The 2018 recruiting class for the Virginia Cavaliers football team picked up one of the best special teamers in the country on Friday with a commitment from kicker Hunter Pearson.
The Seneca, SC product picked the Hoos over the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Kicker recruiting is hard, and weird. Not every school is willing to spend a scholarship spot on specialists, and certainly not every year. The recruiting services often don't assign stars or ratings, since so many kids end up as walk-ons.
UVA fans learned the dangers of that approach in 2016: after expected starter Holland Corbett didn't make it through spring practice, his replacements made only half their tries, with none longer than 36 yards. The five field goals Virginia scored last year were the third lowest for any program in the country.
But Kohl’s Kicking Camps—one of the top showcases for specialist recruits, and folks who know what they’re talking about—say we should be excited. I’ll let them take it away:
Pearson recently attended the 2017 Underclassman Challenge. He is close to challenge for the top spot on field goals and kickoffs in the 2018 class. The ball jumps off his foot and with continued refinement in his kickoffs, could very well be the best kickoff guy in the 2018 class. His punts were solid, his frame and athleticism are superior to most athlete. He will be someone to watch over the upcoming year as he sets himself apart by making field goals when the pressure is on him.
Kohl’s rated Pearson 5th among all 2018 kickers.
The Hoos also spent a scholarship on a specialist who will be joining the team this fall: Brian Delaney, out of Westfield High School in Centreville. Delaney was Kohl’s 18th ranked kicker in the 2017 class, but the #1 punter. Expect to see Delaney step into multiple specialist roles this season, with Pearson on deck to take over on at least field goals starting in 2018.
This is a great thing, Hoo fans. Quality specialists are perhaps more important to a rebuilding program than to a powerhouse. For a team with little margin for error, guys who can flip the field, or snag three points when a drive stalls, are damn near invaluable.