If Mike London had any doubts about the loyalty of the committed players to this year’s recruiting class, most of them were put to rest on a recent recruiting weekend.
At least 21 players were here for the big event, which began on a Friday and ended on a Sunday. It was an opportunity for all the recruits to meet with Virginia’s new assistant coaches and talk about the future. If any of the players were thinking about going elsewhere, they were given the perfect opportunity to opt out at that moment.
“I asked everyone to stand up who was solidly committed,” London said Wednesday, while reflecting upon that moment. “And they all stood up and it was a great scene to see that there was a recommitment on their visit.”
Obviously, it was a calculated risk. For weeks after Virginia fired four of its coaches and the staff was in flux, rumors spread about some of the Cavaliers’ commitments planning visits to other schools or decomitting. Had a couple of players not stood up when London asked, things could have possibly gotten a little sideways.
However, as UVa assistant coach Tom O’Brien said Wednesday, London borrowed a tactic used by most attorneys.
“A lot of times in recruiting, you don’t ask questions that you don’t already know the answers to,” O’Brien chuckled. “I think most of the coaches stood up. I wasn’t taking any surveys but I looked around and the coaches were standing up, too.”
London did survey the room and he saw all the recruits standing up, even though eventual late addition, offensive lineman George Adeosun from Alpharetta, Ga., may have shown a sign of hesitation. Adeosun, a 6-6, 295 prospect, kept London guessing.
“George was in that group. He almost got up but he sat down real quick,” London recalled. “But it was great that last night or this morning, George stood up.”
After a meteoric rise in recruiting circles the past month, going from William & Mary to Virginia, then Oklahoma, Arizona State, Tennessee and Georgia getting heavily involved, Adeosun’s National Letter of Intent came across UVa’s fax machine along with 20 others on Wednesday.
Instead of the staff changes causing the recruiting process to go south in a hurry, London and his remaining coaches did a superb job of holding the class together.
“When there are changes, obviously coaches build a particular relationship with young men and we pride ourselves on building those type of relationships,” London said. “And when coaches have moved on, then you have to make sure that you fill that void quickly with quality men, with the message being consistent, and you understand that the emotional part of it is very relevant to these young men’s decisions.”
London praised the coaches who remained on staff — Anthony Poindexter, Chip West, Scott Wachenheim, and Vincent Brown — for their efforts in keeping in contact with committed players and convincing them not to stray.
“They traveled all over,” London said. “They were in houses, in schools. And they continued with the message. They did a great job.”
So did London, who hit the road to visit as many as he could.
It didn’t exactly hurt that one of the former coaches, defensive coordinator Jim Reid, was classy enough to call each of the players he recruited and told them they should stick with Virginia.
“It’s difficult to keep a class together like this and you have to give the guys who were here credit,” O’Brien said of the coaches who remained behind and those who were dismissed. “Jim Reid did a good job in Richmond. We got a lot of good kids out of Richmond [O’Brien’s recruiting area]. All I did was go in and try to maintain.”
West, UVa’s recruiting coordinator, said there were some anxious moments early on when the rumors started popping up about decommitments.
“You figure there may be a few you might not get,” West said. “We were nervous about some of them but the biggest thing was getting coaches in front of them.”
As a result, UVa lost only two commitments. Not too bad considering what could have happened.
London said that when O’Brien, Jon Tenuta and Larry Lewis came on board, along with promoted graduate assistant Marques Hagans, they all hit the ground running in building relationships with the recruits.
“They were all coaches that could go into the school and demand the type of respect that their coaching histories have dictated,” London said. “I think that helped a lot that there were significant coaches that were going to be coaching, teaching [the recruits].”
London and his new staff addressed any doubts or uncertainties that the prospects may have had.
“When there’s change like that, there’s always the human element of people maybe having second thoughts,” London said. “So, I thought it was important to get out to see as many as we could, particularly for me to sit in their schools, in their homes and talk about Virginia, this university, talk about opportunities and talk about the coaches that will be coaching them.”
The human element was the big hurdle. Many of these kids had developed relationships with the former coaches dating back for more than a year.
“And so, the second time around, we had to say, ‘Hey, listen, this coach is not recruiting you any more and changes were made,’” London related. “’But give us a chance to show you who is coming and who will also have a significant influence in your life.”
O’Brien believes that London made an intelligent move by not hosting a series of scattered recruiting weekends during all the coaching changeover, but rather to have most everyone here on the one big weekend.
“It gave all the players who were committed the opportunity to meet all the coaches, spend the weekend with them, and to meet the other commits,” O’Brien said.
It also gave them all an opportunity to show their head coach some solidarity even though things could have backfired.