This is a story line you hear a lot when there's a coaching change within a rivalry. The new coach at a lowly football program that has been its rivals punching bag has injected new energy into the program and brought a new approach to recruiting that poses a threat its established rival. It's nothing new.
What is new is that it's in Virginia Tech's backyard this time. When Mike London came to Virginia I worried about what would happen at UVa now that it had a coach with energy and ties to the 757 recruiting area. And he's done what young, energetic coaches do at woebegone programs. He's reached out to the most fertile recruiting area in the state and kept the focus on the future instead of recent history.
The result has been the predictable but not always typical recruiting bump that a first-year coach gets. Rivals currently ranks UVa's 2011 recruiting class at No. 30 while Virginia Tech's comes in at No. 40. London even got a gift in Week 2 of the season when Tech inexplicably lost to James Madison. It was a loss Fork Union head coach John Shuman called a "recruiting-shattering situation."
Now, seven of the Top 20 recruits in Rivals' Virginia rankings are committed to UVa. A lot of this is because, as Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post reports, London has mended the wounded relationships left by Al Groh with Virginia's top high schools. The key quote from Oscar Smith's Rich Morgan:
"Virginia, they've definitely got momentum. Whatever the record is, I don't even really know, but when I saw them play USC, they had as many athletes on the field as USC did. Right there told me they've got some players. Now if they continue and get some more, they're gonna make a splash. If you capitalize on that with another good recruiting class or two, then I think you really start to build some momentum. Kids are interested in U-Va., they're talking about it now."
There's a lot of factors making Frank Beamer's job tougher on the recruiting trail this year. The new coach at UVa, the crushing early defeats and, as Darryl Slater of the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, the lack of available scholarships.
But all of that momentum that UVa has can be stopped Saturday. The Hokies, now more than ever, need to go out, crush the Wahoos and emphatically earn their seventh consecutive win over their in-state rival. Tech can nip London's advantage on the recruiting trail by showing the on-field results still have a long, long way to catch up with the bright future London is trying to sell Wahoo recruits.
According to Tech Sideline, there will be plenty of recruits on hand Saturday for the battle of the Commonwealth Cup. It would nice to show them, and the rest of the state, that now more than ever the Hokies are Virginia's Team.