CHARLOTTESVILLE — Quin Blanding announced his decision to play college football at Virginia nearly a year ago. Safe to say, much has transpired since.
Chief among the developments: the Cavaliers' 2-10 record last season, their worst since 1981, and legitimate and persistent questions about fourth-year coach Mike London's job security.
That Blanding not only honored his commitment but also helped Virginia corral a quality impressive recruiting class speaks to London's deft touch and his school's appeal.
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John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville
The 17-player group finalized by Wednesday's signed letters of intent, London pronounced himself "gratified and humbled."
"What … was very striking," he said, "was the fact that, despite the season and other things going on, this class was strongly committed early on. … The guys kind of said, 'Listen, this is a special class. Let's keep this class together.'"
A consensus five-star safety from Virginia Beach's Bayside High, Blanding was the ring leader, and his connections and persuasion helped the Cavaliers secure, among others, five-star defensive tackle Andrew Brown from Chesapeake's Oscar Smith High and four-star receiver Jamil Kamara of Virginia Beach's Bishop Sullivan Catholic.
Per Rivals rankings, Virginia is among just eight programs to land multiple five-star prospects for 2014. Alabama signed six, Texas A&M, Auburn and Florida State three each, Southern California, LSU and Tennessee two each.
Tennessee's recent decline aside, that's some rather serious company.
Now before picking the Cavaliers to rocket up the ACC's Coastal Division standings, understand that the class is top heavy and generally rated near the middle of the conference's 14 programs, behind the likes of Florida State, Miami, Clemson, North Carolina and, yes, Virginia Tech.
Also understand that kicker Gary Wunderlich of Memphis and offensive lineman Will Richardson of Burlington, N.C., reneged on Virginia commitments to sign with Ole Miss and North Carolina State, respectively.
But overall, London had every reason to call Wednesday "a really good recruiting day."
As Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel highlighted this week, only four of Rivals' top 25 prospects last year redshirted in 2013. Among the seismic impacts: Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller intercepted six passes, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg threw for 20 touchdowns, and Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith was the team's No. 3 tackler.
Even a program as stocked as Florida State relied on a rookie, Jalen Ramsey starting all 14 games of the Seminoles' national-championship run at safety.
Rest assured, Brown and Blanding will continue the trend. They are, by all accounts, that gifted and advanced, and they need to help the Cavaliers improve the ACC's worst defense (33.2 points per game), the most Virginia has allowed since 1975.
The irony is that after leaning heavily on freshmen the last three seasons, London may be able to redshirt most of this class. That's because of the roster's new-found balance.
Last season, Virginia had only eight seniors, fewer than every Bowl Subdivision program other than South Carolina (five). In 2014, London projects about twice as many seniors, and better yet, several should be all-conference caliber: Tailback Kevin Parks, safety Anthony Harris and tight end Jake McGee lead the group.
The Cavaliers' task is to develop the 2014 class, and others, beyond the headliners. Because truth is, and this holds for every ACC program except Florida State, Miami and Clemson, Virginia can not, long term, hope to sign more can't-miss players than the likes of Alabama and Texas.
Virginia's mission is to replicate what George Welsh did here in the 1980s and '90s, and what Frank Beamer has long done at Virginia Tech: develop undervalued high school prospects such as linebacker Chris Peace from Denbigh High into invaluable college players and mesh them with the occasional stars.
Indeed, Virginia's navigation of a barbed-wire 2014 schedule could well hinge on the improvement of promising young players such as receiver Keeon Johnson, offensive tackles Eric Smith and Sadiq Olanrewaju, linebackers Max Valles and Zach Bradhsaw, and defensive tackle Donte Wilkins. None was a Rivals four- or five-star prospect last year.
As pleased as he was Wednesday afternoon, London professed to fatigue and anxiety.
"You're always nervous," he said, "until they sign."