CHARLOTTESVILLE — Like the games themselves, recruiting hinges on closing. The fourth quarter. The last home visit. The two-minute drill. National signing day.
Where the University of Virginia Cavaliers failed on the football field last season, they excelled Wednesday.
Virginia not only announced a talented, 757-flavored class but also added two late signees who chose the Cavaliers over former national champions such as Miami and Ohio State.
Little more than a year on the job, coach Mike London had every right to tout his first full class.
"High achievers on the field, high achievers in the classroom," he said.
Moments later: "There's size, there's speed and there's skill."
With such pronouncements come expectations and demands. Expectations that Virginia's stretch of three consecutive losing seasons and seven straight beatdowns from Virginia Tech soon will end.
"These guys have to play," London said of a 26-man class that includes 17 from Virginia, nine from Hampton Roads.
Two of the most likely to produce were the group's latest additions — receiver Darius Jennings of Baltimore and cornerback/receiver Dominique Terrell of Manassas.
Jennings chose the Cavaliers from among mismatched finalists that also included Wake Forest and Ohio State. Terrell also considered offers from West Virginia and Miami.
Was Jennings a priority for the Buckeyes? Terrell for the Hurricanes?
Hey, when a prospect picks you at the 11th hour over storied programs such as Ohio State and Miami, the answer is irrelevant.
"Nerve racking" and "risky proposition" were London's descriptions of the day.
Meanwhile, the breaking news at Virginia Tech centered on the unexpected defection of quarterback Lafonte Thorougood of Virginia Beach to Vanderbilt.
Not that the Cavaliers were perfect Wednesday. They lost linebacker Curtis Grant of suburban Richmond to Ohio State and cornerback A.J. Hendy of Bowie, Md., to Maryland.
"I think those odds (2-of-4), talking high-caliber players like that, are pretty good," London said.
Virginia's sports information office researched classes back to 1990, and the 17 in-state recruits are the program's most in those 21 years. And while that speaks to London and his staff rebuilding bridges torched by former coach Al Groh, hometowns aren't as important as talent.
Again, London wasn't bashful in his evaluations.
Jennings, he reminded, was Maryland's state player of the year. Ditto defensive back Demetrious Nicholson of Virginia Beach in the commonwealth. Oh, and redshirt freshman tailback Kevin Parks was named North Carolina's top high school player in 2009.
"What I wanted to address was speed and athleticism," London said. "And I think when you look at the skill, whether wide receiver, DB, athlete, that you see guys that have the ability to play on both sides of the ball. … I don't think there's (anything) that we didn't address. Got a little bit of everything, to tell you the truth."
When should this class pay dividends?
Well, the immediate impact is to enthuse a program and fan base disappointed with last season's record: 4-8 overall, 1-7 ACC and sharing the Coastal Division basement with Duke.
Long-range is more nuanced.
It's questionable whether this crop, rated by some services among the nation's top 25, can spare the Cavaliers another difficult season in 2011. There's no proven quarterback, and the conference crossover schedule — home to North Carolina State, at Maryland and Florida State — is brutal.
But what London is selling goes beyond 2011. He talks eloquently about excellence in the classroom, on the field and in the community.
Now he's got an impressive group. Time to recruit more, coach 'em up and produce.
"So all the rankings and everything like that, that's good," London said. "But I think you find out maybe a year or two afterwards, if the class was as (good) as what it … was perceived to be, because now the guys have to go and play against college guys. …
"Next year's class will be as important, because of being able to sustain that type of caliber of young men. But when you have the benefit of being ranked, then obviously you take that.
"I know if you weren't, then you talk about, well, rankings don't mean anything. … So I'm going to err on the side of I appreciate being ranked and go from there. Because as 2011 recruiting ends, 2012 started today."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP