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December 5, 2012
The prospects coming out of Virginia have never been better. Paying respect to the 2002 class of Kai Parham, Ahmad Brooks, Marcus Vick, Michael Johnson and others, the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes are probably the best ever to have come out of Virginia.
There is disagreement, however, among experts about whether the 2013 or 2014 class is better. Some argue that the early, high rankings for the 2014 class are simply unprecedented for Virginia. Having three players in Da'Shawn Hand, Andrew Brown and Quin Blanding ranked as five-stars in the top 10 of the first rankings is unheard of for Virginia.
Others say the depth of the 2013 class wins out. The 2013 class also has three five-stars in Derrick Green, Taquan Mizzell and Jonathan Allen. Additionally, E.J. Levenberry Jr., Ryan Burns, Christian Hackenberg and Holland Fisher are four highly ranked four-star prospects in the Rivals100.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell explains why the 2013 Virginia class is better than the prospects in 2014.
"I think it's the depth of the 2013 class. Everyone sees how top-heavy 2014 is," Farrell said. "There are three elite, top-10 prospects, but when you look at the depth of this year's class, there are the most four- and five-star players Virginia has ever had in the Rivals250.
"I think what's really special is that there is a very good array of positional balance," he said. "There are three really good quarterbacks, two great running backs, defensive linemen and safeties. I don't think there is that depth next year."
Throughout the recruiting process, prospects are being continuously evaluated based on their performances in games, camps, on film and many others factors, so there is a good chance for some of the lower-ranked players in the 2014 class to increase their ratings.
"There is a chance for another 2014 Virginia prospect to earn a fifth star," Farrell said. "The big prospects right now in 2014 are Da'Shawn Hand, Quin Blanding, Andrew Brown, Derrick Nnadi, Jalyn Holmes, Jamil Kamara and Caleb Henderson. There are a few other guys who could emerge as four-stars. Holmes could be Jonathan Allen. He could emerge as a five-star late in the evaluation process. So could Derrick Nnadi.
"I just think 2014 is very top-heavy right now," he said. "We knew about the depth of the Virginia 2013 class for a very long time. When you have guys like Matt Rolin down the list who don't make the top 10 in Virginia, you have a pretty good year.
"We'll do more evaluation on the film of the 2014 class, and we are going to see those kids in the spring at camps," Farrell said. "Derrick Green started off as a four-star; so did Jonathan Allen. Matt Rolin started off as a three-star. Some of these guys emerged during the spring and summer and got bigger, faster or stronger.
"It's going to be very, very hard to beat 2013," he said. "Even if six guys emerged in the 2014 class as potential four-stars, it will still be difficult to beat this class top to bottom."
People who call attention to the collection of talent from the 2002 senior class have a place in this discussion. There were more five-stars in that Virginia class than in any since then, even though three of the four five-stars didn't make it. Ahmad Brooks is in the NFL, having a successful career, and is the only one of the four five-stars from 2002 to pan out. Marcus Vick had off-the-field issues, Kai Parham was plagued by injuries and Michael Johnson flopped. Obviously, anything can happen at the next level, but the 2013 talent pool in Virginia looks better than the one from 2002.
It is a very close call between the 2013 and 2014 Virginia recruiting classes, but the depth of the 2013 class looks like it is too much to overcome.