By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal
November 3, 2003 The pace of commitments to ACC football programs picked up considerably in late October, and Virginia led the way with five new pledges. Charlottesville (VA) High LB Devonta Brown, rated one of the top 25 seniors in Virginia, committed to hometown Virginia over interest from Clemson, Duke, childhood favorite Maryland (he grew up in the D.C. area) and UNC. The Cavaliers extended an early scholarship offer and remained Brown's only Division I-A option at the time of his decision. As a junior, he had 80 tackles and seven sacks for a 10-1 team. His former teammate, defensive lineman Chris Johnson, signed with UVa last year. Brown bench presses 320 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds. With a 2.4 GPA and a sub-800 SAT score, he must improve his academic credentials to qualify. Pottstown (PA) High DB Chris Gorham, rated one of the top 40 seniors in Pennsylvania, picked long-time favorite Virginia over Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. He also had offers from Duke, Kent State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Toledo and Vanderbilt. He said he particularly likes the Cavaliers' academics, their status as an up-and-coming program, their membership in the post-expansion ACC and the possibility of early playing time in Charlottesville. A halfback and safety at Pottstown who is projected as a cornerback at UVa, he was an all-conference selection as a junior on a 10-1 team but missed part of his senior season with an injury. Also a sprinter for the track team, he has 4.5 speed in the 40 and has run the 100 meters in 11.1 seconds. His former teammate, offensive lineman Brandon Nixon, signed with Maryland last year. Gorham, who wants to be an orthopedic surgeon, has a 4.0 GPA and a 910 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is defensive backs coach Bob Price. Mill Hall (PA) Central Mountain PK Chris Gould, rated one of the top 50 seniors in Pennsylvania, selected Virginia over Indiana, Ohio State and Pittsburgh after an Oct. 17-19 official visit to Charlottesville. Penn State also showed interest. As a junior, after missing part of the season with a broken hip, he averaged 39.3 yards on punts and converted three of nine field goal attempts. As a senior, through eight games, he converted seven of 14 field goal attempts, with conversions from 53 and a career-best 54 yards and four of his misses from beyond 50 yards. He also has booted 75 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. His brother Robbie is the kicker at Penn State, which offered Chris a chance to enroll as a walk-on. Chris has a 3.9 GPA and a 1,060 SAT score. Chesapeake (VA) Deep Creek DB Jamaal Jackson, rated one of the top 25 seniors in Virginia, chose Virginia over Michigan State and Syracuse after the Cavaliers extended an offer during Jackson's unofficial visit to Charlottesville for the Oct. 25 FSU-UVa game. Maryland and Virginia Tech, which has six Deep Creek graduates on its 2003 roster, also showed interest. An option quarterback until midway through his junior season, Jackson plays receiver and safety (his projected position at UVa) this fall. He has 4.5 speed in the 40. His teammate, running back Antwain Carey, is considered one of the top 10 prospects in Virginia. Jackson has a 3.0 GPA and a 1,000-plus SAT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is defensive backs coach Bob Price. Nashville (TN) Montgomery Bell Academy TE Tom Santi, rated one of the top 10 tight ends in the nation, picked Virginia over Iowa and childhood favorite Tennessee after an Oct. 17-19 official visit to Charlottesville. He also had offers from Auburn, Colorado, Florida, Georgia Tech, LSU, Louisville, Mississippi, Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt. He said he liked UVa's combination of academics and athletics, the family atmosphere around the program, and the way the Cavaliers' offense utilizes the tight end. An all-state selection, he had 46 receptions for 650 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior for the 9-4 Class 3A private school state champions. Through nine games this fall, he had 22 catches for more than 300 yards and one TD for a 9-0 team ranked No. 11 in the nation by USA Today. His coach at MBA, former NFL quarterback Jeff Rutledge, is an old friend of UVa coach Al Groh who turned down the offensive coordinator job with the Cavaliers in 2001. Santi bench presses 320 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. He has a 3.9 GPA and a 1,340 SAT score. His main recruiter with Virginia is tight ends coach Andy Heck. Others Select Area Programs Fayetteville (NC) Britt RB George Bell, rated one of the top 25 tailbacks in the nation, committed to Virginia Tech over UNC and long-time favorite N.C. State. He also had offers from ECU, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee and UCLA, although some of those schools backed off this fall. Bell, who only recently returned from a major knee injury that caused him to miss most of the last two seasons, said Tech's winning tradition, the lack of distractions in Blacksburg and the availability of early playing time at tailback were major factors in his decision. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman, 864 in eight games (missing others with a broken arm) as a sophomore and 529 in four games (before ACL/LCL tears) as a junior. In his first game this fall, on Oct. 24, he carried six times for 19 yards. He bench presses 360 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. He plans to graduate from high school in December, enroll at Tech in January and participate in spring practice. With a 2.5 GPA and a sub-800 SAT score, he must improve his academic credentials to qualify. Middle Village (NY) Christ The King DT Elsmore Gabriel, rated one of the top 25 seniors in New York, chose Clemson in September over interest from Boston College, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia but only recently made his decision public. Gabriel, who has missed most of his senior season with a broken foot, plans to take an official visit to the Tigers on Jan. 10. A linebacker and defensive end in high school, he runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds and is projected as a defensive tackle at Clemson. His main recruiter with the Tigers is defensive coordinator John Lovett. Roanoke (VA) Northside DT Brandon Holland, rated one of the top 25 seniors in Virginia, chose Virginia Tech over Clemson, Maryland and West Virginia. UNC and Tennessee also showed interest. The Hokies were his childhood favorite, their campus is located 25 minutes from his house, and he took more than a dozen unofficial visits to Blacksburg in recent years. As a junior, he had 68 tackles and six sacks on a 10-0 team. Through eight games for a 1-7 team this season, he had 47 tackles and three sacks. Holland runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. He must improve his academic credentials to qualify. His main recruiter with the Hokies is quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers. Fort Lauderdale (FL) High LB Frantz Joseph, rated one of the top 150 seniors in Florida, opted for Boston College over Central Florida, Colorado State, Connecticut and Vanderbilt. Clemson, Florida, FSU, Tennessee and Wake Forest also showed interest. He said he particularly likes the Eagles' outstanding graduation rates, challenging schedules and academic/athletic balance. Through eight games this fall, he had 88 tackles and two sacks for a 2-6 team. He runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. He has a 3.4 GPA and an 840 SAT score. Jacksonville (FL) Trinity Christian RB/DB Lamar Lewis, rated one of the top 50 seniors in Florida, chose Florida State over Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Wake Forest (visit). He also had offers from Central Florida, Iowa State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, South Florida and Vanderbilt. His cousin and former teammate, Gerard Ross, is a sophomore safety for the Seminoles this fall. As a junior, Lewis rushed 162 times for more than 1,900 yards and 27 touchdowns, with 81 tackles and five interceptions on defense, for a 13-1 state championship team. Through six games for a 6-0 team this fall, he carried 85 times for 615 yards and seven TDs and caught 22 passes for 555 yards and 10 scores. Lewis, who benches 280 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.45 seconds, said he will start out at tailback at FSU but will switch to cornerback if he can't earn early playing time on offense. He has a 3.3 GPA and is waiting for the results of a recent ACT attempt. His main recruiter with the Seminoles is offensive line coach Jimmy Heggins. Boca Raton (FL) High OL Ryan Schmidt, rated one of the top 200 seniors in Florida, picked North Carolina over interest from Florida, Georgia Tech and Tennessee. Playing for a strong Class 4A program that went 6-4 last season (with eight Division I-A signees) and started 7-1 this fall, Schmidt is in his first year at offensive tackle. A late bloomer who attended UNC's summer camp in 2001 and 2002, he added three inches and 75 pounds to his frame in the past year. Doctors have projected that Schmidt, who is 17 years old, could reach the 6-7, 325-pound range. The Tar Heels got a tape of him for the first time in October, immediately went to see him in action and offered a scholarship on the spot. His former teammate, defensive back Brian Fleuridor, signed with Georgia Tech last year. Schmidt, who runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds, has a 3.5 GPA and a qualifying SAT score.
Virginia Adds Tennessee, Pennsylvania Stars
By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal