College football's chattering class isn't fawning over Mike London's recruits or staff. And no wonder.
Such breathless acclaim is reserved for those who sign All-Galaxy prospects with 0.3 percent body fat and hire assistants who don't require Googling.
But given the circumstances, London, the University of Virginia's new head coach, appears to have outpunted his coverage.
He not only retained the recruiting commitments secured by deposed coach Al Groh, but also added a handful, including a lineman from his 757 stomping grounds and three quarterbacks. That 17-man class was finalized Wednesday, the first day prospects could sign letters of intent.
A day earlier, London announced duties for his nine full-time assistants. It's an eclectic and promising group, though a mite young on the offensive side.
But let's recall the limitations: London, the University of Richmond's head coach in 2008 and '09, has never guided a Bowl Subdivision program. Plus, the Cavaliers have endured three losing seasons in the last four years, their lowest ebb since the early '80s dark ages.
Translation: This isn't Lane Kiffin inheriting Southern California from Pete Carroll.
Long-term, London's seminal task was to assemble his staff. Most of his full-time hires are accustomed to elite academic environments such as Virginia, two were U.Va. All-Americans, five played or coached in the NFL, two worked in the Canadian Football League, and one hails from Hampton Roads — Kecoughtan High alum Chip West.
Considering London's background — he was the Cavaliers' defensive coordinator from 2006-07 and as an assistant worked exclusively on that side of the ball — his defining hire was offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, most recently the Seattle Seahawks' quarterbacks coach.
Carroll did not retain Lazor when he took over the Seahawks last month, standard operating procedure when the new sheriff arrives. It wasn't for lack of references.
Lazor, 37, brings the endorsements of Joe Gibbs, Dan Reeves and Mike Holmgren, much like a techie with backing from Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt. But Lazor hasn't called plays since 2001 and '02, when he served as the University of Buffalo's coordinator.
Then a fledgling Division I-A program, the Bulls rated no better than 100th nationally in scoring and total offense both seasons, the very type of rankings that forced Mike Groh's 2008 exit as Virginia's coordinator. That's a reflection of Buffalo's natural growing pains, not an indictment of Lazor.
Contrast Lazor to Jim Reid, London's defensive coordinator and associate head coach. Reid, 59, led Championship Subdivision teams at Massachusetts, Richmond and Virginia Military Institute.
Like Lazor, Reid comes to Charlottesville from the NFL. He coached the Miami Dolphins' outside linebackers for two seasons.
If London wanted to skew young, the ideal would have been to go green on defense, his specialty, and grizzled on offense, where he's less polished. The reverse dynamic places Lazor center stage immediately, an unfamiliar position for him, but one in which Reeves and others believe he'll excel.
"This is a great job for him," said Reeves, who as the Atlanta Falcons' coach in 2003 hired Lazor as a quality-control assistant. "I think he's going to be a really good head coach someday."
Lazor hasn't recruited since 2002 and has no state ties, but he's surrounded by colleagues steeped in connections.
Former Cavalier All-Americans Shawn Moore and Anthony Poindexter, the latter a holdover from Groh's staff, grew up in Virginia and should be effective pitchmen. Same goes for West, who will mine his native Hampton Roads.
London, a Bethel High graduate, is equally familiar with our area, and his roots helped Virginia land lineman Stephen Lawe from Norfolk's Maury High. Indeed, Lawe and the four other signees lured by the new staff are the most intriguing players in this class.
That group includes quarterback Jake McGee of Collegiate School in Richmond, who originally committed to London at UR. Signing a recruit from your previous school always is thorny, but there's been no hint of impropriety in this case.
"You can view it all different kind of ways," London said. "If I was perhaps still at Richmond, (and) he'd left to go to William and Mary … I'd be upset. But this situation, going from a (Championship Subdivision) school to a (Bowl Championship Series) school, a lot of times you can't blame or fault a young man for doing that."
London himself is transitioning from college football's minor leagues to the majors, and with his staff and first recruiting class complete, he can commence planning for the 2010 season.
"Maybe some people out there were a little anxious about getting everything going," London said. "I think it turned out pretty good in the end."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.
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