Football finalizes recruiting class

Cavaliers add 22 players, but only sign three on Signing Day

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Virginia Coach Bronco Mendenhall will look to continue to grow his team in his third season as head coach.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

National Signing Day passed Wednesday, and the Virginia football team capped a relatively quiet recruiting period by signing three new recruits to its incoming class. 

Signing day was much less dramatic than usual across the country. Many commits signed letters of intent during the Dec. 20-22 signing period — the first time such an early signing period has existed. The early period was created to allow long-committed players to make their choice official earlier in the process, although the true impacts of the change may well be different than anticipated. 

Among the new Cavaliers to commit Wednesday was rising senior offensive lineman Marcus Applefield, a graduate transfer from Rutgers. Applefield — who considered Virginia out of high school — is a four-time Academic All-Big 10 selection. He also started 10 games last season at guard for a Rutgers offensive line that tied for first in the Big Ten with only 1.5 sacks permitted per game. Applefield will provide much needed depth along the trenches.

“We targeted offensive and defensive linemen for this signing period,” Virginia Coach Bronco Mendenhall said in his post-signing day press conference. 

This trend was apparent in the Cavaliers’ other two new commitments as well, in the form of offensive lineman Micah Mariteragi and defensive tackle Aaron Faumui. Both flipped to Virginia after verbally committing to University of Hawaii a week earlier.

However, much of the signing day drama surrounded a player who ended up elsewhere — cornerback Noah Boykin, who eventually committed to Notre Dame. Recruiting experts believed Boykin would choose Virginia over long-time favorite Florida after a last-minute in-home visit, only to have him surprise them all by choosing Notre Dame. Notre Dame also landed a commitment from cornerback DJ Brown, who decommitted from Virginia in late January.

While much of the day’s focus was on new commitments, four members of the incoming class are already enrolled and on grounds — junior college transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins, outside linebacker Noah Taylor, offensive lineman Bobby Haskins and quarterback Brennan Armstrong.

Taylor is the highest-rated player in the incoming class, according to 247sports’ composite rating. The scouts praise his quickness and length.

Perkins and Armstrong may well be the names Virginia fans come to know best from the class, however, as both are expected to compete for the starting quarterback spot next fall. 

Perkins is known for his speed, and has more experience than other quarterbacks on the roster — he performed well at the junior college level after leaving Arizona State. 

Armstrong — Virginia’s second highest ranked recruit — is a dual threat quarterback himself, and was a high target of the Cavaliers. Virginia flipped him from Minnesota late in the season. Even if he doesn’t win the job this fall, he may well be Virginia’s quarterback of the future.

The class as a whole ranked No. 13 in the ACC and No. 63 in the nation, according to 247sports. This is similar to last year’s class, which ranked No. 12 in the ACC and No. 58 in the country. 

This may disappoint some Virginia fans because, at the same point in his tenure, Mike London’s 2012 class ranked No. 5 in the ACC and No. 25 in the country.

However, the expectation for Mendenhall when hired was never that he would recruit at an elite level. Rather, fans expected him to coach up players, better plan for the long-term with his recruiting classes, instill a unique culture and hopefully win more than his predecessors. This is blueprint for success eerily similar to that of Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett.

While there are reasons for concern around recruiting — such as the fact that as many recruits were brought in from Hawaii rather than from Virginia — this class seems to be a step in the right direction towards Mendenhall’s goal of building the foundations of a winning program.

“What we want are amazing football players, that are exceptional students and wonderful people, as well,” Mendenhall said. 

The Virginia football team will start its 2018 season at home against Richmond — who defeated the Cavaliers in the first game of the 2016 season. The match is scheduled for Sept. 1.

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