Bronco expects 2019 class to help 'Hoos immediately

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.(CBS19 SPORTS) -- Bronco Mendenhall was quick to admit that Wednesday wasn't the National Signing Day of old. The biggest college football recruiting day of the year now falls in December, at the start of the sport's new early signing period that was instituted in 2017.

The bulk of Virginia's 2019 recruiting class officially got on board during the early signing period. UVA landed 21 players in December; just three more, including a graduate transfer from Penn State, joined the class on Wednesday.

But add those two groups together, and Mendenhall believes UVA added two dozen recruits in the 2019 cycle who can help next year's team get better right away.

"We're hopeful that '19's class was better than '18, and better than '17," Mendenhall said Wednesday afternoon. "Now what '17 and '18's class have to say about that is they've had one and two years in our program, being trained and developed, and they really choose if they allow this group now to take their place or not."

"But the world is full of competition," Mendenhall added. "We just happen to have a great culture of support and camaraderie and teamwork that ends up kind of bringing out the best in everyone. So it'll be fun to see how it plays out."

Alex Gellerstedt is the grad transfer offensive lineman who officially joined the fold at UVA on Wednesday. The 6-6 former three-star recruit from Ohio appeared in eight games over the past two seasons at Penn State, and will have two seasons of eligibility left when he arrives at UVA.

The Wahoos also added 6-3 linebacker Jairus Satiu on Wednesday. A three-star recruit originally from Utah, last fall Satiu played on the first-ever unbeaten post-graduate team to go unbeaten at Fork Union. And 6-4 quarterback Luke Wentz from Germany, UVA's third addition on Wednesday, is the first European to ever sign a national letter of intent with a football program from a Power 5 school.

Those three players, plus the 21 who signed in December, will join a UVA program on the upswing. The Cavaliers ended the 2018 season by shutting out South Carolina 28-0 in December's Belk Bowl to finish 8-5. It was the program's first eight-win season since 2011, and its first postseason bowl victory since 2005.

Mendenhall says that if early recruting for 2020 is any indication, the Wahoos' success has started to get the attention of high school coaches.

"The perception of the program, and now two back to back bowl appearances, and then it's holy cow, your quarterback is back? The UVA football brand is becoming more powerful," Mendenhall said. "It's becoming very intriguing, and there's momentum being generated at a really fast rate."

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