Ten key prospects who left Virginia for college
With recent in state recruiting losses around the country it’s time to take a look at some key states and the big ones that got away. We continue today with the state of Virginia, where the lack of a power program has left the state open the past four recruiting cycles.
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
MORE: Prospects who left Georgia for college | Tennessee | Ohio | Texas | Louisiana | California | Michigan | Pennsylvania
CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State
CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State
COVERAGE: Rivals Transfer Tracker
1. Mekhi Becton (2017)
The skinny: Becton committed to Louisville over Virginia Tech, Michigan and Oregon on National Signing Day. He took January official visits to the Cardinals, Hokies and Ducks.
With the Cardinals, Becton started the last 34 games of his career. He was then selected with the No. 11 overall pick during the 2020 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, where he is currently starting at left tackle.
Farrell’s take: Becton was a massive prospect out of high school and a four-star with a high ceiling, so he was a big loss for UVA, and especially Virginia Tech, to an ACC foe.
2. Yetur Gross-Matos (2017)
The skinny: Gross-Matos trimmed his list of top schools to Penn State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina before committing to the Nittany Lions almost a year before his National Signing Day.
Gross-Matos performed like an All-American during his final two seasons in Happy Valley, totaling 94 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. He was then selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.
Farrell’s take: Gross-Matos got better each time we scouted him, and he went from a skinny project to a Big Ten star. Losses like this allow schools like Penn State to gain a stronghold.
3. Brandon Smith (2019)
The skinny: Penn State was seen as the heavy leader for several months leading up to his commitment during the spring leading up to his senior season. Texas A&M made a serious late push, while Ohio State, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Michigan and Notre Dame were also considered.
Smith showcased his potential as a true freshman with 14 tackles and two tackles for loss. With Micah Parsons officially deciding not to return this season, it further enhances the chances that Smith will be a starter this fall.
Farrell’s take: Another big Penn State get, Smith will replace Parsons as perhaps the next great linebacker with the Nittany Lions.
4. Tony Grimes
The skinny: Grimes focused his process on North Carolina, Georgia, Texas A&M and Ohio State before committing to the Tar Heels only a few months ago after reclassifying as a class of 2020 recruit. Due to his reclassification, Grimes arrived on campus a little later than most other true freshmen in his class but he still saw playing time during the season-opening victory against Syracuse.
Farrell’s take: Grimes is another big loss to an ACC foe for the Hokies and Cavaliers. He never really considered staying in-state, which has to sting.
5. Antoine Sampah
The skinny: Sampah took an aggressive recruiting approach, taking a number of visits, including to LSU, Clemson, Penn State, Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Tennessee. He committed to LSU during the spring after his junior season.
Sampah did not see any playing time during the season-opening loss to Mississippi State, but he is listed on the depth chart at LSU’s stack linebacker position behind Micah Baskerville.
Farrell’s take: Sampah hasn’t emerged yet at LSU, but he was a huge name with a high ceiling who got away to the SEC. He's another player who never really looked in-state.
6. Teradja Mitchell
The skinny: During a ceremony at his high school in June before his senior season, Mitchell committed to Ohio State. Florida State was considered the leader, but that changed after the five-star visited Columbus.
Mitchell began to make an impact last season with 12 tackles and two tackles for loss. However, with Tuf Borland, Baron Browning, Justin Hilliard and Pete Werner also all returning at linebacker, earning increased playing time will not be easy.
Farrell’s take: Mitchell hasn’t broken through at Ohio State yet, but as a five-star in the state of Virginia, losing him stings and he’d probably be making more of an impact at UVA or Virginia Tech.
7. Devyn Ford
The skinny: Ford trimmed his list of top schools down to Penn State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Ohio State, but it really came down to the Nittany Lions and Hokies before he committed to Penn State during the spring after his junior season.
As a true freshman last season, Ford rushed for 294 yards and three touchdowns. Misdemeanor drug charges during the off-season may slow his progress this fall, but either way he will be battling Journey Brown and Noah Cain for carries.
Farrell’s take: Ford was considering Virginia Tech but decided to head to Penn State, which was another big loss for the Nittany Lions. He’s competing against some serious talent, but he didn’t seem to mind pushing away earlier playing time in-state.
8. Sheridan Jones
The skinny: Jones focused his recruiting attention on Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida before he committed to the Tigers during the spring after his junior season.
Jones gained some experience during the 2019 season with four tackles and a fumble recovery. He is expected to have a bigger role this fall, with three tackles and one pass breakup through the first two games this season.
Farrell’s take: I liked Jones a lot as a prospect, and he’s going to be a very good one at Clemson. As with many others on this list, he didn’t really consider the in-state schools.
9. Malcolm Greene
The skinny: Greene initially committed to LSU during his senior season but then flipped to Clemson less than two months later. Rumors of his flip began to surface a week or two before he made his decision public.
Greene has already earned playing time during the first two games of the season, so hopes are high that he will become a steady contributor this fall.
Farrell’s take: The Tigers are starting to come into Virginia, and that’s not a good thing. Greene will eventually be a very good one and a regrettable loss.
10. Jordan Houston
The skinny: Houston initially committed to Maryland but then flipped to NC State a few days before National Signing Day after taking an official visit to Raleigh.
Houston enjoyed a very promising true freshman season, totaling 526 yards and two touchdowns on the ground plus 15 receptions for 112 yards through the air. Through two games this season he has 75 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries and four receptions for 27 yards.
Farrell’s take: Houston was pursued by Virginia Tech, but never saw much attention from the Cavaliers. His early success is indicative of his ability to make an impact at the ACC level, and he’s a loss for the Hokies.