By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — It’s not considered one of the top recruiting classes in the ACC, let alone the Football Bowl Subdivision.
That’s fine with UVa’s new football coach, who did his best in difficult circumstances.
“One man’s five-star [recruit] is another man’s one-star,” Mike London said Wednesday afternoon at John Paul Jones Arena. “In this case, I like who we have.”
After being hired in early December, London had to scramble to retain the players from whom Virginia had commitments, and, with one exception, he did so. In addition, London and his staff collected a half-dozen new commitments.
In all, the Cavaliers added 17 recruits, 16 of whom signed Wednesday. The 17th is quarterback Michael Strauss, who graduated from high school in December and enrolled at the University last month.
“I’m excited about the young men that are going to be members of this program,” London said. “Had a chance to go see them and visit them, be in their homes, at their schools, had a chance to talk to them. They sound like they’re ready to go.”
The most celebrated players in the class are offensive tackle Morgan Moses and tailback K.P. Parks.
Moses made headlines at this time last year, too. A Parade All-American as a Meadowbrook High senior in 2008, Moses signed with UVa to fanfare last February.
He failed to meet NCAA eligibility standards, however, and ended up at Fork Union Military Academy.
Before his signing-day ceremony Wednesday in Chesterfield County, Moses never stated publicly that he would re-up with the Wahoos. But UVa’s staff was confident he’d honor his original commitment.
“Obviously he’s dealt with a lot of things in trying to get himself eligible,” London said. “Very highly recruited. Teams were still talking to him and trying to get him to change his mind up until the last hour.
“But I think his parents decided that this was the best fit for him, this was the best place. He’ll be surrounded by a great group of people, coaches, administrators, academic-support people. In the end, he made the best decision that was for him, and we’re very happy that he chose the Cavaliers.”
In Fluvanna County, Moses played for FUMA’s postgraduate team in the fall. So did center Cody Wallace, another 2009 recruit who signed again with UVa on Wednesday.
In Salisbury, N.C., Parks spent the fall capping one of the most productive careers in the history of high school football.
With 10,895 rushing yards, Parks ranks third all-time nationally. In 2009, he rushed for 3,794 yards, a North Carolina record.
He was named a Parade All-American, and this week Parks was selected as the Old Spice Red Zone National player of the year.
“I think K.P., as we call him, is a phenomenal talent, and even better than that, he’s a great young man with a great family,” London said. “Everyone looks at his on-field accomplishments … but even more than that, he’s a great young man that has an infectious smile.
“He’s going to be one of those guys that’s going to rally people around him, because of his demeanor and, of course, his abilities.”
Some critics have pointed to the 5-8, 195-pound Parks’ size and speed and questioned whether he’ll succeed in major-college football. Parks has heard that talk, and he’s “a man on a mission,” London said.
With Parks at tailback, West Rowan High won 30 straight games and back-to-back state Class 3A titles. He rushed for at least 100 yards 55 times in his career, a national record.
“He’s like a Weeble,” London said. “You can knock him down, but he’ll pop right back up, and he just goes and goes and goes.
“He has a low center of gravity. He can make a play that looks like 2 yards go 22 yards, go 52 yards. He’s an exceptional talent. You get him behind those big linemen and you run. He’s 5-8½ on his tippy toes, but I tell you what, he plays like a giant. I can’t wait to get him out there and show people what he has.”
In his opening remarks, London praised Anthony Poindexter and Bob Price, who went to extraordinary lengths to keep the recruiting class intact after Al Groh’s dismissal.
Poindexter was Virginia’s secondary coach in 2009, and Price was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. They stayed on the road for much of December and January, visiting the players who had committed to UVa.