Mike London and the Virginia Cavaliers have another solid recruiting class on the way (Credit: Jason O. Watson)
Signing Day is still really, really far away. But so far, Virginia's 2013 class looks really solid. 11 prospects have given their pledge to the coaching staff, and there will be more in the coming weeks for sure. So, how is the whole thing looking? Take a look for yourself, in our June progress report.
11 Commits so far
Virginia has already taken 11 commitments for the 2013 recruiting cycle. The class is expected to come in at around 20 total signees on Signing Day, so the boat is about half full at this point. Let's take a look at those who have already given their pledge to Mike London and the Cavaliers in this cycle. (Listed in the order they committed)
Brendan Marshall (Quarterback, Good Counsel): The Good Counsel (MD) signal caller was the first to jump onboard for the 2013 class. Marshall made the call on while on a visit to Charlottesville back in March, and got the ball rolling. Marshall chose UVA over an offer from California. The 3-star Quarterback has solid potential, and will get plenty of time to learn from the veteran QB's ahead of him, until it's his time to take the field in Charlottesville.
Sadiq Olanrewaju (Offensive Tackle, Salisbury): One of the best recruit names I've seen in a while. I've finally figured out how it pronounced, I think (Ohh-Lan-Reh-Wah-Jew). The talented Tackle joined the 2013 class early, and has sort of been forgotten about since. Sadiq has a ton of potential, with a lot of height and a big-time wingspan. If Virginia hadn't snagged Olanrewaju so early, his offer list would probably be a lot longer, and he might even be rated a little higher because of it. Sadiq is a nice get for Virginia, and I think the most underrated of the bunch thus far.
Andre Levrone (Wide Receiver, Good Counsel): Levrone joined his teammate Brendan Marshall in the 2013 class, and made it two Good Counsel players (so far) for Virginia in 2013. Levrone also holds offers from Auburn, Mississippi State and Southern California, not a bad list at all. The 3-star wideout is considered undervalued by many, because he doesn't have a lot of film yet. At Good Counsel, Levrone had to share playing time with the likes of former 5-star Stefon Diggs, so when he is more a focal point of his offense this year, Levrone's stock could continue to rise. A really nice get for Virginia I'd say.
Tim Harris (Cornerback/Safety, Varina): The Richmond Defensive Back committed to the Cavaliers at their Spring Game in April, and is Virginia's most highly-regarded commitment to date. Harris had a ton of solid offers, but chose the school he said "feels like home" in the end. Virginia was widely considered the team to beat early on, but after Harris committed there were some rumors that he might not be totally solid in his commitment. I wouldn't read too much into that. Harris is a really nice piece for Virginia's defense going forward.
Zack Jones (Wide Receiver, Oscar Smith): Perry Jones' younger brother committed to the Cavaliers to the surprise of no one. After a monster performance in Oscar Smith's state title run last winter, Jones earned the offer that he wanted. The only other school to offer was Illinois, but that is in large part because everybody that knew Jones' situation knew that there was a great chance he'd end up at UVA. Jones, a smaller quicker Wide Receiver, will be a great fit in the slot in Bill Lazor's Pro-Style offense.
Micah Kiser (Linebacker, Gilman): Linebacker was Virginia's biggest need in the 2013 cycle, and Kiser is a really nice get for UVA at that position. Kiser held offers from Oklahoma, Florida, Stanford, and many others, before choosing Virginia. Kiser will join his former Gilman teammate, Wide Receiver Darius Jennings, in Charlottesville next fall. Kiser, who is rated a 4-star by 247sports, could end up a 4-star on all the recruiting services by the time his senior year is over. Unfortunately Kiser's commitment didn't help Virginia land his teammate, 4-star stud D-Tackle Henry Poggi, who recently chose Michigan.
Corwin Cutler (Quarterback, Ocean Lakes): Cutler became the 2nd QB in Virginia's 2013 class, and the most controversial commitment by far. Many fans were confused or upset that the Cavaliers were taking multiple QB's for the 2nd year in a row, in addition to landing Alabama transfer Quarterback Phillip Sims in April. I personally came out in favor of pursuing Cutler, mostly because I think he's a really solid player. His film is pretty impressive, and he has performed really nicely at all the camps he's attended thus far, according to everyone who has attended them. Plus, Cutler further extends Virginia's foothold in the "757" as the Ocean Lakes stand out is close with many other prospects from the area. Cutler is the cousin of 2014 5-star Andrew Brown, so having him in Charlottesville when Brown is looking around certainly can't be bad for business. I think Cutler is the better of the two committed QB's (I like Marshall too, just like Cutler a little more), and I wouldn't be surprised to see him have a nice career in Charlottesville.
Hipolito Corporan (Cornerback, Westside): This commitment came out of left field on Memorial Day Weekend. The Houston product was a virtual unknown in UVA recruiting circles, and left many (including myself) scratching my head a bit. After I went back and reviewed his film though, I was pretty impressed with what I saw. Corporan has good size and speed for Defensive Back, and can deliver some punishing blows as well. We'll see how solid Corporan is with UVA if his offer list grows over the next few months.
LaChaston Smith (Linebacker, South Iredell): LaChaston Smith, like Micah Kiser, was another really nice get for UVA at their greatest position of need. Smith had offers from several SEC schools, but Virginia's overall package won out in the end. Smith is a little undersized at 5'11'', but his film is really impressive. The term "heat seeking missile" has been thrown around regarding Smith. I'd agree with that assessment, and really like this commitment for UVA.
Jack English (Defensive End, St. Christopher's): English earned offers at Virginia Tech and UVA camps on back to back weekends, and chose the Cavaliers as soon as he got that offer. English is slated to play Defensive End, but could also be moved to Tight End if the staff wants him there. The in-state programs are the only two who have offered the under-the-radar English, and I'd have to see more of him to make an accurate assessment of his talents.
Keeon Johnson (Wide Receiver, A.L. Brown): The Kannapolis, NC product chose Virginia last Friday over his other two finalists, Notre Dame and North Carolina. Throughout the cycle many thought that Johnson would be bound for the in-state Tar Heels, but Virginia won the battle in the end. Johnson has great physical tools, at 6'3'' and being timed in the 4.4 range in the 40 yard dash. Our own Tiki compared him to former UVA wide receiver Deyon Williams and I think that's a pretty good comparison for Johnson. Keeon also represents Virginia's recent run of success in North Carolina, pulling two commits from the state thus far in the 2013 class.
Who could be next?
With Virginia's 2013 class sitting at 11 commitments, and the class size projected at around 20, there aren't a ton of spots remaining for those prospects that are still on the board. This could create some jockeying for spots, and we may see a run of commitments soon. This type of thing happens every year, not just at Virginia. There are a few elite prospects that Virginia would take at any time, regardless, but there is a much larger group of uncommitted players who UVA would push to commit sooner rather than later, if for no other reason than to claim their spot in a quickly filling class. These prospects are usually very much aware of the situation, and it explains why players like Keeon Johnson totally change their timetable from a fall or winter decision up to the present, like he did last week.
So with that said, who could be the next to pop? The first name that comes to mind is Donta Wilkins, a Defensive Tackle from the Woodbridge area. Wilkins was a no-show at last weekends' Big Man Camp on Grounds, but he is expected to visit sometime soon. Wilkins has been seen as a Virginia lean for a really long time, but he is also being pursued by Miami, Penn State and UNC. The UVA coaching staff will probably let Wilkins know that time is of the essence if he wants to join their 2013 class, and he could react by becoming a Cavalier soon.
Another name to remember in the near future is Kirk Garner. Garner is a talented Defensive Back, and teammate of Virginia commits Brendan Marshall and Andre Levrone at Good Counsel in Maryland. Garner has a really impressive offer sheet, and is rated 4-stars by Rivals, appropriately I might add. Garner is another player that has UVA really high on his list, and is expected to make a summer decision. Some other schools to watch for Garner are Tennessee, Michigan, and Penn State. Garner would be a really nice addition to the Cavaliers' secondary; joining Army-All American commit Tim Harris.
Elite Targets Remain
2013 has been a pretty remarkable year for players committing early. Even the elite, Top 100 type players are committing early at a much higher rate than in previous recruiting cycles. Even the nation's #1 player, Robert Nkemdiche, recently committed to Clemson, even though his recruitment was expected to last until National Signing Day. Virginia has lost out on some elite targets already, but are still chasing a few really, really good players for 2013.
The most notable among them is Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell. The Virginia Beach Running Back has seen his stock soar in the past few months, and impressive offers have come along with it. Rivals have Mizzell in the Top 50 in the nation, and with a few more impressive camp performances (Mizzell has been dominating the camp circuit this spring), he could see another bump, into an even higher stratosphere. Virginia has been considered the team to beat for Smoke since the dawn of time it seems. Still, he does remain uncommitted, and anything can happen. West Virginia appears to be the biggest threat to the Cavaliers, and he really would be a nice fit in their spread scheme. Mizzell has great hands out of the backfield, and mad scientist Dana Holgerson has made Mizzell a top priority. Still, there is a lot for UVA fans to feel good about here. Mizzell is expected to decide later this summer, after some more visits. I still fully expect Mizzell to sign with Virginia in February, baring a big shift in momentum.
The next biggest name for Virginia still on the board is Bealeton native Wyatt Teller. The talented Defensive Lineman has drawn tons of praise from his recent camp performances, and has a bunch of offers to go along with that. Teller has narrowed his choices down to Virginia, Virginia Tech and Michigan, with the two in-state programs holding a major advantage on the field. Virginia is widely considered the team to beat, and Teller has been to Charlottesville more than 5 times. The Top-100 prospect would be a major get for Virginia, and somebody few thought the Cavaliers would land just a few months ago. We'll see where it goes, but Virginia is definitely in a great position when Teller decides to make the call.
There are 3 more Top-100 prospects that Virginia is chasing that all play the same position, Linebacker. We've mentioned several times that Linebacker was the biggest area of need for UVA in the 2013 class, and the Cavaliers' staff has obviously made it a priority. Virginia and Stanford are basically the two finalists for North Carolina native Peter Kalambayi. Kalambayi will visit Stanford soon, and UVA has seen plenty of targets leave for Palo Alto on the board, and come back committed to the Cardinal. We'll see how it goes, but until he makes it through that visit uncommitted, I wouldn't get too excited. Speaking of Stanford, Top-100 Linebacker and Cardinal commit Doug Randolph is still showing interest in Virginia, and has visited Grounds several times since committing. Randolph plays at nearby Woodberry Forest, and if he decides to stay closer to home, he'll end up with UVA. Randolph is also considering Notre Dame, and hopes to reach a final verdict in his recruitment before his senior season starts. Another Carolina Linebacker Larenz Bryant recently named Virginia his leader in an interview with ESPN. He seemed pretty impressed with the school and the coaching staff, but he has yet to visit Charlottesville. Bryant is getting a ton of looks from SEC schools, many of whom have offered. I still think it'll be tough for UVA to land and sign Bryant in February, but they've positioned themselves well for an official visit from the Top-100 talent this fall.
Success in North Carolina
A few months ago, I said that Virginia hadn't really been taking advantage of the talented state directly to the South. In this recruiting cycle though, they have. UVA has grabbed 2 commits, LaChaston Smith and Keeon Johnson so far, and are in on a few more guys from North Carolina as well. Larenz Bryant and Peter Kalambayi both list UVA among their top choices, something that probably wouldn't have been the case a year or two ago. UVA plays at least one game in North Carolina every year (2 in 2012), and are only a few hours from the Carolina border. Virginia has guys like Kevin Parks and Adrian Gamble on the roster, and pulling guys from North Carolina, like Virginia Tech has recently (i.e. Jarrett Boykin) could be a big boost to the roster.
Swing and a Miss
The State of Virginia had 3 truly elite QBs in the 2013 class: Ryan Burns, Christian Hackenberg and Bucky Hodges. Virginia had solid positioning with all three, and missed on all of them. Disappointing misses for sure. Burns seemed high on UVA, but like so many others, committed on his first trip to Stanford. Hackenberg's father played at UVA and he plays just down the road at Fork Union, but he chose to go with Penn State, in the state he's originally from. Hodges seemed to like both in-state schools, but favored the Hokies all along, committing at their Spring Game. Even though Virginia did grab two QB's for 2013 anyway, solid ones at that, but when that type of talent is right there in your backyard, it hurts to miss out. Corwin Cutler is still a really solid addition for UVA, but if you'd asked me before the cycle if it would have been a let-down to miss on all three, the answer would have been yes.
In-State Talent on the way out
In the past few years, both Virginia and Virginia Tech have put together really nice efforts in keeping the top guys from Virginia within the state's borders. Although both schools will likely pull really nice classes this year, the top in-state talent seems more willing to leave the state this year than in the previous 2. Ryan Burns and Christian Hackenberg, a pair of elite QBs, pledged to Stanford and Penn State respectively. Jonathan Allen, the state's top player, picked up a ton of big-time offers and chose Alabama a few weeks ago. Matt Rolin followed in his families' footsteps, and will attend South Carolina. E.J. Levenberry committed to Florida State, after neither in-state program picked up much traction. Derrick Green, who was recently rated a 5-star prospect by Rivals, is likely headed out of state, probably to Ohio State or Clemson. 2013 is a talented class for in-state talent, and its disappointing that Virginia and Virginia Tech couldn't keep more guys home. There were unique circumstances however. Allen, Hackenberg and Rolin all had serious ties to the areas or schools that they chose, and Burns and Levenberry aren't orginially from Virginia to begin with. Next year, everybody and their mother are going to invade the state and try to pull Da'Shawn Hand, Andrew Brown, Quin Blanding and others out of the state, and hopefully UVA will have better luck next year.
Class of 2013 looks good
Overall, Virginia is off to a very nice start for the 2013 class. The biggest need of Linebacker is being addressed, and UVA is in good position with some truly elite players still on the board. There are 5 or 6 guys that are really solid players, outside of Mizzell and Teller, that could commit to Virginia in the coming weeks or months. Then, in most classes, there are a few surprises at the end. In every recruiting cycles, a team will miss on guys they thought were theirs, and grab commits that most never thought they could. This class for Virginia is no different. If the Cavaliers land Mizzell and Teller in addition to some of the other talented guys on the radar, this class will be just like the last two Mike London has reeled in. And don't forget that 2014 is the best class in the history of the state, and Virginia sets up really well for elite talent in that cycle as well.