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Virginia loads up on defensive players to fill holes in what London calls 'blue-collar' class

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — Virginia signed a recruiting class without a lot of the "glitz and glamour" of five-star athletes, but a "blue-collar" group that fills needs on the Cavaliers' roster, coach Mike London said.

The class includes 21 players who signed on Wednesday, and two more who have already enrolled.

It also includes two players, cornerback T.J. Griffin of Virginia Beach and linebacker Dominic Sheppard of Miami, who were originally headed for Wisconsin, but followed new assistant coach Chris Beatty to Virginia.

"He's paid off right away," London said of Beatty, Virginia's new running backs coach.

The class is heavy on defensive players with five linebackers, four defensive linemen and three prospects for the defensive backfield. The Cavaliers lost two linebackers to graduation and had two underclassmen decide to leave school early to make themselves available for the NFL draft.

In all, five of the top six tacklers on last season's team that finished 5-7 have departed.

One of the top candidates to play right away is 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker C.J. Stalker of West Chester, Ohio. He, along with offensive lineman Grant Polk of Punta Gorda, Florida, are already enrolled, and "You can tell he's going to be a big player," London said of Stalker.

Linebacker Jahvoni Simmons of Virginia Beach also will get an opportunity to play early in defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's unit. Simmons and Griffin were teammates at Ocean Lakes High School, which went 51-2 over the past three seasons.

PHOTO: University of Virginia head football coach Mike London talks with reporters about this year's class of players from National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, in Chaarlottesville, Va.  (AP  Photo/The Daily Progress/Ryan M. Kelly)
University of Virginia head football coach Mike London talks with reporters about this year's class of players from National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, in Chaarlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress/Ryan M. Kelly)

The class includes nine players from Virginia.

Virginia also signed 6-2 wide receiver Warren Craft of Roanoke, who originally signed with Virginia Tech to play basketball.

"I think he might be one of the sleepers of this class," London said, noting that Craft has only played football for two seasons, but can use his leaping ability and frame to his advantage.

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Top 25 class: No.

Best in class: Jahvoni Simmons, LB, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Best of the rest: Grant Polk, OL, Punta Gorda, Florida, and C.J. Stalker, LB, West Chester, Ohio.

Late addition: T.J. Griffin, CB, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Dominic Sheppard, LB, Miami.

One that got away: Sage Hardin, LB, Georgia.

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