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February 6, 2013

In toughest of conditions, UVa signs 21

A 4-8 season that included a six-game losing streak. The firing of four assistant coaches. The newly-hired special teams coach leaving just as he was about to be publicly introduced. The offensive coordinator leaving for the NFL days before players could sign their letters of intent.

And somehow, some way, Virginia put together a near top 25 class in 2013.

On Wednesday, UVa officially added 21 new members to its football family. Though many had been committed for months, Mike London and his staff had to wade through some rough waters, hold on to the commits they had, and try their best to add the ones at positions of need.

In a pivotal run up to Signing Day and the end of the recruiting cycle, the Wahoos accomplished on all three fronts.

The jewel of the class is five-star running back Taquan Mizzell, the No. 1 all-purpose back in the nation and the first five-star signee in Charlottesville since Eugene Monroe in 2005. At every event he's attended and throughout a stellar career at Bayside, the player they call "Smoke" has shown the footwork, agility, balance, and ball skills to be an elite player and a program-changer. The 5-foot-10, 183-pound Mizzell chose UVa over offers from Cal, Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia.

"What's special about Mizzell is that, no matter where he lines up, he can score any time he touches the ball," Rivals.com regional analyst Adam Friedman told CavsCorner. "He is best when he gets the ball out on the edge of the defense, either on a handoff or swing pass, where he has room to operate and show off his quickness, agility and overall speed."

As much as Mizzell means for UVa's running game, he also figures to be an instant addition to a special teams group that has been much maligned the past couple of seasons. New special teams coordinator Larry Lewis will get an electric return man.

"Mizzell can also impact the game by returning kicks and punts, as we saw in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl," Friedman added. "He is surprisingly adept at running between the tackles as well, despite his supposed lack of size."

The Cavaliers also signed a pair of four-star cornerbacks in Varina's Tim Harris, a 6-foot-2, 190 pounder, and Olney (Md.) Good Counsel's Kirk Garner, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back. Each prospect comes in with a lot of playmaking ability and, along with safety signee Malcolm Cook, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound Richmond native who played for Fork Union's high school team, give the Cavaliers a lot of depth in the secondary.

But the real depth is on the offensive line where UVa signed five commits: known additions in Jack McDonald, Sadiq Olanrewaju, and Eric Smith, and new pledges Eric Tetlow and George Adeosun.

McDonald, a Massachusetts native, is a 6-foot-5, 275-pound three-star. Olanrewaju, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound three-star, played at Salisbury School in Connecticut but is originally from Maryland. Smith is a 6-foot-5, 280 pounder from Georgia. Adeosun, the 6-foot-6, 295-pound late riser, is also a native of the Peach State. Finally Tetlow, a 6-foot-6, 300 pounder, was a standout at Mills Godwin in Richmond.

Tetlow flipped his verbal from Wake Forest to Virginia in the 11th hour while Adeosun, the hottest prospect in the country, picked the Wahoos over offers from in-state options Georgia and Georgia Tech as well as Oklahoma and Tennessee.

The two positions where Virginia added a great deal of quality were at defensive tackle and at linebacker. The Cavaliers have two monster DTs in Tyrell Chavis (6-foot-3, 290 pounds) and Donta Wilkins (6-foot-2, 305) who could factor in early for playing time. They also will play on the same front with St. Christopher's Jack English, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound three-star end.

Meanwhile, UVa also added early enrollee LaChaston Smith (6-foot, 215 pounds) and signees Zach Bradshaw (6-foot-3, 210) and Micah Kiser (6-foot-2, 215) at linebacker.

Coincidentally, the first two LOIs faxed into the McCue Center came from two physical receivers: Andre Levrone (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) and Keeon Johnson (6-foot-3, 200). Those two, along with 5-foot-11, 180-pound legacy signee Zack Jones, give the Cavaliers a nice group at wideout.

Virginia has made a habit of having plenty of quarterback talent and the 2013 class only added to that wealth of personnel. Good Counsel's Brendan Marshall (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) and Ocean Lakes signal caller Corwin Cutler (6-foot-4, 180) each signed with the Wahoos.

Overall, London and his newly-assembled staff addressed just about every need, even signing a potential tight end in Max Valles (6-foot-5, 210 pounds), one of two 2012 signees who stuck with the Cavaliers, and a fullback in versatile Richmond linebacker Connor Wingo-Reeves (6-foot-3, 220).

In all, UVa's 2103 class is made up of 10 players from Virginia, six from Maryland, two from both Georgia and North Carolina, and one from Massachusetts and New Jersey each.


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