When the Virginia Cavaliers came off the field to celebrate their first season opening win since 2005, one of the first people to greet the players was running back Clifton Richardson.
Richardson, a star at Menchville High School in Newport News, was the second commitment of the 2011 class for the Cavaliers. He along with several other Charlottesville-bound high schoolers watched in the stands as Virginia won with a gritty running attack and some timely passes in front of a strong crowd.
As we begin to examine the first official recruiting class of new head coach Mike London, one need only look at Richardson to see what his vision of Cavalier football will be.
Indeed, Richardson represents everything the Cavalier program wants to be.
First of all, he's talented.
Richardson is the sixth-best recruit in the Commonwealth by Rivals, and ESPN compares him to former USC running back Joe McKnight.
Considering the stranglehold that Virginia Tech has had in recruiting on the Old Dominion these past few years, gaining one of the top prospects is big enough. When that commitment also happens to be from Newport News, that's icing on the cake.
You see, the Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area has been a wasteland for the Cavaliers as of late. Despite all the tremendous talent to come from the area, former Virginia coach Al Groh seemed to have burned some bridges over the years and the Cavaliers lost a valuable pipeline.
Coach London has tried to re-open that recruiting territory.
First he scheduled an open scrimmage on the campus of Old Dominion. Now he is receiving the fruits of that labor, two of the seven commitments in the stands were from the 757.
Richardson is also a big upgrade at the position the Cavaliers are going to focus on in the next few years.
Although quarterbacks are still the poster boys of programs, running backs carry programs to prominence.
Take any of the top teams, and behind a celebrated quarterback you see a strong rushing attack. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy may be good, but he is made better by being able to rely on Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to shoulder the load.
For a team like Virginia, which is without a proven quarterback, they must be able to run the ball effectively to shorten the game and make a few big plays to win.
The Cavaliers produced some stellar offensive linemen during the Groh years and although the best Virginia team in that era had Matt Schaub under center, they found sustained success and consistency with a strong running attack.
In fact, it was the year after Schaub graduated that Virginia climbed up the polls to fifth in the country and appeared to be one of the best teams around until falling back to Earth against Florida State.
Mike London was there for those good times as an assistant coach, and he remembers the gameplan for success. Now he must try to recreate it.
Fortunately, with players like Richardson and former Parade All-American K.P. Parks, London seems like he is accumulating the talent to successfully pull it off.
However, programs cannot be turned around in a day. Particularly one that has been in the doldrums as long as the Cavaliers. That is why a rebuilding team needs more than just an in-flux of talent; it needs a personality shift.
They say that teams take on the personality of their coach. If that's true, expect Virginia to be one of the more likable teams in the country.
London is one of the most energetic and passionate coaches around. During the Richmond game, London caught a pass from Richmond quarterback Aaron Corp from the sideline and then spiked it on the ground in frustration with Virginia's lackluster play.
He has a good time with the players, but he knows how to push and inspire them.
His contagious love for the University of Virginia and football have brought about a new era of commitments, ones that are not scared of Virginia's stringent academic requirements but embrace it.
Now we all know that commitments in the summer and fall really do not mean anything until the actual letter is faxed in.
Perhaps if Virginia struggles they will lose a few commitments like some of the Hokie fans tell themselves.
However, Richardson will not be one of them.
Coach London is simply selling a vision of Virginia that's the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It doesn't take much to see that this guy gets it and knows how to succeed.
Now he just has to do it.
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