Virginia Beat: Familiar Foes

Virginia and Penn State met on the gridiron on Sunday for just the eighth time in their schools’ history, and are scheduled to make it nine next year in Happy Valley.  That doesn’t sound like two schools with a long and storied rivalry.  UVA has played Princeton more often than that.  Heck, they’ve played Gallaudet that often.  (Really.  If you count games played back in football’s prehistory.  UVA last played Gallaudet in 1907.)

But UVA and PSU have clashed far, far more often in one of the most important arenas in college football: the living room.  Those of recruits, that is.  A football game between Virginia and Penn State might not be an especially common sight, but recruiting battles between the two schools take place every year.  UVA likes to recruit in Pennsylvania, Penn State likes to recruit in Virginia, and both like to recruit in Maryland and New Jersey.  The result is a ton of overlap, and UVA finds itself in competition with Penn State for recruits nearly as often as with Virginia Tech or Maryland.  In one writer’s estimation (mine, in case you’re a little slow on the uptake) PSU is third behind those two schools on the list of UVA’s recruiting rivals – ahead even of traditional ACC rivals like UNC.

When Saturday’s game was played, according to the Rivals database, the Hoos had 12 players on the roster that could claim a Penn State offer, and Penn State had 13 that had been offered by Virginia.  (This is to say nothing of the usual attrition that college teams see that brings both of those numbers down; the further attrition at Penn State as a result of the scandal, which cost them players like Silas Redd and Justin Brown, both of whom UVA pursued heavily; and of course, the large number of recruits that simply choose a different school.)  Here are some of those players that you might have seen on Saturday.

Of course, Mike Rocco is the most prominent name.  Between the family that Rocco has at Richmond and the picture of 1-year-old Mikey in Penn State garb shown on TV on Saturday, it’ll be disappointing next week when there aren’t any Georgia Tech connections.  Rocco grew up a Penn State fan and was offered a grayshirt there, meaning he’d have had to wait a season before even being a member of the team.  Instead he signed with UVA in 2010, and two years later quarterbacked the Hoos to a win.

Quite a bit of UVA’s starting defense also had Penn State offers, including defensive linemen Will Hill and Jake Snyder, safety Brandon Phelps, and cornerback Demetrious Nicholson.  Nicholson broke up three passes against PSU and added eight tackles, and Snyder chipped in six tackles of his own and batted down another pass.  Defensive end Eli Harold – another PSU offeree – could be seen at times getting pressure on PSU quarterbacks.  On the offensive side of the ball, one of Rocco’s favorite targets was Darius Jennings.  Jennings caught five passes – the most of any UVA receiver during the game – and, I’m sure you guessed it, also had a Penn State offer.  As did reserve offensive tackle Jay Whitmire, who saw his share of action as well.

On the other side of the field, four of Matt McGloin’s completed passes went to Virginia offerees – three to Alex Kenney and one to Shawney Kersey.  The well-executed fake punt that caught UVA flat-footed and extended a Penn State drive?  UVA offeree Glenn Carson took the snap and made the mad dash to freedom there, and since Carson is a starting linebacker, it’s no surprise he also had five tackles, including being credited with half a tackle for loss.  Fellow linebacker and UVA offeree Mike Yancich also earned a tackle on the day.  And finally, the Penn State starting offensive line is full of players recruited by Virginia; guard Miles Dieffenbach, tackle Donovan Smith, and blocking tight end Garry Gilliam all had UVA offers as well.

With so many off-field battles between these two teams, it’s a shame, in a way, that there aren’t more on-field ones.  You have to wonder if the sanctions on Penn State will change the dynamic and lessen the impact of the recruiting rivalry, but for now, it’s fun to take the opportunity to duel for superiority on the field.

Brendan’s bio: I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space. Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes. And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.

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