When he introduced his first recruiting class last year, a group rated among the nation's 10 best, Virginia Coach Al Groh was quick to point out that the Cavaliers would need two or three more top-notch classes to reach their goals.
Today, as the national signing period opened, Groh announced the signing of 21 recruits he believes collectively fulfill that standard. Stocked with offensive linemen, wide receivers and linebackers, Virginia's 2003 class was ranked in the top 25 by most recruiting analysts.
"We're very pleased to have put together a second very strong class, especially as it was able to fulfill areas that we very specifically targeted to fill in talent spots on this roster," Groh said. "That's two in a row, and we're already thinking toward number three."
Like last year, the Cavaliers' strategy of targeting players with high national profiles meant they waited on several players until the final days. They received commitments Monday from two of the nation's highest-rated linebackers, Jermaine Dias and Vince Redd, but lost out on linebacker Turk McBride (Tennessee) and wide receiver-safety Chase Anastasio (Notre Dame).
Virginia, which started all freshmen and sophomores on the offensive line in its resounding Continental Tire Bowl win over West Virginia, added five more highly regarded players up front, including Texas native Ian-Yates Cunningham and Florida's Jordy Lipsey, one of the nation's best centers.
"They're a pretty imposing group," Groh said. "The class isn't quite as jazzy in terms of numbers because offensive linemen don't have a lot of numbers . . . but these numbers -- 6-6, 318, 6-6, 309 -- impress me."
The class isn't as heavy on offensive skill players as last year's, but quarterback Kevin McCabe and tight end Jonathan Stupar were ranked among the top 10 at their positions. Four wide receivers, led by Virginia natives Shannon Lane and Fontel Mines, represent what Groh called "really good firepower."
Virginia also has linebacker Ahmad Brooks, a Hylton graduate who was touted as the crown jewel of last year's class but did not qualify academically. After spending the fall semester at Hargrave Military Academy, Brooks enrolled at Virginia last month and will participate in spring practice.
Meantime, at Navy, Coach Paul Johnson expressed optimism over the players the Midshipmen will welcome this fall.
The top recruits include defensive lineman Larry Cylc, a two-time all-state tight end-defensive end in Delaware; Greg Thrasher, a defensive back from Carrollton, Tex., who was recruited by Oklahoma State and several Texas schools; and quarterback Troy Goss, the North Carolina 3A player of the year last season. Goss threw for 2,338 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushed for 1,337 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"We certainly addressed some needs," Johnson said. "We got some good speed, and we got some good players."
Special correspondent Christian Swezey contributed from Washington.