Tony Elliott and his staff have not shied away from one of the most glaring shortcomings of the Virginia football program for the past several years: recruiting players from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
For the better part of the last 20 years, most of the top high school talent in Virginia have committed to programs outside of the state. In the 2022 recruiting class, nine of the state's top ten prospects committed to out-of-state programs, with five of those top ten going to North Carolina.
"We're going to work - we're going to make the state a priority," said Tony Elliott. "We understand that the Commonwealth has a ton of talent."
After finalizing his coaching hires, Tony Elliott wasted no time in taking a tour of Virginia, visiting high schools in every corner of the state. Getting the best four- and five-star recruits to stay home and go to UVA will take time and a great deal of work building relationships and Elliott made sure that setting those relationships in motion was one of his first objectives when he took the reins of the UVA football program.
Of course, the most important factor will be success on the field, which is naturally Elliott's top priority as he enters his first season leading the Cavaliers. In the meantime, Elliott and his new UVA coaching staff have made it clear that one of their goals is to construct their recruiting classes around a strong base of in-state talent. The 2022 recruiting class, produced by the combined recruiting efforts of both the Bronco Mendenhall and Tony Elliott coaching staffs, included just one scholarship player from the Commonwealth of Virginia: quarterback Davis Lane Jr., who hails from Lynchburg, Virginia.
Elliott and company have already flipped that script in the early stages of the next recruiting cycle. Virginia has landed verbal commitments from eight players so far in the recruiting class of 2023. Of those eight players, four of them are Virginia natives:
- offensive lineman Cole Surber (Nokesville, Virginia)
- running back Donte Hawthorne (Stafford, Virginia)
- defensive lineman Miles Greene (Highland Springs, Virginia)
- defensive lineman Rodney Lora (Woodberry Forest, Virginia)
All four of those players are currently ranked inside the top 30 of 247Sports' recruiting rankings for class of 2023 Virginia natives: Rodney Lora (No. 17), Miles Greene (No. 26), Cole Surber (No. 27), and Donte Hawthorne (No. 30).
"We may not be able to take every player in the state of Virginia, but the ones that fit the profile, they need to come to the University of Virginia," Elliott said. "And it's going to start with me setting the tempo from a relationship standpoint with the high school coaches and making sure that we start inside out and we take care of our backyard. Because at the end of the day the program is going to be built on the guys that are committed to the University and committed to the football program. And actually those guys that are closer can spend more time in your program and become truly committed and invested."
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