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The state of Virginia hasn't boasted a five-star prospect since 2007 when quarterback Tyrod Taylor out of Hampton High School checked in at No. 27 in the land, but Richmond Hermitage linebacker Curtis Grant has changed all of that. Grant, the No. 8 prospect in the country, is the highest-ranked player from the state since wide receiver Percy Harvin checked in at No. 1 in the country back in 2006 and leads a strong crop from the Old Dominion State.
Grant, a 6-foot-3, 222-pounder, has been on the recruiting radar since his freshman year. With offers from everyone in the country, Grant is rumored to be a Virginia Tech lean but many feel he could end up leaving the state in the end. While there is a big drop-off after Grant, there are still many other talented prospects in the state.
"Grant is special," said Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell. "I saw him as a sophomore and he looked like a college player already. It will be hard for him to reach the No. 1 slot like Harvin did because it is such a great year at linebacker and there is so much competition, but he should be in the discussion for sure. I can't imagine how good he's going to be with another year under his belt."
Virginia Beach Bayside cornerback Demetrious Nicholson had nine interceptions and eight pass breakups as a junior and has emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the country. At No. 101 in the country, Nicholson has a very good chance to become a permanent fixture in the Rivals100 before long. The 5-foot-11, 167-pounder is rumored to be choosing between North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech in the end.
Offensive tackle Landon Turner from Harrisonburg checks in just behind Turner at No. 108 in the nation and third in the state. The 6-foot-5, 311-pounder has ties to West Virginia and also likes Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Rounding out the top five are linebacker Travis Hughes from Virginia Beach Kempsville and Manassas Osbourn Park athlete Dominique Terrell. Hughes, a 6-foot-1, 228-pounder, has a brother who plays at Maryland and is also interested in Virginia Tech and North Carolina while Terrell, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, likes West Virginia, Virginia Tech and some others.
The first commitment in the top 30 is Newport News Menchville athlete Clifton Richardson, another Rivals250 member who is committed to Virginia. Dinwiddie defensive end Corey Marshall and Chesapeake Oscar Smith wide receiver Quinta Funderburk round out the four stars from the state. Marshall is committed to Virginia Tech while many expect Funderburk to leave the state and play in the SEC.
"This group of five and four stars is better than last year's crop in my opinion," Farrell said. "There isn't a marquee quarterback like with Phillip Sims last year but I think there are more natural football players in this group, much less raw. Grant is a freak, Nicholson is so well coached and disciplined and guys like Turner, Hughes, Terrell, Richardson and Marshall are more ready to make an immediate impact than last year's group I think. The upside of guys like Sims, Justin Hunter and Quinton Spain is excellent, but they need a lot of polishing. This year's group needs less."
The battle between Virginia and Virginia Tech is far from done for 2011, but already the Cavaliers have a slight lead when it comes to commitments in the top 30. In addition to Richardson, the Cavaliers boast commitments from Virginia Beach Green Run defensive tackle David Dean (No. 9), Portsmouth Norcom defensive back Kameron Mack (No. 19), Hampton Phoebus linebacker Caleb Taylor (No. 22), Virginia Beach Cox offensive lineman Ross Burbank (No. 26) and Richmond Hermitage defensive end Diamonte Bailey (No. 27).
The Hokies counter with Lorton South County defensive back Ronny Vandyke (No. 10) and Dinwiddie teammates Corey Marshall (No. 7) and Chris Hall (No. 30).
"The Hokies are in good shape to get more of the higher-ranked guys like Grant, Turner, Hughes and Terrell, but the competition in state is completely different now with Mike London at Virginia now," Farrell said. "It will be harder for Virginia Tech than it was when Al Groh was running things his last few years."
Other commitments in the top 30 include St. George Blue Ridge offensive tackle Isaiah Battle (No. 11) who committed to Clemson, Hampton Phoebus defensive end Daquan Romero (No. 15) who committed to North Carolina and Burke Lake Braddock quarterback Michael Nebrich (No. 28) who committed to UConn.
Two positions of strength in the state this year are at defensive end and along the offensive line. Marshall and Romero are joined by Ashburn Stone Bridge standout Rob Burns (No. 14) and Richmond St. Christopher's end Thompson Brown (No. 21) at their position. The offensive line is also well represented by Turner, Battle, Burbank and Lynchburg Liberty Christian Academy big man Grant Jones (No. 23).
However, the deepest position appears to be at defensive back. Nicholson, Vandyke and Mack are joined by Stafford Colonial Forge cornerback Tim Scott (No. 12) while Terrell and Chesterfield Lloyd C. Bird athlete Anthony Harris could also play the position in college.
And finally, there are many intriguing athletes in the Virginia top 30. Players like Terrell, Richardson, Harris, Hall and Virginia Beach Ocean Lakes stud Lafonte Thourogood could all end up playing numerous positions in college.
"It's an interesting group," said Farrell. "A lot of high level talent near the top and then some guys who are coming off injury or haven't played a bunch of football or are fighting academics or can play many positions. A lot of the guys from 10-30 could end up surprising I think."
The Alabama Preseason Top 40 also has a five-star linebacker at No. 1 in Russellville's Brent Calloway. Callaway and three other prospects ranked among the state's top six have already committed to the Crimson Tide.
Also being released Wednesday are the New York Preseason Top 10, South Carolina Preseason Top 25, Tennessee Preseason Top 20 and the West Virginia Preseason Top 5. Rivals.com will complete the preseason state rankings releases on Thursday with lists for Florida, Minnesota, Colorado and Washington.