CHARLOTTESVILLE – They came on a Friday and Virginia Coach Mike London decided to go ahead with a calculated risk on Sunday.
For weeks, he and his remaining assistant coaches had been doing damage control, barnstorming the region to assure prospective recruits that all was well in Charlottesville after Virginia decided to fire four of his assistant coaches following the program’s second 4-8 season in three years. As London put it, “when there’s change like that, there’s always the human element of people having second thoughts.
So with all but one of the prospects that will make up his 2013 recruiting class on campus last month for a recruiting weekend, London conducted a simple survey, one that violated associate head coach for offense Tom O’Brien’s tenet that, “you wait ’til you know the answer to ask the question” in recruiting.
“It was kind of like a convention there, because I asked everyone to stand up who was solidly committed and they all stood up,” London said. “It was a great scene.”
This was the backdrop for Virginia’s National Signing Day, which was an overwhelming success given how tumultuous the Cavaliers’ offseason has been. London and company signed 22 players to national letters-of-intent Wednesday, landing a top-30 recruiting class for the third straight year, according to all the major recruiting services.
More importantly, though, is that Virginia only lost one recruit following its offseason staff changes after at least four additional prospects looked into other options.
The star of this class is running back Taquan Mizzell, a Virginia Beach native who is considered Virginia’s first five-star recruit since current Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Eugene Monroe in 2005.
But on the same weekend in which London’s latest recruiting class came together for good, Mizzell was arrested for underage possession of alcohol near campus. London addressed the situation Wednesday, telling reporters that it was “a matter that was handled by the university and the athletic department and it’s a matter that also I will be handling internally with the team to make sure situations like that don’t occur again.”
The Cavaliers also signed six prospects from the Washington area, including three players from Good Counsel (defensive back Kirk Garner, quarterback/punter Brenden Marshall and wide receiver Andre Levrone). In addition, Virginia received a commitment from legacy recruit Zack Jones, the younger brother of former running back Perry Jones.
But London was particularly enthused with the five offensive linemen the Cavaliers signed, including two late additions.
Offensive lineman George Adeosun officially committed to Virginia Wednesday morning, completing a recruiting process that “blew up overnight,” according to London. Originally a William & Mary commit, Adeosun received late scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee, among others.
The Cavaliers also received a late-night surprise in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, when offensive lineman Eric Tetlow phoned Virginia’s coaches at 12:15 a.m. to let them know would be switching his commitment from Wake Forest to Virginia after meeting with O’Brien last weekend.
It was a far cry from the tenuous situation new recruiting coordinator Chip West dealt with in the days after London intiated his wholesale staff changes back in December. But the Cavaliers soon devised a plan that preceded London’s “dramatic” question last month, West said, with an emphasis on the number of former head coaches (three) that are now on Virginia’s new staff alongside London.
But West also made sure to ask recruits a simple question: “Why did you choose Virginia in the first place?”
“It went from very, very stressful, and until about five hours ago, it was still stressful, until we received all the faxes and the NLIs,” London said. “You can exhale for a moment.”
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