By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — For the second consecutive year, the UVa football program is adding a recruit in January.
In 2009 it was defensive end Will Hill, who graduated in December ’08 from Lafayette High in Williamsburg.
This year it’s quarterback Michael Strauss, a recent graduate of Gulliver Prep in Pinecrest, Fla., about a dozen miles south of Miami.
A 6-2, 215-pound right-hander, Strauss initially committed to Tulane. In early December, however, he switched to UVa, less than a day after Mike London was introduced as head coach.
Strauss will not sign a national letter of intent. He was officially offered admission to UVa last week and accepted. Strauss will start classes at the University on Jan. 20.
He also had scholarship offers from such schools as Alabama, Memphis and UAB.
By enrolling at midyear, Strauss will be able to go through spring practice with the Cavaliers, who must replace Jameel Sewell, their starting quarterback for most of 2009.
Quarterbacks already in the program include Marc Verica, Ross Metheny and Riko Smalls.
At Gulliver Prep, Strauss’ coach was Earl Sims, a former UVa linebacker. Sims was a fifth-year senior in 2001, London’s first season as the Wahoos’ defensive line coach.
As a junior, Strauss completed 218 of 307 passes for 3,113 yards and 32 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, and helped Gulliver Prep advance to the state Class 2A championship game.
Gulliver Prep finished 8-4 in 2009, and Strauss was 170 for 298 passing, for 2,714 yards and 28 TDs. He threw 12 interceptions.
In 2009, Hill became the first UVa football recruit since linebacker Ahmad Brooks to enroll at midyear. Brooks started classes at UVa in January 2003 after spending a postgraduate semester at Hargrave Military Academy.
On the eve of training camp last summer, Al Groh, then UVa’s coach, praised Hill’s work ethic on and off the field.
“He’s excelled academically,” Groh said in late July. “He is a highly purposeful, very high-motor player in practice and in his training activities. He’s all business.”
Hill appeared in all 12 games as a true freshman in 2009. He was in for 84 plays — 19 on defense and 65 on special teams.
Here are some comments that Strauss gave by e-mail to a member of the UVa football staff last week:
Q. When did you learn that you’d be allowed to enroll in January, and what was your reaction?
A. It was sort of unclear because we were proceeding as if I was going to enroll and getting everything ready like paperwork and forms required for admissions, but no one ever really came out and told me it was a done deal till this week. I knew it was probably going to happen but I was not 100% sure, so when I realized that it was happening I was relieved, because it was what I had been preparing for and planning on for a long time.
Q. When are you due to arrive in Charlottesville? Where will you live during the spring semester?
A. I will be flying in to Charlottesville on Sunday the 17th with my parents. I have midyear orientation on the 18th, and on that date I will also be able to move into my dorm. I will be living on campus, but since I am coming in midyear all the double rooms were occupied so they have put me in a single in Hereford College for the time being.
Q. You were eager to enroll in January. What made that prospect so appealing to you? Would you have picked another school if UVa hadn’t offered you midyear admission?
A. In my mind, I always wanted to go to a college where the academics were as important as football. University of Virginia — it doesn’t get much better than that, because they take their football program seriously, as well as academics. It’s the best of both worlds.
I always told Coach London and Coach [Bob] Price that a January admission was not a make-or-break deal but that it was something I had been working toward for a long time. The opportunity to start school in January is big for me because it gives me time to get used to the classes and the environment before football season starts. Being there in the spring, with a new offense, I will be on the same page as everyone else. I will have the opportunity to compete equally.
Q. Given that you’ll go through spring practice at UVa, are you looking to play as a true freshman?
A. I will go out there and compete and work hard. I will always prepare to play and be ready. It will be up to the coaches to make that decision.
Q. What has Coach London told you about your prospects for playing this fall?
A. We basically just spoke about how the opportunity is there to come in and compete.
Q. Have you spoken to Will Hill about his experience as a midyear admit? If so, what advice did he give you?
A. I met him briefly on my visit to UVa last month, but we never really had the opportunity to talk about that.