CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia Coach Mike London is coming off a 2-10 campaign that has turned his job security beyond the 2014 season into a subject of discussion, but it didn’t slow him down on the recruiting trail.
The Cavaliers will welcome a 17-member 2014 class that is ranked among the top 40 in the country by every major recruiting service, and on Wednesday they signed multiple five-star prospects for the first time since 2002. Virginia has the third-highest-rated class with fewer than 20 recruits in the country, behind only USC and Michigan, according to ESPN.
“Despite the season and other things that are going on, this class was very strongly committed very early on,” London said before addressing the scrutiny he has been under of late. “The message has always been about greater is coming. And that’s always been what I talk about.”
The headliners are safety Quin Blanding, a consensus top-10 recruit in the country, defensive tackle Andrew Brown, who has already enrolled at Virginia early to participate in spring practice, and four-star wide receiver Jamil Kamara. All three hail from the Virginia Beach area, participated in the same offseason program together and could see the field immediately for the Cavaliers.
London noted that “you don’t want to put too much on them,” but that the trio will get “every opportunity to play.”
The class also includes offensive lineman Steven Moss from Fredericksburg and quarterback Corwin Cutler, a 2013 signee who spent this past season at Fork Union Military Academy. The Cavaliers snagged four of the top seven players from the state of Virginia, according to 247 Sports.
Brown and Blanding continued to be pursued by other schools as the Cavaliers struggled through last season, and London noted Blanding’s commitment proved crucial to keeping this year’s recruiting class intact. Virginia also had to overcome losing assistant coaches Anthony Poindexter and Vincent Brown after the duo left to become co-defensive coordinators at Connecticut last month.
“It’s significant for a player of his caliber, his stature, to be mature enough to talk to others and say: ‘This is a great place. I believe in the message. Come and join me,’ ” London said of Blanding.
The Cavaliers also signed two players from the Washington area — linebacker Cory Jones of Archbishop Carroll and defensive end Jordan Jackson, a second-team All-Met from Woodgrove High. Jones only started playing football this year, but set a school record with 26 sacks during the 2013 season.
Poindexter was Virginia’s primary recruiter in the Washington area, and London said no decision has been made yet as to who will take over for him going forward.
London said his biggest disappointment this year was losing place kicker Gary Wunderlich, who reneged on an oral commitment in July and signed with Mississippi. In recent weeks, the Cavaliers also watched offensive lineman Will Richardson de-commit in favor of attending North Carolina State.
In addition, Virginia fell short on several last-minute decisions by recruits considering coming to Charlottesville. Four-star defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi picked Florida State over the Cavaliers and Virginia Tech; Ladarious Wiley elected to sign with Vanderbilt; and Tampa linebacker Vincent Jackson signed with South Florida.
Given the circumstances, though, London was grateful for a relatively drama-free day. He acknowledged that rival recruiters used his tenuous job status against him, but London claimed it didn’t change his pitch to recruits.
During a news conference, he even mentioned sending each member of the 2014 recruiting class a note that simply read, “YOU!” The stunt went viral on social media when Upland, Calif., cornerback Jeff Farrar tweeted a picture of it.
London explained it became a rallying cry because “you can be the difference” after the program went through another disappointing season last fall.
“I’ll never let anyone take my passion and energy away, no matter the year,” London said.