The Virginia football team's first-year class is about as diverse as it gets, but nobody in the group had a more bizarre journey to Charlottesville than wide receiver Warren Craft.
Craft originally committed to play basketball at Virginia Tech following his freshman year of high school, but decided to reopen his options after then-head coach James Johnson was dismissed. While still maintaining several Division I basketball offers, Craft began to contemplate playing football at the next level.
After storming out of the gate in the first two months of his senior season, Craft earned a football scholarship offer from the Wahoos. Craft entertained interest from North Carolina and Virginia Tech, but elected to commit to UVa in January.
Craft is a lightning quick wide receiver, and brings a unique skillset to the Virginia offense. The multi-sport athlete joined the football program his junior year of high school, and has not even scratched the surface of his potential yet. While at Fleming, Craft helped lead the revival of the Colonel football program. Can he help do the same at Virginia?
Let’s take a closer look at this speedy wide receiver.
Name: Warren Craft
High School: William Fleming (Roanoke)
Ranking: ESPN 4-star, 247 3-star, Rivals 2-star
Starting experience: Two years
Recognition: Roanoke Times All-Timesland Boys Athlete of the Year, All-Group 4A, All-State for basketball.
Craft is an extremely physical wide receiver, and can lineup either in the slot or on the outside. The 6-2, 185 pound receiver has an impressive vertical, and can use his basketball background to catch the jump balls.
Take a look at the 5:26 mark the video above. Craft does not have a ton of room to operate and has two defenders lurking, but the athletic wide out fights for position, times his jump perfectly, and comes away with the difficult catch in the air.
Craft is a homerun threat, but the All Timesland Male Athlete of the Year did most of his damage turning short dump passes into big gains. The Fleming standout acted as his quarterback’s "safety valve", with the ability to turn a busted play into a big gain. Craft has great speed, and even better juke moves to fend off defenders.
The term “sleeper” is way overused in recruiting, but Craft could prove to be the hidden gem of the 2015 class. As you can see from his ranking above, the “experts” are all torn on what to expect from Craft. The incoming freshman has only played football at a high level for two years, and is still learning the game.
Craft performed well in the first two practices last week, and many folks in the media immediately compared his early success to sophomore wideout Doni Dowling. Unfortunately, an undisclosed injury has kept Craft on the sidelines for the last several practice sessions.
While fellow freshman David Eldridge might see the field this fall, Craft is a good bet to redshirt. Virginia will lose arguably its top two receivers following this season, and the Hoos need to start building depth at the position. In addition, Craft will need to bulk up and gain knowledge of the playbook before he is truly ready.
Once Craft’s downfield blocking and the rest of his game catches up with his unbelievable speed and athleticism, the Roanoke native can be quite a weapon for the Virginia offense.