Jay James, UVA FB Sideline Reporter
Since Mike London arrived at UVA for his third stint, this time as a head coach, he has consistently put together highly ranked recruiting classes, but 2014 could catapult the Virginia recruiting profile to levels it has never reached. For the first time since 2002, UVA has a pair of 5 star recruits in a class. Five star safety Quin Blanding, and now 5 star defensive tackle Andrew Brown who committed over the weekend. This isn’t necessarily new territory for London, he was able to garner the top player in the state the year before in Eli Harold, and the year before that Gatorade state player of the year Demetrius Nicholson committed to the Cavaliers. What is another feather in London’s cap is that Demetrius Nicholson started as a true freshman, and Eli Harold saw significant time on the field last year. Thus recruits know they can come to Virginia and play right away. However, the question remains, how good of a recruiter is Mike London?
UVA is a tremendous institution and Charlottesville is a beautiful city, but is Mike London dealing with more than the average coach when it comes to recruiting? Sure, London has a brand new 13 million dollar indoor facility, and a great stadium to play in as well, but there are other factors that make the job a lot harder than the average college football program. First of all, UVA’s academic requirements are higher than the NCAA eligibility minimum standards. So London not only has to fight to get kids in, he has to fight to keep them there as well, against a rigorous course load. London is convincing top level talent to come to UVA, a program with one 10 win season in team history, and no victories over Virginia Tech in the last 10 years. Plus, a lot of these kids who are choosing UVA over Alabama, Florida, Clemson and other traditional football powers could definitely have it easier in the classroom, yet they are choosing Virginia. Nick Saban and Alabama has won three national championships in the last four years, and they are a household name, why would a top tier talent like Brown choose 4-8 Virginia and a head coach who is currently 16-21 in his tenure at the school? Why are the majority of recruits in the talent rich tidewater choosing Virginia? When you ask them, to a man, it comes down to Coach London. I think Eli Harold put it best when he said: “I love Coach London, and my mom (who is deceased) would’ve loved him.” Harold has admitted he had ruled UVA out, but London’s persistence got him to change his mind and choose UVA over schools like Florida and other top programs. Recruits are citing London’s sincerity, father-like approach, and ability to connect with them on a personal level. Kids often describe conversations with London that have nothing to do with football in the recruiting process. Amazingly enough, other schools negatively recruit against Virginia’s academics, its record over the last several years and nothing seems to be deterring top talent from coming to Charlottesville.
So when you look at it, is London the best recruiter in the country? He came into a program that was 3-9 the year before he arrived, with very little talent in the cupboard. UVA had poor relationships with high school coaches in talent rich areas like the tidewater. Virginia has also consistently been beaten badly by Virginia Tech. Then you factor in the academic component, and somehow, someway, London is able to get these kids to commit to Virginia. Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are great coaches, and they win at an alarming rate, I doubt very seriously they have to worry about the academic standing of their players, as far as it affecting their eligibility. They consistently beat their arch rivals, in Auburn for Saban, and Meyer basically owned FSU when he was at Florida. Yet London is recruiting kids like Greyson Lambert out of Georgia, as well as top talent like Andrew Brown from within the state. Brown made it clear why UVA was his choice. “It’s home, man. I mean, it’s Virginia. Plus, another thing, I felt like it’s a family thing at UVA. I’m not going to be treated as, ‘Aw, that’s number 65. Aw, man, he’s just another player.’ I thought at UVA that they’re actually going to remember my name and treat me as one of their own sons and push me harder and harder every day.” Enough said. London is battling the best recruiters in the nation with far less bullets in the gun, now just imagine what will happen when he starts winning.
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