Defensive End looks a little more hopeful than the Tackle position right now. The Hoos do lose Cam Johnson, whose play vs. Indiana is one of the wildest I’ve ever seen in a UVA game. Jake Snyder returns for his junior year, and figures to start. Billy Schautz could play a key pass rushing role if he recovers well from his leg surgery, following a season-ending injury in the Florida State game. Ausar Walcott, who has played a number of positions, is slotted at Defensive End for Spring Practice this year. Also on the depth chart are junior Brent Urban, who earned some playing time in 2011; along with redshirt freshmen Diamonte Bailey and Rob Burns. The Defensive End position is also where Coach London and his staff had their greatest windfall during the 2012 recruiting cycle. Landing Eli Harold, the Commonwealth’s top player, was a major coup for The UVA staff. Harold, a US-Army All American, is a fantastic athlete, and figures to receive some playing time immediately. The Hoos also landed a blue chip prospect and UVA legacy in Mike Moore. Both Harold and Moore chose Virginia over Florida and other top programs, which has to be a great sign for Coach London and his staff going forward. UVA also grabbed commitments from two more defensive ends, Norfolk Christian’s Courtnye Wynn, and Max Valles, from New Jersey.

Recruiting Outlook:

Even with UVA’s 2012 Defensive End haul, expect the Coaching Staff to pursue a bunch of recruits at the position in 2013. Virginia is in pursuit of a bunch defensive ends, including several in-state targets. Wyatt Teller and Jonathan Allen, both from northern Virginia, are two of the top Defensive Ends in the nation for the 2013 class. Both have very impressive offer lists, with Allen favoring Alabama and Teller leaning towards staying in-state. Other targets include Dajaun Drennon and Tashawn Bower from New Jersey. At this early stage in the cycle, its pretty likely that new targets will emerge at many positions, this one included. At this point, Wyatt Teller is most likely of the bunch to end up in Charlottesville, and that would be a really solid addition to the 2013 class if it happens.


Outside Linebacker:

Current Depth Chart:

Here’s where things get interesting. Linebacker is a major position of need for the Hoos in future recruiting classes, starting with 2013. As far as the Outside Linebacker is concerned, this is a group without a lot of game experience, outside of starter LaRoy Reynolds. With the departure of graduating senior Aaron Taliaferro, sophomore Daqaun Romero is expected to join Reynolds in the starting lineup. I really like Romero’s upside, but like several other players on the defensive side of the ball this spring, his ability to step in and be an effective starter is less than certain. Looking a little further down the depth chart, we have guys like Tucker Windle and D.J. Hill, who have been mostly contributing on Special Teams. Redshirt freshman Darius Lee is also competing for a backup role, but he is somewhat of a tweener, in between an Outside Linebacker and a Safety. Mark Hall, UVA’s first commitment in the 2012 class, also enters the fray at OLB, and is likely a redshirt candidate. The one major take away from the depth chart at this position is that the health of Reynolds and Romero are going to be vital to the success of this defense in 2012. Any kind of serious injury could throw young, inexperienced players into the starting lineup, and create a lot of work for Jim Reid to get them game ready.

Recruiting Outlook:

Successfully recruiting the Linebacker position is the most important task facing Mike London and his staff for the 2013 recruiting cycle. An infusion of talent at the position over the next few years could give the defense a great boost, whereas failures to lure Linebackers to Charlottesville could create some serious matchup problems for UVA’s defense down the road. One solution to this problem could lie right up the road in Madison County. Although he is committed to Stanford, Woodberry Forest’s Doug Randolph has visited The Grounds several times, and is weighing offers from several schools, including Virginia. It will be interesting to see where Randolph’s recruitment goes from here, but getting his signature in February would be big for UVA. There are a ton of other targets for Virginia at Outside Linebacker in 2013, and because of the Cavaliers’ lack of depth at the position, many of them are high on UVA. Micah Kiser, a teammate of Henry Poggi at Gilman, is very high on Virginia at this point, and I personally would not be very surprised if he jumped on board at some point. Another target is Matt Rolin, whose brother is a walk-on at Virginia Tech, is a blue-chip prospect with an exceptional offer list. With the obvious connection to Virginia Tech, Rolin won’t be an easy pull for London and his staff, but as long as he remains uncommitted, UVA will be in hot pursuit. Buddy Brown from New Jersey is also high on the Cavaliers, but Penn State and Rutgers will be serious challengers as well. A long list of other Outside Linebackers, including Marcus Newby and Dorian O’Daniel from Maryland, have offers from UVA as well. Expect Virginia to take several Outside Linebackers in this recruiting cycle. Honestly, the staff really doesn’t have a choice but to do so. The good news is that there are a bunch of solid prospects at the position in the area, and many of them seem to be buying what Mike London is selling them, at least so far.

Inside Linebacker:

Current Depth Chart:

The Inside Linebacker depth chart is a bit more stable than the OLB spot. Steve Greer, presumably healthy, with return in the fall. Henry Coley, who started the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in his place, also returns. After Eli Harold, the next biggest commit in the 2012 class for UVA was Kwontie Moore, a middle linebacker from Norfolk. There is a good chance that he could come in and play as a true freshman, but that remains to be seen. If Greer and Coley are both healthy and ready to go in August, Moore will have to put forth a great effort in camp to earn playing time in 2012. Whether he plays in 2012 or not, Moore should have a major impact in the years to come. If all goes according to plan, he should anchor Jim Reid’s defense for the next several seasons. Redshirt freshman Caleb Taylor also returns at Inside Linebacker, but I’d expect him to mostly contribute on Special Teams if he plays this season.

Recruiting Outlook:

Whether Kwontie Moore makes an immediate on-field impact this year or not, his commitment to UVA has certainly made an impact on the recruiting trail already. Although Moore is a great get for Virginia, the thought of splitting playing time with him may scare away some 2013 Inside Linebacker prospects that otherwise may have been higher on UVA. And by "some 2013 Inside Linebacker prospects," I mean E.J. Levenberry Jr. Levenberry is the state’s top prospect for 2013, after transferring from Dematha (in Maryland) to C.D. Hylton High in Woodbridge. Although he recently attended Virginia’s spring practice in Fairfax, it’s safe to consider Levenberry a long shot for UVA. The potential five-star prospect seems bound for a football factory school, like Florida or Michigan. If UVA could somehow work their way into the picture and steal him, that would be a massive coup, but if not, Moore is still there. Another Virginia target at the position is North Carolina native Peter Kalambayi, who has visited Virginia in the past, and holds offers from several SEC schools, in addition to Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and others. At this point in the cycle, I wouldn’t bank on UVA landing either of these guys, but new targets always emerge. It is important for Virginia to build depth at the Linebacker positions, but with Coley and Moore on board for the next few years, landing Inside Linebackers won’t be as critical to future depth as signing Outside Linebackers will be.

Cornerback:

Current Depth Chart:

When it came time to analyze the Cornerback depth chart, I seriously considered just writing Demetrious Nicholson’s name here, and moving on. Coach London has said before that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. In one year, Tre Nicholson will have gone from a new player in a secondary filled with years of experience, to being the grizzled vet of the secondary. Nicholson is the only projected starter that played significant minutes in 2011, and his growth as a player will be key to the success of the defense this year. The other starting Cornerback spot will likely be occupied by Drequan Hoskey, who gained some playing time late in the season after Dom Joseph went down with injury in Tallahassee. Brandon Phelps is also a candidate to start, but he barely played on defense in any meaningful situations last year. Brendan Morgan has made the move to Cornerback this spring, but considering he only played in one game last year (William & Mary), don’t expect a major impact from Morgan in 2012. Virginia brings in four 2012 commits at Cornerback, but none of them were highly-rated prospects that project to contribute immediately. Because of depth issues however, one or two of them may need to come in and play when needed.

Recruiting Outlook:

Even with the Hoos bringing in four Cornerbacks in 2012, it would be nice to add a couple more in 2013 as well. Although I like the upside of guys like Maurice Canady and Wil Wahee, they are not quite the sure-thing that Nicholson was when he signed in 2011. Several targets have emerged at the position for Virginia, including Suffolk native Charles Clark. Clark, who holds offers from both in-state programs, figures to be an in-state battle between the Hoos and the Hokies throughout his recruitment. Clark is more of a natural Cornerback than the guys brought in for the 2012 class, who were considered "Athletes" who were slotted at Cornerback by the coaching staff. Priest Willis, a four-star prospect from Arizona could be a great get for the Cavs as well. Willis, whose cousin is 2012 commit Demetrie Brim, is interested in Virginia and plans to visit soon. Willis is the kind of guy who could step right in and play. Coach London and his staff have several other offers out to cornerbacks, including some under the radar guys, like Good Counsel’s Calvin Jones.

Safety:

Current Depth Chart:

If Virginia’s Cornerback experience troubles you, then you might want to avert your eyes from the Safety depth chart. UVA loses both starters to graduation, so that means three quarters of the starting secondary will have to be replaced for 2012. Rijo Walker, who has bounced back and forth between Cornerback and Safety, is penciled in as the starting Free Safety. Sophomores Kameron (Tallest Safety on Earth) Mack and Pablo Alvarez will also compete for the starting job in the spring and fall camps. Anthony Harris is the starter at Strong Safety, and he will be pushed by Kyrrel Latimer, Mason Thomas, and incoming freshman Demetrie Brim. Latimer and Thomas both redshirted in 2011, and Brim will likely redshirt this year, and may end up as a Linebacker depending on his growth. While the Safety spot loses a great deal of experience, the young guys that take their place are probably more talented, and hopefully the experience they gain in the spring and fall practices will pay off when the season starts in September.

Recruiting Outlook:

The Safety position at Virginia is loaded with young, talented players. Like the Cornerback position however, their on-field abilities have yet to be truly tested. If they ball out when the season starts, that’s great and better things are yet to come. If not, well, that’s why you have to keep recruiting. Virginia is the clear leader at this point for one of the nation’s top safeties, Tim Harris. Harris, who has a solid offer list, has visited UVA a bunch of times and many people believe it’s not if but when Harris becomes a Hoo. There are other Safety prospects for the Cavaliers, including Kirk Garner from Maryland, but Harris is the big prize at the position for 2013. There is also the possibility of taking on Mike Tyson, a 2012 prospect who will play this fall at Hargrave Military Academy in an attempt to better his academic standing.

In summary, Virginia’s defense will look radically different in 2012 from how it looked in 2011. A bunch of young, talented guys will get their shot to replace many of the veterans who have finished their careers at Virginia. Although youth is often associated with mental mistakes and struggling on the field, this might not necessarily be the case this season. What the new players lack in experience they make up for with talent and athleticism. In order to strengthen the defense even further down the road, Coach London and his staff must make recruiting Linebackers and Defensive Tackles a priority over the next few recruiting classes. Also, adding top-flight athleticism in the secondary will help Virginia compete for ACC titles in the future.

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