Feb. 6, 2004
|Name||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Hometown (High School/Prep School)|
|Branden Albert||OL||6-7||310||Glen Burnie, Md. (Glen Burnie)|
|Kevin Bradley||FB/LB||6-1||220||Fayetteville, N.C. (Seventy First)|
|Ahmad Bradshaw *||TB/CB||5-10||180||Bluefield, Va. (Graham)|
|Devonta Brown||LB||6-2||225||Charlottesville, Va. (Charlottesville)|
|Philip Brown||CB||5-11||188||Hampton, Va. (Phoebus/Hargrave Military Academy)|
|Theirrien Davis||RB/DB||5-11||182||Bowie, Md. (Eleanor Roosevelt)|
|Scott Deke||QB||6-3||207||Pacific Palisades, Calif. (Loyola)|
|Chris Gorham||CB||6-0||175||Pottstown, Pa. (Pottstown)|
|Chris Gould||PK/P||6-1||190||Lock Haven, Pa. (Central Mountain)|
|Olu Hall||LB||6-3||220||Fairfax, Va. (Robinson)|
|Jamaal Jackson||WR/S||6-3||204||Chesapeake, Va. (Deep Creek)|
|Jon Kirchner||DE||6-4||258||Lexington, Va. (Rockbridge County)|
|Chris Long||OL/DL||6-4||265||Ivy, Va. (St. Anne's-Belfield)|
|Nate Lyles||DB||6-0||195||Chicago, Ill. (Hubbard)|
|Cedric Peerman||TB||5-10||185||Gladys, Va. (William Campbell)|
|Tom Santi||TE||6-5||225||Nashville, Tenn. (Montgomery Bell Academy)|
|Clint Sintim||DE||6-3||250||Woodbridge, Va. (Gar-Field)|
|Zak Stair||OL||6-6||280||Manassas, Va. (Osbourn Park)|
|James Terry||FB||6-2||220||Stafford, Va. (Woodbridge/Fork Union Military Academy)|
* addition to list released Feb. 4
Head coach Al Groh
Signing Day Quotes
As every coach in the country's going to say today, and every coach in the NFL is going to say in April, I'm very pleased with the new talent coming on the team. It's consistent with the talent level of the three groups that preceded it, particularly in the positions we targeted as primary positions to up the talent pool.
on cornerbacks and safeties:
I think there's some real good talent in those spots. We targeted that as a major area- both spots, corners and safeties. We got most of those players we targeted as primary guys. They were priority positions for us, and I feel very good about both the numbers and the skill coming in at those positions. As a group, both corner and safety have significantly increased the raw speed and overall athletic ability of those positions.
What can you say about OL Branden Albert?:
Some guys better buy some new radar. He's from the same high school that Ron Darden came from, and the circumstances are somewhat similar. He moved down from Rochester, N.Y., to live with his brother. He only played two years of high school football. He's a very good basketball player. We've seen him do that; he's light on his feet; he moves well. He would have some opportunities as a lower level, lower division basketball recruit, but he's got size, he's got athletic ability. I've watched a lot on him. He's got toughness, and he's certainly a guy who's got his future in front of him. He's got potential, and he's got work to do, but that's a good project to have at 6'7" 300 plus with feet and toughness to develop into an offensive lineman.
With you missing a couple of receivers, is it more likely that WR/S
Jamaal Jackson will start off over there?
No, not necessarily. That's what our receiver coach wants, but one of the projects in this class was both a corner and safety. Jamaal was in our camp, so we've seen him both on tape and we've seen him in-person. I know he can do things in catching the ball, but this is a 6'2", 6'3" safety who's team won their event at the Penn Relays last year who's got ball skills and who's going to grow up to be 210, 215 pounds. If that's where he ends up, start having safeties like that, then that's what you want to make your defense look like. We want to score a lot of points around here, but as you heard quite a bit in the weeks preceding last Sunday's game, you saw in the paper a lot, people were saying 'defense wins championships.' You've got to make an investment in that, and you've got to stay the course. A number of these players could end up at other spots to help the team out, but that's the plan going into August.
Have you been happy with the way you did in-state?
Well, we are. We're trying to get the very best players in the state and not just going out trying to grab numbers. We feel that happened again. For the third year in a row, we got the No. 1 player in the state. Whether the player was rated or not, it didn't make any difference to us. We didn't recruit against that objective. We recruited for the players that we need to have on the team to make the team better. We're very pleased with that. The three linebackers that we had targeted as our top three rated linebackers, we got. You know obviously in Chris Long we got a defensive lineman with terrific potential. We got the three safeties, two-plus corners, so we liked the way that went.
Has recruiting gotten easier since you've done it for four years?
I think we probably have continuity within the organization. Everybody knows what the plan is and how we evaluate players and the process with it, but really each class is its own entity. The cycle starts all over again. When the clock strikes midnight tonight, the hunt starts in earnest for the next class if it hasn't already. In fact it has, but officially it starts.
Did adding DB Nate Lyles late like that lift the class?
He was a very desirable player to us right from the start. This is a real football school where there's a player signing at Oklahoma, there's another one signing at Purdue. They're going to have, I'm told, six players to sign Division I scholarships out of that school. Some real good football players there. In this case, Corwin Brown's contacts there helped immensely, his being from Chicago and his school not being too far from there. We were very aware of Nate as early as last spring. He's a very versatile player. He's got legit speed; he's a contender for the 55 meters championship out there this winter; he's a real contact player; played some quarterback, played some running back, played some corner, played some safety. He's a real versatile kid, an excellent academic kid. When we can go out like that and augment the talent that's available to us closer to home, that's a big plus for us.
How is this class academically?
It's a very strong class. There's a lot that should be able to set the example.
You've made reference to LB Olu Hall and WR/S Jamaal Jackson. Both
of those players are coming from schools that have been considered
Virginia Tech pipelines in the past. Do you see these pipelines
getting broken down?
Each year is a year in itself, but if you recruit the player in the proper way, that's responded to on all levels whether it's the administrative level, the coaching level, or the player level in schools. So we've tried to be extremely thorough in our approach, very attentive to the schools, and certainly try to make a player at every school feel that he's a priority guy for us. Obviously those players felt that way. We got another terrific outside linebacker prospect, Olu [Hall], as well as Clint Sintim, so we kind of have our bookends there. We should be pretty set there for awhile. We got a big, fast safety who also has the skills to be a receiver so those are two important gets for us.
How did you follow Philip Brown?
Well, we followed him, as you might expect, very closely throughout the course of last season and watched him when they had their Combine down there. Obviously he's gone against a little higher level competition. He did take a step up, an intermediate step up, responded to that very well. The great thing about Philip is one, he can't wait to get here and two, he can't wait to get out there on the corner. He's got all the ability that a guy needs to play on a corner, but most particularly, he's got that corner's mentality.
The tight end position is obviously one of your strongest positions.
What do you see coming from Tom Santi?
He's got the same kind of skills as the guys we have right now. He's got height, he's got vertical speed, and he's got ball skills. Obviously Heath has got that. We're very encouraged by what we saw all along in Jonathan Stupar. We think Tom Santi's got that. I don't know how to make this comparison, but you know Lemming writes up Santi as the best vertical receiver in the country this year. Whether he is that or not, he's got vertical ball skills. He's played in an offense very similar to ours, his coach Jeff Rutledge was with the Giants during the timeframe that I was with the Giants, so he knows what we're looking for. He knows the picture that we have of what players should look like. When he was at Vanderbilt, he coached with Rod Dowhower who's a good friend of ours and has spent many years in the league and ran much the same offense that we run. So Tom has been exposed to a lot of the things that we do, and we looked at the tape. We could see him running many of the same routes that our guys do, so it really gave us a good opportunity to evaluate his skills and potential. Even with that, I think we'll be looking for two in next year's class. We know that for sure.
What do you like about QB Scott Deke?
Almost every quarterback that was on our main list of guys after we called it down, except one kid from the midwest, we were fortunate enough to have come through the camp. Obviously that's a position that's so vital to our team, and besides all the tape that we scrutinize, we really believe that you've got to see quarterbacks in person. You've got to see the ball in the air; you've got to see the quickness of the release; you've got to see the quarterback's ability to move within the pocket and avoid all the things that it's hard to get a fix on those things exactly on tape. So, we were lucky that all those quarterbacks, other than the one from the midwest who we thought was a very good player, were in our camps. We had a chance to see everyone in person. This is the player that we liked the best, and not that we were letting outsiders make the decision for us on this, but the camp has gotten so large that obviously we can't handle it all by ourselves. We have a number of coaches from other schools come in and help us and a number of high-school head coaches who come in and help us. During the week that Scott [Deke] was in the camp, the last day when we were having the championship games out in the stadium, there were a number of them who came by. They didn't really know that we were evaluating everybody else. They just said, 'Coach, I really like this kid. I like the way he conducts himself, I like the way he throws the ball. We had already made our decision by that time. In a lot of ways, Scott is really a Virginia quarterback in that his dad is on the Board of Visitors at VMI, and the family is originally from Roanoke. Much the same as was the case with Ian Cunningham last year coming from Texas. I think those two players certainly at least felt halfway in their hearts that they were a Virginian when the process started.
Can you talk about OL/DL Chris Long a little bit?
As you might expect, this just does not make him unique to his class but we're saying this specifically about Chris, he's a real football guy. He likes the whole deal. He likes lifting weights; he likes going to practice; he likes playing in the games; he likes watching games. He's got high energy personality. You want to have high energy on your team, you get high energy people. He certainly is that way, and if you see him right now, he's imposing in his size and when he gets here, this is going to be an athletic 6'4, 6'5ish 285-pound defensive end for us in the future. He's got toughness; he's got skills; he's got a real football mentality; he's a real solid student.
How do you feel about your offensive linemen?
Good. Every defensive lineman who's on the depth chart will be on it again next year unless they decide they don't like football or get hurt. Nobody's graduating other than Elton (Brown). We have lots of guard candidates on the team. Now we have two tackle candidates. One of the things we want with these tackles, obviously our tackles get out and run a lot. They get out on the edge on the perimeter plays, they get out there on the screens. I was listening to a game, actually I was watching the Green Bay vs. Seattle game and the commentator said that he was talking to Monte Kiffen. Kiffen told him that Green Bay runs the best screens in the league, because when their offensive linemen get out there, they don't miss. That's part of the criteria. We want that athletic ability in all position. That's one of the reasons we've been a good screen team; we want to continue being a good screen team. Both of these tackle prospects coming in are guys who are going to have size to them. One of them's 6'6", the other one's 6'7", but they're tall, lean guys. They're not big, thick, blocky guys. They're going to be able to get out and run and do those things. That's where we project both of those guys, and they'll have time to learn to do that. Hopefully when we're ready to go with the next batch, they'll be in the competition to move up.
on TB Cedric Peerman:
He's one of the most productive and dynamic players in the state of Virginia in the last two years.
How high could you have gone with numbers in this class?
For the right players, we were prepared to go into the mid-20's, but only for that circumstance. We also had some target numbers per position. That was the most important thing, to get the target numbers per position. Having done that, if it was to be top-shelf talent, we were ready to go beyond that. That would have kind of reduced our slots for the future. We got the talent. We would have liked one or two more receivers in this class, very definitely, but outside of that, we really got talent the spots that we wanted it by numbers. We're going to go back after the same kind of guys next year, and that just leaves us plenty of spaces to do that.
How many of these new recruits will play next year?
When they show they're ready, I'm ready. At a point that they can make a contribution such that it would significantly increase our opportunity to win, then we'll play them. We've got to use good judgement in that too. If it's going to add up when the season's over that the kid played 35 plays and that's going to cost him a year at the other end, then we would have to make that judgement. As I have said, it was more imperative when we were talking about the Brooks, Parham, Blackstock, Johnson, Lundy class that the addition of this talent only improves the team when it plays in the game. Therefore, there's so many players in this class that I'm really excited about their talent. I'm anxious to see them play in a game, so whenever they're ready to help us win, I'm ready. We'll just have to make a judgement at that particular time. We're also hopeful here that maybe the NCAA is going to adopt the five to play five rule, and that will allow teams to use the talent on end to win games. You got them, you put all this money into recruiting these players, you ought to be able to use them.
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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