Expect fewer redshirts in Mike London's second season
Virginia Coach Mike London made a conscious effort to play as few true freshmen as he could in 2010. And indeed, only three -- offensive lineman Morgan Moses, quarterback Michael Rocco and cornerback Rijo Walker -- saw the field on Saturdays last fall.
But after officially introducing on Wednesday a 26-member incoming class of prospects that ranked No. 4 in the ACC and No. 25 in the nation, according to Rivals.com, London said to expect more true freshmen to see immediate playing time during the 2011 season.
"I think this class will represent young men that have the ability to play and make some impact for us," London said. "I wanted to make sure that we did redshirt last year's class because we did not know what this class would bring. Their size on the line, particularly offensive line -- their skill and their speed, both with wide receivers and defensive backs -- there's tall athleticism. There's guys I think ‑‑ there's only one guy under 5-10. Everyone else 6-3, 6-4, 6-7.
"We tried to adjust to the fact that if we could attract high‑end caliber talent, that one of the things that we were certain that we were going to do was afford them the opportunity to play if they could."
Several of the players who would seem to stand a good chance of playing right away include Demetrious Nicholson, a four-star defensive back who was named the 2010 state player of the year in Virginia, Darius Jennings, a four-star wide receiver who was named the state player of the year in Maryland, Brandon Phelps, a four-star defensive back out of Damascus and Dominique Terrell, a four-star wide receiver out of Osbourn.
"If you can just keep attracting that type of talent, then you've got to put them on the field somewhere," London said.
The Cavaliers did not secure commitments from Jennings or Terrell until Wednesday morning, and their additions delighted Virginia's offensive coaches, to say the least.
"I’ve seen him play live, and he is a dynamic playmaker," wide receivers coach Shawn Moore said of Jennings. "I think the sky is the limit in terms of what we can do with him. He’s a guy that he needs the ball in his hands. It’s going to be a transition, though. He’s taken snaps as a wildcat/wing-T quarterback, so it’s going to be a transition for him. But he already proved in the Chesapeake Bowl that he can do some of the things we want him to do."
As for Terrell, Moore said he is "very similar to Jennings" and that he has "unbelievable shake," referring to Terrell's ability to elude tacklers.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor lauded Jennings and Terrell for their "explosiveness" and agreed with Moore's assessment of Terrell's "shake."
"When I see Dominique’s ability to make people miss, his speed, his second gear, I see that he can match up against people, speed-wise, that we play against," Lazor said. "There’s so much video of him with the ball in his hands doing that that, in my opinion, it’s a professional opinion based on what you see. Again, he’ll play it out when he gets here, but I’ve got a real strong feeling about him."
Virginia's 2011 class includes five players who logged significant time at quarterback in high school, though only David Watford will start out at that position with the Cavaliers. Jennings, Terrell, three-star safety Anthony Harris and two-star athlete Kevin Green* also played quarterback for their respective high schools.
* Lazor said Green likely will start out on the defensive side of the ball at Virginia. In addition to quarterback, Green also played defensive back Petersburg (Va.) High.
"When you get guys who are quarterbacks, and very successful quarterbacks, you expect that you get guys who understand football and who are smart players," Lazor said. "What I’m hoping is that translates into learning and being able to contribute quickly. Time will tell, and that will play itself out on the field. But I expect we’ve got guys who are savvy guys and who understand the whole game. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how that plays out."
When London mentioned the size of Virginia's recruits on the offensive and defensive lines, he wasn't kidding. The Cavaliers signed five defensive ends, including Good Counsel's Vincent Croce, a three-star prospect who is listed as 6-foot-4 and 250 lbs., and Stone Bridge's Rob Burns, a three-star recruit who is listed as 6-foot-7 and 230 lbs.
"We’ll have (Burns) coming off the edge," defensive line coach Jeff Hanson said. "We’re looking for some height out there, and he gives us that. He’s got some athletic ability. And he can run for a big kid. He’s got plenty of potential."
Virginia also signed four offensive linemen, including three-star DeMatha tackle Kelby Johnson, who is listed as 6-foot-7 and 285 lbs., and three-star T.C. Williams tackle Jay Whitmire, who is listed as 6-foot-6 and 290 lbs. Virginia special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter, who recruited Whitmire, said the player has "good feet" and "tremendous upside."
Another player in the northern Virginia area that Poindexter recruited was two-star St. Stephen's linebacker Darius Lee. Poindexter said Lee performed well at one of Virginia's summer camps and that the Cavaliers coaches "thought we had found a diamond in the rough."
| February 3, 2011; 8:34 AM ET
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