GOSSAGE: Looking to 2017 and beyond
When both the past and present weigh you down, look ahead to the future. That’s the mindset of senior associate editor Grant Gossage this week, as he breaks down five of coach Bronco Mendenhall’s most recent 2017 Virginia football commits.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound receiver and defensive back from Clairton, Penn., outside of Pittsburgh, verbally committed to the University Saturday. Zandier leads Thomas Jefferson High School in receptions this season, with 34 catches for 744 yards and 17 touchdowns. Two of those scores came Friday in his team’s 35-7 WPIAL semifinal win over West Mifflin. Zandier will play in the Class 4A Championship game Friday at Heinz Field.
Mendenhall and staff have recruited Zandier — their top recruit according to his 247Sports Composite rating of 0.87 — to play outside linebacker. The three-star prospect turned down offers from Michigan State, West Virginia, Penn State, Cincinnati, among other programs, to be a Cavalier.
Another in the long line of 757 area code impact products, Owusu-Koramoah is labeled an athlete by scouts but has played mainly outside linebacker and wide receiver at Bethel in Hampton, Va. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound commit received offers from Clemson, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington State and others before his Oct. 23 announcement.
Owusu-Koramoah’s team fell to Indian River, 33-14, in the VHSL Group 5A playoffs Friday. Though their efforts didn’t pay off in full, the Bruins improved upon a 47-7 defeat to the Braves in last season’s playoffs.
From Yulee High School in Yulee, Fla. — the same school that 2015 Heisman Trophy Winner and former Alabama running back Derrick Henry attended — Peacock is similarly a big back at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. Virginia beat out a number of established teams in the pursuit of Peacock, including Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, Stanford and Nebraska. He committed Nov. 7.
The Hornets dropped their first FHSAA Class 5A playoff game Friday to unbeaten Ponte Vedra, 51-19. Peacock finished his career with 3,956 rushing yards and 65 touchdowns. He rushed for 207 and three scores in his final game.
Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post wrote an article in October about area athlete Snowden. It talks about how the then-junior at St. Alban’s rediscovered his love of football after watching the team’s first game from the bleachers. At 6-foot-7 and 200 pounds, Snowden had mid-major basketball offers before he decided then to return to the gridiron.
Over two years at St. Alban’s, Snowden showcased his athleticism as a wide receiver and outside linebacker. Meanwhile, he earned an offer to play hoops at D-I school St. Francis. Snowden committed to the Virginia football program, Oct. 2, only a week after Mendenhall and company had offered him his first football scholarship.
One of Mendenhall’s west coast targets, Nelson has the opportunity to improve a weak Cavalier offensive line down the road. 247Sports ranks the 6-foot-6, 254-pound senior from Buena Park High in California 66th in the country for his position. Nelson garnered offers from Arizona, California, Utah, Northwestern, Hawaii, Navy and Virginia, with more letters on the table.
After their 49-35 win over Central Michigan, the Cavaliers heard the good news in person. Nelson chose Virginia as his destination.
His Coyotes team knocked off San Juan Hills, 20-7, in its first matchup of the CIF Division 3 playoffs, so Nelson will fight in the trenches again this Friday against Edison in what appears to be a dead-even contest on paper.
A large chunk of his 2017 recruiting class, 17 of 22 commits to be exact, got onboard before the start of Mendenhall’s first season in Charlottesville, while the five above joined late. It’s turned out to be a woeful campaign for Virginia on the field, as the team enters week 12 with an ACC-worst record of 2-8. But Mendenhall can rest easy, knowing he’s recruited kids who are willing to invest.
“They are getting in at the time where they can make a real difference, which is actually why I came — to make a real difference,” Mendenhall said. “Not being promised a return right away, but knowing that [they] could contribute to something of real significance.”
Should these commits stay in Charlottesville for three, even four years, they may be there when the Cavalier program transforms into a consistent force. Based off its projection of where Virginia will be in time, a Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game committee paired the Cavaliers against Georgia for the 2020 opener in Atlanta. Is this a future you can get behind?