By Doug Doughty
Roanoke (Va.) Times
August 27, 2005
Given the on-field success of the Virginia and Virginia Tech football programs over the past 10-15 years, ACC rivals make no secret of the futility they have experienced in trying to persuade top recruits to leave the Old Dominion.
That hasn't prevented national powers such as Oklahoma, Nebraska and Florida from setting their sights on the 2004-05 Virginia class, which is distinguishable by a large group of quality wide receivers, among other things.
As many as five wideouts have made some lists of the top 10 seniors in Virginia, and most of them are expected to leave the state, including the unqualified No. 1 choice, Percy Harvin from Virginia Beach Landstown.
By June, Harvin confirmed that he had narrowed his choices to Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Southern California and Tennessee. In effect, he eliminated Virginia and Virginia Tech, although Harvin later was scheduled for an unofficial visit to Blacksburg with Landstown teammate and fellow blue-chip receiver Damon McDaniel.
Harvin has said that he and McDaniel have an interest in playing college football for the same team, although McDaniel did not have Michigan or Southern Cal on his list, which included UVa, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, Miami and Ohio State.
McDaniel had fabulous numbers as a junior 68 receptions for 1,106 yards and 15 touchdowns but Harvin already has established himself as one of the best Virginia athletes ever. In basketball, he helped Landstown to the Group 3A state final, scoring 27 points in a losing effort in the championship game. In the spring, he won the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and triple jump at the outdoor boys' track and field state meet.
It's hard to say that was any more impressive than the state football final, when Harvin had 476 all-purpose yards in a 47-20 victory over Fairfax Robinson in the Group 3A Division 6 (largest classification) title game. He scored four touchdowns and intercepted three passes.
While Virginia Tech is loaded with young wide receivers, including game-breaker Eddie Royal, the Cavaliers have had problems attracting a big-time wideout. They are looking for a breakthrough with either McDaniel or Chris Bell, who had 48 receptions for 654 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior at Norfolk Granby.
Both Tech and Virginia also are in the mix with 6-2, 190-pound Vidal Hazelton, a Staten Island, N.Y., wide receiver who will spend his senior year of high school at Hargrave Military Academy, where he will play for the postgraduate team. (Players with postgraduate programs are not eligible for the ACC Sports Journal's state-by-state high school rankings.) Many services rate Hazelton as the No. 2 receiver prospect in the country behind Harvin, and his presence at Hargrave can't be viewed as a negative for either of Virginia's Division I-A programs.
Although the postgraduate teams at Hargrave and Fork Union Military Academy churn out large numbers of I-A prospects on a regular basis, a less-heralded undergraduate program at Fork Union has turned out the likes of former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and Michigan tailback Chris Perry.
Coach Mickey Sullivan has a big-time recruit again this year in wide receiver Brandon Caleb. After originally going to Fork Union four years ago from Richmond, Caleb and his family now are planning a move to the Atlanta area. By mid-summer, Caleb had narrowed his choices to Florida, Miami, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, although he was unconvinced that the Hokies would use him at receiver. In August, he committed to the Sooners, who have only one player (a junior college transfer) from Virginia on their 2005 roster.
Oklahoma also had offers out to Harvin, McDaniel, linebacker Jarrell Miller from Highland Springs and tailback Evan Royster from Chantilly Westfield. Royster took visits during the summer to Oklahoma and Nebraska and said he enjoyed the way the Big 12 rivals had recruited him, "not text-messaging me every five minutes."
Royster is the younger brother of one-time Fairfax star Brandon Royster, rated the No. 1 prospect in Virginia before signing with Stanford in 2000. The older Royster, whose career was ended by knee injuries, picked the Cardinal over Virginia Tech (his second choice) and Virginia. However, Evan has the state schools on his list mostly as a courtesy.
It will be harder to get Miller out of Highland Springs, whose top players traditionally have looked very closely at Virginia Tech. The Highland Springs players currently in Blacksburg are defensive end Noland Burchette and freshman cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris, rated the No. 1 prospect in the state last year.
Highland Springs coach Scott Burton did not go to Virginia Tech. Neither did Bill Dee, the head coach at Hampton Phoebus. However, Phoebus has been another Tech-friendly school, sending All-America running back Elan Lewis to Blacksburg last year.
Phoebus has at least two I-A prospects this year, including linebacker Matt Wright, who is the half-brother of D.J. Parker, a former Phoebus quarterback who is bidding for a starting job in the Hokies' secondary this fall. Another Phoebus player, wide receiver Brent Vinson, ran a 4.39 40 at the Nike All-Star Camp in Blacksburg; he could be the sleeper of the class in Virginia. He has played only one year of organized football, but he has good size to go with his fabulous speed.
The Hokies also are in good shape with 6-3, 250-pound Brian Whitmore, a defensive lineman from Chesapeake's Oscar Smith High, the alma mater of Tech freshman quarterback Greg Boone. (The connections never end.) It has been said that Whitmore will be unstoppable if he gets to 280-285 pounds, but that's if he keeps his 4.7 speed. He likes where he is now.
The top-ranked offensive line prospect in the state, 6-5, 295-pound Alex Stadler from Bealeton Liberty, had close to 25 Division I-A offers before narrowing his list to nine, including Michigan, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but not Virginia, which was relatively late in extending an offer. Connecticut got in on him early and is not to be overlooked. The state's top offensive lineman last year, Pat Sheil, pulled a similar surprise when he committed to Boston College.
Virginia has been a hit-or-miss state for quarterbacks in recent years, and this year's crop probably won't change that perception. Norfolk Maury quarterback Kam Chancellor turned some heads at a seven-on-seven passing tournament in Charlottesville, where he led his team to an early round victory over Landstown, which added Hazelton to an arsenal that included Harvin and McDaniel. Chancellor has grades, he has size and he's willing to wait on teams that want to look at him during the season.
The top-rated running backs in the state are Royster and Brandon Minor from Richmond Varina, who is not to be judged by his 40 time. Minor ran a 4.8 at the Nike camp in Blacksburg, but he has a history of tweaking his hamstrings during 40-yard sprints but not in games. By the end of March, Minor already had offers from Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
Compared to 2004, when Virginia had close to 20 commitments by the start of school, this year's state crop has been a little more reticent. The Cavaliers had commitments from three in-state recruits, including Sean Gottschalk, a 6-4, 255-pound tight end/defensive end from Deep Run, a school in Richmond's suburban West End that opened in 2002.
Gottschalk, whose parents both have advanced degrees from Virginia, is not a finished product. That description more closely fits John Graves, a 6-4, 250-pound defensive end from Group 3A Division 5 state champion Richmond Meadowbrook. Graves is up to seven offers in a recruiting battle that is almost certain to include Tech and UVa until the finish.
Those two schools also are among the 20-some I-A programs that have made offers to Dedrick Epps, a 6-4, 230-pound tight end from Richmond Huguenot. Coach Richard McFee has a reputation for hyping his players, which may have held down Epps' early ratings, but Epps is a good student with an intriguing combination of size and speed who could play H-back in offenses that utilize that spot.
At the time he committed to Virginia, 6-4, 300-pound B.J. Cabell had no other I-A scholarship offers, but the Cavaliers saw him at their camp and liked what they saw. Cabell plays for Nelson County, located 35 miles from Charlottesville.
"He's the best that we've ever had at his position," said coach Tim Crawford, who has been associated with the Nelson County program for 25 years.
The Cavaliers got another local product when 6-4, 350-pound nose guard Asa Chapman from Orange County accepted their offer. Given his documented academic standing, it is almost a certainty that Chapman will go to prep school before he can enroll at a I-A program, but nobody questions his size and athleticism or the Cavaliers' decision to offer him. If he were a qualifier, he might be listed among the top 10 prospects in the state.
"There aren't too many 350-pounders who can run," Orange County coach John Kayajanian said. "He has a long way to go to reach his potential, but if he works hard there's no limit to what he can do. Obviously, at his size, he's a good fit for what Virginia does with the nose tackle. Moving him is no easy task."
No Division I-A prospect is located closer to Charlottesville than Greg Davis, a 6-2, 195-pound wide receiver and safety from the Blue Ridge School in St. George, which is 18 miles from the UVa campus. Davis, originally from Baltimore, has an offer from Nebraska and has expressed interest in Miami, but the Cavaliers will be tough to beat.
Summer commitments to Virginia Tech came from Darryl Robertson, a 6-2, 290-pound defensive tackle from Liberty High School in Bedford (halfway between Lynchburg and Roanoke), and 6-3, 265-pound offensive lineman Beau Warren from Clifton Centreville. Warren's father, Don, played tight end for the Washington Redskins, and Beau has two older brothers, Blake and Brett, who are scholarship linebackers for the Hokies this season.
All-purpose back Lucas Caparelli from Fairfax Robinson has family ties to Pittsburgh and has emerged as a national recruit along the lines of his one-time Robinson teammate Chase Anastasio, who is in his third year at Notre Dame.
VIRGINIA'S TOP 30
|No. Name||Pos.||Ht./Wt.||High School||College Favorites|
|1. Percy Harvin||WR||5-11/185||Va. Beach Landstown||Fla., FSU, Miami, Tenn., So.Cal*|
|2. Chris Bell||WR||6-3/205||Norfolk Granby||PSU, UVa, UNC, Fla., Md.*|
|3. Jarrell Miller||LB||6-3/230||Highland Springs High||VT, UVa, Md., UNC, Miami*|
|4. Brian Whitmore||DT/DE||6-3/250||Chesapeake Smith||Miami, VT, Md., LSU, OSU*|
|5. Damon McDaniel||WR||5-11/190||Virginia Beach Landstown||Fla., LSU, Okla., VT, Miami*|
|6. Brandon Caleb||WR||6-1/195||Fork Union Military||OKLAHOMA|
|7. Alex Stadler||OL||6-5/295||Bealeton Liberty||VT, BC, ND, FSU, NCSU*|
|8. John Graves||DE||6-4/250||Richmond Meadowbrook||VT, UVa, Ga., Md., NCSU*|
|9. Greg Davis||DB||6-2/195||St. George Blue Ridge||UVa, VT, Cal, Neb.*|
|10. Dedrick Epps||TE/DE||6-4/230||Richmond Huguenot||PSU, Miami, Tenn., Fla., Mich.*|
|11. Brent Vinson||WR||6-2/180||Hampton Phoebus||VT, UVa, Md., Ga., WVU*|
|12. Evan Royster||RB||6-0/190||Chantilly Westfield||Okla., Neb., UVa, VT, Md.*|
|13. Brandon Minor||RB/FB||6-0/215||Richmond Varina||Miami, VT, Mich., Fla.*|
|14. Sean Gottschalk||TE/DE||6-4/255||Glen Allen Deep Run||VIRGINIA|
|15. Matt Wright||LB||6-2/215||Hampton Phoebus||VT, UNC, NCSU, Md., UVa*|
|16. Daryl Robertson||DT||6-2/290||Bedford Liberty||VIRGINIA TECH|
|17. B.J. Cabbell||OL||6-4/300||Lovingston Nelson County||VIRGINIA|
|18. Beau Warren||OL||6-3/265||Clifton Centreville||VIRGINIA TECH|
|19. Lucas Caparelli||RB/DB||5-11/190||Fairfax Robinson||VT, UVa, Pitt, Md., Duke*|
|20. Marcus Anthony||TE/DE||6-2/250||Ashland Henry||UVa, UNC, Md., NCSU, Clem.*|
|21. Asa Chapman||DT||6-4/350||Orange County||VIRGINIA|
|22. Keith Payne||RB/LB||6-2/215||Vienna Oakton||VT, UVa, Md., Clem.*|
|23. Ed Barham||TE/DE||6-4/235||Dendron Surry County||NORTH CAROLINA|
|24. Andre Boone||RB||5-10/185||Virginia Beach Cox||Wake, Marsh., UVa, UNC, BC*|
|25. Josh Czajkowski||PK/P||5-10/185||Springfield West||N.C. STATE|
|26. Andrew Holoman||LB||6-2/205||Ashburn Stone Bridge||DUKE|
|27. Quinton Rainey||RB/LB||5-11/220||Virginia Beach Landstown||NCSU, UNC, Md., UVa, Syr.*|
|28. Ke'Mon Bailey||WR||5-11/180||Richmond Huguenot||PSU, Pur., Fla., VT, UNC*|
|29. Aaron Hull||FB/DT||5-11/260||Bealeton Liberty||TEMPLE|
|30. J.R. Ware||DE||6-4/225||Staunton Lee||UVa, UNC, Md., Marsh.*|
NOTE: Preseason player rankings by the ACC Sports Journal.
* also considering other schools