The major storyline in 2008-2009 Virginia recruiting was the early commitments and subsequent decommitments of the state’s top two prospects, quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Kevin Newsome.
Another quarterback, Philip Sims, was quick to take center stage this year. Sims, who put up prolific passing numbers this past season for Group AAA Division 6 state champion Oscar Smith of Chesapeake, made an oral commitment to Alabama after visiting Tuscaloosa, Ala., over the weekend of April 9-11.
Presumably, Sims will keep his oral commitment, although there are dozens of programs who would want to be notified immediately if he were to change his mind.
Sims, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander, passed for 3,167 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior. He threw for 334 yards and six touchdowns in the state championship game.
Sims’ choice was somewhat surprising, but not nearly as surprising as the timing, considering his recent indications that he was in no hurry to make a decision.
In fact, in the weeks leading up to his unofficial visit to Alabama, Sims had been discounting reports that he was almost certain to leave the state, although he was certainly open to that option.
“I was surprised he [committed] so quickly but he saw what he wanted to see,” said Oscar Smith coach Rich Morgan, who noted that Sims’ parents joined him on the visit.
Alabama historically has not spent much time recruiting in Virginia, but there was an early attraction for the Tide and Sims.
“There was a need at quarterback, number one,” Morgan said. “Number two, he felt good about the coaching staff and the system there. And, then, number three, it’s Alabama [with its] 12 national titles and one of the best programs in the history of the country.
“It’s kind of hard to find anything that isn’t good about it.”
Sims would be a consensus choice as the state’s top prospect at this point, although he could receive competition from Zach McCray, a 6-3, 225-pound defensive end from Brookville High School in Lycnhburg, and Justin Hunter, a 6-4, 190-pound wide receiver from Ocean Lakes in Virginia Beach.
Early commitments are nothing new in Virginia, which produced more than 60 Division I-A football signees this past February, and Sims wasn’t close to the first this year.
That distinction went to Nick Acree, a 6-5, 300-pound defensive lineman from King William High School, northeast of Richmond. Acree, said to be transferring to Christchurch School for his senior year, committed to Virginia Tech in September.
More recently, West Virginia has taken commitments from two of the top linemen in Virginia, 6-3, 300-pound Marquis Wallace from Varina and 6-5, 330-pound Quintin Spain from Petersburg. Wallace and Spain were rated the Nos. 10 and 14 juniors in the state by The Roanoke Times.
The Mountaineers also took a commitment from Wallace’s teammate, Tre Johnson, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound All-Richmond selection who rushed for 1,970 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
It marks the second year in a row in which West Virginia has made early waves in Virginia, both with running backs coach Chris Beatty as the lead recruiter. Beatty was the coach at two Virginia high schools, North Stafford and Landstown, taking Landstown to a state title with Percy Harvin as its marquee player.
Three ACC programs, all from out of state, have taken commitments from Virginians. Maryland landed 5-10, 180-pound defensive back Jeremiah Wilson from Handley High School in Winchester, and defensive linemates Aramide Olaniyan (6-3, 191) and Duke Mosby (6-3, 275) from Woodberry Forest School in Orange have chosen Duke and Wake Forest, respectively.
Olaniyan, projected as a linebacker or safety in college, represented a major “get” for the Blue Devils. Tennessee and Michigan were among at least 14 I-A programs that had offers out to Olaniyan. A boarding student from Bowie, Md., Olaniyan also rejected Florida State, Clemson, Maryland and Boston College.
Some of the state’s top uncommitted players are waiting till the end of the May evaluation period with hopes that there won’t be the intrigue that followed the Boyd and Newsome announcements last year.
“We’ve never had that happen before,” said Oscar Smith’s Morgan. “They’ve never decommitted before and I don’t see it coming now. It would take an extreme event, like last year with [linebacker] Jerod Askew, when Tennessee fired their whole staff.
“He could have changed his mind, but when he met Monte Kiffin, he felt that Tennessee was still the place he wanted to be.”