August 30, 2014

Kendall's Pick for the UCLA @ Virginia Game

I just wanted to go on record with this before it happens.

UCLA 45, Virginia 17

We hang around for the first 20-25 minutes of the game, but Brett Hundley proves to be too much for our defense and the UCLA defensive line proves to be way too much for our patchwork offensive line.


August 29, 2014

Wahooze Booze -- The 2014 OL, DL, LBs, DBs, and Special Teams

You're tailgating.

Down goes the martini.  Then a bunch of beer.  You try to be funny and pull a "typical UVA tailgate" and sip at some wine.  To be funny.  Then you knock back a little vodka.

Next thing you know, you're watching that giant douchebag you've been playing cornhole with nail two in the pink and one in the stink to win the game, and you stumble back, a bit dizzy... drunk.

You look at your watch: 11:49 AM.  Of course, it's Virginia Football, and a 12:00 kickoff.  Shit, you have 11 minutes to chug down another beer, throw back three shots, and then pour a "walking beer" into an orange solo cup for the stroll from Fontaine to Scott Stadium.  Because you have to be completely obliterated drunk in order to enjoy 2014 Virginia Football.

This is me, looking at five position groups to cover in less than 48 hours prior to our first game of the season -- the debacle that will be the UCLA game.  So buckle up, Wahooze Nation.  We're about to rip through some content.

Don't puke.

Walkin' beer, breh.


The 2014 Offensive Line
God, I have so much to say about this shitshow, but so little time.  People love bulleted lists, right?  RIGHT!
  • I'm not going to pull any punches here, so if you're a pie-in-the-sky pollyanna rah-rah London sycophant type, you might want to skip this bulleted list, else risk serious butthurt.  (Try some Boudreaux's Butt Paste, homie.)
  • The depth chart for the UCLA game came out this week, and here is YOUR University of Virginia Fightin' Wahoos offensive line, from left to right: Michael Mooney (LT), Ryan Doull (LG), Ross Burbank (C), Conner Davis (RG), Eric Smith (RT).
  • Exactly one of those names I just mentioned does not elicit terror as a UVA fan considering the starting offensive line for the season opener.  One.  And that one is Eric Smith.

  • For all of Mike London's recruiting success, he has absolutely sucked at recruiting the OL.  If you're not overrecruiting the OL, then you are underrecruiting the OL.  Coach had to learn this fact the hard way, I guess.  Too bad Virginia is bombed back to the stone ages as a result of his learning curve.
  • On top of London's poor recruiting, we've also experienced terrible attrition on the line.  Hunter Steward, Tim Cwalina, and Kelby Johnson, we hardly knew ye.
  • On top of THAT, injuries in advance of the season opener have just outright decimated what was already a thin, shaky line.  George Adeosun, and especially Jay Whitmire and Sadiq Olanrewaju would have been factors on this offensive line.  Whitmire and Olanrewaju might be back this season... but by then it'll be too little, too late, without having time to gel with the unit (a critical component of OL play).
  • Take a look at the roster.  DE-turned-TE Jack English is now working at offensive tackle.  So is Chris Brathwaite, a defensive tackle his entire career at UVA prior to this point.  Sad.
  • Add it up, and you've got a unit that is perched precariously at the edge of a cliff.  No, that's not quite right.  This unit already fell off the cliff and is a smoldering smear of wreckage, smoking in a gulch.
  • Who the hell spells Connor with an E?
  • Not including walk-ons who earned scholarships or crazy-ass converts from other positions, I count 14 scholarship offensive linemen on the 2014 roster.  That, to me, is downright negligence when it comes to recruiting / roster planning.  By comparison, ACC co-member and defending national champion Florida State has 22 OL on scholarship.  4 or 5 OL in every single recruiting class is the only way to run a successful college football team.  We're averaging 2.8 OL in each class.
  • Our o-line is going to be bad in 2014.  It's going to be bad, and it's going to cripple the offense, lead to turnovers, and limit our time of possession, leaving the defense hanging out to dry.  In essence, a bad offensive line is going to doom Virginia Football during the 2014 season.
  • The alcohol metaphor for the 2014 offensive line is pretty simple, it's bumwine.  (Do yourself a favor and click that link.)  Bumwine will leave you pretty messed-up... scared, alone, sitting in a pile of your own feces and trying not to wretch.  Choke back the vomit and take another gulp.

Pictured left to right: Michael Mooney, Ryan Doull,
Ross Burbank, Conner Davis, Eric Smith



The 2014 Defensive Line
We know we have a potentially transcendent talent in Eli Harold, who still needs to learn how to bring it on every snap in order to ascend to his rightful superstar status.  Eli's been bulking up, so he should be better against the run, which is good news.  In the past, the easy gameplan was to run right at him.  We also have a 5-star wunderkind at DT in Andrew Brown.  David Dean played very well in 2013, and is back, another offseason better.  Mike Moore is another guy with a ton of potential, who should have great success playing off of the other three guys.  The depth chart is a little bit shaky, but overall I really like what we have on our DL this season.  It could be a difference-making type of unit, especially when matched up against poor offensive lines -- think Richmond, Kent State, and Pitt.  Wahooze Booze: tequila.  Tastes awesome, screws you up sideways.

Bring it on every snap, Eli.  Be our best player.

The 2014 Linebackers
I happen to think that Henry Coley is the best player on the team, or at least tied with Kevin Parks and Ant Harris for that distinction.  Coley is a cerebral, tough, effective, efficient monster in the middle of our defense.  (Read THIS article.)  Da Da Romero is no slouch, either.  Those two should have a field day cleaning up whatever scraps the d-line leaves on the table.  My anxiety with the linebackers rests in two key spots: 1) Max Valles at Sam, and 2) the depth behind the starting three.  Valles is a plus-plus athlete and a great pass rusher, there is no argument there.  However, how is he in coverage?  That was a rhetorical question, to which we all know the answer.  So the pass rush / blitz better get to the QB, or smart offensive coordinators will run iso plays against Valles in space, and chew us up.  Of course, we can pull a safety up to help him out... and leave ourselves exposed to the deep bomb in play action.  It's a problem.  So go get your sacks, Max Valles, and let's all hope those sacks compensate for what we're giving up in coverage in order to put you on the field.  [Editor's Note: We'll be playing a lot of nickel this season, leaving Coley and Romero on the field as the only linebackers; Valles probably has a role as a situational rush end in those nickel looks.]  I love Valles' upside as a player, but he's got some skills to iron out before he's a full-time linebacker.  As for the depth at the position...  Well, the D is going to be on the field A LOT, so that means the backups are going to have to play.  Mark Hall, Micah Kiser, D.J. Hill, and Zach Bradshaw are talented, but untested.  We'll see how well they swim in the deep end of the pool, I guess.  Wahooze Booze: Fireball!  The new hotness.  Tastes so good at first... but then... heartburn...

Bad cop.


The 2014 Safeties
If you're like me, you're predicting much doom and gloom for this season, but are still looking forward to seeing a few of these guys in action.  Kevin Parks.  Eli Harold.  Henry Coley.  Rounding out that top five is no doubt All-American strong safety Anthony Harris and 5-star über-recruit Quin Blanding.  Those two figure to be our starting safeties in 2014, and if Blanding plays to his potential, it might be the best duo we've had since Poindexter and Ellsworth.  So yeah, I like our safeties.  I like them a lot.  Even the guys off the bench - Wil Wahee, Kelvin Rainey, and walk-on David Marrs - carry certain sex appeal.  I don't know how Jon Tenuta likes to deploy his safeties, but this is a unit ready to make a big impact in 2014.  One note I'd like to add here, though -- Blanding is a true freshman, and free safety is a bad place to be fielding that much inexperience.  Expect him to make a lot of 'wow' plays this season, but to also cede a lot of 'ouch' plays just from making the natural mistakes of youth.  Anyway, I'm still excited to see Blanding, and we know Ant's a stud.  So rock on, safeties.  Wahooze Booze: Hennessy.  Top shelf, bitch.

Damn right.


The 2014 Cornerbacks
Tra Nicholson can't get or stay healthy, so we're going to war with better-than-anyone-thinks Maurice Canady, soft-safety-turned-potentially-good-corner Brandon Phelps, wonder-walk-on DreQuan Hoskey, and super-talented Tim Harris.  This group has all the tools to be very good, and Canady already is very, very good.  I'm comfortable with these guys, if not confident in a difference-making campaign from them, sans Nicholson.  Wahooze Booze: gin.  Nothing fancy, but really great when mixed into the right cocktail.

I don't know if Mo Canady has star potential, but I'm not betting against him.
He's the exact sort of big (6-2, 190) corner that excels in Jon Tenuta's system.


The 2014 Special Teams
Voz is one of the best punters in the nation, and a damn fine backup kicker, to boot (pun intended!)  Ian Frye, all 6-foot-6 of him, is a pretty good kicker, with range beyond 50 yards.  New long-snapper Tyler Shirley is an unknown.  I'll be interested to see what a healthy Smoke Mizzell can add to kick and punt returns, while Darius Jennings (kickoffs) and Khalek Shepherd (punts) reprise old, ho-hum roles in the return game.  The coverage units should greatly benefit from two things: 1) Another season of coaching from a dedicated special teams coach (Larry Lewis) who knows what he's doing, and 2) The ongoing development of all the athletes London has recruited into the program.  We have 16 defensive backs and 13 linebackers on the roster, and that *should* translate into effective coverage units.  Matter of fact, when you add it all up, I think Special Teams could weirdly be an asset of the 2014 Hoos.  Look for it to win us a game we otherwise should not win this season (looking at you, UNC).  Wahooze Booze: rum.  When it's good, it's really, really guuuuuuuuuuuud.

It's the Voz!


Overview of the 2014 Virginia Cavaliers
Short and sweet: We have talent all over the roster.  With 22 seniors, we have experience.  But we have some glaring holes that are going to ultimately damn this team.  The offensive line is a disaster.  Both ends of a pass play are question marks -- will young Greyson Lambert step up, and are any of the receivers ready to make things easy for a young QB?  The backs will be running against stacked boxes, and I expect the offense to sputter along at best, and to hemorrhage turnovers and field position as a rule.  A potentially very good defense (albeit with some specific spots offenses can attack) and surprisingly effective special teams won't be enough to compensate for the offense, and with very little fan support and a non-existent home field advantage on top of a difficult schedule, Virginia will struggle to a 4-8 season.

The wins: 9/6 over Richmond (to put us at 1-1), 9/27 over Kent State (to put us at 2-3), 10/4 over Pitt (to put us at 3-3), and 10/25 over North Carolina (to put us at 4-4).  That .500 start through the first eight games will keep London safe for the balance of the season, but an 0-4 stretch to end the season will get him - and Jon Oliver (fingers crossed) - fired.

There are guys to root for and enjoy watching this season (KP, Eli Harold, Henry Coley, Da Da Romero, Ant Harris, Voz), and there are some things to see that could spell a faster turnaround under a new coach in 2015.  Aside from wins, I'm looking to see:

  • Greyson Lambert improving as the season grinds along, giving us reason to look forward to his junior and senior seasons at UVA.
  • Smoke Mizzell showing us that he has the ability to become UVA's best weapon in the backfield as an upperclassman.
  • Keeon Johnson taking over the #1, go-to wide receiver role.
  • The other young wideouts proving that we have certain upside at that position, allowing for a smooth transition to a spread-style offense under a new Xs-and-Os-oriented, offensive-minded head coach.
  • The o-line giving us some young guys other than Eric Smith to look forward to seeing develop.  Mooney, Doull, Olanrewaju, Tetlow, McDonald, and Karl all have a chance to see some playing time this season and show us that they belong.  It'll be an extreme trial by fire for these guys, so we'll see who is made of stern-enough stuff.
  • Andrew Brown and Quin Blanding playing to their potential as true freshmen.
  • The ongoing development of Max Valles.
  • The young linebackers showing us that there will be life after Coley and Romero.
  • Mo Canady, Tim Harris, and Divante Walker taking the proverbial 'next step' at cornerback.  (London has recruited so damn many DBs during his time here, it's time these units became real strengths of the team.)

So I'm as excited for the upcoming season as anyone can be, when they are hoping for losses that lead to a regime change at the end of the season.


Drink up, Wahooze Nation and Hoofans everywhere.  It might be a long three months, but at least we have basketball and a probable coaching search to look forward to!



August 28, 2014

2014 Haiku Preview

Back by popular demand (has it been a year already?), it's time for Wahooze's most popular annual poetry feature: The Haiku Preview. Rather than the usual 500 word essays breaking down the intricacies of each scheduled opponent, we're going to look ahead at the enemy in 17-syllable chunks. The hopes and dreams of a nation of Wahoo faithful (until 11/14/14) rest on the team's ability to beat most of these foes. Let's see how it will shake out:

vs UCLA 08/30
Wow. Pac-12 again?
Brand name games. 2 win seasons.
 40k. Big loss.

vs UR 09/06
Hi Michael Rocco!
More QB uncertainty?
Sounds familiar. Win.

vs Louisville 09/13
Our newest "rivals"
OK. Your coach is a sleeze.
Though Bridgewater, Loss.

@ BYU 09/20
Tough road test for sure
Maybe a 3% chance
Well, more like 0.

vs Kent State 09/27
The Golden Flashes
Might do us a big favor
Lose? Fire London.

vs Pitt 10/04
We own their o-line
Eli Harold sack party
Match last year's wins here!

@ Duke 10/18
Ugh. The Blue Devils
Have we beat them recently?
Maybe now's the time

vs UNC 10/25
They don't go to class
They haze like an 80's frat
They'll win this game, though

@ GT 11/01
We might play well here
But the scheme seems to beat us
...let's guess: Hoos close win!

@ FSU 11/08
This could get ugly
Let's avoid the injuries
A safe big time loss

vs Miami 11/22
Al Golden = hot seat
Maybe he can coach here next
Don't want that. We lose.

@ VT 11/28
Not sold on VT
Though I don't think we're better
Not this year. Again.


Well, there you have it. The poetry gods say 4-8 with a mid-season coach firing! Sounds intriguing...


August 27, 2014

WahoozeCast - August, 26th

Check it here, WahoozeNation. A new podcast this week. A new podcast hosting site. Hopefully this makes streaming/downloading easier, plus brings back the RSS feed feature. This week's podcast is a special one:

The WahoozeCast of Positivity



That's right, nearly 45 whole minutes of nothing but positive thoughts from us about the UVA football team and its upcoming season. Enjoy.

This really doesn't need a caption. A cat-ption.


August 19, 2014

Wahooze Booze -- The 2014 Tight Ends/Fullbacks

20120901-UVa-Richmond434.jpg
Can Zach Swanson fill McGee’s role? (Photo Credit: Andrew Shurtleff)


Kendall: For all of his recruiting prowess - and it’s considerable - I think Mike London’s recruiting has failed the Virginia program in two areas -- the offensive line (which we’ll talk about on Friday), and at tight end.


Now, it’s totally possible that our coaching staff has been strategically de-emphasizing the tight end position since 2010, choosing instead to focus on recruiting big wide receivers and jumbo athletes, and then letting guys play / grow their way into the tight end position.  That explains how [TE-turned-fullback-turned-TE] Zach Swanson, [DE-turned-TE] Rob Burns, and [WR-turned-TE] Mario Nixon came to roost at the position.  But the fact of the matter is that we have just two tight ends on our current roster who were recruited to play tight end, and one of those spent some time at fullback earlier in his UVA career.


I’m not saying the handling of this position has been negligent (like along the offensive line), but it sure hasn’t been pretty.  HOWEVER, blind squirrels sometimes manage to find nuts, and I do happen to think we have dumbassed our way into a fairly decent assortment of talent at the tight end position.


Mike: I think it’s pretty interesting how much we’ve deemphasized the position over the years considering the pretty good run we went on putting tight ends into the NFL. While I was in school we were averaging one per season if you count Joe Torchia’s cup of coffee with the Redskins. (Jonathan Stupar, Tom Santi, and John Phillips are the others). I don’t think we’ve actually had a true tight end start to finish come through this program since Colter Phillips and Paul Freedman, both Groh recruits. Mike London has turned every potential tight end athlete into a linebacker or defensive end, see Zach Bradshaw, Max Valles, and Jack English. To me this idea that you can just plug in a guy at TE had really taken over the program until Tom O'Brien showed up, and it’s a miracle we aren’t in more dire straits at the position. All that being said, a good blocking tight end sure would be nice to help out the line.


Pierce: I’ve said this many many times, but anything that turns UVA football’s focus away from the tradition of solid o-line, pass-catching tight ends, and tiki barbers is a huge mistake. We saw it under Groh in a last-ditch effort to save a failing program by bringing in Gregg Brandon’s spread and we’ve seen it recently again, as Kendall detailed. Especially in a season where the offensive line is near guaranteed to be suspect (if not worse), having a solid group of tight ends is paramount to any sort of offensive success.


Mike: This offense could so easily go back to that kind of style too which is the most depressing part. I think prior to TOB (and that might not even have helped as much as we think) this offense was just wandering aimlessly in the wilderness with no real plan of what the hell they were doing. In the past few recruiting cycles you’re seeing them start to recruit OL and TE more consistently and work back towards a more traditional UVA style, which is to say having any style at all. Mike London has managed to turn something into nothing better than any coach I have ever seen, he’s like the anti-Tony Bennett.


Pierce: Matt Doherty comes to mind. But I digress. What are the positives we can take away from this unit? Swanson has had some solid contributions over the years and all reports point to him having a great rhythm with Greyson (his roommate). Rob Burns has great size (6-7) and plenty of practice experience - plus some definite blocking ability. Plus, we have a guy named “Evan Butts.” Hahaha. Butts.

matt-doherty-unc.jpg
Remember this guy? Good times.


Mike: Butts at tight end is a 4th grade gold mine.

Kendall: Black Swan (Zach Swanson) is a decent receiver, a decent blocker, a decent overall tight end. Solid, nothing to write home about. Rob Burns is big, offers an inviting red zone target, and seems to relish the blocking duties inherent to the position. Those two guys will see the huge majority of playing time at the position. Behind them... well, there's a true freshman, and then zilcho.


Pierce: So where does that leave this unit with a booze metaphor? To me, they’re vodka. Vodka is regularly used, rarely celebrated, often overlooked, and typically unremarkable. Like most spirits, getting some high-quality vodka can lead to some wonderful libations - but largely, no one cares much about what kind of vodka is at the party - as long as there is some. For most football teams, having some standard-quality production from the TEs and FBs is all they can hope for. But, as we’ve seen, UVA always does better when the unit is a clear focus in the offense. This year’s group is missing star power, but hopefully that doesn’t translate to unfavorable results.


vodka.png
As long as it’s not Aristocrat.


Kendall: I like it. Are you including fullbacks in that? Because I love fullbacks.


Mike: We forgot to talk about the fullbacks.


Pierce: See, they’re forgettable, just like their booze. At fullback, Connor Wingo-Reeves has things pretty much locked up. He played in every game as a truth frosh last year and while I’m sure Vincent Croce will be used, Wingo-Reeves should be the go-to guy to lead the blocking for Parks & Co. You know, if we’re not running a spread formation.


Mike: Croce is a weird case. He’s a converted DT playing fullback. Apparently he is going to get some run at tight end as well. The kid obviously is a pretty good athlete, but having battled weight problems (he couldn’t add enough to play at the D1 level) and trying to make it work on the d-line for so long, throwing him in at FB or TE and expecting a world beater is clearly unreasonable. I think CWR is clearly our starter at FB. Kendall loves the guy and I’m sure is about to swoon.

[KENDALL SWOONS. END SCENE]

Kendall: Not so fast. Yes, I love Cunnilingus Reeves (try saying "Connor Wingo-Reeves" three times fast, and see what you get). And YES, I love fullbacks. But it sounds like the UVA offense in 2014 is going to look like this: three-wide, with a split backfield (think KP and Smoke both in the game at the same time). So that means no TEs and no FBs on the field at all. It's a spread look, but we'll run our standard popgun bullshit pro-style plays. And it'll be awful. Pass the vodka, I'm ready to stir up a Kamikaze.




Wahooze note: YES, we are waaaaaay behind schedule on these. C'mon, you could've predicted that! But we'll do our best to finish the series before the season starts. Buckle up.


August 11, 2014

Wahooze Booze -- The 2014 Wide Receivers

Keeon Johnson: stud?

Kendall: When talking about the 2014 wide receivers, I think the best place to start is a quick look at last year’s stats for the guys returning in 2014…

Darius Jennings -- 38 receptions / 340 yards / 3 touchdowns
Keeon Johnson -- 20 / 282 / 1
Kyle Dockins -- 8 / 96 / 0
Caanan Severin -- 5 / 43 / 0
Miles Gooch -- 2 / 25 / 0

And that’s it and that’s all.

Tim Smith took his pedestrian 26 / 389 / 1 line off into the sunset, “The Squirrel” (E.J. Scott) took his 3 / 30 / 0 line to Wake Forest, and Dominique Terrell took his 14 / 107 / 0 to a weird senior season redshirt.

So add up the returning receivers, and you’ve got 73 receptions for 786 yards and 4 touchdowns. I’ll hit you right up the nose with some smelling salts by telling you that in 2013, FIVE individual receivers in the ACC tallied more catches, TWELVE individual receivers in the ACC piled up more yardage, and SIXTEEN individual receivers in the ACC scored more touchdowns.

In a word, our 2014 receiving corps appears to be awful.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the presumed improvement of would-be go-to wideout Keeon Johnson, nor does it account for the addition of über-recruit Jamil Kamara, nor does it account for the post-redshirt arrival of Andre Levrone, nor does it account for the addition by subtraction of seeing dropmasters Smith and Terrell cycle off the roster, nor does it account for hopeful improvement under center as Greyson Lambert takes the reins from David Twatford. And hey, it can’t get any worse!

So let’s do what we do, and uncork a player-by-player look at the 2014 wide receiving corps…

Oh, and by the way, the metaphor we’re using for the wideouts is… drumroll… wine. Lots of different varieties (varietals?), ya dig? How very UVA of us.



(Wine descriptions courtesy of typesofwine.org)


Keeon Johnson: Champagne
By far the most luxurious drink of all is Champagne, a well-known product of France. Champagne is savored in moments of celebration, and the prices reach the levels of its worldwide fame.
Kendall: I love his size (6-3, 210) and in a season of horrific drops, he seemed bizarrely sure-handed. To me, he looked like a true go-to wide receiver, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Dontrelle Inman and Kris Burd. Of course, he’s young, and OF COURSE the coaching staff didn’t see fit to put him on the field all that much. If they can get their heads out of their collective asses, stick Johnson in as the starting split end and allow him to play through whatever mistakes he makes without going to some asinine WR rotation… then we might just have a plus-level player on our hands. Of course, as with many things regarding the UVA football team this season, that will require a very specific aligning of the stars. But look, if you want to take a leap of faith on Greyson Lambert and Smoke Mizzell, I think it’s an even easier leap of faith on Keeon Johnson, because we’ve actually SEEN him play well on the field. If Johnson can get that regular playing time in a starting role and Lambert locks onto him as the #1 target in the passing game, I could see a 70 catch / 800 yard / 5 TD type of season in the offing. The kid’s only a sophomore, and wouldn’t it be great to have him develop quickly, like Burd did five years ago?


Pierce: Johnson’s definitely already been pegged as the potential go-to guy in the wide receiver group - and that’s not without reason. Anyone with eyes could tell he looked the part last year as a frosh, but as Kendall said, the playing time was shuffled among the numerous other guys attempting to catch passes. Keeon seemed to actually be up for the job last year, so unless there’s a regression (always a chance with our coaching track record!), it makes sense to think he’ll step into the go-to role.


Jamil Kamara: Riesling
Riesling wine comes with appetizing flavors of lime, apple, and pear, combined in a crisp blend. The grapes are famously grown in Germany, but there are also some producers in France and New York. This wine goes nicely with poultry and pork dishes, especially ones with a spicy twist.
Kendall: No offense, but I think Hoofans have gotten a little bit stupid during Mike London’s coaching tenure. Expectations for true freshmen wide receivers not of the elite 5-star variety need to be tempered and suppressed, yet most of Wahoo Nation seems to be looking for Jamil Kamara to stroll in and take over as the starting flanker and dominate. I’m not seeing it. Kamara is an athletic 4-star WR, with great potential, and I’m sure he’ll become a very good player for UVA at some point down the line. I’m just not expecting it in 2014. In fact, I wish London would redshirt the kid. But we already know he won’t do that, so we’ll stupidly waste Kamara’s eventual 5th year in the program [2018] in order to see what he can provide to an already-crowded wide receiving corps as a raw true freshman [2014]. The fact that Kamara chose to wear #1 is a giant red flag to me, I’m not going to lie. He’s assuming that he’s going to step right in and be our best receiving weapon. I like the confidence, but how will he handle it if and when a better, more seasoned, more developed wide receiver (Severin, Levrone, or Jennings) takes that flanker spot and keeps Kamara on the bench? Or worse, how will he handle it if London chooses him (757 bias, remember?) and lets him play through his mistakes while more-deserving players seethe about it? There are a lot of landmines for Jamil Kamara’s true freshman season, and navigating that minefield is not going to be easy. The potential is immense, but so is the potential for disaster. [As a so-called ‘hater’ who is just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for Mike London to get canned, I’m also prepared to see Jamil Kamara leave the program after just one season.]


Pierce: To be fair, Kamara is easily the best wide receiver recruit the Hoos have landed in ages. He’s got all the tools to be a star - but it’s still all potential. Considering how other four-star wideouts have fared under London & Co though, I think it definitely is best to watch Kamara actually catch a football in a game before throwing on the hype. (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for the past decade of mediocre football, shame on...ugh yeah I guess that’s shame on me still). Though it’s not like Kamara has to answer for the previous guys’ failure to live up to expectations. He honestly could be really really good -- it’s clear when you watch his videos from camp circuits and even this summer’s brief collection of practice highlights. However, it’ll be tough for Jamil to live up to the hype though -- both because of the pieces around him (unproven QB and an o-line in shambles) and the crowded WR depth chart. The latter is a good problem to have. The former is not.


Darius Jennings: Cabernet Sauvignon
This sophisticated French wine is a mix of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a full-bodied taste of currant and bell pepper. It is one of the most famous types of wines in the world, especially among the French, Australians, Californians, and Chileans. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs perfectly with meat dishes.
Kendall: Dropsie Jennings, back for more Keystone Cop madness. Seriously, Jennings would be one of the better wide receivers in UVA history if his hands weren’t made from quickcrete-dipped styrofoam. They say he’s had a vision problem that is now fixed (don’t ask me how it took four freaking years for the coaching staff to figure that one out), so I guess we’ll see. I’ve always loved Jennings’ ability to get downfield… so IF Greyson Lambert has time in the pocket to deliver a deep pass, and IF Jennings can actually catch said deep pass, then we might see some big plays out of him during his senior season. To me, those are two really big IFs, and I’m not holding my breath. It’s not a leap of faith to say that DJ is one of our three best receivers, and as such, will play a big role this season. Just… what will he do with that role, and with the targets he receives? Catch the damn ball, Darius.


Pierce: I was so stoked when DJ committed to the Hoos way back when. Clearly, it shows how ridiculous and worthless following football recruiting can be (not like I’m going to stop). Jennings could have always been one of the better receivers on the team, but he’s been plagued with an inability to convert the big play. He’s quick. He finds space. He runs a solid route. But man oh man, when I think of his time here, all I can picture are the drops -- a vivid picture of a night game at home vs UNC comes to mind in particular. As Kendall notes, there’s good reason to think DJ will run with the first group of receivers this year, though -- let’s hope he makes the most of it as his career wraps up in Cville.


Kyle Dockins: Fortified Wine
Fortified wine is a wine that has been blended with a liquor. The liquor most often used for this is Brandy which is essentially just distilled wine. This gives fortified wines a distinct flavor and a higher alcohol content than normal wine – usually at least %15 ABV.
Pierce: Oh Jake McGee, where oh where have you gone? Florida? Oh, word. Good on you, Jake McGee. But who does that leave to step into the role of “big guy in space in the middle of the field?” Kyle Dockins - a 6-3, 210 redshirt sophomore from 757 land. Dockins started 4 games last year and caught a handful of passes in most of the games. His time on the roster has followed a somewhat McGee-like assignment of part-tight end/part-wide receiver, but he’s seem to have it figured out as a bigger wide receiver, who’s certainly asked to block often in the running game. He wasn’t a heralded recruit by any means, but most Wahoo fans would say his first season on the field was a pleasant surprise. For a fanbase desperate to see guys actually catch a football, we’ll take what we can get. If Dockins continues to improve, he’ll be involved for sure -- plus, this season he’s got a new quarterback tossing it to him -- which should certainly be beneficial.

 
Kendall: When London recruited Dockins, I remember saying something to the effect of, “oh, cool, we need more tight ends, and ‘move’ tight ends - Jimmy Graham / Jordan Cameron types - are the wave of the future, I like this.” Skip ahead a few years, and here’s Dockins, a big-bodied guy with some wheels and hands, working exclusively out of the slot. He’s listed as a wide receiver, but don’t let that fool you… he’s a move tight end. And that’s cool, because I like bigger guys in the slot, smashing through traffic and blocking the edge for the run game. Dockins was listed as the starting slot receiver on the post-Spring depth chart, and I think that holds true for the balance of the season ahead. He should also be able to provide a nice target in the red zone.


Caanan Severin: Merlot
If you are not sure whether you like red wine, let aside what type of red wine, Merlot is a safe bet! This type of wine is very soft, with a mild mix of plum and blackberry flavors. All you need to do is add a box of delicious chocolates, and you got yourself the perfect mix! In terms of food, Merlot pairs well with just about any dish, especially with desserts.
Kendall: Holy crap, he’s already a junior? Stupid burned redshirts. 2014 should be Severin’s sophomore season of eligibility, sheesh. Anyway, like seemingly every other UVA wideout, Severin is listed at 6-2, 210. I like all of the big receivers, but at this point in his career I think it’s fair to wonder if Severin is “just a guy.” He failed to really make hay in the Spring, and emerged listed behind Dockins in the slot on the post-Spring depth chart. Last season’s five catches is something to build on, I suppose. I just don’t know that Severin brings anything special to the table. He should clearly be behind a handful of other guys in the pecking order. Specifically, I think Andre Levrone rises up to eat Severin’s lunch.


Pierce: Severin’s a JUNIOR? Good lord our coaches are terrible at roster management. I hope those five catches last year were worth the experience of live playing time as a frosh (they weren’t). There’s not a lot to go off of, obviously, when talking about what to expect from Caanan this year - but certainly he’s got the potential to contribute. The more I write about this year’s WR unit, the more I think “Hey, that’s a guy who actually catches the ball.” Maybe Caanan fits in there, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Andre Levrone: Chardonnay
Chardonnay is an exquisite white wine, produced mostly in Burgundy in France, but also on the coast of California. A glass of Chardonnay comes with a refreshing taste of oak and citrus fruit and hints of apple, pear, and melon. The delicious wine is a great accompaniment to seafood dishes, poultry, and pork.
Pierce: Keep an eye on Levrone for this year’s Keeon Johnson “Guy Who Actually Contributes as a Wideout Award.” Levrone redshirted last year as a first year -- because despite not getting much production from the position, there were plenty of guys listed as wide receivers on the roster. Anyhoo -- he’s got decent size and wheels and from all accounts I hear, could easily be the top contributor of the new crop of receivers this year. Levrone was a middle-of-the-road type of recruit, though out of a powerhouse program (Good Counsel), so he might be a bit of surprise to Hoo fans if he outperforms a guy like Kamara, but I expect it to happen. Hell, let’s take the optimistic approach and assume both he and Kamara roll out with Keeon as the best WR unit we’ve had under Mike London. Or, you know, could be more of the same.


Kendall: Levrone is another big receiver recruited during the London regime. At 6-2, 210 (noticing a theme with those dimensions?), he’ll have an advantage over many defensive backs. Post-Spring, Levrone was listed as Johnson’s backup at split end, and I think that’s a nice fit. Levrone showed what he could do with a very good Spring Game, and if he can translate those flashes on the practice field to production in actual games, then he’ll be an asset to the offense. He’s a reserve in 2014, but a reserve with some real upside.


Miles Gooch: Dessert Wine
These are sweet wines and as the name suggests, they are generally served with dessert. A rule of thumb for choosing a wine is that it must be sweeter than the dessert being eaten.
Kendall: The Goocher has just always been in over his head. He was a quarterback in high school, and never magically developed the movement skills he needed in order to be able to play wide receiver at the college level. Still, he’s a very fan-friendly, try-hard type of guy, and is a stellar blocker at the WR position. I hope his senior season sees him targeted a few times in the red zone, as I’d love to see him leave UVA with a touchdown during his last year. As for the depth chart at wide receiver… Virginia is in trouble if Gooch ends up playing any sort of significant role this season. Johnson, Kamara, Dockins, Severin, and Levrone need to be good enough to keep Gooch glued to the bench.


Pierce: Gooch seems to be one of those guys that’s good at getting open. He regularly looks like a favorite target of the QBs in spring games and such, but it hasn’t translated to much during the seasons he’s been here. There’s no reason to expect him to start much at the position this season, but I’m sure he’ll find some time on the field as we cycle guys in and out -- especially if the offense is a disaster again. I like Gooch, but I do hope the talent around him in the unit performs up to their potential -- which would be bad news for Gooch’s playing time.


On the Wide Receivers as a unit, and general thoughts about the position for 2014...

Kendall: As a unit, I like what we have percolating here. Lots of bigger bodies who can move, it all makes sense for an offense that will go very ball control. With a bad offensive line, quick passes to the primary receiver are required, and these receivers should excel with those. What I don’t see here, however, is a whole lot of downfield explosion. Who other than Darius Jennings can offer the type of threat that can blow the roof off of a defense? This is college football --- big play passing should be part of the formula. But it’s not, not at UVA. I find that to be frustrating as hell. So while I think these wide receivers will be fine - and I’m excited about Keeon Johnson’s potential as a go-to guy - the group reads to me like a unit that will be limited by its own lack of variety.

Pierce: Every unit on offense is drastically affected by the quality of o-line play, obviously. If Greyson has enough time and the running game fills out enough of the game plan, then we should see more production from the receivers than before. That is a huge if, though. I like Johnson. I like Levrone. I bet Jennings has some good games this year. We’ll need a huge jump from the whole unit though to see many Ws.



August 9, 2014

Wahooze Brews -- The 2014 Running Backs



Kendall: Okay, so Kevin Parks was able to find over 1,000 rushing yards running behind what was - at best - a shoddy offensive line in 2013, and with a passing game that never at any time prevented eight (and sometimes nine) in the box. I’m not sure how KP did it, but he did.

Actually, a game-by-game look at how he did it:

BYU -- 68 yards (1 TD)
Oregon -- 60 yards
VMI -- 137 yards (2 TDs)
Pitt -- 40 yards
Ball State -- 104 yards (2 TDs)
Maryland -- 119 yards (1 TD)
Duke -- 56 yards (2 TDs)
Georgia Tech -- 57 yards (1 TD)
Clemson -- 84 yards
UNC -- 100 yards (1 TD)
Miami -- 130 yards (1 TD)
Virginia Tech -- 110 yards

TOTAL -- 1,065 yards (11 TDs) on 227 carries (4.69 ypc)

It was a nice season for KP, especially given the context of just how bad the rest of the offense performed. And he ran REALLY well down the stretch, averaging 106 ypg in the last four games, against four defenses regularly putting players into the NFL. So Kevin Parks is a guy to be excited about in 2014… but the o-line… well, it could impose a mighty low glass ceiling on KP’s production.

Pierce: Hey remember how we spent most of the QB preview saying “well it depends on the o-line, which will probably be shoddy?” Get ready for some similarity!

Kendall: Well, yeah. I happen to think we have some really good running backs! But it won’t matter, not with this offensive line.

Mike: In that vein, all the offensive plays we saw on Wednesday night at the open practice (save one deep bomb that connected from David Watford that caused me to yell an obscenity or 10) were short screen passes and swings to the running backs out of the backfield. Clear sign the staff thinks (knows) the o-line is a mess.

Pierce: Sounds exhilarating. So what’s the logical booze metaphor here, Kendall?



Kendall: After a long hard day, nothing is better than an ice cold beer. The rest of the offense is the long hard day, and the backs are the beer.

Pierce: Beer is plentiful. Beer is accessible. Beer is dependable. The running backs are going to get the job done.

Kendall: In KP, you have the everyday staple, the lucky lager. Chug liberally. KP will grind it out for us, like the warrior bellcow he is. And America will drink deeply of the amber goodness. Parks isn’t the fastest runner, he doesn’t have the most wiggle, he isn’t the biggest or most powerful… but dammit, he gets the job done. He’s our lager. Smooth to drink, easy to enjoy.



Pierce: Does that mean Smoke (Taquan Mizzell) is an IPA? Everyone says they love him but I haven’t seen much evidence that he’s worth the hype, yet.

Mike: I fucking hate IPAs. Not a comment on Smoke, they just suck.

Pierce: I’d put my IPA enjoyment at about 20% of those that I have tried. But we digress…

Mike: That’s actually probably a good comparison for Smoke. Flashes of goodness, but also a ton of East-West dancing with minimal results. He needs to find the right balance of hops, or whatever.

Kendall: I’m certainly bitter about Smoke, so I’m following you guys on this metaphor. 5-star running back, my ass. To me, 5-star running backs look like Alex Collins (Arkansas). Like Dion Lewis in 2009. Like *gasp* Ryan Williams at Tech in 2009. I mean, I guess it can take some time to get going… but I expected more. Much more. So yeah, a bitter-ass IPA, I’m good with that.

Pierce: He was hurt last year, apparently - so a healthy and experienced Mizzell might produce a completely different result (flavor?) this season.

Mike: I’ll be willing to ask, why the hell he was playing then? One thing I would love to see from the new coach is an ability to actually redshirt someone even if they are a star.


Kendall: Smoke finished with 196 yards and one lonely touchdown on 45 carries (4.36 ypc) across 10 games. He was our 4th-most productive rusher, behind KP, Khalek Shepherd, and, ugh, David Watford. Smoke also added 29 catches for 129 yards and a touch. That line was good enough to be our 4th-best receiver, behind Jake McGee, Darius Jennings, and KP. [Chilling fact from the editor: no single player totaled more than 400 yards receiving in 2013. Awful.] I went on record a year ago, predicting somewhere around 1,000 total yards from scrimmage. Errrmmmm… that didn’t happen. Smoke didn’t look fast, at all. And while he had lots of shiftiness, like Mike said, he danced around East-West way too much. Add East-West dancing to a leaky o-line, and you have an ineffective running back with plenty of painful tiffles (TFLs, or tackles for loss).

Mike: To me, for most of the season Smoke looked uncomfortable running the ball. There was no point where I could see him really put his foot in the ground and run up field with any purpose. All this Mickeymouse dancing bullshit to me is a guy without a plan when he gets the ball. If I’m looking for anything this season, it’s Smoke having a plan which to me will demonstrate he is comfortable with the college game. Until that happens, I don’t think we can expect to see anything near the expectations some people have for him.

Kendall: Maybe it was a confidence problem, exacerbated by the injury? Anyway, expectations for Smoke are still high among Hoofans, but I’m personally trying to aim low with the kid until he shows us that he’s got the skill and mentality to produce at this level. (Kind of the same place I am with Greyson Lambert, really.) I'm hopeful for Smoke, but that's all it is -- hope.  By the way, I generally enjoy India Pale Ale.  Just as an FYI, I guess.  Pierce, who’s next?


Pierce: I declare Khalek Shepherd a Trappist Belgian Ale. Not what you want to drink every day - or even once a week - but sometimes it’s the absolute perfect choice. Flashes of brilliance but best used sparingly. Remember that time he scored against Oregon? 45 yd toss TD - which those of you in section 515 might remember I TOTALLY FREAKING CALLED.

Mike: Confirmed. Pierce will be forever known as the Oracle of 515. I love Shepherd as the change of pace back. I think given the opportunity to have a bigger role (which he should finally have this year) he has the potential to be very good.

Pierce: Totally agree. Shepherd has been really solid - and certainly suffers in playing time only because he’s had Parks (understandably) ahead of him his whole time here. It’ll be important to get Mizzell involved, but the same should be said for Shepherd.

Mike: Shepherd has earned that RB2 spot over his career. To me he is the clear guy there. In my opinion you use Smoke in a more Percy Harvin/Darren Sproles type role where you focus on getting him the ball in space. Shepherd is our second best pure running back.


Kendall: I agree with everything said above, but will add: I’ll probably never forgive Shepherd for that punt return doink off the facemask against Wake Forest in 2012. But anyway, it happened, I’m [not completely] over it, and I agree that Khalek is our best option at RB2. He’s fast. They say he has good hands, and we’ve seen glimpses of proof. He’s a home-run hitter out of the backfield, in ways that KP is not. So yeah, Shepherd should and will have a chance to improve upon his 51-315-1 line from a year ago.

Mike: I think we should also mention über walk-on Daniel Hamm who returns this season following his “upper extremity” injury.

Kendall: Hamm was awesome against VMI last season, no doubt. And while being awesome against VMI isn’t really that big of a deal in general, there were so few awesome performances on offense that it’s important to remember and savor the ones we saw. in 2014, Hamm is just depth chart filler, like an interesting back-of-the-fridge wheat beer.




Kendall: One last back I want to mention is LaChaston Smith. We’ve got a workhorse grinder in KP, we’ve got a satellite (only works in space) back in Smoke, we’ve got a speed demon RB2 in Shepherd, and a cute curiosity in Hamm. But Smith… Smith is our only potential bruiser. He’s big, powerful, and yes, still very raw. But I think he’ll play this year, and I think he’ll taste like a nice thick stout. Goal-line carries, anyone? Short yardage hammer? These things are possible for the sophomore from South Iredell.



Pierce: Well there you have it. An assortment of beers make our stable of running backs an attractive option for this team. Will they be utilized effectively? Possibly. Parks could certainly repeat his 1,000 yard performance. A healthy Mizzell could bring the big play threat that this team sorely lacks. But the ever-present disaster in the making that is the o-line could really hold things back. We’ll see, but I think we all know this blog’s feelings on the ability of the coaching staff…


Best of luck this season, KP!  We're all behind you!