Originally written June 27, 2012 on Crystal Ball Run:
Eli Harold will look to make an impact in a hurry for Virginia. Is there another Sammy Watkins out there in the ACC? Another standout, super-versatile freshman ready to take the stage on the FBS level become the talk of college football's town? If you are looking for an offensive breakout candidate in the ACC, Stefon Diggs up in College Park could possibly fit the bill for the Terrapins. Many may make a case for Mario Edwards at Florida St., and I do believe if we were talking about a freshman for longevity's sake—the one who has the most potential—he would be at or near the the top of the list. But Maryland is mired in, well, a mess, and Florida State has a massive amount of depth on the defensive side of the ball. We're talking impact, year one. Who could have the greatest single impact as a freshman? I propose Virginia linebacker Eli Harold. I remember watching film on Harold and nearly salivating at his versatility, as I am sure his coach did as well. His high school accolades include:
  • ESPNU Top 150 prospect
  • SuperPrep Elite 50 prospect, as well as, SuperPrep All-American and defensive player of the year
  • 247Sports.com All-American
  • Consensus top 50 recruit (247Sports, Rivals, Scout, ESPN)
  • No. 1 player in Virginia
  • No. 5 player nationally at his position
  • Played in the U.S Army All-American Bowl and was selected team captain for the East squad
  • SI.com honorable mention All-American
  • First-team All-Tidewater
  • Beach District Defensive player of the Year and first-team all-district selection at wide receiver and defensive end
A defensive player, yes, but Harold played quarterback, running back and wide receiver, accounting for 1,146 total yards and 20 touchdowns in a wildcat offense (41 receptions or 723 yards receiving). Reading the book on Harold has to make Mike London quite the happy coach down in Charlottesville:
  • 6-3, 230 pounds
  • Athletic
  • Long wingspan
  • Burst speed and closing speed
Harold has the pure athletic ability to be able to play wide receiver—and you may see him line up on that side of the ball from time to time—but where Eli will, in my opinion, become a star is on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the UVA scheme. His combination of size, speed, wingspan and instincts will make him a force sooner than later against opposing offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Harold chose Virginia over LSU, Florida and Arkansas in order to stay home and play for the Cavaliers. He will be one to watch from the start. Others to watch:
  • Mario Edwards, DL, FSU
  • Stefon Diggs, WR/ATH, Maryland
  • Tracy Howard, CB, Miami
  • Joel Caleb, ATH, Virginia Tech
  • Eddie Goldman, DL, FSU
  • Randy "Duke" Johnson, RB, Miami
  • Chris Casher, DE, FSU
  • Mario Pender, RB, FSU
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