May 1, 2015

My Thoughts on the 1st Round of the NFL Draft...

-- If I'm a Titans fan this morning, I'm equally thrilled and terrified.

-- The ghost of Al Davis made that Amari Cooper pick.  Gotta love that.

-- The Redskins drafted an offensive guard at #5 overall.  I think Scherff will be a good player, and I dig the idea of "getting back to being the Hogs," but dude is an interior offensive lineman, and it's not appropriate to draft that so high in the 1st round.  Leonard Williams is the pick the Skins should have made.  I think that regret is going to haunt the franchise a little bit.



-- Meanwhile, WTF are the Jets doing?  I get BPA drafting, and I endorse it totally.  I get building on strengths, and I endorse it totally.  But if there's one thing that team didn't need, it's d-line.  Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson are studs.  Why splash the pool?  (It's not like the Vikes drafting Randy Moss when they already had Cris Carter and Jake Reed.)

-- Kevin White in Chicago... bust.  Sorry.  I'm just skittish about West Virginia receivers, and also about guys who took the indirect route to college success.  To me, this is Cordarrelle Patterson 2.0, and if I'm a Bears fan, I'm a little bit nervous today.

-- Ereck Flowers was a big-time reach.  I feel like the Giants panicked when Scherff went off the board, and made a bad pick while they were on tilt.  Hey, it happens.

-- Gurley to the Rams at #10.  Can't decide if I like it or hate it.  Probably a little bit of both.  Value picks like this are hard when your roster is pockmarked with specific, damning needs elsewhere.  But I do think Gurley is going to be a great NFL player, and I like the idea of Jeff Fisher getting his next Eddie George.



-- I hate the Browns, so I hate seeing them make good draft picks... like they did with Danny Shelton at #12.  I love that big motherfucker, but now I have to hate him.

-- Andrus Peat is pillow-soft and a really good bet to be a 1st round bust for the Saints.  That being said, I do think he's a good fit with Sean Payton's system, so maybe it'll work out.  Peat has talent.

-- DeVante Parker to the Fins at #14.  Steal.  Big-time steal.

-- I kinda think the Chargers should have just calmed down and waited on the running back position.  A banger like Jay Ajayi, T.J. Yeldon, David Cobb, or Matt Jones in the middle rounds would have made more sense.  I'm not a huge Melvin Gordon fan, especially not in the top half of the 1st round, and especially not when you're trading up to get him.

-- Arik Armstead: colossal bust for the 49ers.  Book it.

-- Nelson Agholor is one of my favorite players in this draft.  I think the Iggles made a really good pick there.  The Jeremy Maclin parallels are good, but Agholor is also a special teams maven.

-- I'm happy with my Bengals pick of Cedric Ogbuehi.  I feel like it puts a check mark in the one big box we needed checked, and now we're free to attack the rest of the draft with a little bit of creativity.  Ogbuehi isn't a sexy or exciting pick, but the value is good.  (I'm fine with the pick, but would have preferred Malcom Brown.)



-- Bud Dupree to Pittsburgh... fantastic fit for them.  I'm also delighted to see them continue to neglect that gawd-awful secondary.

-- Shaq Thompson was a horrible reach for the Panthers.  Horrible.  He'll be a good, interesting, versatile player, but Carolina had big needs elsewhere.  This was a luxury pick when making a luxury pick was inappropriate.  They are going to get Cam Newton killed.

-- Breshad Perriman to the Ratbirds made me chortle.  Let Torrey Smith walk, then burn your 1st rounder to draft his clone... but with even worse hands.  Ozzie Newsome, it turns out, does not actually walk on water.

-- We now live in a world where an offensive guard from Duke is a 1st round NFL draft pick.  I don't even know how to begin processing that one.  Congrats, Lions.  You malfunctioned my computerbrain.

-- The Colts must have a plan to play with three footballs in 2015.  Phillip Dorsett... why?  T.Y. Hilton insurance?  I think Indy got too cute.

-- OF COURSE Malcom Brown slid to the Patriots at #32.  Of course he did.  Sheesh.



-- I'm glad Eli Harold wasn't a 1st rounder.  I don't think he's ready to live up to the pressure of being a 1st round draft pick, nor do I think his abilities warranted a top-32 pick.  I look forward to seeing him drafted tonight.  Anthony Harris, as well.



April 30, 2015

Teams to Follow this College Football Season

If Virginia Football's got you down, might I suggest the following list of teams to follow in 2015 instead of the sad sack Cadavaliers?

(You never know, you just might be dumbassing your way into an advance scouting report of UVA's next head football coach.)


Air Force 
Arizona State (OC Mike Norvell) 
Auburn (OC Rhett Lashlee) 
Ball State 
Cincinnati (OC Eddie Gran) 
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns 
Memphis 
Navy 
Oklahoma (OC Lincoln Riley) 
Oregon (OC Scott Frost) 
South Alabama 
Texas A&M (OC Jake Spavital) 
Toledo 
Utah State

Seven months out, I think the smart money might just be on this guy.

April 22, 2015

Orange Crush



Here's something a little bit unexpected from me right now: A dose of optimism about the 2015 UVA football team.  Today, I'm focused on the defense.

Coming out of spring practice, here's the [my] projected starting lineup for the base 43:

RDE) Kwontie Moore, Sr.
DT) David Dean, Sr.
DT) Andrew Brown, So.
LDE) Mike Moore, Sr.
WLB) C.J. Stalker, Fr.
MLB) Micah Kiser, So.
SLB) Zach Bradshaw, Jr.
S) Quin Blanding, So.
S) Kelvin Rainey, Jr.
CB) Tra Nicholson, Sr.
CB) Maurice Canady, Sr.

Specialists
Rush End: Trent Corney, Sr.
Nose Tackle: Donte Wilkins, Jr.
4th Defensive Tackle: Andre Miles-Redmond, Jr.
Nickel Linebackers - Pass Rush: Mark Hall, Jr. / Chris Peace, RS Fr.
Nickel Back: Tim Harris, Jr. (In a perfect world, Nicholson slides inside to cover the slot, because that's what he'll need to do in order to become an NFL prospect.)
Dime Back: Divante Walker, Jr.
7th Defensive Back: Wil Wahee, Jr.
8th Defensive Back: Kirk Garner, So.

Note: Virginia runs more nickel than base defense, in general... so you'll see more of guys like Trent Corney, Mark Hall, Chris Peace, and Tim Harris than maybe you'd expect at first blush.


"Plus" Players on the Defense
David Dean
Andrew Brown
Mike Moore
Quin Blanding
Tra Nicholson
Maurice Canady

I like to use The Paul System when I look at a team, and this season's defense stacks up well.




Other Positives
-- Depth in the secondary.  Blanding, Nicholson, Rainey, Canady, Harris, Walker, Wahee, Garner... that's eight guys ready to play this season.  To me, that's a good amount of depth in the secondary; plenty of firepower for special teams.
-- Nice DT rotation.  Dean, Brown, Wilkins (who is really good enough to be a starter), and AMR.  We should be able to play in waves at those spots, keeping everyone fresh and effective.
-- Interior pass rush.  Dean is really good at this, and Andrew Brown figures to be a revelation, finally healthy in his second year.
-- Depth in general.  I count 20 players on the defensive roster whom I would classify as "ready to play."  That's not quite a full two-deep, but honestly, it's better than what we usually have in terms of playable depth.
-- Jon Tenuta.  Specifically, Jon Tenuta's ability to hone pass rush weapons.  Remember, none of us knew anything about Max Valles until he came out and became Max Valles.  We have Vallesian (new term, just coined) bodies in Kwontie Moore, Trent Corney, and a ton of kids recruited in the last two classes.  Tenuta just needs to find his guy(s) and hone those weapons.
-- Star power.  Quin Blanding, Mike Moore, David Dean, Andrew Brown, Mo Canady, and Tra Nicholson should headline not just the defense, but the entire 2015 football team.  I'll be pissed if Blanding, Mike Moore, Dean, and Nicholson aren't on the poster.  (Has the poster been released yet?  Yep, it has.  On the poster: Mike Moore, Greyson Lambert - ugh, Ross Burbank - who?, Canaan Severin - at the prime center location, Maurice Canady, Taquan Mizzell, Tra Nicholson, David Dean.  Where the hell is Quin Blanding?  Freshman All-American last season, and not on the poster... but Greyson Lambert and Ross Burbank make the cut?  Sheesh.)



Question Marks
-- Pass rush.  Specifically from the edge.  Jon Tenuta seems to think Kwontie Moore and Trent Corney are ready to step up.  ("We changed some of the things we do schematically to help them but Trent Corney, the light's gone on for him," Tenuta said.  "Now he can use his athleticism and do the things he needs to do to be productive. That's a big plus for us.")  I have huge faith in Jon Tenuta in this area, but this is a question mark until it becomes an exclamation point.
-- Linebacking.  We lost Henry Coley, Daquan Romero, and Max Valles, and into the void steps relative unknowns Micah Kiser at Mike, Zach Bradshaw at Sam, and C.J. Stalker / Mark Hall / Chris Peace at Will.  Three new starters at LB is a huge concern... which is probably a reason we'll play even more nickel this season.
-- The offense is going to suck, putting the defense in precarious situations.  SSDY, right?  Seriously, my kingdom for a quarterback.
-- Punter.  It looks like James Coleman exits the spring as the unquestioned starter.  Of course, he'll be a first-time starter.  He kicks a high punt with lots of hang time, but often questionable distance.  So between that and the offense hemorrhaging turnovers, the D could be stuck with a short field behind them on a regular basis.
-- The schedule. It is pretty tough.

There you are, Quin Blanding!


Add it up, and I'm actually feeling a little bit froggy about the 2015 defense.  Too bad the offense and head coach are going to fuck it all up (more on that later, maybe), but I think this D might just be able to hold its own.

A rare little ray of sunshine from your feel-bad blog, Hoofans!  Enjoy it!



April 20, 2015

The Paul System

Sometime in April, 2004...

Paul: "So K-Man, how good is UVA football going to be this season?"

Kendall: "I don't know man, pretty good.  Right?  Preseason top 25, we should be a contender in the ACC.  New Year's type bowl game.  Darkhorse top-5 team?  Dare I dream national championship?  Lundy and Pearman in the backfield.  Biscuit at QB, and he can run, so it adds an extra dimension that Schaub never had.  Of course, Big Money at tight end.  Maybe a bit thin at receiver, but I like Mike McGrew playing his senior season.  The o-line should be good.  Big Elton Brown and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.  D will always be good under Al Groh... Ahmad Brooks, man!  Blackstock!  And don't forget a senior-season Chris Canty, he'll be a beast.  Paulie, I think we are going to be really good!"



Paul: "Sounds good!  How many future NFL players are on this team?  That's what I try to look at."

Kendall: "Well, let's see.  Guys who'll go in the next two NFL drafts...  Heath Miller, Darryl Blackstock, Chris Canty, Elton Brown.  D'Brickashaw Ferguson, whenever he goes pro.  I think Marques Hagans might have a chance as a wide receiver, not as a QB.  Lundy and Pearman in the late rounds.  That's probably about it."

Paul: "We'll go 9-3 or 8-4, tops.  Gotta have NFL talent to win in college football, I think.  If you're not filling the next two drafts with players, then you aren't going to win big.  I'll say 8-4 for this season."



Kendall: "You're crazy.  This is our best chance to get 10+ wins since 1995."

Paul: "I hope you're right, K."


Turns out, I was not right.  Paul took me to school.  We went 8-4 in 2004.

Ever since that hard lesson, I've tried to use the Paul System for setting my preseason expectations.  So let's apply it to the upcoming 2015 squad.  How much immediate pro potential is present on this season's team?

Quarterback
Nope, sorry.

Running Back
Not unless Smoke Mizzell pulls his shit together in a very real, comprehensive way.  I think it's an extremely safe bet that we don't have a 2016/2017 NFL draft pick in our offensive backfield.

Wide Receiver
I could honestly see Canaan Severin making it into the NFL, given his size and work ethic.  I'm not sure about T.J. Thorpe... seems like he would have made the jump if he were an NFL prospect, instead of coming to UVA to play his 5th year season.  Andre Levrone, Keeon Johnson, and Jamil Kamara have a lot of football in front of them, but none of them are on a certain NFL track.  At the end of the day, I'd say we have zero (or maybe one very marginal) NFL prospect at WR.



Tight End
Nope.  I guess we'll see about Evan Butts, but he's not a 2016 or 2017 draftee.

Fullback
This one is interesting.  I think we're about to see a gradual re-emergence of the blocking fullback in the NFL, and that coincides with two development and excellent spring practice of two UVA fullbacks -- converted defensive lineman Vincent Croce and true fullback Connor Wingo-Reeves.  Croce is a senior and CWR is a junior.  I think either/both might be on the trajectory to be NFL camp invites.  It would be a miracle if either were draft picks, but you never know.

Offensive Line
I don't think Jay Whitmire is an NFL draft prospect, especially when you consider his injury history.  He's a 2016 camp invite (if he's healthy).  Beyond Whitmire, I don't think there is an NFL player among the upperclassmen on our OL.  Sadiq Olanrewaju and Eric Smith have a chance to play their way onto NFL radars... but they aren't anywhere close to being there yet.  They still have two full seasons to emerge.



Defensive Tackle
I'm bullish on David Dean as a middle rounder in the 2016 NFL Draft.  I also think Andrew Brown is going to play his way into a position where he has the option to go pro early after his junior season, in the 2017 draft.  Meanwhile, Donte Wilkins has a similar chance to make a name for himself during the next two seasons.  We have some pro potential at the DT position.

Defensive End
Mike Moore... maybe?

Linebacker
Given the youth prevalent at these positions, none of these dudes are earmarked for the 2016/2017 NFL Drafts.

Safety
Quin Blanding.

Cornerback
I like the idea of Tra Nicholson covering the slot at the next level, but NFL teams don't usually use draft picks on 5-foot-9 cornerbacks.  So I'm not counting him as a certain pro.  Maurice Canady seems like a camp body at the NFL level, ditto Tim Harris.




Paul said the 2004 team (with 8 future pros) would go 8-4.  What would he say about the 2015 team, with three, maybe four or five, future pros?  How good can David Dean, Andrew Brown, and Quin Blanding be?  Can Severin, Nicholson, Whitmire, and Canady fight their way into the 2016 NFL draft discussion?

The point is, we are lacking top-end talent.  Like, severely lacking.

Is there any reason to be anything but pessimistic about 2015 Virginia Football?


April 15, 2015

Lost & Found

Virginia Basketball has been doing a lot of losing in 2015.



Lost to Duke.

Lost Justin Anderson to the pinky injury.

Lost Justin Anderson AGAIN, to a stupid appendectomy.

Lost to Louisville.

Lost to Kerlina in the ACC Tournament.

Lost out on a 1-seed... one that went to Duke, giving them a ridiculously soft cakewalk to a national championship.

Lost to Michigan State in the Round of 32.

Lost B.J. Stith to a transfer to ODU.

Lost Ritchie McKay (and Brad Soucie) to Liberty.

Lost Justin Anderson to the NBA Draft.


That's a lot of losing.


I'll try to bite my tongue on Justin Anderson going pro.  Ultimately, it's a good thing for the program to be putting players into the Association... even if those players are leaving behind unfinished business, can't go right, and will be drafted as a D & 3 wing even though they have a highly questionable (and certainly not long-term proven) 3-point stroke.  Ooops, so much for biting my tongue.



Yeah, okay, I admit, I'm a little bit salty about Justin Anderson going pro.  Probably because I care more about the program's success than him chasing his individual dream.  And also because I now have to re-write my narrative of lofty expectations for the 2015-16 campaign.  (Yep, I jinxed everything on February 4, 2014.)

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely wish Justin the best of luck!  I'm just butthurt right now.  Someday, Virginia will catch a break.

But look, even though there's a lot of losing, frustration, and disappointment around Virginia Basketball right now, the arrow is still pointing up.  It might be hard to see the forest for the trees, but for all we've lost, there are a lot of things we found!  Check it out...


Found exactly what we need to add to this roster in order to be able to advance deeper into the NCAA Tournament.  (Shot-takers and shot-makers.  In a word: shooters.)

Found that Tony Bennett is at Virginia to stay.  (You do know that he turned down Texas before they went after Shaka Smart, right?  Sorry Ramfans.  Tough reality check for the VCU fans who bandwagoned the Final Four run.)



Found not one, but TWO scholarships to play around with.  I'm not sure what Tony is going to do (I hope he brings in an instant-impact 5th year senior transfer, a JUCO, and/or a class of 2015 kid who can shoot the ball from the wing.)  This is going to sound really hardcore and cold, but if B.J. Stith was never going to crack the rotation - and he was on the trajectory to be recruited over in 2016 - then I'm glad we have the open scholarship instead of having it tied up for another three seasons.

Found the chance to promote Jason Williford to the lead assistant role, which should aid in the retention of a highly-skilled and talented member of the coaching staff.



Found the opportunity to backfill the coaching staff with someone who might be able to add a dose of offensive dynamism and/or recruiting firepower to the mix.  I don't have any names that Tony is exploring, but it's clear to me that he's going to bring in a fresh voice equipped with interesting ideas to help rejuvenate the operation.

Found a clear path toward major playing time for Darius Thompson, coming off his transfer redshirt in 2015-16.  Odds are good that DT will step right into JA's vacated minutes... and DT is a long, lean, dribble-drive athlete, the likes of which we have yet to see function in the Bennettball system at UVA.  Offensive catalyst.  Plus, he's a very good defender.



Found the possibility to come into next season not ranked in the preseason top-5.  Under the radar with a chip on our shoulders... that's where Virginia is at its most dangerous.



April 7, 2015

*sigh*

(This is going to sound a bit petty and bitter.  I don't care.)

Congratulations to Duke - a team who couldn't win its own conference regular season or tournament title - for advancing through the most pillow-soft six game stretch I've ever seen for a national champion.

Mike Krzyzewski assembled a team of one-year mercenary rent-a-players and scumbags (that's you, Justise Winslow) while doing his best to cover up a rape scandal (that's you, Rasheed Sulaimon), and is today celebrated as a great champion.  He needs to thank Wisconsin for doing his dirty work and knocking off Kentucky, he needs to thank the Selection Committee for setting up the cakewalk (including a clearly hungover Wisky team in the final game), and he needs to thank the amateur status of the utterly incompetent officiating throughout the Tournament.

For the last 25 years of my life, I have viewed the NCAA Tournament as the best sporting event on the planet.  Today, I am questioning that belief.

To me, this year's Duke basketball team embodies all that is truly wrong with college basketball... yet it's Virginia's system and style of play that was vilified and eventually crucified by the media.  It's frustrating.  Very frustrating.

*sigh*