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Virginia Cavaliers Football: The Top-5 Surprise Players of Mike London Era

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While the Virginia football program as a whole has struggled, there have been some great individual efforts since Mike London took over.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of camp still a few weeks away, mid-July is always a good time for football fans to take a look back. The Mike London era has been a rough one for the Cavalier faithful, but there have been a number of surprise bright spots. Let's take a look back at some of the biggest overachievers London has coached.

5) Henry Coley, ILB, 2011-2014

Coley came to Virginia as a mid-3-star recruit in the 2010 recruiting class. After redshirting in 2010, he made a start in the 2011 Chick-Fil-A bowl in place of injured senior Steve Greer. It was a rough start for Coley, who, like the rest of the Virginia defense, couldn't solve the Auburn Tiger offense. Coley ended up starting 32 games in his Virginia career and earned 2nd-team All-ACC honors in 2014. His steady presence throughout the linebacker corps will be missed this fall as Virginia rebuilds its front seven.

4) Maurice Canady, CB, 2012-present

Canady enters his senior year after earning second-team All-ACC honors from the media in 2014. A late addition to Mike London's 2012 recruiting class, Canady had two interceptions as a true freshman and never looked back. He's started 22 games as a Cavalier and is widely-considered to be Virginia's best cornerback. Canady tied for the team lead with three interceptions in 2014 and was second in the ACC in pass break-ups. He's the closest thing Virginia has to a "lockdown" corner, and he'll anchor the defensive backfield this fall.

3) Jake McGee, TE, 2011-2013

Originally recruited to play for Mike London at the University of Richmond, McGee came to Virginia as a quarterback. A logjam at that position forced McGee to move to tight end, and he flourished as a pass-catcher. McGee is best remembered for an insane catch during the game-winning drive in Virginia's 2012 victory over Penn State. Rumor has it that McGee and former Virginia assistant Tom O'Brien didn't mesh well, and Virginia's genius offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild couldn't seem to work Jake into his high-octane offense. McGee transferred to Florida before the 2014 season and will play in 2015 after an injury.

2) Keith Payne, RB, 2006-2010

Payne came out-of-nowhere in 2010 to lead Virginia's power running attack under former offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. The former Northern Virginia high school star came to Virginia as an Al Groh recruit but never could seem to get out of King Al's doghouse. Payne left the team for a year before getting a second chance under London. He earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2010 and won back the hearts of a fanbase in the process.

1) Max Valles, OLB, 2013-2014

When it was announced that Max Valles would make his Virginia debut against Pitt in 2013, many Virginia fans wondered "Who? Why?" By the time the game ended, those same fans wondered "Why did they wait so long to play him?" Valles was a sack-machine in his short time at Virginia and spent most of his career playing like he'd been shot out of a cannon. The New Jersey native was a perfect fit in John Tenuta's aggressive defense. He would have played a major role for Virginia in 2015, but he stunned Wahoo fans by entering the NFL draft early. The Oakland Raiders took Valles in the late rounds.

This top-5 list is only one opinion? Who have been some of your top surprise players, Virginia fans?