Who else is having fun today? The new Virginia football recruiting staff certainly is!
The #HoosRising movement is growing. The fax machine was busy at the McCue Center all morning, and the future of the Virginia football program will soon take shape.
The class of 2016 is not nearly the highest ranked that the Cavaliers have pulled in in recent years, but the new group addresses several key needs. We expect most of the class to redshirt, but several positions are stocked nicely for years to come after today.
Let's take a closer look at some of the positions of note in this class:
A quarterback is the centerpiece of any recruiting class, and the Wahoos signed two in Sonny Abramson and De'Vante Cross. Both signal-callers perform different roles, with Abramson playing the part of a prototypical pocket passer and Cross being more of a runner. Virginia's decade-long woes at the quarterback position are well documented, but the Hoos signed a pair of solid QBs in 2016. With the right coaching, both Abramson and Cross appear to have the leadership skills necessary to lead an offense.
New offensive coordinator Roert Anae likes to air the ball out, and the first-year OC can go a number of ways with the quarterback position down the road. With two, potentially three seniors at QB on the roster, Anae will have the luxury of redshirting the two incoming first-years. The position battle will be really interesting in 2017, with the two rookies, along with current redshirt freshman Nick Johns all competing for the starting job.
The fact that a lame duck coaching staff could reel in a running back like Tre Harbison is pretty unbelievable. The fact that Harbison stuck around even when said staff was fired was pretty amazing. And that fact that not only did Harbison say no to all of the outside suitors, but he enrolled at UVa early was one of the biggest miracles in the class of 2016. A record-breaking talent from the state of North Carolina, Harbison is a balanced tailback who has plenty of tools in his arsenal. Already drawing comparisons to former UVa tailback Kevin Parks, Harbison will be a big piece of rebuilding puzzle for years to come.
Fellow running back commit Wayne Taulapapa is another big rusher that Virginia can bring out of the backfield. The fact that he already committed to this staff once shows that Anae and company clearly have a plan for how to use the Hawaii native. With Smoke Mizzell and Albert Reid both being seniors, the new staff will have the luxury of redshirting the new tailbacks. Like the quarterback position however, the two new guys will have a chance to earn qualify playing time starting the following season.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall talked about the diversity of his class in Wednesday's presser, and there is no more eclectic group than the wide receiver corps. Each member of Virginia's four-man receiver class brings something different to the table, and will all fit well in Anae's wide-open offense. Hasise Dubois is an unbelievable athlete, and is an ideal candidate in jump ball situations. Aidan Howard is a powerful blocking receiver on the inside, and the incoming freshman fits the bill of safety valve on 3rd down and short situations out of the slot. Cole Blackman is a smaller possession receiver, who runs excellent routes and does all of the little things right. Joseph Reed is the speed demon of the group, and is one of the best athletes in the entire incoming class.
Each receiver has something to work on, but the pieces are there for a productive receiving corps in the coming years.
There are no blue chip prospects incoming defensive backfield, but you would be hard pressed to find a more physical group of DBs than the ones coming to Charlottesville. Nearly every one of the first-year corners are six-feet or taller, and can play pretty much anywhere in the secondary. Additionally, almost every one of these defensive backs played wide receiver in high school, and all have an understanding of the edges on both sides of the ball. Safety Jordan Mack is in the mold of All-American Quin Blanding, and will have the opportunity to earn significant playing time early in his career. Nick Grant is another big defensive back with loads of potential. The 6-foot-2 Grant is a physical presence with great ball skills, and he can play either cornerback or safety at the next level. Chris Moore did not gain a ton of respect from the recruiting services, but you cannot teach his 6-foot-2, near-200 pound frame.
If/when William Fleming cornerback Darrius Bratton signs with Virginia, the Roanoke native will another player to watch in the defensive backfield.
Virginia took just TWO big ugglies in the class of 2016 and zero offensive guards. While both Ben Knutson and Dillon Reinkensmeyer are talented players, there are only two of them, This comes just two years after the former staff took only two offensive linemen in the class of 2014.. yikes! There was plenty of OL talent in the state and region in this cycle, but the Hoos could not gain attraction with the big stars. Look for Mendenhall and company to address the line a big way in 2017.
While the defensive line was light as a whole, Virginia secured only one defensive tackle in the class of 2016: late commit Trysten Hill. To make matters worse, UVa only took one DT in 2015… again, yikes. The former staff failed to attract any defensive tackles in this cycle, and none of the current defensive end signees are big enough to slide inside. With Donte Wilkins being a senior and Andrew Brown being a junior, the talent pool is about to dry up in the middle. The cupboard is pretty bare at defensive tackle, and Mendenhall must bring in multiple tackles in the next cycle. The good news is… there's a lot of playing time to sell.