Tony Elliott recaps Early National Signing Day for Cavaliers
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Early Wednesday morning at the McCue Center felt like the days of old on the recruiting cycle for Tony Elliott with coaches crowded around waiting for faxes, only the technology has changed.
"It was a lot of fun, really to see those guys on FaceTime once that we could make the announcement and were certified, man just to see the smile because really at the end of the day that's what it's about," Elliott said.
Elliott and his coaching staff made 23 FaceTime calls by the end of the Early National Signing Day, putting together the No. 56 class according to 247Sports. The highlights included day of commitments from South Carolina wide receiver Suderian Harrison, choosing UVA over rivals Virginia Tech, and the gem of the class four-star linebacker Kamren Robinson, who the UVA coaching staff had to fight off Florida State and South Carolina over the last few weeks.
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"So to see the joy of their families, the smiles on their face and really to see the elation of the coaches because the coaches work really, really hard," Elliott said, "The last couple weeks on the road it's been a grind, traveling everywhere, trying to see everybody, fending off other schools that are trying to come in late."
Those early morning calls with recruits were the moments of joy for Elliott and the Virginia coaching staff, which have been fleeting over the last few weeks since the tragic deaths of players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D'Sean Perry. The tragedy on Grounds has brought up conversations with recruits and parents, but has also united the class together.
"You know the result is that this place is going to be extremely safe going forward because of the result and unfortunately it took an incident to raise awareness," Elliott said, "The other message was truth be told, unfortunately we're in a society right now where it could happen anywhere. Anywhere, any given time and you never know. So you don't want to live your life in fear, but you do want to be somewhere where you feel like you can be secure."
"Just letting them know that all of us here, our current team feels really, really good about the future and then also the message to them is they have a great opportunity to come be a part of the healing process, about restoring this program and building it up."
Elliott wants to build his program through the high school recruits, including the 19 who signed on Wednesday. The two areas the coaching staff keyed in on in the Class of 2023 were wide receiver and defensive line, which made up nearly half of the class combined (5 receivers, 4 defensive linemen).
"Philosophically I want to be a program that builds through the draft meaning we take high school guys, we develop them," Elliott said, "We have distribution throughout our recruiting classes by position, so we got guys in the pipeline ready to go."
Virginia also added four transfers with quarterback Tony Muskett, running back Kobe Pace, wide receiver Malik Washington and offensive lineman Daijon Parker, but Elliott sees the portal as a way to shore gaps or fix unforeseen departures like cornerback Fentrell Cypress and offensive tackle Logan Taylor. Elliott will look to add two cornerbacks, two offensive tackles and possibly an offensive guard through the portal before National Signing Day in February.
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The coaching staff will look to take advantage of the quiet period in early January to target transfer targets for those positions. Elliott will also hope to start the new year off with a new offensive line coach to replace Garrett Tujague, who left for NC State, but said he will not rush the process and wants to talk with players on the offensive line first. The goal is to have a new coach in place by the time UVA returns from the winter break.
There is a long laundry list of items ahead for Elliott and the Cavaliers, but for one moment he and the rest of the coaching staff could revel in signing their first recruiting class together.
"I know we get caught up in recruiting sometimes and there's so many other things," Elliott said, "But at the end of the day it's a young man who's worked up to this point in his life to fulfill this dream that he has."