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The Ghost of Russell Wilson

Virginia passed on Russell Wilson in 2007. That didn't work out to well for the Cavaliers. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
Virginia passed on Russell Wilson in 2007. That didn't work out to well for the Cavaliers. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
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Virginia's Quarterback recruiting has been a topic of debate and discussion for Virginia fans, in recent weeks and months. With last week's addition of Ocean Lakes signal-caller Corwin Cutler to the 2013 class, the debate resurfaced. Some feel that the Cavaliers are taking too many QB's, and eating up scholarships with players that may never play. With the additions of Cutler and Alabama transfer Phillip Sims, UVA is slated to have 7 scholarship quarterbacks in 2013. So the question becomes, how should the Virginia coaching staff treat the QB position on the recruiting trail?

In a recent CavsCorner podcast, which I highly recommend by the way, Quarterback recruiting was discussed, and the Russell Wilson was brought up as a signal-caller that UVA let get away. Wilson, who played at NC State and Wisconsin before being drafted last month by the Seattle Seahawks, has had a pretty significant impact on the recruiting philosophies of many in Virginia, including myself. Back in the 2007 class, Peter Lalich and Tyrod Taylor were considered the two prized Quarterback prospects from the Commonwealth. Lalich chose Virginia and Taylor picked Virginia Tech, and the two schools stopped recruiting Quarterbacks for that class.

Another talented, but undersized Quarterback, Russell Wilson, played right down the road from UVA in Richmond, but the Collegiate School star was basically ignored by the two in-state powers. Instead, Wilson got only two offers, from NC State and Duke, and ended up choosing the Wolfpack. Wilson became the best of the three quarterbacks, Taylor had a great career in Blacksburg, and Lalich washed out at UVA, then again at Oregon State before transferring to Division-III California University in Pennsylvania. Not good.

Many Cavalier fans feel that UVA could have landed Wilson if they had tried to. Instead, they put their eggs in Lalich's basket, even though there were several red flags with the West Springfield product. Granted, it's not like Virginia was the only team that didn't think enough of Wilson to offer. A more ridiculous case of Quarterback mismanagement was the fact that the staff chose not to offer in-state 4-star Sean Glennon in the 2004 class. Instead, Virginia offered California native Scott Deke, who had no other offers, and did nothing of consequence in Charlottesville. No, Glennon did not become a superstar at Virginia Tech, but he would have been a better, more stable option for Virginia than the rest of their QB's presented from the time Marques Hagans left until Rocco took over last year. Also, Glennon was high-school teammates with Hokies wide receiver Eddie Royal, who may have considered heading to UVA if Glennon had done so.

So, how does this impact Virginia's recruitment of the Quarterback position more than 5 years later?

The easiest explanation is that when you see a talented Quarterback that you think can be a big time player at the next level, you go after them. That seems obvious, but some schools don't look at it this way. It's clear now that Virginia, under Mike London and Bill Lazor, does. Since London took over the program in December 2009, he has taken commitments from 9 quarterbacks (Strauss, McGee, Gooch, Rocco, Watford, Johns, Lambert, Marshall and Cutler), and taken a transfer (Sims). Of that group, Strauss transferred to Richmond, McGee and Gooch switched positions, Rocco and Watford played significant minutes in 2011, and the last 5 haven't, besides Lambert, haven't been in the program yet. We'll see if David Watford ends up moving to another position if he is buried on the depth chart down the road.

So, with that said, it's obvious that London and his staff will not pass on a Quarterback if they feel they can succeed at the collegiate level. Will they miss-evaluate a few guys and have some transfer out to get more playing time? Sure. But ask yourself this: what would Virginia have done at Quarterback in 2011 if they hadn't brought in Michael Rocco in the 2010 class?

Rocco was not offered by the Groh staff, who had decided to switch to a more excitingeffective spread offense. Instead, he committed to Louisville, who fired Coach Steve Kragthorpe after the 2009 season. Virginia hired Bill Lazor and came in with a late offer, and Rocco switched his commitment the day before signing day. The Lynchburg native didn't have many offers, and a few of them, including one from Penn State, were to play Safety. Even though Virginia already had Strauss, McGee and Gooch in the 2010 class, they liked what they saw from Rocco, and decided to go after him. In the end, he won the job and had a pretty solid sophomore campaign this past year. If UVA decided they were all set at Quarterback and not offered Rocco, true freshman David Watford or perhaps Ross Metheny would have started off the season, and UVA almost certainly wouldn't have ended up with 8 wins and a major bowl appearance.

There is also the issue of building relationships within the state when it comes to quarterback recruiting. Virginia took a Quarterback, Brendan Marshall, in March, and offered Corwin Cutler in April. Yes, they knew that they already had a Quarterback in the fold, but Cutler earned it. He was the leadership award winner at a New Jersey camp, and won QB MVP at the big Rivals VTO camp in Richmond. His film looks solid and his offer list is going to grow, even though he's already committed. If UVA didn't offer, it would have been surprising to many, including people in the 757 that know Cutler is a talent. Virginia Tech has not offered, but the only Quarterback from Virginia they had offered was Bucky Hodges, who is a Tech commit; and they also have another signal-caller, North Carolina native Carlis Parker, in the 2013 class. Once UVA offered Cutler, it was obvious that the Cavaliers were the heavy favorite to land him. So Virginia didn't really have the option to go back and rescind the offer; that never looks good. Plus, Cutler is cousins with both Eli Harold and 2014 phenom Andrew Brown, so bringing him in probably would hurt with UVA's chances to bring in more top talent from the area. Schools should never offer prospects for just being friends or relatives with other higher profile guys, but you absolutely offer them if they are talented.

So the Cavaliers will have 7 Quarterbacks in camp next fall. The biggest problem with that is getting all of them reps in practice, but obviously, most of them won't be playing much anyway. The best talent will rise to the top, and there will probably be some attrition. It's inevitable, and something that happens at every program in the country. Fans shouldn't get hung up on how many Quarterbacks UVA is taking, unless they aren't taking any at all. Bill Lazor is known as a Quarterback guru of sorts, and if he likes a kid enough to offer, that should be good enough for now. Just look at what Rocco has done so far, and almost nobody thought he would be a FBS-level Quarterback. For now, Virginia fans should just take solace that the team has a bunch of talent at the position on the roster, and are much less likely to miss the next Russell Wilson on the recruiting trail too.