UVa Lands Strong Recruiting Class
Feb 01, 2012
Mike London entertains fans during a signing day celebration at the JPJ.
After signing a top 25 class in 2011, some may have wondered if Virginia coach Mike London would be able to duplicate his results in the future. Fast-forward one year later and London and the Cavaliers will welcome another top flight recruiting class to Charlottesville as 25 prep student athletes signed on the dotted line Wednesday morning, pledging their allegiance UVa.
"I'm very excited about this particular class," London said. "If you look at the roster there is some height and athleticism. There are some guys where in the end Mother Nature will decide what position they will finally rest at. The staff did a great job of getting out there and establishing relationships."
London and his staff went on a tear on the recruiting trail in the offseason. Virginia nabbed 20 commitments between early April and early August. With Virginia getting the bulk of its commitments during the spring and summer, this year's signing day was not as eventful as the Virginia coaches were waiting for each prospects letter to be faxed in.
"We had a lot of guys commit during the summer on our junior days and for the most part we were able to hang on to all of them," London said. "You're always worried about guys decommitting and guys coming in at the last minute and affecting their decision."
The only player currently committed to Virginia who did not fax their letter of intent in Wednesday was Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert. That's not bad news, though. Lambert, who chose UVa over a host of big time programs including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Clemson, has already enrolled at the University. As a January enrollee, he will be eligible to participate in spring practice.
"He is two weeks into being a college student right now," London said. "He's getting acclimated right now to learning how lift college weights and things like that."
The most highly touted prospect in the class of 2012 is Ocean Lakes defensive end Eli Harold. Harold excelled as a dominant force on both sides of the ball for the Ocean Lakes in 2011. In his senior season, Harold registered 16 sacks, 28 Tackles For Loss, and 73 total tackles. On offense, Harold caught 42 passes and scored 20 total touchdowns. Harold committed in August and has acted as a de facto recruiting coordinator for London and the University.
Assistant coach Shawn Moore will see a familiar face around UVa next season: his son.
"You talk about having one of the best defensive ends in the country being in your own back yard. He had the opportunity to commit early and then become the cheerleader for the rest of the class and create a bond as for them," London said. "You talk about him and where he came from and the hard knocks of life and the things that he was dealt. He has overcome the things that he has and became one of the leaders of his school. He's just a fantastic young man and has a success story that is waiting to be written for him."
Harold is part of one of the greatest defensive line hauls in 2012 recruiting. Four star defensive end Mike Moore, and three star Courtney Wynn were selected to participate in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in January. London and his staff also went defensive line heavy in 2011 and appear to be stacked in the trenches for years to come.
"If you look at Mike, Courtney, and Eli, you look at length and athleticism in a 4-3 defense," London said. "The defensive ends can rush the passer and that's something we put an emphasis on. If Mother Nature ever decides that someone will add 30-40-50 pounds, then you can move them inside. We just want to recruit fast guys coming off the edge that could potentially move inside."
Moore is possibly the most well known recruit in this class among Cavalier fans. He is, of course, the son of former Virginia great and current wide receivers coach, Shawn Moore. The defensive end earned offers from all over the country before ultimately selecting Virginia. Despite his connection to the program, London took nothing for granted in Moore's recruitment.
"You never want to assume anything like that," London said. "Michael is a player that deserved to be recruited on his own and not because of who his dad is. We wanted to make sure that he felt that he was being recruited because he was Michael Moore, the player at DeMatha High School who could rush the passer and play multiple positions. Shawn took him on some of the visits as a dad and had he had a chance to see what the other schools were talking about. I think Mike appreciated that there wasn't a preconceived notion that he was coming to Virginia. I don't think Shawn applied any pressure and he came to the decision on his own."
Ever since London arrived in Charlottesville, he has made reclaiming the Hampton Roads area or the "757" a priority. Last season, London and the Cavaliers signed nine prospects from the area. This season, Virginia inked 10 players from the beach to bring its total to 19 in the past two seasons. Year in and year out, the 757 is one of the biggest if not the biggest recruiting hotbeds in the state of Virginia. London has worked tirelessly to re-establish relationships in the Hampton Roads and surrounding areas, and to make Virginia the team of choice for recruiting prospects.
"To me it's important to evaluate and go after the best players in the state of Virginia," London said. "There is no secret that I am from that area and there a lot of people that I know. That area is an area where there are deep-rooted relationships that cover years and years that have helped us in that area. I'm also 804, and 703 as well."
One school in the 757 that was very kind to UVa this year was Norfolk Christian. Four student-athletes from NCS signed their letter of intent to play for Coach London. Wilfred Wahee got the ball rolling with his commitment to Virginia early last spring. Shortly after Wahee's pledge, four star middle linebacker Kwontie Moore followed suit and committed to Virginia. Holding offers from several major programs on the East Coast, Wynn joined Moore and Wahee in late July. Wide receiver Mario Nixon had originally committed to Virginia Tech, but in the end he backed out of his commitment to the Hokies to join his teammates in Charlottesville.
"It worked out that this particular season that there were players from Norfolk Christian that we wanted, fit our profile, had height, weight and athleticism," London said. "They won a State Championship in football and basketball. It's a growing private school and they were able to put together a program that they are proud of."
Virginia is also stockpiling talent at the wide receiver position. Last year, the Cavaliers struck big with the late commitments of Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell. This season, the Cavaliers added a lot of balance and depth to the receiving corps. Nixon and Massachusetts four-star wideout Canaan Severin as well as Landstown's Kyle Dockins add height and power to the position. Bayside wide receiver Anthony Cooper adds tremendous balance, while Hampton's Jamall Brown and Fork Union's Adrian Gamble add more speed and more options at an already deep position. Several of Virginia's prospects are listed as "athletes" and Coach London and his staff are weighing options for each player.
2012 National Signing Day
"I like to ask the players where they want to play and where they want to start out," London said. "As a recruiting promise, I like to put them in that position to see how they can perform. A lot of them said that if it wouldn't work out, they would move to wherever the team needs me. They understand through their knowledge of the offense and their skill set that if they stay there, then, they stay there. If they need somewhere else to help us, then these are the type of guys that will play anywhere we want them to play."
Now that the dust has settled and the Cavaliers have inked another top notch recruiting class, London and his staff will turn his attention to the class of 2013. There is a plethora of talent all across the board in the state Virginia and the surrounding states. Coming off an 8-5 season, London is optimistic in the direction of the program and feels that his team is primed for another talented class next year.
"I think it's important for the consistency of the program to continue to attract some of the best players not only in the state but nationally," London said. "Trey Nicholson was a high school All-American. He is doing well in school and he'll probably end up being a captain here someday. He'll be able to talk to the next high school All-American and say, 'It's happening here and you need to be here.' That's been going on and we need to continue that. The 2013 class will be just as important as this class. If you continue to keep brining in those kinds of players then things start to change."
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