ACC: Brandon Phelps

Virginia pulled in a Top 25 recruiting class Insider after landing two of the top 10 high school players in the nation, surprising many because of its recent lackluster on-the-field results.

Five ESPN 300 players signed with the Hoos, including two five-star prospects and four four-star players. The ultimate goal, then, is to rely on these elite players to begin to turn around the Hoos' fortunes without putting exorbitant amounts of pressure on them to produce immediately.

There is a fine balance there, as there is every season when highly touted freshmen are expected to contribute in a meaningful way right away. When they cannot, disappointment generally sets in. UVa knows that feeling all too well.

This is the second time now that coach Mike London has pulled in a Top 25 recruiting class. Back in 2011 Insider, London put together the No. 20 class in the country, complete with five top 150 prospects and six total four-star athletes.

Despite all the elite prep athletes signed, UVa has struggled mightily the last two seasons with six total wins. Several of the most highly-touted players in the class have not quite lived up to the lofty expectations. Here is a quick look at how the five ESPN 150 prospects have performed:

  • Cornerback Demetrious Nicholson, No. 92 in ESPN 150. Nicholson has been the most productive, with 30 career starts. Only started five games last season after getting hurt. Has 136 career tackles with 27 pass breakups and three interceptions.
  • Receiver Darius Jennings, No. 98 in ESPN 150. Has 22 career starts with 106 career receptions for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns receiving. Lost his starting job at one point last season.
  • Receiver Dominique Terrell, No. 122 in ESPN 150. Only has six career starts. Has 60 career catches for 641 yards and one touchdown receiving.
  • Safety Brandon Phelps, No. 135 in ESPN 150. Has 22 career starts with 96 total tackles.
  • Running back Clifton Richardson, No. 142 in ESPN 150. Transferred to Liberty after the 2012 season. Played in 20 games for the Hoos with no starts.
[+] EnlargeAnthony Harris
Rafael Suanes/USA TODAY SportsSafety Anthony Harris has been the best player from Virginia coach Mike London's 2011 recruiting class.
Of the 26 players signed in the class, nine are no longer on the roster. Seven were starters in 2014. The most successful player to date has been safety Anthony Harris, whom ESPN listed as a two-star athlete out of high school. Harris led the nation in 2013 with eight interceptions. He is the only player from the class of 2011 to receive a first-team All-ACC honor.

As every recruiting cycle shows, high school ratings are an inexact science. Recruiting always produces hits and misses. While there is always some caution when dealing with elite prospects and the expectations that come along with them, there is little doubt UVa is banking on this new crop of elite rated players to come in and help change the program’s direction.

“Although you appreciate all the accolades all these young men have, you don't want to put too much on them with the expectation that now you've got to produce on the field, you've got to get 15 sacks or make all the catches,” London said during his signing day news conference. “They still will have to practice and learn the systems and learn the schemes. Ultimately, in all the recruiting classes and all the rankings, there has to be production on the field and they have to play and they have to contribute.

“And you don't figure that out sometimes until a year or two after they’ve been in your program. But to have players of some ability ... it is important to make sure that we give them every opportunity to play.”

Week 6 injury reports

October, 5, 2012
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Here are the ACC injury reports from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

WILL PLAY

WR Sammy Watkins (virus)

C Dalton Freeman (thumb)

PROBABLE

OG Kalon Davis (hamstring)

OUT

WR Martavis Bryant (groin)

RB D.J. Howard (shoulder)

OUT FOR SEASON

DB Martin Jenkins (hernia)

CB Tony McNeal (torn ACL)

LB Justin Parker (groin)

DUKE

PROBABLE

LB David Helton (leg)

QUESTIONABLE

CB Lee Butler (lower body)

QB Sean Renfree (arm)

DT Jamal Wallace (lower body)

OUT

CB Jared Boyd (leg)

S Brandon Braxton (upper body)

LB Kelby Brown (leg)

NG Jamal Bruce (foot)

TE Braxton Deaver (leg)

DE Justin Foxx (hand)

S Chris Tavarez (leg)

OUT FOR SEASON

TE Jack Farrell (leg)

WR Blair Holliday

DE Allen Jackson (shoulder)

S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder)

S Taylor Sowell (leg)

FLORIDA STATE

OUT

DB Justin Bright (head)

LB Ukeme Eligwe (hand)

OL Garrett Faircloth (hip)

OL Daniel Foose (back)

DT Moses McCray (head)

DT Derrick Mitchell (back)

OL Trey Pettis (head)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

DB Colin Blake (shoulder)

DE Chris Casher (knee)

TE Dan Hicks (knee)

DE Brandon Jenkins (foot)

DT Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)

RB Mario Pender (sports hernia)

MARYLAND

PROBABLE

WR Kerry Boykins (hamstring)

LB Kenneth Tate (knee)

DL Joe Vellano (foot)

QUESTIONABLE

DB Matt Robinson (groin)

OUT

PK/P Nick Ferrara (hip)

OUT FOR SEASON

QB C.J. Brown (knee)

DL Andre Monroe (knee)

MIAMI

OUT

DL Curtis Porter (upper extremity)

DB Rayshawn Jenkins (upper extremity)

DL Olsen Pierre (upper extremity)

OL Ben Jones (lower extremity)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

WR Malcolm Lewis (lower extremity)

LB Ramon Buchanan (lower extremity)

LS Sean McNally (lower extremity)

NORTH CAROLINA

OUT

RB Connor Gonet

OL T.J. Leifheit

LB Darius Lipford

RB Travis Riley

PK Miller Snyder

WR T.J. Thorpe

NC STATE

OUT

OT Rob Crisp (lower back)

OG Andrew Wallace (foot)

RB James Washington (ankle)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

OG Zach Allen (foot)

DT Jacob Kahut (knee)

LB Michael Peek (knee)

VIRGINIA

PROBABLE

OT Oday Aboushi (upper extremity)

DT Will Hill (medical)

S Brandon Phelps (upper extremity)

DOUBTFUL

WR Tim Smith (lower extremity)

OUT

DE Billy Schautz (lower extremity)

DT Buddy Ruff (medical)

S Darius Lee (lower extremity)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

S Pablo Alvarez

LB Adam Caplinger

DT Marco Jones

S David Marrs

WR Mario Nixon

VIRGINIA TECH

PROBABLE

DT Luther Maddy (ankle)

WR Christian Reeves (hamstring)

G David Wang (ankle)

DOUBTFUL

RB Tony Gregory (knee)

OUT

WR Joshua Stanford (knee)

OUT FOR SEASON

OT Nick Acree (knee)

WR D.J. Coles (knee)

Opening camp: Virginia

August, 7, 2012
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As ACC teams begin to start practicing again, Heather and I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. We are almost done with our trip through the conference. Next up to open camp ...

School: Virginia.

Started: Monday.

Predicted finish at media days: Fourth, Coastal Division.

Biggest storyline: Can Virginia keep up the momentum from its 8-5 season? Coach Mike London has probably been asked that question 1,000 different ways since last season ended, but inquiring minds want to know. If Virginia won eight games last season, what does that mean for this season? London has maintained throughout the offseason that there is plenty to build off, and what his players learned most of all was how to win, after years of losing. But as many coaches will tell you, it is much harder to sustain success than it is to go from losing to winning. There are a variety of questions Virginia must answer this season, with only five starters returning to the defense and just one in the secondary. Losing a player like Chase Minnifield is huge. Offensively, Virginia has to replace leading receiver Kris Burd and now has a quarterback situation on its hands with the transfer of Phillip Sims. The schedule features games against eight bowl teams, including TCU, Penn State and Louisiana Tech. The challenge awaits.

Biggest position battle: Quarterback. Who would have thought when last season ended, we would be sitting here in the fall debating whether the Cavaliers have a bona fide quarterback competition on their hands? Michael Rocco emerged last season to become the unquestioned leader of the offense, throwing for 2,671 yards with 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But Sims has transferred in from Alabama and is immediately eligible, throwing a wrench into the quarterback situation. London has maintained Rocco is his starting quarterback, but also allows that Sims will provide a push in the way of accelerated competition.

Who needs to step up: The defensive backs. As mentioned above, Virginia has to replace three starters in the secondary in All-ACC selection Minnifield (50 tackles, eight pass breakups, 5.5 tackles for loss), safety Rodney McLeod (team-leading four interceptions), and safety Corey Mosley (49 tackles, four pass breakups, one interception). Watch for Drequan Hoskey at cornerback, while players like Anthony Harris and Brandon Phelps will be counted on at safety.
Our series continues today with the Cavaliers, who are looking for answers in their defensive backfield after an 8-5 season in 2011.

For a complete recap of the series, click here.

Virginia: CB Demetrious Nicholson

2011 stats: Nicholson notched two picks, two tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, a forced fumble and 60 total tackles as a true freshman.

What he means to the Cavaliers: This is a secondary re-tooling, and coach Mike London said entering the spring that he would keep a close eye on both the defensive backs and wide receivers, looking to see which side would come out on the winning end of downfield throws. Nicholson, who played nearly every snap in his first year in 2011, ended up being named the most distinguished freshman this spring, but that hardly justifies his importance. With Chase Minnifield gone, Nicholson will probably be responsible for covering the opposition's No. 1 receiver this season, and he will have to be the leader of a group facing some questions given its lack of experience. Sophomores Brandon Phelps and Drequan Hoskey could start opposite him after seeing action mostly on special teams last season. Another option is converted running back Brendan Morgan. Regardless, the onus is on a true sophomore to lead this group in 2012, and after a strong debut season, he looks capable of filling the role.

Offseason spotlight: Virginia

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
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Our offseason spotlight series continues today with Virginia. A reminder: This series features individual players, position groups and coaches who really need to have big offseasons -- starting this spring.

Spotlight: Secondary

2011 summary: This was a senior-laden group led by CB Chase Minnifield, SS Rodney McLeod, and FS Corey Mosley. They took true freshman Demetrious Nicholson under their wings as he made an immediate impact in a starting role. Virginia’s pass efficiency defense was No. 32 in the country last year and the pass defense ranked No. 45, allowing 212.23 yards per game. Nicholson and McLeod were two of the team’s top five tacklers, and McLeod led the team with four interceptions.

The skinny: This position group will be filled with players who didn’t get a lot of meaningful snaps last year or redshirted. With his 13 starts, Nicholson is now the elder statesman in the secondary. This spring, the staff will most likely turn to Anthony Harris, Brandon Phelps, Rijo Walker, Kameron Mack, and Drequan Hoskey. Phelps, Mack and Harris all played as true freshmen last year on special teams and occasionally in the secondary, including against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Overall, it’s a wide open competition and spring practice will be a good chance for these young players to assert themselves in the pecking order.

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