You can’t say embroiled Virginia Cavaliers head coach Mike London isn’t doing everything he can to keep his job past this fall.
No, the 16-21 overall record during the past three years (including a paltry 8-16 in ACC play) isn’t winning London any fans in Charlottesville, but his effort on the recruiting trail is trying to remedy that. This was especially apparent on Saturday, when the nations’ no. 1 ranked defensive tackle for the 2014 class, Andrew Brown, announced his verbal pledge to the Cavs, the second 5-star prospect for Virginia and ninth overall.
As of now, the two 5-star prospects currently committed to Virginia (safety Quin Blanding along with Brown) are the most the Wahoo’s have had since their class of 2002, when they snagged three (linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham and running back Michael Johnson).
The key to the Cavaliers success on the recruiting trail has been locking down the top in-state talent. The Commonwealth of Virginia has a fantastic record of pumping out elite prep talent through the years, especially in the ‘757’ (southeast Virginia).
The area is particularly deep with top talent this year, with three players ranked amongst the consensus top-10 nationally (Blanding, Brown and arguably the no. 1 player overall, defensive end Da’Shawn Hand). And London has been cleaning up so far. Besides Brown (Cheasapeake, VA) and Blanding (Virginia Beach, VA), the Cavs have also locked up guard Steven Moss (Fredericksburg, VA), a 4-star prospect considered to be one of the best linemen in the country.
But the real test will be if London and co. can lure the immensely talented pass rusher from Woodbridge, Va. Hand is a physical marvel at a sculpted 6-foot 4, 250-pounds. The ‘kid’ looks like Adonis without pads on, and plays like a more physical Aldon Smith with them on. London will really have to make some magic to get a commitment from this prospect though, as he’s tentatively listed a top three of Alabama (I know, I couldn’t believe it either), Florida and Michigan: schools that regularly reel in multiple 5-stars on a yearly basis.
Still, with or without Hand, UVA can still put together an elite class. Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, VA) is the second ranked defensive tackle in the country next to Brown, and is still available on the ‘recruiting market’. He’s listed UVA in his top-5, along with Virginia Tech. Plus, 4-star receiver Jamil Kamara (Virginia Beach, VA) and 4-star defensive tackle Ricky Walker (Hampton, VA) are also still on the market.
So London and his staff will keep pushing forward, chasing more of the elite in-state prospects. A top-15 or so class this year will not only provide much needed depth to an improving roster, but possibly turn down the fire under his seat.
Still though, the only thing that will ensure London keeps his job past this year will be marked improvement over last year’s four wins.