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Posted at 1:21 PM ET, 11/26/2010

Tidewater coaches weigh in on the Virginia Tech-Virginia recruiting battle

By Mark Giannotto

I hope everyone enjoyed a happy and peaceful Thansgiving yesterday. In case you missed it, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team defeated Cal State-Northridge in the first round of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif. The Hokies will take on Oklahoma State later today.

But I'm sure most of you are gearing up for Saturday's battle for the Commonwealth Cup between Virginia Tech and Virginia. You can predict the winner here in our poll, and in Saturday's paper I'll have a story on how national schools have begun to make an imprint in Virginia's recruiting hotbeds.

As part of my research, I took a trip down to the Tidewater area during Virginia Tech's bye week and interviewed a bunch of high school coaches and recruits down there. In addition to the story in Saturday's paper, I talked with all of them about what the recruiting dynamic between Virginia and Virginia Tech is like now that Mike London has made in-state recruiting a focus of his revitalization project in Charlottesville. Here's a selection of their responses:

Oscar Smith High School Coach Rich Morgan

“Anytime there’s change, whether you agree with the change or not, change brings a certain amount of excitement and newness to it all. So Mike comes in, he’s got a good reputation from where he is before. He comes in, and you offer a couple kids, and now state coaches start to turn around and say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be able to get some of these kids into school here,’ and then Mike’s kind of taking advantage of the fact that he’s the new guy and can generate some excitement. That’s good and that’s the way it should be. ...

Jim Cavanaugh and Curt [Newsome], (the primary Virginia Tech recruiters in the Tidewater region) I’ve known them for five, six, seven years also. Curt was recruiting this school when he was a JMU guy, so I’ve known them both for a long time. They’ve always done right by me. I’ve never had a problem with any of them. They’re always up front with me, letting me know what’s going on. ...

But Virginia, they've definitely got momentum. Whatever the record is, I don’t even really know, but when I saw them play USC, they had as many athletes on the field as USC did. Right there told me they’ve got some players. Now if they continue and get some more, they’re gonna make a splash. If you capitalize on that with another good recruiting class or two, then I think you really start to build some momentum. Kids are interested in U-Va., they’re talking about it now."

Ocean Lakes High School Coach Chris Scott

“Coach London from the beginning said his purpose was to get back inside the state. Before then, U-Va. was hardly getting anyone from the state. They were more of a New Jersey type area and Tech was getting most of the main guys from the state. And then some were leaving. I think that’s changed a little bit because Coach London has done a great job of establishing relationships and coming in here. I think he’s done some things to make an effort and recruit and let the in-state coaches and players know that he wants a football team with homegrown athletes. ...

“He's come in here and tried to relate right away. I think that’s what he’s known for and I think he’s a guy that’s a players' coach. He has that thing going for him, and he’s getting inside the schools. He’s made sure he’s gotten inside the schools. He made it a goal to get in every high school and he’s done that. I think Tech made a name for themselves doing that, and that’s been their mantra since Coach Beamer came. They’ve been inside, whether you have a player or not. If you look how they break their in state recruiting up, every coach has a part of Virginia and then they have to go outside the state as well. They’re making sure they have their cornerstones.”

Bayside High School Coach Darnell Moore

“I think London has put a dent in the situation. When you look at the top level kids Tech would normally get, look at the kids they’ve both recruited and see how that turns out. For [London] to have done well, I think that speaks volumes for him. With Virginia not being a winning program right now, it also says a whole lot. People believe in what he’s doing.

He’s been more of a presence but I also think he’s just more of a people’s person. People can relate to him. We know he’s the CEO of the football program there, but he doesn’t come over like the CEO, ‘Ok I’m just gonna come in here.’ There’s no standoffishness about him. He lends a sense of trustworthiness to the kid.”

Phoebus High School Coach Stan Sexton

“When Groh was there, Groh kind of [ticked] a lot of coaches off by saying our athletes in this area couldn’t compete. Yet the whole time he was there, Tech was kicking his [butt] every year with kids from this area. It was rare to see a coach down here. I felt like Groh’s staff recruited too much on national ranking rather than how good a kid actually is.

“The thing about Tech is they’re always gonna be straightforward with you, whether you like what they’re saying or not. But Virginia, they’ve been hitting this area pretty hard. London is coming back in the area hot and heavy, and I think he's already made a dent.”

Hampton High School Coach Mike Smith

"I don’t think London’s had more success than Al Groh had when he first went to Virginia. I think Al Groh had success early on. He just made some decisions that didn’t sit well with people. Mike had been down here recruiting for Groh, he was part of that group. The man that changed Virginia football is George Welsh. He turned that thing around. When Groh went there, his best years were the guys George Welch had brought in. ... Honestly, you’ve got to say Virginia Tech built that program on guys that Virginia and the other big boys didn’t recruit. I think Tech does a good job of studying and recognizing and developing talent."

By Mark Giannotto  | November 26, 2010; 1:21 PM ET
 
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