It's the usual suspects at the top of the football recruiting rankings. Texas and Alabama are Nos. 1 and 2, followed by the supporting cast of Oklahoma, Ohio State, LSU, and crew. But scroll down a little further – do you see Virginia Tech? If so, you've gone too far. Because at least for now, ESPN ranks the Virginia Cavaliers' 2011 Recruiting Class as the 18th best in the nation, and Virginia and Mike London one of this year's top movers and shakers. Scout.com ranks Virginia No. 23 in the nation at the time of this column.
It's still entirely too early to be basking in any sort of glory with respect to landing a Top 25 class. Unless London and Chip West, CB Coach and Master 757 Recruiter, make big moves and keep strong with the remaining scholarships available, Virginia likely won't find themselves on this list come February 2, 2011 – national signing day.
But meanwhile, Virginia boasts two ESPNU 150, 4-star recruits in Brandon Phelps and Clifton Richardson, and another 4-star recruit in David Dean.
The Newport News senior Richardson is easily Virginia's top recruit so far. He's ranked No. 15 in his position, Athlete, according to ESPN. Scott Kennedy, a Scout.com recruiting expert, says that "He has good size and strength and runs with a tenacity that would suit him well on the defensive side of the ball should he end up at safety. Shows excellent balance in breaking tackles and has tremendous cutback ability as a runner." With current UVa freshman Michael Rocco showing signs of life and being primed to lead the Cavaliers as quarterback in 2011, he would make for an excellent safety at Virginia, especially since London's big push this recruiting season has been to bulk up our defensive power.
ESPN's preview, however, places him as a running back. "He is a good athlete and fluid runner that displays excellent balance and body control. He runs low to the ground and will lower his shoulder and bounce off tackles. He is physical and will run through arm tackles and keep his feet. He is a tough inside runner who knows how to finish."
It should be noted that Richardson is considered a soft verbal for Virginia. According to some, Richardson plans on making official visits this upcoming season – to UVa again, but also to Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland, and "probably" South Florida. No es bueno.
Demascas senior Phelps appears to be a much more solid commit, having been quoted as having "felt it in his heart" to come to Virginia. This guy is a 6'0, 175 lbs cornerback with a 3.6 GPA, according to Rivals. ESPN says of him, "Phelps is a wonderful athlete with a terrific blend of size, speed and fluid change-of-direction. He is a legitimate two-way option for the next level and as many plays as he makes on offense, it is more difficult to find corners especially tall ones, and he may have more upside on the defensive side of the ball. He has great hands and ball skills and is a natural playmaker."
"I feel like I'm pretty smooth with my route-running and I can make great cuts. I have good ball skills when the ball is in the air and can position myself well to get it," Phelps said. "I want to get faster and improve my change of direction."
Virginia's third four-star recruit is David Dean, a 6'1", 275 lbs. defensive tackle out of Virginia Beach. ESPN says that Dean has the ability to "grab your attention with his high motor and disruptive style of play." And while he's not as big as you might want from a DT, ESPN says, "He is tough at the point of attack and can come off the ball low and generate power from his lower body and be able to deliver a blow and hold his ground and at times knock blockers back on their heels."
"I want to improve my get off speed and be more explosive," Dean said on Scout. "I want to get stronger too and be more powerful."
Interestingly enough, ESPN thinks he's already there, as "the kid has good quickness and toughness and could be a bit of a sleeper among the defensive tackles."
According to Rivals, Phelps is ranked No. 3 in the state, while Richardson is No. 6 and Dean is No. 9. In addition to the three 4-star recruits, London also boasts 13 3-star commitments, most of whom are from Virginia.
Despite an abysmal 3-9 season last season, the Cavaliers have made incredible ground on the recruiting trail in Virginia. So far, Virginia has landed 12 of Rivals' top 30 Virginia state recruits, while the Hokies have only pulled in three. Virginia has four in the Virginia top 15, while Virginia Tech has only picked up two.
But February 2, 2011 is still 12, possibly 13 (Hey, I'm a dreamer), games away – an eternity away in the fickle minds of 17 year olds.