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Where things stand for Virginia football recruiting on verge of 2019 signing day

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Mendenhall’s “less drama” mantra is playing itself out on the recruiting trail

NCAA Football: Belk Bowl-South Carolina vs Virginia Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

On the day that Virginia Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall finished signing his first full class of recruits to UVA, he made one message very clear: a dramatic recruiting process wasn’t something the Hoos would value in a potential signee.

That has played out across the classes of 2018 and 2019 so far. UVA signed all 20 of its 2018 high school commits during the early signing period. For the class of 2019, 21 of 23 commits signed early, including three mid-year enrollments. The two players left—German QB Luke Wentz and FUMA LB Jairus Satiu—are fully expected to make things official on February 6th.

Less drama means we can do more work looking at the big picture of UVA’s roster managements, and some remaining positions of need going into the 2019 season.

The 2019 roster

Below is an updated chart (last seen in August, before the 2018 season kicked off) of the eligibility situation for each position.

2019 Virginia football: max eligibility remaining

Position Final year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL: 2+ Position
Position Final year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL: 2+ Position
QB Perkins Stone; Hillerich Armstrong; Harvey; Wentz 5 QB
Big Back Kier; Peacock Taulapapa Jones; Hollins 5 Big Back
Speed Back Sharp Atkins Milledge 2 Speed Back
OWR Dubois Cross Pratt; Obasi Goddard; Beal; Wicks 6 OWR
IWR Reed; Hogg Jana Kelly 2 IWR
HBack Davis Kemp 2 HBack
TE Cowley 0 TE
OL Glaser Fannin; Haskins Bissinger; Al Soufi 5 OL
OL Reinkensmeyer Oluwatimi Devine; Teter 4 OL
OL Trent Swoboda Mariteragi; Leech 4 OL
OL Gellerstedt Vollmer Weisz 3 OL
OL Nelson Hubbard 2 OL
DL Burney Alonso Redmond; Faumui Reed 4 DL
DL Crutchfield Christ Briggs 3 DL
DL Hanback Buell Smiley 2 DL
LB Mack Snyder; Gahm Taylor Garrett; Ahern 5 LB
LB Paul Zandier Harrison; Stewart 3 LB
LB Moore Snowden Misch; Satiu 3 LB
LB Brown Perry 2 LB
CB Hall Grant Crowell Baker; Cypress 4 CB
CB Robinson Bratton Smith Williams; Dixon 4 CB
S Epps Nelson White; Clary 3 S
S Blount Chalmers 2 S
K Delaney; Mejia Pearson; Duenkel 4 K
P Griffin 1 P
TOTAL 13 24 18 37 79
Final year 2 years 3 years 4 years TOTAL: 2+

Boldface names are newcomers to the program. Incoming graduate transfer offensive lineman Alex Gellerstedt is in bold and italics.

You can see the position stacking and transition planning that Mendenhall has emphasized as he’s rebuilt the UVA football program. Take the quarterback position—that great bogeyman of Cavalier football hopes in years past. Bryce Perkins will play out his final season of college eligibility in 2019 (sad face), but behind him will be multiple players, each with both multiple years of experience and multiple years of remaining eligibility.

The one position with the most glaring weakness in this regard is tight end. Tanner Cowley is the only player listed as a tight end on UVA’s 2019 roster. There is no obvious transition plan behind him. Junior defensive end Osiris Crutchfield has played TE before, as has senior defensive end Richard Burney. Ryan Swoboda played a few games at TE in 2018, but exclusively as a blocker (essentially an extra offensive tackle). This could signal a schematic transition for the Cavalier offense: going spread-to-run instead of putting another big blocking body in the box, utilizing speed in space for short passing and big-frame wide receivers—like 6-foot-5 freshman Nathaniel Beal—to throw over the middle.

The 2019 targets

At his December signing day, Mendenhall said that the 2019 class was complete from the perspective of filling needs. But there were a few opportunities for “extra credit:” a graduate transfer offensive lineman, a graduate transfer outside receiver, and another talented high school defensive lineman.

Gellerstedt’s commitment from Penn State satisfies the offensive line slot. A three-star coming out of high school in Ohio, the 6-foot-6, 311-pound lineman has two years of eligibility remaining.

One other big man on the offensive side to watch is Rutgers transfer Jonah Jackson.

A 2018 captain for the Scarlet Knights, and an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, Jackson has a hefty list of suitors. He will have one year to play at the school of his choice.

So who might fit the bill at wide receiver? An outside receiver in this offense needs to be in a bigger mold to play jump balls and along the boundaries. According to GradTransferTracker.com, there are a few possibilities on the market:

  • Akile Davis (BYU): 6’2, 205; one year remaining
  • Juwan Johnson (Penn State): 6’4, 225; one year remaining
  • Lawrence Cager (Miami): 6’5, 215; one year remaining
  • Jordan McCray (South Alabama): 6’5, 190; one year remaining
  • La’Michael Pettway (Arkansas): 6’2, 219; one year remaining
  • Audie Omotosho (UCLA): 6’2, 195; two years remaining
  • Eric Kumah (Va Tech): 6’2, 225; one year remaining
  • Aaron Young (Duke): 6’2, 205; one year remaining

Juwan Johnson is the grand prize on that list, but the most intriguing name would be Eric Kumah. Stealing a Hokie on the graduate transfer market would be a sweet coup for the Mendenhall staff. Texas Tech and Notre Dame are pursuing Kumah fairly heavily.

That leaves only the defensive linemen who will graduate high school in a few months. Virginia has pushed hard for a late bloomer from North Carolina: 6-foot-8, 280-pound Wisdom Asaboro from Covenant Day School just outside Charlotte. Rated four stars by 247 (but a three-star in the 247 Composite), the Nigerian product has offers from UNC-Chapel Hill, Auburn, Oregon, and Penn State.

Mendenhall and defensive line coach Vic So’oto were in to visit Asaboro recently:

If Asaboro standing next to So’oto doesn’t give you a sense of how large he is, check him out in the same frame as fellow Certified Large Person (TM) Kariem Al Soufi

We’ll cover any breaking news come signing day, and have Mendenhall’s thoughts on the finalized class after his press conference.