The oral commitment Virginia received Thursday night from Decatur, Ga., offensive lineman Eric Smith is just the most recent reminder of one of recruiting’s great certainties:
There’s always going to be another player.
And, Smith could be just as good – or better – than the former UVa offensive-line recruit, Brad Henson, who committed to North Carolina this past weekend.
Henson, who took a visit to Chapel Hill, N.C., without ever alerting the Cavaliers, had been committed to Virginia for six months.
But, if you’d ever want an example of the kind of players who can be available at the end of the recruiting year, you need look no further than this year’s Virginia roster.
Who was the Cavaliers’ best player? Judging by postseason awards, it would have to be Steve Greer, a fifth-year inside linebacker who was named first-team All-ACC by the media.
(The coaches, two of whom were fired, also picked a team this year. But, I’m told that the media team will remain the official team).
Greer finished with 122 tackles this year, good for second place in the ACC, and had 376 for his UVa career, which ranked him sixth on that list.
Know when he committed to the Cavaliers?
Greer committed Jan. 31, 2008, on the second day of his one-day visit to Charlottesville.
On consecutive January weekends, he had taken visits to Oklahoma State and North Carolina, but his early recruiting interest was more along the lines of Eastern Michigan, which he had visited in December on his only other recruiting trips.
There are probably some Steve Greers available this year. On the other hand, UVa took some other late recruits in that class that didn’t turn out as well, including quarterback Riko Smalls on the same weekend as Greer and Georgia defensive end Tory Allen three days later, on signing day.
Neither Smalls nor Allen lasted at Virginia, but Smalls is part of an answer to the trivia question: What four UVa quarterback recruits started for other programs this year?
The answer: Michael Strauss at Richmond, Ross Metheny at Southern Alabama, Peter Lalich at California University of Pennsylvania and Smalls at Texas Southern. While Strauss and Metheny ended the season as starting quarterbacks, Smalls suffered a season-ending knee injury that send his team into a tailspin.
BEFORE GOOGLING Allen, I never knew that he actually had joined Smalls at Texas Southern. Allen, who may have changed his last name to Tory-Allen before leaving UVa, played tight end for Texas Southern and this year had five receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.
That 2008 UVa recruiting class, as mentioned on previous occasions, was one of the most dysfunctional ever. There were 18 players in that class and at least five transferred to lower-classification programs, including Smalls, Allen, Javaris Brown (Hampton), Devin Wallace (Virginia Union) and Mike Price (California University of Pennsylvania).
Then, you’ve got players like running back Torrey Mack and tight end Rod Wheeler, who left the program and disappeared from the public view. And, Mack’s credentials qualified him as the top-rated recruit in that class.
There were other players like defensive lineman Klinton “Buddy” Ruff and offensive linemen Matt Mihalik and Aaron Van Kuiken, who were around for the duration of their careers but did not have an impact. Van Kuiken eventually stopped playing football for medical reasons.
PRICE AND WALLACE never played for Virginia after their involvement in a fracas at James Madison following the 2010 season. Price chose to follow the route taken by ex-Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich, who went to Division II California of Pennsylvania because it afforded him six years to play four.
Lalich, by the way, passed for 2,413 yards and 21 touchdowns this past season but sustained a leg injury and played in only seven games in his final season for the Vulcans.