By Doug Doughty,
Roanoke (Va.) Times
August 25, 2003
Cavaliers, Hokies Aiming For All-ACC Dominance, Starting Now
ROANOKE For more than a decade, Virginia high school football players with a desire to stay in-state have had a choice between two Bowl Championship Series conferences, the ACC and the Big East. With the ACC's decision to add Virginia Tech, a development that nobody would have predicted in early April, the dynamics of in-state recruiting will never be the same. I love that Virginia Tech is in the ACC, said Sean Glennon, a highly ranked quarterback from Chantilly Westfield who committed to the Hokies in August. I might have (committed to Tech) anyway, but definitely, Tech going to the ACC scored a lot of points for them.
Indeed, the Hokies were close to the top of Glennon's list before they were added to the ACC, but proximity to home is no longer a major issue for players who had to weigh that factor before picking the Hokies over Virginia or some other ACC schools.
The first thing that occurred to me is that our kids' parents would have a chance to see them play, said Tech recruiting coordinator Jim Cavanaugh, after the Hokies had accepted the ACC's invitation.
There was no firm evidence that Big East affiliation had hurt Tech with in-state players in recent years, particularly last year, when the Hokies signed three of the top five prospects in the state: linebacker Xavier Adibi from Hampton Phoebus, linebacker Vince Hall from Chesapeake Western Branch and defensive end Chris Ellis from Hampton Bethel.
Adibi and Hall came from programs with strong ties to Tech (Adibi's brother is a senior defensive end for the Hokies), but the year before in Al Groh's first full season as UVa's coach the Cavaliers signed three of the top six players in the state: linebacker Ahmad Brooks from Woodbridge Hylton, linebacker Kai Parham from Virginia Beach Princess Anne and running back Michael Johnson from Newport News Heritage.
The Cavaliers jumped out to a strong start again this year, with five commitments before the end of July. That number doesn't count a pair of 2003 signees, cornerback Philip Brown and fullback James Terry, who are prepping for a year at Hargrave Military Academy and Fork Union Military, respectively.
Three of UVa's Class of 2004 commitments are from players ranked among the top dozen prospects in the state: defensive end Chris Long from Charlottesville St. Anne's-Belfield, defensive end Jon Kirchner from Lexington Rockbridge and running back Cedric Peerman from Campbell County near Lynchburg.
Long, whose father is NFL Hall of Famer and current TV studio analyst Howie Long, committed in early November of his junior year. He had no other scholarship offers at that point, which makes him tough for analysts to evaluate, particularly since he plays for a private school that has not previously produced a Division I-A football signee. For those reasons, some would say Long is overrated. On the other hand, services that downgrade Long may be underrating him. He has the athletic ability to be able to do a 360-degree basketball dunk, and if he has half his father's intensity, he will be an impact player for the Cavaliers.
The Wahoos view Long and Kirchner as possible bookend defensive ends in their 4-3 scheme. When the players were in Charlottesville at the same time during the late spring or summer, they had identical measurements: 6-4, 265.
While his family football ties are not prominent, Kirchner represented a coup for the Cavaliers because both of his parents graduated from Virginia Tech. He had offers from UVa, Virginia Tech, Stanford, Maryland, West Virginia and Duke. A second-team Group 2A selection, he had 58 tackles (20 for loss) and four sacks for an 8-3 team as a junior. He benches 280 pounds, squats 520 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. He has a 3.3 GPA and an 1,140 SAT score.
I visited (Virginia) three times, and every time I got the feeling that it was the place for me, Kirchner said. They have a young team that's on the uprise. All their coaches were very positive, and about all of them have been in the NFL at some time.
Virginia was the first school to offer Peerman, who committed to the Cavaliers at the end of May. He had a sensational junior year, when he rushed for 2,048 yards and scored 45 touchdowns, second on the state's all-time list behind ex-UVa All-American Thomas Jones. Peerman rushed for 317 yards and scored seven TDs for Campbell in its 70-0 victory over Appalachia in the Group A Division 2 state championship.
With Peerman, too, questions have been raised about level of play. However, he has speed, strength, grades and versatility. He had 22 receptions in the wide-open offense installed by coach Brad Bradley, a disciple of West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, and has excelled on defense when used there. National analyst Tom Lemming rated him the No. 21 cornerback prospect in the country on ESPN.com.
The Cavaliers, who did not sign a running back in 2003, also have a commitment from Andrew Pearman of Charlotte and are pursuing Ahmad Bradshaw, who was named Group 2A player of the year in 2002 after rushing for 2,282 yards and 27 touchdowns. Bradshaw has offers from UVa, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
The Cavaliers have four tailbacks in their program, all with eligibility in 2004. Peerman and Pearman, a blazer who is the younger brother of current UVa tailback Alvin Pearman, were projected as prospects at more than one position. Bradshaw is more of a classic I-formation tailback, but the Cavs are looking at him more as an athlete they want to get in the program.
Virginia Tech also has a supply of tailbacks and boasts a Heisman Trophy candidate this fall in junior Kevin Jones. The possibility exists that Jones could go to the NFL after this season, but once-prized recruits Mike Imoh and Cedric Humes are behind him. Humes has seen time at fullback, and Imoh got some work at wide receiver last year, but they're viewed as tailbacks in the post-Jones era.
The Hokies also are in good shape with two of this year's top running back prospects in Virginia, Brandon Ore from Chesapeake Indian River and Antwain Carey from Chesapeake Deep Creek, a program with longstanding Tech ties.
Carey's speed has taken him to the Penn Relays, but he was prevented from making the circuit of camps by a fractured foot detected early in the summer. Ore is viewed as a prospect at a number of positions, thanks to his 4.46 speed, but he said he will favor those schools who commit to trying him as a tailback. He said he has offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Tennessee, Penn State and North Carolina.
At the end of the 2002 season, it was believed that 2003 would be the year of the quarterback in Virginia. That might have been a little premature. Glennon remains near the top of the class, with offers from Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest leading up to his announcement for the Hokies.
The first- and second-team all-state quarterbacks in Virginia's largest classification, Group 3A, were Lee Bujakowski from Hopewell High and Ryan Pond from Chesapeake Western Branch. In late August, Bujakowski still was awaiting his first scholarship offer, while Pond was negotiating with Clemson and others on a combination football-baseball grant. Both are drop-back specialists, a breed Virginia Tech has gotten away from in recent years.
Quickly moving to the top of the in-state recruiting lists are such prospective pass rushers as 6-4, 220-pound Olu Hall from Fairfax Robinson, a perennial powerhouse whose coach, Virginia Tech graduate Mark Bendorf, has seen a number of his players go to Blacksburg. Hall has offers from Tech, UVa, Penn State, Tennessee, Syracuse, Clemson, Boston College and Wake Forest.
Another linebacker who can run is 6-2, 210-pound Jerod Mayo from Hampton Kecoughtan. Mayo's mother is a Maryland alumna, but it appears that Virginia's two in-state programs and N.C. State have the inside track. Virginia Tech got the top two players from the Peninsula last year, Adibi and Ellis, but Kecoughtan has not had a player of Mayo's stature in years. He has expressed an interest in UVa's 3-4 defense, a scheme that sometimes needs some explaining for prospective defensive ends.
One of the top inside linebackers, Andrew Bowman, comes from a program at Richmond Hermitage that sent players to Tech (tight end Duane Brown) and Virginia (wide receiver Fontel Mines) last season. Bowman is a hard-hitting, physical player who has the speed to have run the 100 meters earlier in his career.
A player who has come to attention relatively late in the process is 6-3, 240-pound Clint Sintim from Woodbridge Gar-Field. Tech and UVa have offered Sintim, as have Tennessee and two of the ACC programs that traditionally have enjoyed success with Virginia talent, North Carolina and Maryland.
Another player who will wind up among the top 10 prospects in the state is Kent Hicks, a big safety from Culpeper High. Hicks reportedly has 4.4-second speed and is viewed as a better prospect than Stefan Orange, a SuperPrep All-America defensive back in 2001 who signed with Virginia, where he lasted just one year. Hicks, who lists Virginia Tech and Tennessee among his favorites, recently stated that his interest in the Cavaliers dropped off because of Orange's experience in Charlottesville.
The two best offensive line prospects in the state are 6-5, 295-pound John Bradshaw from Falmouth Stafford and 6-4, 280-pound Zak Stair from Manassas Osbourn Park. Bradshaw, who will be 17 when he graduates, jumped at an early offer from West Virginia. Stair, who has a slightly larger frame and better speed, got an early rush from Virginia and is likely to have a long list of suitors this fall.
Commitments slowed down as the start of the high school season approached, but three ACC schools came into Virginia and landed players who did not have offers from Tech or UVa. Fairfax Robinson wide receiver Clarence Vaughn (see page R-3), a little-known prospect who moved to Virginia from Colorado, committed to Wake Forest.
Clifton Centreville defensive back Richard Taylor opted for Maryland over Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Pittsburgh. He said he particularly likes the Terps' location (one hour from home) and the possibility for early playing time in College Park. An all-district selection as a junior, he was named the top defensive back at the Nike Camp in Blacksburg this summer. He runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds.
Highland Springs High offensive lineman Tony Willis picked Clemson over interest (but no offers) from Akron, UNC, NCSU, Ohio, Virginia and Virginia Tech. A four-year starter, he benches 315 pounds and runs the 40 in 5.3 seconds. He missed three games last season with a foot injury but did not need surgery and is fully recovered. His father, John Thomas, played football at North Carolina A&T.
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