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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Closing the Borders in Virginia

Closing a fence around the State of Virginia requires not one team but two. Virginia joined rival Virginia Tech in doing so this past winter, Mike London’s first full recruiting cycle with the program, but it was not until this summer that we saw both the Cavaliers and Hokies team together to force national powers to look elsewhere for their top out-of-state talent. What does this mean for our two Virginia programs?

For Virginia, a rejuvenated recruiting effort spells future success for London and company — and it means the Cavaliers won’t be down for long. For Virginia Tech, recent recruiting successes come as a result of a staff shakeup by Frank Beamer, validating his decision — a tough one, I’d think — to push two longtime assistants off the sidelines and into advisory roles within the athletic department.

A quick look at how each team has fared thus far in the 2012 recruiting cycle, according to Rivals.com: Virginia has landed 15 verbal commitments, nine from in-state, while Virginia Tech has received 21 verbal commitments, 12 from in-state. The Cavaliers and Hokies have combined for 16 of the early top 30 in Virginia, according to the site.

According to Kyle Tucker of The Virginian Pilot, the two teams could end up signing 23 of the state’s top 30 players; Virginia currently holds a commitment from linebacker Kwontie Moore, the fourth-best player in-state, and Tucker thinks the Cavaliers could gain a commitment from the state’s second-best player, defensive end Eli Harold.

Tucker, via his Twitter feed, went on to make another great point: it’s been a long time since what he calls “the Great Exodus of 2006,” when 9 of the top 10 players in Virginia — including Percy Harvin — left the state; overall, 13 of the state’s top 15 players that year chose a program other than Virginia and Virginia Tech. In short, much has changed over the last five years.

I think it can all be traced back to London’s arrival. He’s done a great job replenishing a depleted roster with impressive talent: his first class, a 26-strong group, was long on athletic ability, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. His staff’s hard work has continued in 2011. Moore, one of the top linebacker prospects in the country, has been joined by a crop of commitments that includes defensive back Courtney Wynn, the 14th-ranked Virginia prospect; linebacker Mark Hall, ranked 18th in the state; and offensive lineman Andrew Miles-Redmond, 20th in the state.

Think Beamer wasn’t paying attention? He definitely was, and London’s inroads with some of Virginia’s top recruits had to have been one of the leading factors behind his decision to make staffing changes. One was replacing running backs coach Billy Hite with his son, Shane, who has taken the point position in Tech’s strong recruiting start. It was a staff-wide mandate from Beamer: I know you can coach, he must have said, but we need to work harder on the trail.

And while the Cavaliers and Hokies clean up, other programs pay the price. Kind in the past to interlopers like Penn State, Florida, North Carolina and others, only two schools — Stanford and Boston College — currently have verbal commitments from recruits ranked in Virginia’s top 20 prospects. In essence, Virginia and Virginia Tech win on two fronts: in landing the state’s best, they keep top talent from heading to their rivals.

Now, there’s a long time until signing day. And these are verbal, non-binding commitments, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a Kwontie Moore, for instance, has a change of heart and heads elsewhere. But you have to like what you’re see, whether you’re for the Cavaliers and the Hokies: all of Virginia wins when the best players stay in-state.

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  1. Jay says:

    Hokies are getting scared. UVa will have a qb soon and then the wheels will fall off vpi’s bandwagon.

  2. UVA sherbert says:

    VT may get a lot of talent and win more games but UVA could start wining if we could just get smarter and stop making so many mistakes. We are like mental midgets on the field and have always been. We have never won a darn thing in football. I think the town is cursed. good luck mr london

  3. Rick says:

    Jay, do you really think Beamer and staff are afraid?

    Maybe when you beat Duke they will be? LOL

  4. Matt says:

    Va Tech should be dominant, and able to pick whatever Virginia talent it wants, given its 10 win seasons and UVa’s recent shortfall. There must be something about UVa and this new coach that kids and their parents are really attracted to. It does not bode well for Va Tech if/when UVa and London start winning 8-10 games a season on a regular basis. What reason would there be at that point for any Virginia talent to to to Va Tech, unless the academics at UVa scare them away or are out of reach?

  5. lalala says:

    Reason VT hasn’t been able to have killer classes is location and lack of traditional history. UVa has a better location pull, and a better (perceived) education pull too. I’d like to see anyone else pull what VT does given they’re recruiting pull is like a bare cupboard compared to the SEC schools.

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