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Recruiting reset: Where Virginia football stands as 2018 season begins

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What positions still need to be addressed in UVA’s class of 2019?

NCAA Football: ACC Media Days Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With just nineteen days remaining until the beginning of the Virginia Cavaliers football season, it seems appropriate to look at UVA’s class of ‘19—who’s in, what needs remain, and who might be in line to fill those needs.

To do that, we need to check the status of the roster. Personnel management and succession planning has been one of the strongest points of emphasis for the Mendenhall regime: trying to smooth the peaks and valleys from year-to-year, with future stars developing behind current contributors. We set out an “orange-and-blueprint” for what that could look like on the eve of the signing day for Mendenhall’s first fully recruited class.

Here was the takeaway from that piece:

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.

So how do those principles apply to the current roster situation?

The chart below shows the maximum years of eligibility remaining after the 2018 season for players that could be regular contributors. This includes the vast majority of scholarship players, plus a few walk-ons that could see playing time. It also assumes that Lindell Stone and Brennan Armstrong will both be able to take redshirt years by playing in four games or fewer.

2018 Virginia football: max eligibility remaining

Position 0 years 1 year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL: 1+ Position Incoming
Position 0 years 1 year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL: 1+ Position Incoming
QB Perkins Stone Armstrong 3 QB Harvey; Wentz
Big Back Ellis Kier; Peacock 2 Big Back
Speed Back Sharp Atkins Taulapapa 3 Speed Back Milledge
OWR Dubois Cross Blackman Pratt Obasi 5 OWR Goddard
IWR Hogg Reed Jana Burton Theork-Youmans; Kelly 5 IWR
HBack Zaccheaus Davis Kemp 2 HBack Terry
TE Butts Cowley Crutchfield 2 TE
OL Fieler Proctor Knutson Fannin Bissinger 4 OL Al Soufi
OL Applefield Bischoff Glaser Oluwatimi Devine 4 OL Teter
OL Reinkensmeyer Swoboda Haskins 3 OL Leech
OL Trent Vollmer Mariteragi 3 OL
OL Nelson Weisz 2 OL
DL Burney Alonso Buell Faumui 4 DL Briggs
DL Peat Christ Redmond 3 DL Andersen
DL Hanback Reed 2 DL
LB Cook Sheppard Snyder; Gahm Garrett 4 LB Ahern
LB Stalker Mack Zandier Harrison 3 LB Stewart
LB Peace Paul Snowden Misch 3 LB Satiu
LB Moore Brown Taylor 3 LB Perry
CB Harris Hall Grant Crowell Baker 4 CB Cypress
CB Robinson Bratton Smith 3 CB Williams
S Thornhill Epps Nelson 2 S Clary
S Blount 1 S Chalmers
K Delaney; Mejia Pearson 3 K Duenkel
P Coleman Griffin 1 P
TOTAL 12 17 24 12 18 74 18
0 years 1 year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL: 1+ Incoming

“OWR” is outside wide receiver, and “IWR” is inside wide receiver—the coaching staff distinguishes between the two groups for coaching purposes, so this chart tried to place taller guys outside and shorter receivers inside. And yes, there are more than 11 players on offense, but this accounts for some formation variance.

Looking at the roster this way highlights the importance of the offensive line recruiting in the past two classes. Before adding grad transfer Marcus Applefield, there was only one senior offensive lineman for 2018. By the time you get back to the sophomores, you’re at four, then five each for the redshirt freshmen and true freshmen. Sixteen offensive linemen should have at least one year of eligibility remaining after this year.

In the other trenches, the situation is still pretty dire. Even with everyone returning, there would be only 9 defensive linemen in the rotation before any 2019 additions. (Note that this does not yet count Dylan Thompson, as his status is somewhat up in the air.)

The last column on the right shows where the current 2019 commitments should slot into the roster once they arrive. So far, the numbers are tracking along with what we set out as probable targets for this class (even if the names are different).

With 18 commitments on board, here’s what should be left as the season begins:

Running back - 1

Seneca Milledge is one of the fastest players in the country, but at 5-foot-6 and 155 pounds, he’s not going to be a between-the-tackles bellcow.

Names to watch: Mike Hollins (Baton Rouge, LA); Tyreese Jackson (New Iberia, LA); Jalen Mitchell (Rockledge, FL)

Outside wide receiver - 1

The five guys listed above as possible OWRs are not the biggest group—Hasise Dubois is the tallest at 6-foot-3. UVA needs to add at least one more guy to go with Darien Goddard (6’3, 200) in the big WR category who can go get jump balls along the sideline or in the endzone. Stanley King is a 6-foot-5 prospect who will announce his commitment on Wednesday, August 15th; Virginia is in his final five. Former Tennessee commit Kendrell Scurry also has the Hoos on his radar.

Names to watch: Stanley King (Camden, NJ); Kendrell Scurry (Nashville, TN)

Offensive line - 2

Two more offensive linemen gets UVA up to five per class for the third straight year. Ja’quay Hubbard is a name we’ve covered a lot, and the Sharpsville (PA) product is nearing his announced commitment date of September 1st (his birthday). UVA put in a strong official visit with Hubbard in late June and is in good shape for the high 3-star. The other top target is Hawaii’s Enokk Vimahi. The four-star tackle has UVA in his final eight and will announce his commitment at the Polynesian Bowl in January.

Names to watch: Ja’quay Hubbard (Sharpsville, PA); Enokk Vimahi (Kahuku, HI); Martin Veinberg (Helsinki, Finland)

Defensive line - 2

Adding Jowon Briggs immediately made the defensive line the most talented position group in the 2019 class. But more numbers are needed. In-state stud Ben Smiley is the big prize left on the board. This could be a group where UVA holds a spot for a player who blows up his senior year.

Names to watch: Ben Smiley (Chesapeake, VA); Tymon Mitchell (Nashville, TN); Sylvain Yondjouen (Belgium)

And that’s it. If the coaching staff can hang onto all of the current commits, they can be very selective and focused in their efforts over the next few months. Adding six guys as spelled out here would push the scholarship player count up to 23 (Justin Duenkel is a walk-on kicker), just two short of the annual limit of 25. Bringing a few in as mid-year enrollees—as has become more common practice under Mendenhall—would open back up a few spots for late additions or grad transfers.

One final note, regarding the possible recruiting fallout from the ongoing implosion of the Maryland Terrapins. There were only 10 players in the Terps’ 2019 class; only one—two-way lineman Parker Moorer—has decommitted so far. Of the remaining 9 commits, three are Virginians. But UVA already moved on from safety Trey Rucker before Rucker committed to Maryland, and none of the other Maryland commits really fit the mold of what Virginia is looking for at its positions of need. Don’t expect much poaching out of the Terrapins’ fold.

The most likely direct effect will be on Stanley King’s choice come Wednesday, as Maryland was among King’s finalists. There are a few other guys where Maryland is in the hunt against Virginia, such as tight end Brayden Bapst from St. John’s College in DC.