The cover photo to this story is #WoodsideWarriors stud linebacker Seth Naotala. He’s headed to James Madison after being named the Virginia Peninsula District Defensive Player of the Year and receiving Class 5 All-State First Team honors. He led the Warriors to the state semis and they’ve posted the second-best record overall in the region behind perennial powerhouse Phoebus the last three seasons.
But what’s strange is the lack of interest for a 6’1, 230-pound linebacker who in his final two seasons of high school football totaled 317 tackles (36 For Loss), 12 Sacks, 9 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions. The tackling machine didn’t even get a letter of interest let alone a visit from Virginia Tech and very minimal interest from Virginia.
What Happened To In-State Recruiting?
Those two programs used to clean up when it came to signing athletes from the talent-laden Tidewater Area. However, in the last 3 recruiting classes, the area has had 21 high school players sign with #Power5 programs and the #Hokies and #Cavaliers only nabbed 7 of them.
This trend can be directly related to the coaches that were hired. Justin Fuente replaced the legendary Frank Beamer who made his money getting the #HamptonRoads area to attend school in Blacksburg, nabbing future NFL Hall of Fame-caliber guys like Mike Vick, Kam Chancellor, DeAngelo Hall, Bruce Smith…and the list goes on.
At #UVA you have Bronco Mendenhall who replaced Mike London. But the Cavs made their name under their very own legendary coach in the late George Welsh. Welsh recruited elite area talent like Aaron Brooks, Herman Moore, Tiki and Ronde Barber, James Farrior, Heath Miller and that list goes on as well.
VA Power 5 Coaches: “Come Back Home”
From the looks of their records since taking the reigns in Virginia, Fuente is a respectable 35-20 over five seasons with a peak ranking of 16th in the AP polls following a 10-4 inaugural season in 2016. If Fuentes wants to elevate into a Top 10 program, then he and Mendenhall (26-28) might need to go back to the reliable playbook and do what big-time winning programs tend to do — dominate the recruiting battle in their backyards first.
The Tidewater Area is a football rich community with a history of producing elite athletes. These coaches need to immerse themselves in the football culture of the state. Reach out to the high school coaches and local Elite Showcase coaches a lot more before they run out of time at these two universities. Get to know the young talent coming up in the state and help in improving the conditions in some of these underserved neighborhoods that harbor diamonds in the rough.