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Elliott: Recruiting the state of Virginia will be a ‘priority’

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The great Virginia football teams of the past were built on a foundation of great in-state talent – Shawn Moore, Herman Moore, Chris Slade, Terry Kirby, Ronde and Tiki Barber, Thomas Jones, Heath Miller, Chris Long.

Bronco Mendenhall and his staff never seemed to make in-roads in their new home state, for reasons that Bronco might need several thousand words to work around trying to evade explaining.

New coach Tony Elliott made it clear Monday that he wants to make Virginia a recruiting priority again going forward.


“We understand that the Commonwealth has a ton of talent,” Elliott said. “Now, not every individual will be the profile that we’re looking for, but we’re going to have relationships in the state, and I’m about relationships and recruiting. I know times have changed coming from a situation where we were all over the place, but I still believe that you can have relationships, and at the end of the day that’s what recruiting is to me.”

Elliott indicated at his introductory press conference that he is going to do his due diligence in terms of putting together his staff, giving himself time to watch how the current staff – which will coach the team through the Fenway Bowl later this month – interacts with players, and to get feedback from the current roster to that end.

There is support internally for QB coach Jason Beck and wide receivers coach Marques Hagans, a Virginia alum.

There may also be momentum toward another alum not currently on the staff, former star defensive end Chris Slade, a successful high school coach in the Atlanta area who got to know Elliott well when Elliott recruited Atlanta while on the staff at Clemson.

I bring up the staff element because assistants aren’t just responsible for their position groups, but also recruiting specific regions.

Hagans is already well-regarded for his recruiting work under Mendenhall, and it would seem that a guy like Slade could add bona fides on the recruiting trail from his years coaching high-level prep football in the talent-rich Atlanta market.

Elliott, himself, said his honey hole recruiting-wise was in the Southeast – South Carolina, Georgia, Florida.

“But being in the program at Clemson, we benefitted greatly from some players from the state of Virginia, so you know that the talent is there,” Elliott said.

Indeed, it is, and Virginia hasn’t been getting it. My review of the past five recruiting classes, dating back to 2017, and then the Class of 2022, which signs tomorrow, at this writing, has UVA landing two total of the state’s Top 10 annual recruits from the Commonwealth, as ranked by Rivals.

Two guys, out of 60.

Virginia Tech and Penn State each have eight Top 10s from the state dating back to 2017. North Carolina has seven, including five in the upcoming Class of 2022.

Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame each landed four.

I did an analysis of the contributions of Virginia prep recruits on the 2021 UVA season, and it was a bit shocking.

The Virginia recruits on the 2021 roster played on 9.2 percent of the total snaps for the offense, defense and special teams, with the bulk of their contributions coming on special teams – a full 790 of the 2,080 snaps from the group coming there, 38 percent of the total.

This is the sum total of five full years of recruiting the Commonwealth.

A lot of guys running around on special teams, and four snaps on defense from a four-star defensive end, Class of 2021 signee Bryce Carter.

It’s not like there isn’t talent here: Rivals rated 61 Virginia players as four- or five-stars from the past six classes.

They’re good enough to go to Penn State, UNC, Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame.

It’d be nice to see more of them matriculating on Grounds.

“We have to make it a priority and start with building relationships,” Elliott said. “Knowing that we may not be able to take every player in the state of Virginia, but the ones that fit the profile, they need to come to the University of Virginia, and it’s going to start with me setting the tempo from a relationship standpoint with the high school coaches and making sure that we start inside out and we take care of our backyard, because at the end of the day the program is going to be built on the guys that are committed to the university and committed to the football program, and actually those guys that are closer can spend more time in your program and become truly committed and invested.”

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press