Modest start to Bronco Mendenhall era: Virginia underwhelms on National Signing Day

bronco mendenhallNational Signing Day gets way, way more attention than a day about fax machines and oversized kids sitting at tables with so many different-colored hats should get.

The choices of the top football recruits will have little if any impact on the next college football season, or the next one, but they of course do down the road.

At Virginia, where new coach Bronco Mendenhall is the third guy trying to rebuild after the retirement of the legendary George Welsh seemingly a hundred years ago now, the day meant a little more, if only because it was the first barometer on what his regime will come to be.

As such, the barometric pressure that we were to get from today wasn’t going to be any kind of fair reading, given that his predecessor, the fired Mike London, had obtained early commitments from an oversized, underwhelming class last summer, leaving the Mendenhall staff little wiggle room over the past few weeks to try to fill needs.

Consider, then, Wednesday the last act of Mike London’s six-year effort at screwing Virginia football.

The class of 24 had exactly zero four- or five-star players, and just 12 three-stars, according to Rivals.com, which ranked the Virginia Class of 2016 60th nationally, and 10th in the ACC.

The best team ranking of the day was a modest 59 from 247 Sports. Scout had the UVA class at 62.

The good news is that at least Mendenhall has bodies. It’s often the case with a change in staffs that a new coach has to scramble to find warm bodies, as was the case when London took over for Al Groh in 2010, and was only able to get 17 players signed that February.

A low number like that can and usually does come back to haunt you three and four and five years later, so Mendenhall getting 24 kids in for the class of 2016 at least takes care of anticipated future losses to grades, injuries and the like over the next four to five years.

But the other low numbers, the upper 50s/low 60s team rankings, and the goose eggs among four- and five-stars, can also come back to haunt you.

The star system isn’t an exact science, to be sure, but the numbers are usually not that far off. That 2010 class, for example, had one Virginia kid getting four stars, Morgan Moses, now in the NFL. Darius Jennings, a 2011 four-star, and Eli Harold, a 2012 four-star, are in the NFL.

That’s not to say that you can’t win if you have a roster full of two- and three-stars, because you can – not national championships, not even ACC championships, by and large, but you can win games, sure.

As for this 2016 Virginia recruiting class, we’ll see. The highest-rated players according to Rivals were Norcross, Ga., defensive back Jordan Mack, who had interest from, among others, Duke, Georgia and Georgia Tech, and Shelby, N.C., running back Tre Harbison, whose suitors included Clemson, Michigan, Nebraska and UNC.

There was a lot of talk in the media room at JPJ Wednesday night about Charlotte Court House, Va., wide receiver Joseph Reed, who also had the interest of Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, and is drawing comparisons to former UVA wideout and former NFL veteran Tyrone Davis.

The class also includes a pair of quarterbacks, Sparta, N.J. pro-style QB Sonny Abramson, a three-star recruit, and Allentown, Pa., dual-threat quarterback De’Vante Cross, a two-star.

This class isn’t going to be the backbone of an ACC champ, but you didn’t need me to tell you that.

In four years, when the guys who signed today are upperclassmen, their contribution will have been in setting the tone for what we have to hope are more talented classes that followed them, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

You have to start somewhere, and the Mendenhall era, and the latest Virginia football rebuilding effort, starts today.

– Column by Chris Graham