Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Results Are In

Recruiting confuses me.

I'll be the first to admit it too. I love sports but recruiting is an aspect that unless you take part in it, you can't fully understand. This Wednesday was National Signing Day, where all the universities across the land laud their great incoming classes of football heroes. Al Groh has been one hard worker at recruiting. He assembled top 25 classes like nobody's business in the beginning and why not? This guy was an NFL head coach, he worked under Bill Belichick, the beloved Patriots head coach with all the rings. He got stars like Heath Miller, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Ahmad Brooks. In all honesty, this graduating class might have been one of the best classes in UVA football history. The class of 2006 however, is not.

Recruiting is not an exact science, some high ranked prospects never pan out, and there are always surprises. Therefore, ranking teams is one problematic thing to do. Even the different entities that do the ranking have a hard time. How hard you ask? Rivals Inc. has UVA's class of 2006 as 39th nationally (not too bad), has it at 52nd (uh oh) and ESPN has it ranked 70th (very bad). Now I don't know about you but that's a real discrepancy. In fact, ESPN has UVA's class ranked dead last in the ACC, that's right behind Duke, Wake Forest and UNC. Maybe ESPN is off their rocker, Rivals and are the more respected recruiting forces. However, even if the players Virginia got turn out to be better than 70th in the nation, the bigger story is who Virginia did not get.

Virginia picked up 24 recruits, but only 8 are from the state of Virginia (that's one third, math majors). These eight weren't the biggest names either. Before you can become a national power, you HAVE to win the battle for the recruits in your state. Virginia did that early on in Groh's tenure but lately with Virginia Tech's ascendancy, the return of Penn State as well as those darn Florida schools, it's no longer the case. Plus these top prospects were wide receivers, the one position Virginia desperately needs help at more than anything else. I mean linebackers are wonderful, but when you're overbooked, you're overbooked.

It's also about holding on too. Virginia had two great players at running back Kordell Young and Brent Carter that decommited, instead opting for Rutgers and Penn State respectively. I don't know why they decommited, but I do know this...if you're losing football recruits to Rutgers, this is not good!

As fans, we want to believe that we can reach that elite level. It's hard in an ACC with two Florida schools, with the high academic standards we adhere to, and the parity present in today's football. Nevertheless, UVA needs to take advantage of situations when it can, and so must Al Groh. I think Al Groh is wonderful and so do pretty much all fans. He has completely changed the intensity and attitude towards football on Grounds. The nation likes Groh too, but he is starting to build a dangerous reputation as an "underachiever". In 2004-2005, Virginia looked poised for the ACC Championship and folded horribly in its 3 biggest games. Last season, Virginia did not win one ACC road game. Al Groh has responded when the pressure has really been on. Despite all the coaching vacancies, the Cavaliers beat a very good Minnesota team in the Music City Bowl. These vacancies certainly hurt recruiting this time around but now it's over.

It's officially time to look to next season and Coach Groh and staff need to focus on this season. It's time to prove that Virginia can break through that shell of mediocrity. Al Groh preached that this would not be the George Welsh era of ties and pep bands. Well George Welsh got us winning seasons too, one of the longest streaks in the nation, he got us our first bowl game and picked up two ACC Championships. If Coach Groh truly wants the fans to step up their commitment and effort to the program to get us to the next level, it's time for the team to do their part. It's not too lofty a goal, it's what has been asked of us by our coach. We responded...


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