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Hoos Next: Looking ahead to Virginia football’s 2019 recruiting class

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Positions of need and names to know as the recruiting calendar turns over

NCAA Football: Virginia at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The lights are still warm from Bronco Mendenhall’s 2018 signing day press conference, but there’s no rest for the weary. The recruiting drumbeat goes on and the class of 2019 looms close on the horizon.

Here’s how Virginia is positioned going into the next cycle.

Roster Balance

Back when Mendenhall was wrapping up his first full class at Virginia, we broke down what a successful, stable roster management plan would look like. This was the bottom line on how to compose each recruiting class:

Putting these elements together—the scholarship limit, the attrition rate, Mendenhall’s “redshirt” policy, and the need for stable position depth—leads to the conclusion that Virginia needs to bring in right around 25 commits per class.

Signing 25 players per class translates to approximately one player per formation position, per year: One quarterback, one big back, one speed back, two outside receivers, one or two slot/inside receivers, five offensive linemen, etc. The Hoos can alternate with specialists, so one year sign a kicker, the next a punter, then another kicker the third year.

Through two cycles now, the classes have been pretty close to those numbers. There aren’t as many big gaps between groups of players, thanks in part to successfully mining the transfer market. The one glaring exception is the defensive line, where injuries and unexpected departures have trimmed the position group down to being razor thin.

Otherwise, though, UVA is in a good position to target specific, manageable numbers at each position, dedicating program resources to the players who fit best and bring the most to the table.

Headline Names

Each class has those guys that are right at the very top of the list—the guys everyone wants but your school wants REAL bad. Whether UVA can land these four will be a major bellwether of the program’s progress under Mendenhall.

  • Cam’ron Kelly, CB: Virginia has gotten oh-so-close on some of the best corners in the region over the past two cycles. Kelly is another in that mold, and UVA appears to be in the driver’s seat for the Oscar Smith stud. If Virginia can get a commitment from Kelly early, it could set the tone for a major improvement in the overall class.
  • Brandon Smith, DE: The #1 player in Virginia for 2019 according to the 247 Composite, Smith has grown up right in UVA’s backyard. He’s visited several times, and the Cavalier coaches have reciprocated with visits to Smith’s games in other sports (especially basketball). Fighting the Alabamas and Ohio States and Clemsons of the world won’t be easy, but this would be a get on par with Quin Blanding or Andrew Brown.
  • Devyn Ford, RB: The Stafford back is right behind Smith, coming in #2 for 2019 Virginia prospects. In-state running backs have been a surprising strength early for this coaching staff. If the new offense shows what a UVA running attack will look like, and especially if Lamont Atkins and PK Kier can show out in it, Ford may see why Charlottesville makes sense for his services.
  • Enokk Vimahi, OT: This is what all that Hawaiian recruiting has been building toward. Vimahi is a top-100 national recruit and plays for Kahuku, the same school that sent Samson Reed to UVA in 2018. Three of the top ten Hawaiian players in 2018 are now Cavaliers. That, and the Polynesian background of so many Virginia coaches, will be crucial in overcoming any distance factor to land Vimahi.

Position by Position

The numbers vary by position group, but this is the number we think Virginia should target for each, along with names to watch.

Quarterback - 1

The Perkins/Armstrong tandem in the 2018 class gives the Hoos two guys who should each be able to lead the offense for two years. Keeping another player in their wake to develop is what every coach dreams of.

Names to know: Taisun Phommachanh, 4* (Avon, CT); Jalon Jones, 3* (Baltimore, MD)

Running back - 1, maybe 2

The three members of the 2017 class—PK Kier, Lamont Atkins, and Jamari Peacock—give Virginia a solid nucleus with several years left. Wayne Taulapapa will probably take a redshirt year in 2018 coming off his mission.

Names to know: Devyn Ford, 4* (Stafford, VA); Wandale Robinson, 3* (Frankfort, KY); Tiquest Terry, NR (Blacksburg, VA)

Wide receiver - 2, maybe 3

This has been both the deepest and most talented position group of newcomers over the past two recruiting classes. Guys like DJ Pratt from 2017, plus the Theork/Kelly/Obasi trio in 2018, makes the cupboard well stocked.

Names to know: Tayvion Robinson, 4* (Virginia Beach); Drake London, 3* (Moorpark, CA); Cam Hart, 3* (Olney, MD)

Offensive tackle - 2 or 3

Ryan Nelson and Chris Glaser should cement themselves as multi-year starters at some point in 2018. Guys like Ryan Swoboda and Bobby Haskins are a few years in the weight room from being major contributors as well.

Names to know: Enokk Vimahi, 4* (Kahuku, HI); Donavan Beaver, 3* (Fredericksburg, VA); Duke Clemens, 3* (Honolulu, HI); Jack Conley, 3* (New Canaan, CT)

Offensive guard/center - 2 or 3

Tyler Fannin and Gerrick Vollmer are two real stout dudes to anchor the middle of the Hoos’ offensive line. UVA’s prospects in this class will start to take form with Jesse Hanson’s decision later today.

Names to know: Sama Paama, 4* (Honolulu, HI); Jakai Moore, 3* (Nokesville, VA); Jesse Hanson, 3* (Daleville, VA)

Defensive end - 3

Mandy Alonso showed what Mendenhall can do with an unheralded recruit who fits his style and system. Samson Reed could be the next in that line, along with Isaac “The Viking” Buell, who redshirted in 2017.

Names to know: Brandon Smith, 4* (Louisa, VA); RJ Oben, 3* (Jersey City, NJ); D’Sean Perry, NR (Miami, FL)

Interior defensive line - 3

Eli Hanback and James Trucilla will graduate after the 2019 season. There is currently one of the few roster gaps behind them before you get to new faces like Jordan Redmond and Aaron Faumui. Look for a grad transfer here in spring 2018, too.

Names to know: Ben Smiley, 3* (Chesapeake, VA); Tyus Gibson, NR (Tampa, FL)

Linebacker - 4

UVA cleaned up at outside linebacker in 2018. Noah Taylor is already on Grounds, and Javar Garrett will join him wreaking havoc. This is where ratings and rankings can be deceiving: the two breakout players from the 2017 class may have been Charles Snowden and Elliott Brown, both lightly regarded developmental OLBs coming out of high school.

Names to know: Kane Patterson, 4* (Nashville, TN); Hunter Stewart, 3* (Washington, DC); Keith Maguire, 3* (Malvern, PA); Dean Ferguson, 3* (Sterling, VA)

Cornerback - 2

Despite the high profile misses on DJ Brown and Noah Boykin, the most underrated player in Virginia’s 2018 class may still be a corner: Jaylon Baker. Germane Crowell was the top guy in the 2017 class, and if he can bounce back from an injury-shortened freshman campaign, he and Baker could make Scott Stadium a no-fly zone.

Names to know: Cam’Ron Kelly, 4* (Chesapeake, VA); Salim Turner-Muhammad, 3* (Alexandria, VA); Taylor Harris, NR (Woodbridge, VA)

Safety - 2

Brenton Nelson will blunt the effects of Quin Blanding’s departure, and Joey Blount showed some flashes in his freshman campaign, too. JoJo White achieved something of legend status in high school, and UVA fans will be happy to see him continue that in orange and blue.

Names to know: Nick Cross, 4* (Hyattsville, MD); Jalyn Phillips, 4* (Lawrenceville, GA); Sean Smith, NR (Fredericksburg, VA)


Whatever the twists and turns along the recruiting trail, we’ll have them covered here on Streaking the Lawn.