MISHAWAKA, Ind. – In addition to Memorial Day Weekend, the Virginia football staff had an extra reason to celebrate on Sunday night when junior offensive tackle Ben Knutson committed to the Cavaliers. Over the weekend, Knutson visited both Virginia and Pittsburgh before publicly announcing his commitment.
“I was actually visiting this weekend, but I wanted to make sure on my visit that I had all my information before making a commitment,” Knutson said. “I called position coach Dave Borbely first and let him know. He was obviously excited. Then I gave [head] coach Mike London a call and I think if I would’ve had him on speaker it would have blown out the speaker on my phone. That’s how I let them know.”
During his recruitment, Knutson felt a strong connection to several members of the Virginia staff, and this played a prominent role in his commitment to the Cavaliers’ program. Namely, it was a graduate assistant–offensive coach Sean Cascarano–who helped the Virginia staff develop a tight-knit relationship with Knutson.
“Its funny. Coach Borbely, my head coach, got a message from Sean Cascarano, who is the current offensive line GA at Virginia and he just said to give him a call,” Knutson said. “So I called and he explained that we have a lot in common. We are both Midwestern guys. He’s out of Chicago and I’m from Northern Indiana. He chose to go to Virginia himself and it was coach Borbely that coached him during his first stint at the university. We had a conversation about him and just stuff like that… what it’s like coming out of the Midwest and going to school on the East coast.
“Then I finally met coach Borbely and one thing I realized is that it’s every easy to carry on a conversation with him. It’s not a struggle at all. He’s a very easy guy to talk to and he shoots straight with you. He is going to tell you the truth and he isn’t going to sugarcoat things for you. I think I really appreciated that.”
With the Virginia campus so far from his home state of Indiana, it is these relationships that helped provide a family atmosphere for Knutson.
“I think it’s really nice,” Knutson said. “It’s funny, that connection that I felt there. It kind-of closed the gap that’s 11 hours away. But once you’re more than three hours away it’s not really that big of a difference.”
In addition to the coaching staff at Virginia, Knutson–who held a total of nine offers before committing–was drawn to the strong academic reputation that the school holds.
“For me, I wanted to go into business and academics have always been important to me,” Knutson said. “They have a very prestigious business program at the University. It really fit with where I wanted to try and go to get my degree and get myself set up for 40 years instead of the next four. That was one of the big selling points there.
“Then I got on campus and the University of Virginia campus, with how much history it has and how great it feels on campus… There are a lot of Big Ten campuses that are typical Big Ten campuses, and then there are other campuses on the East Coast where it’s almost like an Ivy League. There is something that really appealed to me there.”
With Knutson now in the fold, Virginia has nine commitments in its 2016 recruiting class, which ranks seventh in the ACC and 30th nationally. According to 247sports.com, Knutson is a composite three-star prospect.
Standing 6’8” and 290-pounds, Knutson is a huge prospect for his age. This helps him at the high school level, and he looks to continue to use that size to his advantage in college.
“Well, I obviously have the size factor which is good and I also have the athletic ability to play offensive tackle since I’m also a basketball player,” Knutson said. “The two have kind-of crossed over a little bit. Plus I have versatility since I’ve played all different types of positions. I’ve played tight end, defensive end, and offensive tackle in my high school career, so I understand how to do everything. I understand the game better than someone that has just played offensive tackle.”
According to Knutson, his time on the hardwood helped to prepare him for football as well. While the two sports are very different, the rising junior was able to find a few similarities.
“It helped me with staying low,” Knutson said. “ If you stand up when you’re defending someone, you’re going to embarrass yourself. It definitely helped me. It’s been great because our basketball coach is actually big on the work ethic part of basketball, so that has helped me as well since basketball is such a technical game compared to football where it’s very technique-based. Football is more trying to overpower another player.”