Rivals.com - Fact or Fiction: Virginia will eventually sign Joel Starlings
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Fact or Fiction: Virginia will eventually sign Joel Starlings

Rivals national recruiting analyst Adam Friedman, Keenan Cummings of WVSports.com, Brad Franklin of CavsCorner.com and Paul Strelow of TigerIllustrated.com tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.

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1. Virginia will eventually sign Joel Starlings.

Joel Starlings
Joel Starlings (Rivals.com)

Friedman's take: FICTION. Joel Starlings is weighing his options and wants to take his time after an early commitment to Michigan. He named a top five of Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Oklahoma and South Carolina, and has visits set for each of them. At this point, the feeling is that South Carolina is in the best position and the Gamecocks would land his commitment if he decided today. There is an ebb and flow to the recruiting process and momentum switches from one team to another after each visit. Starlings has a lot of visits still to come and I think the momentum will move around plenty. South Carolina may not get him in the end but, at least right now, my money isn't on Virginia.

Franklin's take: FACT. Look, recruiting is a lot of things, but predictable isn’t usually one of them. Still, UVa being on Starlings’ short list is a nice step forward for new head coach Tony Elliott and his staff, who have clearly made Starlings feel like the priority he is in 2023. If he sticks to his timeline, it looks like Elliott and Co. could be poised to host him for the final official visit, giving the home-state school a really good shot at delivering the final pitch. Given the way the Hoos are coming hard after the in-state guys, they’re going to land a big fish at some point and Starlings makes the most sense right now, especially with UVa getting a commitment from former teammate Anthony Fisher last week. All told, while the field will be tough to beat, the Cavaliers should be seen as a legit threat here. We won’t be surprised if the Cavs get the nod in the end.

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2. West Virginia is the leader for James Heard.

James Heard
James Heard (Rivals.com)

Friedman's take: FACT. About two weeks ago James Heard named a top four of Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. All four schools have been recruiting him for a long time but it feels like the Mountaineers have prioritized him more than the other three contenders. Heard has a visit to Virginia coming up next week but his only scheduled official visit is to West Virginia in early June. There's a possibility Heard leaves Morgantown as a commit, but there is time for another team to pick up momentum.

Cummings's take: FACT. West Virginia has done an excellent job working into a good spot with Heard and the two have developed a strong bond. Heard is being slotted to play the bandit spot in the defense, which is the hybrid pass-rushing position and that’s an ideal fit for his skill set. Running backs coach Chad Scott is the lead recruiter, and while there is certainly a lot that can change, the Mountaineers appear to have momentum here.

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3. Dylan Raiola’s commitment to Ohio State makes the recruitment of Jadyn Davis much clearer.

Jadyn Davis
Jadyn Davis (Ben Hofer, Inside ND Sports)

Friedman's take: FACT. Jadyn Davis had Ohio State as his early leader, but his attention and Ohio State's shifted elsewhere over the last few months. Now that the Buckeyes have their 2024 quarterback, Davis will continue to focus on other schools but that list isn't all that short. Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia and others will play a prominent role in his recruitment over the next few months. Expect more visits during the summer, too. Davis has said as recently as this past weekend that he would like to commit before the start of his junior season so this summer will be an important one for the five-star.

Strelow's take: FICTION. Technically, the picture grows a little less murky with the removal of a leading candidate. But unless Davis simply feels compelled to secure his spot with someone else this summer our bet is that Davis will want to monitor how college starting jobs shake out this fall, then see who transfers where afterward before setting his own course. There's a long way to go, and a lot of suitors are still in reasonable contention.