By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal
May 24, 2004 The Virginia football program resumed its impressive work with the high school junior class, picking up six more early commitments to bring its Class of 2005 total to 13. Through late May, the Cavaliers had more pledges than the rest of the ACC combined. UVa coach Al Groh said his team's large number of early decisions, out of about 100 Division I-A commitments nationally, is a reflection of changing times and the fact that his tenure in Charlottesville is approaching its fourth season. "That is certainly something that I did become acquainted with that was different from 15 years or so ago," Groh said. "That was one (difference) that was quickly brought to my attention. Our operation becomes more and more I use the word 'mature.' With each year, we're able to start the evaluation process earlier. Now we have been around here long enough to trace back that we knew of some of these players when they were freshmen and follow their progress and then at the appropriate time do the actual evaluation. I think that (four years on the job) has certainly enabled us to expedite the process." Here's a review of the Cavaliers' most recent commitments: Haverford (PA) School OL/DT Will Barker, rated one of the top 50 rising seniors in Pennsylvania, committed to Virginia in April over early interest from Duke, Michigan State, UNC and Penn State. He has an uncle who lives in Charlottesville and is a professor at UVa. A two-way lineman, Barker has been a full-time starter since his sophomore season. Also a defender on his school's lacrosse team, he runs the 40 in 5.1 seconds. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is defensive backs coach Bob Price. Maplewood (NJ) Columbia LB Denzel Burrell, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in New Jersey, chose Virginia in April over early interest from Boston College, Iowa, Maryland, UNC, N.C. State, Pittsburgh and Purdue. He visited Charlottesville and Chapel Hill before making a decision. An all-area and all-county selection as a rush end, he had 75 tackles (23 for loss) and 10 sacks as a junior for a 3-6 team. Projected as an outside linebacker at UVa, he runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds, benches 270 pounds and squats 450. He has a 3.3 GPA and a 1,050 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is first-year assistant Mark D'Onofrio, who was the recruiting coordinator at Rutgers last year. Lexington (VA) Rockbridge TE/DE Aaron Clark, rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in Virginia, selected Virginia in April over early interest from Maryland, Michigan, UNC, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. His former teammate, lineman Jon Kirchner, signed with the Wahoos in February. As a junior, when he was a second-team Group 2A selection despite playing half the season with a broken hand, Clark had 69 tackles (24 for loss), seven sacks and an interception. Projected as a tight end, defensive end or outside linebacker at Virginia, he runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds, benches 250 pounds and squats 400. He has a 2.8 GPA and an 1,100 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is linebackers coach Danny Rocco. "Ever since I started thinking about recruiting, Virginia has been the No. 1 school on my list," Clark said. "When they came through with the scholarship offer, my decision was easy. I promised myself I would wait a few days (after getting the offer) to make sure I was doing the right thing, but I knew. When I told Coach Groh, I was so excited I was shaking." Lynchburg (VA) Heritage DB Chris Cook, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Virginia, chose Virginia in April over Virginia Tech. Maryland, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and West Virginia also showed early interest. A first-team Group 2A all-state selection, Cook had 52 tackles and eight interceptions as a junior for a 10-1 team. On offense, he had more than 700 rushing yards, more than 300 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Projected as a cornerback at Virginia, he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and benches 220 pounds. His 4.49 time in the 40 at the recent Nike Camp in Charlottesville ranked eighth out of the more than 200 prospects in attendance. He has a 3.2 GPA and a 900-plus SAT score. His main recruiters with the Cavaliers are quarterbacks coach Mike Groh and, more recently, first-year running backs coach Anthony Poindexter. "I'm a very physical cornerback, but I also have very good cover skills," Cook said. "I would compare my style of play to someone like (former NFL star) Rod Woodson, who was a big hitter but could cover, too. There aren't many 6-2 guys out there who are fast enough to play cornerback, but that's where I play and that's what I do best." Dale City (VA) Gar-Field DT/DE Kevin Crawford, rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in Virginia, opted for Virginia in May over Syracuse. Clemson, Florida, Maryland, UNC and Virginia Tech also showed early interest. His former teammate, defensive end Clint Sintim, signed with the Wahoos in February. A second-team all-district selection, Crawford had about 50 tackles and 13 sacks as a junior for Gar-Field, after previously attending Brooklyn (NY) Sheepshead Bay and Brooklyn (NY) Tilden. The 2003 season marked the first time Crawford played a full year of organized football. He runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds, benches 310 pounds and squats 410. He has a 2.5 GPA and will re-take the SAT in June. His main recruiters with the Cavaliers are defensive coordinator Al Golden and defensive line coach Mike London. Ashburn (VA) Broad Run TE/DE Alex Field, rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in Virginia, picked Virginia in February over early interest from Marshall and Maryland. As a junior, he was named district defensive player of the year as an end, and he also was first-team all-district as a tight end. Field had 11 sacks last fall for 6-4 Broad Run, which plays in Group 2A. He runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds and benches 310 pounds. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is defensive line coach Mike London. "(Virginia is) his dream school," Broad Run coach Ken Belchik said. "He's very excited about the football program, and of course they have outstanding academics there. Alex loves the game and loves being in the weight room. On the field, he's very aggressive. He's an intelligent, dominating blocker on offense, and nobody can handle him on defense. He has long arms, a huge frame and could easily add another 25 pounds in the next few years." Virginia Beach (VA) Kempsville TE/DE Jason Fuller, rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in Virginia, picked Virginia over Syracuse in March. He also had an early offer from Appalachian State, while Maryland, UNC, Penn State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia also showed interest. A first-team all-district and second-team all-region selection, Fuller had 66 tackles and 10 sacks for a 5-5 team as a junior. Also a standout wrestler, he finished second in Group 3A in the 215-pound weight class this year while compiling a 20-6 record. He benches 350 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds. He has a 3.5 GPA and a 1,080 SAT score. "I wanted a school with great integrity and a program that has a chance to win a national championship," Fuller said. "The more I was around (coaches and players), the more I realized Virginia was the right place for me. You can tell they're serious about school and they're serious about football, too. I love what they do with their tight ends, but I'll play wherever they want me to play." Springfield (PA) Cardinal O'Hara OL Matt Lowry, rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in Pennsylvania, chose Virginia in April over Syracuse. Boston College, Iowa, Michigan, UNC, N.C. State, Penn State, Rutgers and West Virginia also showed early interest. Lowry, who's from the same school as NFL-bound Virginia Tech tailback Kevin Jones, was a first-team all-city and second-team all-county selection as a junior on an 8-3 team. He has a 3.1 GPA and an 1,190 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is defensive backs coach Bob Price. "I liked everything about (Virginia)," Lowry said. "It was the best combination of everything I was looking for. I love the coaches, the players, the campus, the atmosphere. They have great academics, but they're also a very successful team. It's a good balance. I also noticed that they have a lot more (commitments) than anybody else, and if they were the right school for me, I didn't want to lose my spot." Hot Springs (VA) Bath County TE John Phillips, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Virginia, opted for Virginia in April over Virginia Tech. UNC, N.C. State and Vanderbilt also showed early interest. A first-team Group A all-state selection, he had 25 receptions for 495 yards and six touchdowns as a junior for a 13-1 team, with 10 sacks in 10 games on defense. Bath County played in three of the last four Group A state championship games, winning in 2001. The younger brother of Group A player of the year Jacob Phillips, who signed with William & Mary, John suffered a serious knee injury in the last game of the 2003 regular season but underwent surgery and already is playing baseball for Bath County this spring. Phillips benches 320 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds. He has a 3.7 GPA and a qualifying SAT score. "I feel like I have a very close relationship with the coaching staff, and it's just a perfect fit for me," Phillips said. "It's a great school with great football, it's pretty close to home, and obviously any tight end would want to play in that offense." Stafford (VA) North OL Patrick Slebonick, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Virginia, selected Virginia in April over N.C. State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Kentucky, Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee also showed early interest. He runs the 40 in 5.3 seconds and benches 330 pounds. He has a 3.3 GPA and an 1,100-plus SAT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is quarterbacks coach Mike Groh. "Patrick is an intelligent kid who understands football and understands line play," North Stafford coach Eric Cooke said. "The offensive line is one place where you have to have a good head on your shoulders and an appreciation for the angles and communications that mean so much to your success, and Patrick has those things. Every (college) coach who came though here talked about how technically sound he is for a high school player, and they're right. You don't see that very often at this level, especially not with the kids who are big enough to play Division I football." Durham (NC) Southern WR Brandon Woods, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in North Carolina, chose Virginia in May over Duke, UNC and Vanderbilt. Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska and Tennessee also showed early interest. His high school teammate, wideout Maurice Covington, committed to the Wahoos last fall. As a junior, Woods had 36 receptions for 857 yards and nine touchdowns on offense, plus seven interceptions on defense. As a sophomore, he had 10 TD catches and 10 interceptions. He runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. He has a 3.3 GPA and a 900 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is offensive coordinator Ron Prince. "Virginia recruited me first and stayed on me the hardest," Woods said. "It's great that (Covington) is going there, too, but I would have picked Virginia anyway. I love the West Coast offense, and the coaches promised me a chance to play at receiver, my favorite position. I went up to Charlottesville a bunch of times, and I felt really comfortable with the coaches, the players, the academics and just the total atmosphere up there." Virginia's earliest commitments from the Class of 2005 came from Durham (NC) Southern WR Maurice Covington and Gretna (VA) High QB Vic Hall. Both prospects announced for the Cavaliers in October. Others Select League Programs Here are the recruiting capsules for the ACC's other spring football commitments, including several who announced their decisions in May: Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha DB Jeff Allen, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Maryland, committed to Maryland in May over Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Boston College and Florida also showed early interest. The Maryland-DeMatha connection in recent years has included former LB Andrew Henley, former QB Scott McBrien (via West Virginia), QB Ryan Mitch, former DB Dennard Wilson, DB Josh Wilson and OL Edwin Williams (a 2004 signee). As a junior, Allen posted about 30 tackles as a defensive back and rushed for about 600 yards as a tailback. Projected as a safety for the Terps, he runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. "I wanted to find a good school and good football, but most important I wanted to find the same kind of family atmosphere we have here at DeMatha," Allen said. "When I found that at Maryland, it was perfect. Now my family and friends will be able to see me play, and I'll always be close to home. It definitely helps that so many players from (DeMatha) have had success at Maryland. I really like the coaches (at Maryland), what they've done with the team, and I think I'll have a chance to play early there." Columbus (GA) Pacelli RB/DB Matt Dunham, rated one of the top 50 rising seniors in Georgia, selected Florida State in April over Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech and Maryland. Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina also showed interest. His brother Cliff Dunham signed with the Gamecocks in 2003 but is currently attending Butler (KS) Community College. A first-team Class 1A all-state selection, Matt rushed for about 1,500 yards and 32 touchdowns as a junior, with seven interceptions on defense. He benches 300 pounds, squats 500 and runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. He must improve his academic credentials to qualify. His main recruiter with the Seminoles is defensive ends coach Jody Allen. "When Matt came here four years ago, he told me two of his biggest goals in football were to win a state championship and to play for Florida State. How many kids get to live their dreams?" Pacelli coach Kevin Pettis said. "(FSU) doesn't offer many out-of-state kids this early, so that should tell you something about how special Matt is as a prospect. He's such an amazing athlete, he could play tailback, safety, linebacker almost anywhere, maybe even defensive end. The (FSU) coaches said they'll let him start out wherever he wants, then they'll try to find the best fit. He'll be great wherever they put him." Burlington (NC) Cummings RB/DB L.J. Flintall, rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in North Carolina, committed to Wake Forest in May over Duke, Navy and Vanderbilt. He said the Demon Deacons promised him a chance to begin his college career at running back, his favorite position. As a junior, Flintall rushed for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns and had 240 receiving yards out of the backfield, with 79 tackles and two interceptions on defense. A soon-to-be four-year starter at cornerback, he runs the 40 in 4.45 seconds. He recently finished third in the Class 2A track championships with a time of 39.69 in the 300-meter hurdles, and he runs competitively for both his high school and the Durham Striders summer program. He has a 3.2 GPA and a 980 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Demon Deacons is quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen. "Wake Forest is the perfect fit for me," Flintall said. "In football, I like the way they've used other small tailbacks, and they promised me a chance to play my favorite position. They're close to home (40 miles away), the coaches are really classy, and I have a bunch of friends (including football players James Adams and Josh Gattis and basketball commitment Kevin Swinton) who will be there when I get there. I already knew how good the academics are at Wake, and then everything else fell into place." Doylestown (PA) Central Bucks South OL Dave McClain, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Pennsylvania, picked Maryland in March over an early offer from Syracuse. Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State (childhood favorite), Pittsburgh, Virginia and West Virginia also showed interest. A first-team all-conference selection as a junior, McClain projects as a guard at the college level. He benches 330 pounds, squats 575 and runs the 40 in 5.4 seconds. He has a 2.8 GPA and a 1,040 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Terps is receivers coach James Franklin. "They don't have a lot of depth (on the line), so I'll have a chance to play early," McClain said. "I like their style, the way they run the ball, smash-mouth football. That's what I do best." Woburn (MA) High LB/DE Mike Mc-Laughlin, rated one of the top five rising seniors in Massachusetts, chose Boston College in May over Iowa, Maryland and Syracuse. Purdue also showed interest. McLaughlin's father played football at Massachusetts and in the USFL. Mike, who projects as a middle linebacker or defensive end for the Eagles, had 95 tackles as a junior while rushing for 950 yards and 20 touchdowns as a fullback. He runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds, benches 390 pounds and squats 450. "BC was always my No. 1 choice, and when they came through with an offer it was an honor," McLaughlin said. "I've been told that they only gave early offers to a couple of kids here locally, and I was one of the first. They know they're going to need only the best players to be able to compete with all the great teams in the ACC, and I'm excited to be a part of that. I really liked Maryland a lot, too, but I think I found everything I need right here close to home." Whiteville (NC) High DB Marquis Melvin, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in North Carolina, picked Duke in March over early interest from Maryland, UNC, N.C. State, Penn State and South Carolina. A first-team all-conference selection, he played receiver, safety and cornerback as a junior for a 9-4 team. A projected safety for the Blue Devils, he benches 320 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. "Duke has everything I'm looking for," Melvin said. "Education is very important to me, and you can't do any better than Duke. I also like Coach (Ted) Roof a lot. He has everybody fired up about turning the program around, and I want to be a part of that. The other thing is, I want to go somewhere I'll have a chance to play right away, and I think I'll have the opportunity to do that at Duke." Robbins (NC) North Moore OL/DT Camaron Moore, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in North Carolina, chose UNC in February over early interest from Duke, Florida State, Indiana, Miami and Nebraska. In April, he was one of the top defensive linemen at the Nike Camp held in Charlottesville. N.C. State and Virginia were among those who inquired about Thomas after his commitment to UNC, but he said he remains firm with the Tar Heels. North Moore, a Class 1A school, had only 13 players in its program three seasons ago. Thomas started at fullback and defensive tackle over the last two years. He rushed for more than 600 yards and six touchdowns as a junior, with 49 tackles on defense. He runs the 40 in 5.1 seconds and benches 320 pounds. His main recruiters with the Tar Heels are receivers coach Gunter Brewer and offensive line coach Hal Hunter. "We're a small school in a small town, so I knew it was going to take a while for most people to find Cam," North Moore coach Bryan Lee said. "Carolina discovered him earlier than everyone else, and when they offered it was an easy decision for him. His family saw Carolina as a perfect combination of football and academics, and as a coach I have a lot of respect for the program John Bunting is building and the way he's going about it." Charlotte (NC) Latin TE/DE Ryan Radloff, rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in North Carolina, committed to Duke in May over early interest from Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, UNC, N.C. State, South Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest. His father, Walter Radloff, was a star player for Georgia in the early 1980s and also played in the NFL. A first-team all-conference and all-region selection, Ryan had 78 tackles (22 for loss), 18 sacks and two interceptions as a junior. He benches 250 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. He has a 2.6 GPA and a 940 SAT score. His main recruiters with the Blue Devils are long-time defensive line coach Scott Brown and first-year quarterbacks coach Tommy Knotts, who was the head coach at Charlotte (NC) Independence last season. "Coach Knotts convinced me that the program is headed in the right direction," Radloff said. "That's a guy who was one of the best (high school) coaches in the state of North Carolina, and I knew about him because he was right here in Charlotte, but he left a really good job to work at Duke. That shows you it's not just a sales pitch. He believed in Coach (Ted) Roof enough to make a big commitment to him, and that's one of the reasons I feel really good about my commitment, too." Talented Targets Head Elsewhere Richmond (VA) Huguenot WR Kevin Cousins (6-3, 195), rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in Virginia, committed to Penn State over Michigan and Northwestern in May. Clemson, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin also showed interest. Cousins had only 12 receptions for 238 yards and two touchdowns as a junior on a 5-5 team in 2003, but Huguenot coach Rich McFee compares him to former Huguenot and Michigan star and current NFL receiver David Terrell. During McFee's 16-year tenure, Huguenot has produced six NFL players and 49 Division I signees. Among the latter were receiver Bruce Branch (PSU), receiver Corey Holliday (UNC), fullback Marcus McFee (PSU), receiver Bryan Still (Virginia Tech) and linebacker Eric Sturdifen (PSU). Cousins, who actually attends Richmond (VA) Community, plays for Huguenot because Community doesn't have a football team and he lives in the Huguenot attendance zone. He has a 4.2 GPA and a 1,250 SAT score. Columbus (GA) Pacelli LB Kalvin Baker, rated one of the top 50 rising seniors in Georgia, chose Florida (childhood favorite) in April over Alabama, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Vanderbilt. FSU, Georgia, Kentucky, UNC, N.C. State and South Carolina also showed interest. Alpharetta (GA) Chattahoochee LB Travis Barr, rated one of the top 75 rising seniors in Georgia, opted for Illinois over Rice in May. Duke, Kentucky, Southern Miss and Stanford also showed interest. Barr's uncle is former Illini running back Bill Tate, and his mother also is an Illinois graduate. Columbus (GA) Pacelli OL Mike Harness, rated one of the top 50 rising seniors in Georgia, selected Auburn in April over Florida and Georgia Tech. FSU, Georgia, Maryland and Vanderbilt also showed interest. Wyncote (PA) Bishop McDevitt RB/DB Lamar McPherson, rated one of the top 50 rising seniors in Pennsylvania, picked Syracuse in April over Connecticut, Michigan State and UNC. Maryland, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Rutgers also showed interest. Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha OL Anthony Perkins, rated one of the top 40 rising seniors in Maryland, chose Syracuse in May over early interest from Boston College, Maryland and others. Waynesboro (GA) Burke County LB Marcus Washington, rated one of the top 50 rising seniors in Georgia, opted for Georgia (childhood favorite) in May over Alabama, Auburn and East Carolina. Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee also showed interest.
Virginia Continues Early 2005 Avalanche
By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal