November 23, 2015

Women's Basketball

I'll have thoughts on men's basketball, football, and the upcoming coaching search soon enough.

But first... I took my daughter to JPJ yesterday to watch the women's team take on Longwood.

The ladies throttled Longwood, 81-46. I was really impressed with the team. They didn't shoot well from deep yesterday, but they get balanced scoring from lots of different sources on the roster, and they play tough, hard-nosed, aggressive basketball.

Aliyah Huland El is legit. Like a female version of Jamal Robinson.

Faith Randolph is everything you want a senior guard to be -- and is truly special when attacking the basket. Female Brogdon.

Mikayla Venson had an off shooting night, but is an explosive athlete who simply outclasses those around her. A really exciting point guard for this team.

I was also really impressed with Laren Moses, a do-it-all, versatile forward. Female Jason Wiliford.

Breyana Mason is an excellent role player, playing off of Randolph and Venson. Keeps good spacing, hustles, makes plays... and knows how to score.

J'Kyra Brown is another Swiss Army knife player. I really like her defense.

Sydney Umeri is a work in progress as a post player. Nice upside, but she still has a ways to go. Reminds me of freshman and sophomore Akil Mitchell.

The freshman bigs are great! Debra Ferguson is HUGE. Mone Jones has a lot of junkyard dog in her game; she's a scrapper, a grinder. I bet she ends up being a great defense/rebounding type of 3/4. Shakyna Payne oozes potential as a scoring force at power forward.

This is an NCAA Tournament team. I'm guessing 10-8 in the ACC, and a tough out even for the elite-level opponents.

Try to make it out to support the ladies if you get a chance! Can't beat an evening of good basketball! GO HOOS!

November 6, 2015

The List, Part IV

It's time.  This is probably going to be the longest post in Wahooze history.

Past editions:
Okay, first, let's spend a little time debunking some myths on our upcoming (and inevitable) coaching search.

Myth #1: There are too many other open jobs! *GULP!* It’s obviously a bad year to be looking for a new coach!

Calm down! Don’t panic!  While there are a lot of P5 jobs already open (Illinois, USC, Maryland, South Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, VT) and more sure to open up (Syracuse, Virginia, Rutgers, Purdue, Iowa State) and even more that *could* open up (West Virginia, Oregon, Utah, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas State), I’m not worried.  In fact, I’m not worried at all.  Why?  Because while there stands to be an inordinate number of open jobs, there are also way more quality coaching candidates than usual.  Look no further than the AP Top-25… where we've seen Memphis, Houston, Toldeo, and Temple ranked.  Boom, that’s four coaching candidates right there in Justin Fuente, Tom Herman, Matt Campbell, and Matt Rhule.  Meanwhile, Navy (Ken Niumatololo) is winning, Marshall (Doc Holliday) is winning, Western Kentucky (Jeff Brohm) is winning, Bowling Green (Dino Babers) is winning, Western Michigan (P.J. Fleck) is winning, Northern Illinois (Rod Carey) is winning, Utah State (Matt Wells) is winning, Air Force (Troy Calhoun) is winning, and there's always Mark Hudspeth at Louisiana-Lafayette. That’s 13 candidates, getting the job done on the field, playing D-1A football, ready to make the leap to P5 jobs.  And that’s not to mention Kirby Smart, who is said to be ready to take over his own program, or Greg Schiano, who is said to be ready to return to college football, or Pep Hamilton, who is suddenly out of a job in Indianapolis and will probably be looking to return to college football.  So with seven P5 jobs already open, another five certain to open, and six others on the “maybe” list (I consider half of those will pop), that leaves 15 openings for 16+ candidates.  An oversimplification, sure.  But no matter how many different ways I crunch the numbers, Virginia comes out okay.  It’s like a giant game of musical chairs… and UVA is one of the chairs.  (The key is finding the right ass to fill our chair.)

Myth #2: Mike London will be back, so UVA can kick the can down the road and let the new AD make the coaching decision.

Uh, no.  I mean, no offense, I get the fear.  We’re the beaten dogs known as Virginia football fans, it’s okay to be a bit skittish and cower and whimper when that bad hand gets raised.  But, look, how is a new coach hired by the Littlepage regime going to be any different than Tony Bennett or Brian O’Connor for the new Athletic Director who is hired after Littlepage retires?  The assumption being, if the football coach hired in 2015 is good, the new AD won’t care, he’ll just go with the flow.   And if the new football coach hired in 2015 is bad, then maybe the new AD will hire a better coach three or four or five years from now.  I just don’t get the consternation. Unless, of course, you believe…

Myth #3: There’s not enough money to make a football coaching change in 2015.

If this is true, then everything is way worse than I ever thought, and we truly are screwed six ways from Sunday.  The reality is, there’s not enough money to NOT make a coaching change after this season and at least try to begin reversing football’s fortunes at UVA.

Myth #4: No matter what, Jon Oliver is going to screw everything up.

I have three points to make here:

1) No coaching search at the P5 level is made by the Athletic Director and his main-man toadie.  Ever.  It’s always, always, ALWAYS some sort of a committee.   And if you think UVA will deviate from the committee approach, well, then, you don’t know UVA. (UVA is committee crazy, y’all.)

2) The OOC schedule in 2016 and 2017 is pretty tame.  {2016: Richmond, Central Michigan, @ UConn, @ Oregon // 2017: William & Mary, UConn, Indiana, @ Boise State.}  Maybe Jon Oliver drops the scheduling atomic bomb on 2018 and onward… but any new coach worth hiring is going to demand some say in the scheduling.  (Stoolpigeons of Mike London’s stature are rare birds indeed.) 

3) Any new coach worth hiring is going to have his own ideas on how to construct his coaching staff. (Again, pillow-soft pushovers like London are rare.) No wiggle room for a meddlesome wannabe GM.

That's Jon Oliver, on the left.

Myth #5: Virginia is a bad job, nobody is going to want it.

Child, please.  You sound like Eeyore.  Virginia might not be the BEST job, it might not be a GREAT job, but dammit it’s a GOOD job.  Better than Illinois, Syracuse, Rutgers, Purdue, and any of the open G5 jobs at least… and that matters in the game of musical chairs.  You love UVA, right?  So will coaching candidates, for many of the same reasons. Relax and have confidence in this awesome University.

Myth #6: Our fanbase sucks ass.

No it doesn’t.  We’ve just been losing for too long, and we’re lost in the wilderness right now.  Look at basketball and baseball and know that we pack the house for a winner.  It’s a proven fact.

Myth #7: Our facilities are awful.

Nope.  Wrong.  The stadium is fine, there’s an indoor practice facility, and there’s a $50mil capital project for the renovated football offices.  We’re not elite, but we’re also not in a bad spot.  Stop worrying about this.   Also, I’ll let you in on a little secret: College football coaches are ego-maniacs. They love the idea that they can be a part of (responsible for!) castle building at the school of their choice.

Myth #8: Academics are too hard at UVA.

People have been whining about this forever, but all I can say is that Duke, Stanford, UCLA, Cal, and Northwestern are a combined 30-10 right now.  Stop making excuses.  Besides, the right coach will do what Tony Bennett has done, and will weaponize our strong academics on the recruiting trail.

Myth #9: Mike London is going to win enough games down the stretch to save his job.

@ Miami, @ Louisville, Duke, Virginia Tech.

We haven't won on the road in over three years.  (Seriously!  Look it up!)

@ Miami - loss

@ Louisville - loss

Mike London is a combined 1-15 against what I consider to be our biggest rivals (UNC, Duke, VT).

Duke - loss

VT - loss

3-9, here we come.  Mike London won't save his job.

With the myths safely debunked, let's review the quick wish-list of traits I want in any coaching candidate.  None of these are "musts," but they are my preferences.  My strong preferences.

1) The candidate should possess a specific D-1A / FBS background.  I don't want NFL guys, and I don't want D-1AA (or lower) guys.  Not that the NFLers and AAers don't have their merits, but Al Groh (NFL background) and Mike London (1AA background) haunt my dreams.  I just want a coach who is familiar with FBS football, and is comfortable trying to build a winner from the back end of a Power Five conference.

2) I want a coach who comes from a successful program and/or from a successful coaching tree.  I want the coach to be very familiar with winning, to know what it takes to win, to know what winning tastes like, and to understand the inner workings of a winning program.  (Bonus points if he comes equipped with, say, Nick Saban or Urban Meyer program-building blueprints.)

3) He needs to be young.  Not old.  Despite London's failings, I'm okay with getting another guy who can grow along with the program, because that would go on to promote loyalty when the coach ascends to notoriety.  (Think Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.)  But also - call me an ageist, that's fine - I just like young and energetic guys more than I like old fuddy-duddies.  Personal preference.  I also hit on this a couple of weeks ago, in the Bare Cupboard post.  There is some roster rebuilding to be done at Virginia.  We need a young guy who will carry some real nitroglycerin on the recruiting trail.  We need someone with the youthful energy and single-minded obsessive stupidity to pull those 100-hour weeks it's going to take to get Virginia Football headed back in the right direction.  Long days and nights on the road, recruiting.  Mickey D's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Hotels, motels, airports, rental cars.  It's going to be a grind.  It's a young man's game.  This is why Mack Brown (64, but an old 64) or the intriguing Joe Moglia (66) are not included on The List, Part IV.

4) My preference, and this is a strong preference, is that the coach has an extensive background coaching on the offensive side of the ball.   I'm open to current/former offensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, wide receiver coaches, etc.   I just want an offensive-minded head coach, and a break away from the Groh and London rut of always putting the defense first and only giving us splattered dogshit to look at on O.

Virginia's offense, 2005-2015.

5) Most importantly, I think we need a coach who will install and run a specific offensive system at UVA.  I'm talking a comprehensive system that transcends plays and formations and Xs and Os, and gives us an tangible offensive identity to build up and then build around.   Once you have that, you can recruit specific pieces and parts to fit that system.  My personal preference is for high-octane passing offenses, hurry-up spreads and whatnot, and specifically the Air Raid.  (And look, part of the reason I want the Air Raid is because it's a brand of football that would be a blast to watch.  Sometimes the plight of the fan doesn't need to be so complicated.  Bring in a guy who runs a fun system, and the fans will be happy and excited to come and watch it, and the recruits will flock to it.  Air Raid fueled by 757 / NOVA / DMV talent... it could be tremendous.)

6) I see Virginia as a southern school when it comes to football.  Therefore, I want a new coach to bring a little bit of that southern football attitude.  Not a win-at-all-costs mentality like you'll see in the SEC... but maybe a win-at-many-costs mentality.  And I want to see our team go out and hit some people, and play with some real passion.  I want to see us play southern football.

7) The new coach has to be a good "sell" to the fanbase.  As in, he either needs to be a hot name, or have a system to get excited about, or have a gaudy winning record behind him.  We've got to get into the business of wooing back our fans, and the most important part of that is hiring a buzz-worthy new head coach.

8) No soft touch.  No mickeymouse bullshit.  And please, no crying.  I want a taskmaster, not a players' coach.  Mike London is supposedly beloved by his players, but what has that gotten us?   (The answer to the rhetorical question: a 1-15 record against our biggest rivals.)   Instead, I'd like to see the next coach be the sort of dude who'll put his foot up someone's ass and then break it off.  Muff a punt?  Fuck you, go grab some bench.  Miss a block? Fuck you, hit the pine.  Miss a tackle? Welcome to the third team, asshole.  Another onside kick recovered by the enemey?  Hey assistant coach, you're fucking fired.  I guess what I'm saying is that on the Al Groh to Mike London scale, I want a guy somewhere in the middle, with maybe a slight shade to the Groh side.

9) We need a strong talent evaluator and an adept talent developer.  I'm not talking about "RAWWRR, RAH-RAH, RECRUITING!" because realistically Virginia is going to top out at a steady diet of 3☆ talent with maybe the occasional 4☆ or 5☆ guy.  Therefore, we need a head coach (and a coaching staff) who can: a) find the underrated / under-recruited talents, and b) coach 'em up.  Mike London is known as a great recruiter, but he kind of sucks at both of those things, by the way.

10) Specifically, find and develop quarterbacks.  The quarterback is the guy who can elevate mediocre teams into good teams, and good teams into great teams.  Unless you're Alabama and can out-talent everyone else, you have to have a head coach who can find (and develop) quarterbacks.

11) Professional sideline behavior.  The Anti-London, if you will.  No flying chest bumps.  No dropping to your knees, overcome with emotion.  No head-to-toe camo.  No prayers visibly flung toward the heavens.  Just, simply, professional sideline behavior.  Look the part, coach.  Act the part.


Okay, almost there...

The List is my attempt to present to Hoofans with the best and most comprehensive list of candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant head coaching position at the University of Virginia.

You won't see mention of any totally unrealistic candidates.  (For example, the name Mike Tomlin has appeared on at least one reputed message board, and that's just nuts.  Tomlin isn't going to leave the fucking Pittsburgh Steelers to come coach at UVA.  Jeez.  Mike Tomlin's not on The List.  Gary Patterson's not on The List.  Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Dan Mullen, Gary Patterson, not on The List.)

You also won't see mention of any candidates who are well below the standard we should be setting. (For example, as much as I like what Everett Withers is doing at JMU, he's still too small-time for our coaching search. Everett's not on The List.  Pete Lembo at Ball State, 3-6 so far in 2015 after a bad 5-7 season in 2014.  Lembo isn't winning enough to be on The List.  Chad Morris, 1-7 at SMU, not on The List.  Ruffin McNeill, not winning at ECU since Lincoln Riley left, not on The List.  Tony Levine, fired from Houston, not on The List.  Tim DeRuyter, no longer winning at Fresno State, not on The List.)

Mark Richt might get canned at Georgia.  Gus Malzahn could finish 5-7 at Auburn this season, and maybe he gets fired.  Chip Kelly in Philly.  Et cetera.  Too many hypotheticals, and I have to draw the line somewhere.  Those guys are not on The List.

I'm trying to make The List complete, but I don't want it to be exhaustive.  That's not the goal!  The goal is to present a list of candidates, any of whom I think have a realistic chance to be the next head football coach at the University of Virginia.

Whew, that was a lot of preamble.  Enough of that, let's get to it.

The List, Part IV

~~~ The Phenomenal Four ~~~
This quartet of young up-and-comers is going to be on everybody's short list for the 2015 coaching vacancies.  They are all the buzz in coaching circles right now.  Their teams are ranked.  Their teams are winning.  They are red-hot right now.  I like love any of the four for the Virginia job.

Justin Fuente, Memphis
He's THE hotness on the potential coaching lists right now, and hiring him would be a major splash for Virginia.  Memphis is ranked #15, Fuente is proving that he can build a program (at literally one of the WORST jobs in the FBS), and he comes equipped with the Gary Patterson blueprints from TCU.  He's young, no-nonsense, and everything looks great with this guy.  My one reason for pause is this: Fuente 2015 feels an awful lot like Tim DeRuyter 2013.  DeRuyter fell to pieces after Derek Carr, how will Fuente fare after Paxton Lynch?  Also, UVA would need to compete in and win the bidding war to land Fuente.  I like him a lot, but it feels like a longshot to me.

The rise of Justin Fuente at Memphis

How Justin Fuente turned an underdog among underdogs into the Memphis that beat Ole Miss

Where will Justin Fuente be coaching in 2016?

On the precipice: Justin Fuente, Paxton Lynch and Memphis' reinvention into a football contender

"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line," Fuente says, "and that's the way I prefer to communicate with our team." That's also the way he has reshaped his program, steady and sure, standing at 4–8, pointing at 10 wins and winding up there in short order. It's been direct, but it hasn't been easy.

Tom Herman, Houston
If Fuente is 1, Herman is 1a.  In his first season as a head coach, he has Houston at 8-0 and ranked #18.  He's got the Urban Meyer blueprints.  He's young, knows how to construct an offense, instills toughness in his team, and has the proper level of obsessive-compulsiveness.  He's a nutjob, in a totally good way.  Herman is also a Mensa member, so, like, he's an actual genius.  Concerns: He's all about the state of Texas, and he's only been a head coach for less than a year.  Some are saying he's a lock for South Carolina, I'm not so sure.  I'm also not sure Herman will be willing to leave Houston so soon, choosing to instead stick with the Cougs another season and see what happens with Charlie Strong at Texas.  Make no mistake -- if Virginia has a chance to land Tom Herman, it has to try.

Houston, we have an opportunity: Could Tom Herman soon be destined for a Power Five gig?

Trials at Ohio State fueling Houston's resurgence under Tom Herman

My education as a head coach: What has gone into starting to reshape Houston's program

I've really made an effort to drum up interest in Houston football since taking over. I've said yes to every possible speaking engagement I could. I spoke at a rodeo. I was at the Bear Bryant coach of the year award. I've played in a lot of golf tournaments. But I was most fired up about speaking at Houston's commencement. I spoke without notes. I spoke from the heart. I told a story about the kids we're raising in society, and how all these soccer moms from Dublin, Ohio, don't want to keep score in kids' games. They were looking at me like I was jerk because I said that I taught my kid to keep score. Are you kidding me? I'm not the one who is messed up here. They're going to keep score in life. It's O.K. I've failed hundreds of thousands of times. I probably failed 100 times today. But winning is not supposed to matter to me? I don't know if I'll ever be able to grasp that. Forget the awards. You should want to be the best at whatever your chosen field is. I want my kids to win. Winners get the corner office, the big house, the hot wife, the whole nine. I said that at commencement. Then I said that the people who don't win, they get cubicles, the hoopty ride, the not-so-hot wife.

That was a joke, and it didn't go over so well with some folks. But it underscores the intangibles we're going to represent philosophically here at Houston. If you're going to be in the Peace Corps, be the best Peace Corps worker in the world. If you're going to be a teacher, be the best teacher on the planet. Winning isn't just about the material things you attain, it's about being your best in all you do. After my speech, I got a few anonymous emails from people complaining. Everyone else, they ate it up. There were 8,000 people there and only two anonymous emailers complained, I consider that a win. We plan on doing a lot of winning at Houston.

Matt Campbell, Toledo
"Recruit, retain, develop."  Those are the tenets of Campbell's coaching style.  A lot of Hoofans have fallen in love with the 35-year old (2nd-youngest HC in the FBS) because of his consistency, maturity, steadiness, intelligence, honesty, and directness.  Personality-wise, he's about the closest thing you'll find to Tony Bennett in this coaching search.  Potential downsides here: Campbell is still REALLY young, he's never coached outside of the state of Ohio, and he's never coached under any of the greats (even though he has weekly conversations with Urban Meyer).  He also doesn't come equipped with a marquee system or scheme.  I don't think Campbell will be as sought-after as Fuente or Herman, but he's still a hot name for which Virginia will have to compete.

Toledo finally turns corner with Arkansas win

For Toledo and Matt Campbell, little things lead to big success

It’s his consistency, basically,” senior cornerback Cheatham Norrils said. “He tries to figure out ways to grow but he doesn’t change his expectation or what he wants out of the team. He always preaches about the process. If you perfect your process, you’ll be fine.


I got a sheet of paper and wrote three words down,” [Campbell] said. “Recruit, retain, develop.”

And the results are showing this year, largely with a group of seniors and juniors he recruited early on from a prototype he identified for what players at every position on the field should look like physically and mentally.

We dissected it and said, ‘This is what we want,’ ” Campbell said. “And then we didn’t miss very often.

Once he gets them, Campbell is, in his own words, “brutally honest” with players about where they stand and what they need to do to improve. It’s a trait he appreciated while playing under the legendary Larry Kehres at Mount Union and has brought to Toledo, where one-on-one meetings with the head coach are frequent.

Matt Rhule, Temple
Rhule is the last to the party among the Phenomenal Four, but the job he's done at Temple is perhaps the most noteworthy of the four.  I mean, he beat Penn State, got Temple ranked (currently #23), drew ESPN College Gameday to Philadelphia, and damn near beat Notre Dame.  Rhule's whole thing, his modus operandi, is talent development.  That's what he's all about, and he does his job very well.  Like Campbell, he doesn't run a blisteringly awesome system or anything like that, he just spins hay into gold with lightly-recruited players.  He's considered an "old school" type of coach.  He'll be chased in the 2015 coaching market, but he has just seen Al Golden (who left Temple for Miami in 2010) get thrown out on his ass, and I'm sure Rhule will be very choosy when it comes to selecting his next destination... or choosing to stay at Temple and trying to get an on-campus stadium built.  Rhule is a Penn State guy with an o-line background, so he's exactly what you'd expect -- blue collar, blood and guts, everyman, battler, grinder, old school..

Temple's amazing turnaround lifts Owls into top 25

No trick, just treat: Undefeated Temple hopes to add to its dream season and put a scare into the Power Five

Nowhere is the school's Moneyball mentality more apparent than in recruiting. To find undiscovered talent, the Owls, like other Group of Five schools, rely heavily on the American Idol approach, holding open auditions. In recent summers Temple has hosted one-week camps in which up to 2,000 high schoolers show up, including girls, hoping to become what Rhule calls "diamonds in the rough that we discover only by seeing with our own eyes." Rhule estimates that 60% of his roster came through one of these camps, including senior cornerback Tavon Young, who attended as a Maryland high schooler and caught the attention of Temple coaches during drills. He started as a true freshman and is now a team captain.

What the Temple coaches look for in a player is athleticism and versatility. "We don't worry, get too caught up, about position," Rhule says. "Once they get here, our guys will find the right place for them." That partly explains why the soul of the Owls—an impenetrable defense—is built around speedy players who fly around the field. Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who leads the team in tackles and is on every major award watch list this fall, was heralded as a first baseman and catcher at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., (UConn, the school he wanted to attend, was interested in him only for baseball), but lightly recruited for football because he was then 6' 1" and barely 200 pounds. Rhule, an assistant when he first saw Matakevich, looked past his size and saw his potential, and the now 235-pounder has rewarded that foresight. Like Matakevich, junior defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis was mostly ignored out of Hunterdon (N.J.) Central High but is now, as the Owls' most dominant inside defender, drawing the attention of NFL scouts.


Rhule can seem old-school: He has a poster of John Wooden's pyramid of success on his wall, and he cites lessons that he learned as a linebacker under Joe Paterno at Penn State in the mid 1990s ("He told me I should consider being a coach, which was his nice way of saying I shouldn't play") and as an assistant offensive line coach under Tom Coughlin with the New York Giants in 2012. But Rhule is also a coach who blares Young Jeezy over the practice field, who sports a scraggly beard that makes him look as if he's wandered out of the brush on Survivor and who, if needed, will order his troops around like Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. Players who were around after the team started 0–3 in '13 still shake their heads and shudder: Rhule, a longtime Temple assistant under Golden and Addazio, was so disgusted with the performances of the seniors that he told them to go away and not come back for a week. (The team had a bye.) He made the remaining players participate in daily scrimmages at full speed all week while running gassers in full pads for every missed third-down conversion or minor error. Young, the captain, calls it the moment the team realized, "O.K., we've got to get this fixed."

~~~ Compelling Cases for Five Others ~~~
These are guys I specifically consider to be fantastic fits for the Virginia job.  They don't have the current buzz of the Phenomenal Four, but there's a very good hire for Virginia among the names in this section.

Matt Wells, Utah State
If Matt Campbell is the most like Tony Bennett, then Matt Wells is the most like Brian O'Connor -- a sharp, focused guy with the right demeanor and presence.  He's just an organized, put-together person, and a head coach with a plan.  He's 24-12 in his 3rd season at Utah State, poised to take the Aggies to another bowl game, poised to win a third bowl game in as many tries.  There's not much flash to what Wells does, he just wins.  I absolutely love this guy for the UVA job; he feels very "Virginia" to me.

Matt Wells finds balance on and off the field

Troy Calhoun, Air Force
He should have been a candidate for UVA in 2009.  He was pretty perfect for us at that time.  Since then, Air Force has gone:

  • 9-4 in 2010
  • 7-6 in 2011
  • 6-7 in 2012
  • 2-10 in 2013 (yikes)
  • 10-3 in 2014
  • 5-3 in 2015

That little dip doesn't scare me, though.  In fact, it shows me that this coach can stumble a bit and then rebuild his roster and update his plan.  It proves that there is some dynamism to his craft.  I kind of dig it.  And this article, well, it drives everything home as to why Troy Calhoun would be a great fit at UVA.

Why Air Force's Troy Calhoun is the nation's most overlooked coach

Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
You aren't hearing much about Hudspeth right now because the Ragin' Cajuns stumbled out of the gate, going 1-3 before rallying to 3-4.  I won't hold blowout losses against Akron or Louisiana Tech against Huddy --- he's still the same dude who goes 9-4 and takes Louisiana-Lafayette to the New Orleans Bowl (and wins it) every season. He's still the same dude who went 66-21 at North Alabama. He's still the same dude who is destined to be the next southern football coaching star.

NFL executives have said: "He really seems to have the pulse of his team, but he doesn't micromanage. He's a creative offensive guy and he can recruit. That's not an easy place to win and he's done just that." "The guy at Louisiana-Lafayette would be my choice. He's turned that place around. He's found a way to win nine games each of the three years he's been there. He did a nice job at North Alabama earlier in his career, too. He's a winner."

Sonny Dykes, California
Okay, full disclosure here -- I want the Air Raid at Virginia, and I want it bad.  If you're not going to get Mike Leach, then the guy you want to coach the Air Raid at your school is Sonny Dykes.

His run as a head coach (so far):

  • 2010 Louisiana Tech -- 5-7
  • 2011 Louisiana Tech -- 8-5
  • 2012 Louisiana Tech -- 9-3
  • 2013 California -- 1-11
  • 2014 California -- 5-7
  • 2015 California -- 5-3...
Does it look like he can build a program from nothing?  I sure think it does.  Is Cal a strong academic institution, like UVA?  Uh, yeah.

But he certainly wouldn't leave Cal to come to Virginia, would he?

There's some bad blood there, and it's getting worse.  The timing is pretty perfect for UVA to swoop in and get this guy.

Note: Here's the immediate impact of installing the Air Raid...

From 1994-1996 the University of Kentucky went 9-24 while scoring 149, 223, and 138 points. Upon hiring Hal Mumme to run the Air Raid, they went 18-17 while scoring 348, 431, and 328 points from 1997-1999.

From 1996-1998 the University of Oklahoma scored 255, 232, and 184 points. In 1999 (running the Air Raid) they would score 430 points and finish 13-0 while scoring 481 points in 2000. The 481 points were the most they had scored in a season since 1987 when they were coached by Barry Switzer.

From 1997-1999 Texas Tech University scored 245, 315, and 253 points. From 2000-2002 they would score 330, 402, and 537 points while improving their record to 9-5 by 2002. From 2002-2009 they never won fewer than 8 games under Mike Leach and his Air Raid system.

From 2000-2002 the University of Houston scored 211, 190, and 320 points. In 2003, under Art Briles, they scored 448 points. That was the most since 1990 when they were coached by John Jenkins. Art would have two more seasons in which his teams would score over 440 points in a season. Kevin Sumlin would then take that up a notch with his teams scoring 528, 591, 452, and 660 points from 2008-2011.  All Air Raid.

From 2009-2011 Texas A&M University scored 427, 382, and 475 points. Kevin Sumlin took over and led the 2012 Aggies to an 11-2 record while scoring 578 points and garnering a Heisman Trophy for QB Johnny Manziel.

Yards, touchdowns, points, high-fives, wins, Sportscenter, fistpumps, records being broken and barenaked titties being flashed, that's all I'm asking for.  The Air Raid at Virginia, let's do this fucking thing.

Learn more about the Air Raid:

Coach Leach goes deep, very deep

The Air Raid offense: History, evolution, weirdness - from Mumme to Leach to Franklin to Holgorsen and beyond

Greg Schiano
He's well-known as a giant prick, and he's currently out of a job.  Your gut reaction is "ewwww, yuck, Greg Schiano?"  Not so fast.  Read this.

'Gotta coach somebody'

No, seriously.  Click the link and read the damn article.

Now... doesn't that sound like someone you'd love to have coaching at Virginia?

I think Schiano would give us everything we've lacked under Mike London.  He'd be like a good version of Al Groh, but with more winning!

Parting shot on this one, take a look at what Schiano did at Rutgers, a notoriously moribund college football program before his arrival.

  • 2001 -- 2-9
  • 2002 -- 1-11
  • 2003 -- 5-7
  • 2004 -- 4-7
  • 2005 -- 7-5 (bowl game loss)
  • 2006 -- 11-2 (bowl game win, finished season ranked #12)
  • 2007 -- 8-5 (bowl game win)
  • 2008 -- 8-5 (bowl game win)
  • 2009 -- 9-4 (bowl game win)
  • 2010 -- 4-8
  • 2011 -- 9-4 (bowl game win)

That's a 68-67 run at Rutgers - RUTGERS! - including a 56-33 run after he got things built and rolling.  And now he's even better at the whole head coaching thing?  Child, please.  We'd be crazy to not want that at Virginia.

Personally, I think Miami would be nuts to not go after Schiano... but it sounds like they are zeroing in on Butch (Motherfucking) Davis, so their loss could be Virginia's gain.  There is some potential competition for Schiano from Maryland, but I think the Terps are really all over the place, and might just be dumb enough to wait out Chip Kelly's season in Philadelphia.  Anyway, I'd be pretty happy if we moved on Schiano.

~~~ Other Up-and-Comers ~~~
These dudes don't have the buzz of Fuente, Herman, or the three Matts, but each of the four are quality P5 coaching candidates in their own right.  I'll speak to their potential fit at Virginia.

Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky
We want a hot young offensive coach, he's a hot young offensive coach.  He's winning at WKU (15-7 in 1.5 seasons), but perhaps more importantly, his teams are moving the ball (#5 in yardage, #3 in passing) and scoring points.  With his high-octane passing offense, Brohm is on the universal short list of up-and-comers.  I think it'd be a reach for Virginia, but with that offense, at least it's a calculated risk, and at least we'd be watching some fun football.

Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Babers isn't as young as we might want (he's 54), but his teams at Bowling Green are proving to be offensive juggernauts (#2 in yardage, #1 in passing).  He's winning at Bowling Green, as well -- 15-8 in 1.5 seasons.  Prior to BGSU, he went 19-7 at Eastern Illinois.  Babers is going to land a P5 job this offseason, and if it's not Virginia, look at Illinois or maybe Iowa State or Purdue.  I actually really like this guy, I think he gives a good interview.  Definitely a 'Plan B' type for UVA, but Babers would bring some serious offensive firepower in his Xs and Os, learned from THE Art Briles at Baylor.

Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
I'm just sort of 'meh' on this dude; thinking that NIU is just a good program being handed down from one decent coach to the next.  I certainly don't think Carey has done anything special at Northern Illinois.  It was Dave Doeren who took them to the 2012 Orange Bowl.  So let me ask, do we want a slightly-less-good version of NC State's coach?  Didn't think so.

P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
Another guy I'm 'meh' on.  He's the youngest coach in the FBS (he's 34), and is known as a tireless and innovative recruiter.  But the Xs and Os are maybe not there.  I feel like we've already gone down that rocky road with a recruiter who isn't particularly adept at the actual coaching part of coaching, and it hasn't gone all that well.  Meanwhile, I seriously doubt Fleck could attract a top-notch staff of assistant coaches.  No thanks.  Too young, too froo-froo, not proven enough.

~~~ More Plan-B Guys ~~~
The first nine dudes I listed (Fuente, Herman, the three Matts, Calhoun, Huddy, Dykes, Schiano) are my top tier of options for UVA, while Brohm and Babers join these three as my next tier.

Al Golden
I know, I know.  Groan, right?  Golden just sort of fizzled out at football-delusional Miami, posting a 32-25 record across 4.5 seasons while he faced down the Nevin Shapiro scandal and the associated sanctions.  Golden has some of that Al Groh taint on him still.  It's also been said that Golden would NEVER work for Jon Oliver again (I'm expecting Oliver to be canned after the season along with London, but that's just a guess).  Maybe worst of all, he insists on keeping his good buddy Mark D'Onofrio as his defensive coordinator, and by all accounts, D'Onofrio simply is not a good coach.  No, worst of all, Golden went 1-4 against Mike London.  Wait, why did I list Al Golden here?  Oh, right -- he's still the same guy that was regarded as one of the brightest young minds in college football just five years ago.  I actually think Miami was a terrible situation for Golden.  If he had just stayed at Temple or gone just about anywhere else, I think he'd be regarded as a top-20 college football head coach right now.  I'd be open to giving him the chance to (re-)prove himself at Virginia.

Pep Hamilton
It wasn't long ago that Virginia tech fans were creaming their jeans over this guy.  Since then, he tried his hand at coaching in the NFL... and was just scapegoated by the Colts.  Hamilton is the same bright offensive mind who helped turn Andrew Luck into Andrew Luck, and he's still got the Jim Harbaugh blueprints from Stanford.  I have no idea where Hamilton's ambitions lie, but if he wants to create his own version of Stanford on the east coast, please allow me to introduce him to UVA.

Lance Leipold, Buffalo
This is what I said a year ago:

He's a Division III head coach, but he has a 100-6 record. That's a .943 winning percentage. Holy Jesus. But anyway, not a realistic candidate for UVA, but worth mentioning since he's BY FAR the fastest coach to 100 victories. I do think it would be cool for us to give a guy like this a chance at our BCS conference school.

Since then, Leipold took the job at Buffalo, and has the Bulls at 5-4 and playing pretty well.  It's clear to me that Leipold knows what he's doing.

~~~ Thinking Outside the Box ~~~
Here are a few other guys I think would be interesting options for UVA.  Use your imagination a little bit, guys.  Projections!

Bob Stitt, Montana
He's at Montana now, and only 4-4, but GOOD GOD his offensive acumen.  I'd be failing at my job here if I didn't mention Stitt, and link you this:

How Montana coach Bobb Stitt's fun and lethal offense actually works

The run game is basically just a constraint. The offense is designed to punish every opponent response with the passing game, and when Stitt can, he goes for the throat.


Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns
Kurt Roper, Browns senior offensive assistant
They're going to get fired in Cleveland, and I'm listing these two as a package deal.  Pettine is an NFL guy through and through, after his playing days at UVA ended in '88.  He's pretty well-regarded in coaching circles, and is generally seen as a guy who knows what the fuck he is doing, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  It's just that the Cleveland Browns are a toxic organization.  Roper, meanwhile, was David Cutcliffe's right hand man at Ole Miss and Duke, and he brings that Cutty blueprint with him, along with some handsome offensive prowess.  I don't know, this is probably a long reach, but I like the way this pu-pu platter tastes.

Mario Cristobal, Alabama OL coach
He might be the top pick for UCF and the SMART pick for Miami, but if he slips through those two cracks, UVA should take a long look.  The dude can coach, and I think he would take a P5 job like ours and really run with it.

Why Mario Cristobal should be the next Miami Hurricanes football coach

Why I think he'd be a neat fit at Virginia:

  • He's got good head coaching experience
  • He built a solid program from literally nothing at FIU
  • He's developed under Nick Saban and now carries the Saban blueprints
  • He's got a ton of connections in the coaching biz, and would be able to build a good staff at UVA
  • He'd deliver the ability to recruit the state of Florida

I just think Cristobal would be a very interesting option for us.

Bo Pelini, Youngstown State
If Bobby Petrino can land back in the ACC, there's a chance Pelini can catapult from Youngstown State to a solid job. He may be gruff, but a 70% winning percentage at Nebraska is hard to ignore.

David Bailiff, Rice
Okay, there is absolutely nothing flashy here.  Keep in mind that Rice is one of the toughest academic institutions in the FBS with pretty much zero football tradition.  In 9.5 seasons, Bailiff has gone:

  • 2007 -- 3-9
  • 2008 -- 10-3 (bowl game win)
  • 2009 -- 2-10
  • 2010 -- 4-8
  • 2011 -- 4-8
  • 2012 -- 7-6 (bowl game win)
  • 2013 -- 10-4 (bowl game loss)
  • 2014 -- 8-5 (bowl game win)
  • 2015 -- 4-4

That's 52-57 at Rice, whom he has playing good, solid, fundamentally-sound football.  He's a Texas guy, but might jump at any chance to coach a P5 program, especially one with similar academic standards to the ones he's been working with at Rice.  Underwhelming, I know.  Just a gut feeling that Bailiff would be a solid coach for us if we ended up hiring him (even though the few remaining Hoofans would revolt.)

Not gonna lie, I also like that he's a little bit of a fat guy.

Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
I dunno, I'm kind of petering out here.  I don't know much about Willie Fritz, but he's 55, kicked ass at Central Missouri (D2) for 13 years before making the jump up to Sam Houston State (FCS/D-1AA), where he kicked ass for four years before making the jump up to Georgia Southern (new to FBS/D-1A), where he has kicked ass for a year and a half.  Take a look for yourself.

~~~ Thanks, But No Thanks ~~~
Here are some guys you might think you want, but you really don't want.  I'll tell you why.

Ken Niumatololo, Navy
I love this guy, but he's a triple option coach and will only ever coach the triple option.  With Paul Johnson popping the ACC's triple option cherry at Georgia Tech, there's not room for the wishbone at UVA.

Doc Holliday, Marshall
He's winning, but he's West Virginia through and through.  For him, I think it's WVU or bust.  Plus, he's already 58, and looks much older than that.  Damn...

Doug Marrone, Jaguars OL coach / assistant head coach
He went .500 at Syracuse while turning Ryan Nassib into an NFL draft pick at the quarterback position.  That's where the good news ends.  Marrone wasn't bad with the Bills (15-17), but he was seen as a colossal prick, super abrasive, just kind of a jerk.  I think he's a good coach, just not what we're looking for at UVA.  I do expect to see him return to college in short order, even though he hates recruiting.

Chad Morris, SMU
I think he's a total doucher who waited too long at Clemson, and now stands at 1-7 at SMU... despite getting them on track offensively in many ways.  Besides, as I understand it, he's married to coaching in the state of Texas.

~~~ Assistants on the Rise ~~~
Okay, I've become a pretty firm believer in the following career path for a coach:

  • Step 1: FBS assistant
  • Step 2: Head coach at a Group of Five (or FCS) school
  • Step 3: Head coach at a Power Five school

That's why I am no longer pimping guys like Rhett Lashlee or Scott Frost, never mind the fact that both are too young, the bloom has come off the rose now that Auburn is middling, and Oregon is struggling (by Oregon standards) without Marcus Mariota.  Meanwhile, Lincoln Riley is still way too young (although AIR RAID!), Jeremy Pruitt's rep is taking hits left and right, and there's no way in hell that Kirby Smart takes any job other than Georgia (or maybe South Carolina or Virginia Tech).  Also, nobody mention Lane Kiffin, please.  Talk about a total non-starter for a school like UVA.

But if you really feel the need to consider the assistant coaches, first check out this article, which I will quote in italics, below:

My picks for the most interesting fits for UVA...

Scottie Montgomery, Duke associate head coach / offensive coordinator
The 37-year old former Duke receiver has an NFL coaching background and was the guy David Cutcliffe hand-picked to call the plays. That says a lot.  I like him because he knows the ACC and has seen how to build a team up from a talent crater in the Coastal.

Mike Sanford, Notre Dame offensive coordinator
The son of a longtime college football coach, the 33-year old Sanford is a rising star who checks every box for an AD. He's done great work this year with DeShone Kizer.  I get the sense Sanford is on the fast track (like Tom Herman was).  If we want him, we'd need to get to him early.

Dana Dimel, Kansas State offensive coordinator
Despite this season's difficulties — the Wildcats' starting quarterback was injured in the season opener — his numbers over the years are spectacular. And it's not like Kansas State overwhelms opponents with talent.  UVA could do much worse than to bring in a guy who comes equipped with Bill Snyder's blueprints for program-building and renaissance.

Ed Warinner, Ohio State offensive coordinator
Urban Meyer offensive coordinators have a pretty good track record of becoming good head coaches.  It's true, and this dude has really paid his dues through the years.

D.J. Durkin, Michigan defensive coordinator
Only 37, he already has an impressive résumé coming out of the Harbaugh/Stanford tree and then working under Will Muschamp at Florida.  It's said that if you want a Harbaugh and you can't get Jim or John, then go after Durkin.

Mike Norvell, Arizona State offensive coordinator and deputy head coach (whatever that means)
Though Arizona State has had a disappointing season, the 33-year old Norvell has been in the mix for head coaching jobs already and will continue to get looks because of his up-tempo system.  I just love that offense.

Geoff Collins, Florida defensive coordinator
Recruiting, energy, swagger and an aggressive defensive system that worked at Mississippi State and this year at Florida. It's not a matter of if, but when.  He's an SEC guy who might be able to bring that brand of football to Virginia.

Ed Orgeron, LSU defensive line coach
It seems like someone is going to give him another shot sooner or later. His reputation has gotten better because of the way he succeeded in the USC interim gig in 2013.  There's no chance he's a candidate at UVA, but I love him too much not to mention him.

Mike Bloomgren, Stanford OC / OL coach / assistant head coachHe's got that Stanford Plan that UVA fans seem to covet.

~~~ One more coach I want to mention ~~~
Unless our new head coach is going to coach his own special teams ala Beamer (a model I really like, by the way), we're going to need a special teams coordinator.  I would like to submit the name DeLane Fitzgerald, current head coach at D3 Frostburg State in Maryland.  Fitzgerald grew up in Nelson County, has almost a decade of head coaching experience, and frankly, coaches the best special teams in college football.  Hiring DeLane Fitzgerald to coach Virginia's special teams is an idea I do not back down from.

Okay, time to wrap this juggernaut up.  I guess you probably want me to rank the candidates in my order of preference.  I guess I can [try to] do that.  How about a top 16?

#1 Matt Rhule
#2 Matt Campbell
#3 Greg Schiano
#4 Matt Wells

#5 Sonny Dykes
#6 Troy Calhoun
#7 Dino Babers
#8 Justin Fuente
#9 Tom Herman
#10 Mark Hudspeth
#11 Pep Hamilton
#12 Jeff Brohm
#13 Al Golden
#14 Bob Stitt
#15 Lance Leipold
#16 Mario Cristobal

I'd honestly be happy with any of those 16 guys as the next head coach at Virginia.  There are probably others I'd be able to quickly get behind, as well.

I'm just starving for a change.  I think most Hoofans are with me.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this monster.  It took me about a year to out it together, and the better part of a week to write.  I'm sure it's riddled with typos, but I did my best to edit the damn thing.  Anyway, let's buckle up for what should be a fun month of November.

One last thing:

November 2, 2015


This is how I'll always remember him...

Okay, so by now you've heard that news that Frank Beamer is retiring at the end of the season.  I'm hearing that his health may be bad... and that sucks.  If it's true, I wish him a speedy recovery and a healthy retirement.  Sincerely.

Now, moving on to the half-joking, petty, rivalry-based stuff.

1) I'm glad he's gone.  Virginia Tech will make a good hire to replace him, no doubt.  (Hearing that Rich Rodriguez is the overwhelming leader in the clubhouse, and it makes sense on a lot of levels.  RichRod will do a nice job at Tech.)  But make no mistake --- Beamer is going to cast a long, dark shadow over that program, for at least the next decade.  To completely fill his shoes and make that delusional fanbase forget about Frank, all you have to do is TAKE VIRGINIA TECH TO THE FREAKING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.  Good luck with that.

Yep, he's smug and shitty enough for VT.

2) Please never let me hear anyone tell me "derp, you've gotta respect what Beamer has done at Virginia Tech!"  I am envious of the winning, sure.  But I don't necessarily respect the way he did it.  He snacked on an awful lot of cupcake teams (including Virginia from 2004-2015), and did an awful lot of twisting and folding the moral fabric in order to get kids in school and keep them football-eligible.  He also did a whole lot of orchestrating/enabling swift and quiet exits for the kids who were not contributing on the field.  I stop short of calling Frank Beamer a 'slimeball' or a 'scumbag,' because things never quite got to Rick Pitino levels at Tech, VT was never UNC, but yeah... I'm not going to say I respect what Frank Beamer did at Virginia Tech.  I dunno, maybe I'm a sore loser and maybe these are sour grapes, but I'm entitled to that stuff if that's what I want.  I'm not just going to fall in line with all of the rah-rah Beamer shit we're about to be inundated with for the next month-plus.  Speaking of...

3) I hope UVA doesn't bend over backward to do a big, showy send-off on November 28.  Just treat it like any other UVA/VT game, and then at the end slap a quick "ENJOY YOUR RETIREMENT, COACH BEAMER!" up on HooVision.  As for that game...

4) I think Hoos Inc on the Wahoos247 forum "The Grounds" put it very eloquently.
Let's whoop dat ass. The thought of playing them with their bowl eligibility on the line and ending their season and the bowl his final his final's so anti-storybook it gives me a schadenfreude boner hard enough to frack for oil in the Bakken.

I ain't even scared about improving London's job security. I'm selling out for Hokie hatred. Let's beat these sons of bitches.

Amen, brother.  Amen and Hallelujah.

This is why Hoos Inc is one of my
absolute favorite posters on The Grounds.

5) I've fielded some consernation from Hoofans over the VT job being open and how that adversely affects UVA's potential coaching search.  To that, I say: R-E-L-A-X.  It's going to be two different candidate pools, for the most part.  And before you go off the deep end thinking the Tech job is so much better than the UVA job, you need to consider:
  • That long shadow cast by Frank Beamer
  • Our athletic department is much better, top to bottom
  • We reside in much more fertile recruiting territory
  • UVA is the superior school
  • We have realistic fans
  • Our new coach will face much lower (read: reasonable) expectations
  • Charlottesville isn't a dumpy anonymous little cow town
  • Their fans are no better than ours, just check their home attendance the last few seasons (meanwhile, our fans prove they come out to support a winner just like Tech fans have -- see also: Virginia basketball and Virginia baseball)
  • Et cetera

Yes, it appears that the VT administration is more dedicated to football.  But that's not the end-all, be-all, folks.  I just hate that so many Hoofans view VT as big-time college football.  Irritates the fuck out of me.

Bottom line for me: If I were a college football head coach and were offered both jobs, I know which one I'd pick. 

6) What the heck happens with Bud Foster?  If he's not the next head coach, he can't/won't stay at Tech, right?  He's gotta have too much pride for that, right?  Maybe he retires?  (He'll be 57 when the 2016 season kicks off.)  My guess is that he'll get at least one strong $1+mil/season offer to go coordinate a southern P5 school's defense, and he'll take it.  If not, maybe he resurfaces at a FCS or D-II / D-III school.  Bud Foster to South Carolina to be the Cocks' DC, you heard it here first.

7) I am going ahead and considering it to be a fact that Mike London will be Virginia Tech's next defensive line coach, and he'll do it for $0.99 per season (to force UVA to foot the entire bill on his buyout).  London sucks ass as a head coach, but he's a damn good d-line coach and a fine recruiter... I have zero doubt that he'll end up at Tech just to torture us.

Anyway, Frank Beamer's gone at the end of the season.  Doff of the cap for a job well done at Virginia Tech.  Godspeed, Coach.  You won't be missed, but you'll also not be forgotten.

October 23, 2015

Is the Cupboard Bare for 2016 and Beyond?

It's sad. I wrote it in 2009, and now I'm writing it again in 2015.

We're in the very weird, uncomfortable spot of needing to pull for our team to lose games.  That just leaves a terrible taste in my mouth, and makes me feel depressed and a little bit dirty.  Of course, in the heat of the moment logic takes a backseat to emotion, and I pull for the Hoos on gameday... but the best thing for the program is continued losing and Mike London's swift exit stage left.

I've been doing a lot of dwelling on the negatives and wallowing in misery over these last couple of years.  That has to stop. I love football too much to live like this, and I love Virginia Football too much to completely turn my back on it.

Assuming we get a new coaching staff this offseason (maybe a big assumption), and assuming zero attrition from the roster and 2016 recruiting class (a huge, and a hugely incorrect assumption, but a necessary one for this exercise), what does the team look like for 2016?  How about beyond?

Is the cupboard bare at UVA?  Does a new coaching staff have hope for a quick turnaround given the personnel on hand?

Let's take a look...


Eligibility Exhausted: none

Returning Starter(s): Matt Johns (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Connor Brewer (Sr.), Corwin Cutler (So.), Nick Johns (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: Sonny Abramson (3☆)

Hope for the Future: If you like Matt Johns - as I like Matt Johns - then you have to like the 2016 forecast; Johns is back with a lot of experience under his belt.  The succession plan is also pretty strong: Johns (2016) to Cutler (2017-18) to [Nick] Johns / Abramson.  I assume the new coaching staff will want to hand-pick their own QB recruit(s)/transfers for the 2017 class and beyond, so guys like Cutler and Abramson face uncertain futures at UVA.  That shouldn't blunt any optimism over those two guys, however.

Reasons for Pessimism: Nobody knows anything about how good or bad the young guys are.  Three-star quarterbacks are impossible to project.  Some end up being Russell Wilson or Colt McCoy.  Others end up being... Mike Rocco.  Many, many others end up never seeing the field.  The fact of the matter is that we have no idea what we have waiting in the wings behind Matt Johns until we see it on the field.

Position Grade: Matt Johns is back, I like the talent of the young guys, their recruiting pedigree, etc.  Plus, there's a full stable and a cohesive succession plan.  For those reasons, this position is a solid B+.

He's good, y'all.  Trust.

Running Back

Eligibility Exhausted: Vincent Croce - fullback

Returning Starter(s): Taquan Mizzell (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Olamide Zaccheaus (So.) - I'm counting him as a tailback instead of as a wide receiver, Albert Reid (Sr.), Jordan Ellis (So.), Daniel Hamm (Jr.), Chris Sharp (RS Fr.), LaChaston Smith (Sr.), Connor Wingo-Reeves (Sr.) - fullback

Incoming Recruits: Tre Harbison (3☆), Laderrien Wilson (3☆)

Hope for the Future: Smoke (he's earned the nickname now, imho) and Oz give us a potentially potent and dynamic pair of satellite {only work in space} backs.  Between Reid, Hamm, and Ellis, I feel like we have some competent grinders.  The guys to really get excited about, however, are the young guys -- if Harbison makes it to UVA, he's got Thomas Jones level versatility both between the tackles and around the edge.  He's the top recruit in our 2016 class, but is getting a ton of attention from Wisconsin right now.  Laderrien Wilson, meanwhile, is a Florida kid who had offers from FSU and Miami... and chose Virginia.  Currently redshirting Chris Sharp is said to be a real thumper.  Those three plus Oz give reason to believe the longer-term future is bright at the running back position.

Reasons for Pessimism: Harbison/Wilson could attrite, Zaccheaus could end up at receiver, and the other guys could fail to develop beyond what they already are --- which is a collection of ordinary, one-dimensional running back talents.  A golf bag with five 7-irons and a pitching wedge (Mizzell).

Position Grade: The short-term future looks pretty good, and the long-term future - if Harbison and Wilson both stick through the coaching change - is even better.  To me, the real x-factor is Oz, who has limitless upside if he winds up playing in an up-tempo spread-style offense under the new staff.  In any case, the roster is pretty stacked at this position.  B+.  (I'm not rating it higher than that due to the lack of 4☆ or 5☆ talent other than Mizzell.)

Smoke piles up the all-purpose yards, even if he is a bit lacking as a grinder.

Wide Receiver

Eligibility Exhausted: Canaan Severin (why oh why wasn't he redshirted as a freshman???), T.J. Thorpe

Returning Starter(s): Keeon Johnson (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Andre Levrone (So.) - I am assuming a medical redshirt for his lost 2015 season, Doni Dowling (Jr.), David Eldridge (So.), Kyle Dockins (Sr.), Umar Muhammad-Wyatt (So.), Ryan Santoro (Sr.), Warren Craft (RS Fr.), Jamall Brown (Sr.)

Incoming Recruits: Hasise Dubois (3☆), Joseph Reed (3☆), Cole Blackman (3☆), Aidan Howard (3☆), Neru N'Shaka (3☆)

Hope for the Future: Well, if there's not quality, at least there quantity.  Numbers.  Lots and lots of numbers.  OL and DL be damned, we'll have 12+ wide receivers on scholarship next season!  Keeon Johnson and Andre Levrone have flashed playmaking skills in the past, while Eldridge, Dowling, and Muhammad-Wyatt have been buzzy practice / training camp players.  Of the incoming frosh, Dubois probably has the most upside, but he might end up at defensive back.  Reed, Blackman, and Howard are tall possession-types, while N'Shaka is a speed guy from Florida.  Despite the absence of a true, go-to, #1 type of receiver, I do think we have a pretty good roster composition if the new coach wanted to run some spread... or maybe even (my lips to God's ears) the Air Raid.

Reasons for Pessimism: Yeah, none of these dudes have really done a damn thing on a college football field.  Johnson's best line was a 20-282-1 true freshman season.  Levrone had some highlight plays in 2014, but 15-248-2 is no great shakes.  For all of their practice kudos, we haven't seen much of the Eldridge/Dowling/Muhammad-Wyatt trio in the box scores.

Position Grade: I do think we have a potential star in David Eldridge, but this group features an awful lot of scholarships invested into what feels like a roster glut of mediocre complementary receivers.  Sorry, but I have to grade this unit a C-, which really should be more of a D+ when you consider the robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul aspect of sinking 12+ scholies into the WR position and denying the OL and DL numbers we really need.  Mike London's fucked-up roster planning is going to be biting us on the nuts for seasons to come.  You'll see what I mean in a few minutes...

I do think Levrone has a chance to shine given more playing time
and/or a better offensive system.

Tight End

Eligibility Exhausted: Rob Burns, Charlie Hopkins

Returning Starter(s): Evan Butts (So.)

Other Returnees: Brendan Marshall (Jr.), Tanner Cowley (RS Fr.), Richard Burney (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: Andrew Trainer (3☆), Christian Baumgardner (3☆)

Hope for the Future: Well, thanks to a 2015-16 recruiting surge, this position is back to being fully-stocked.  How good any of these dudes are, however, is anyone's guess.  I do think Evan Butts has flashed some potential in this, his redshirt freshman season.  So assuming we get three more seasons of Butts, I think that buys the new staff enough time to figure out what the rest of the guys can do, and what they need to recruit... or if they want to spread things out and marginalize the tight end position altogether.

Reasons for Pessimism: Kinda like at receiver, most of these tight ends are simply unknowns.  None of them were especially highly-rated as recruits.  So maybe one or two bubble up into solid starters, but who knows?

Position Grade: I'm just going to give it a C, buoyed by the warm bodies at the position and enough demonstrated performance from Evan Butts for me to feel fairly comfortable.  I will say that I would like the next staff to shit or get off the pot at tight end.  Either get us back to being Tight End U, or stop screwing around with the tight end position completely.

Butts looks like a keeper at tight end.

Offensive Line

Eligibility Exhausted: Jay Whitmire, Ross Burbank, John Pond

Returning Starter(s): Eric Smith (Sr.), Jackson Matteo (Sr.), Jack English (Jr.), Michael Mooney (Sr.), Ryan Doull (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Jake Fieler (So.), Sadiq Olanrewaju (Jr.)  - I am assuming a medical redshirt for his lost 2015 season, Eric Tetlow (So.) - I am assuming a medical redshirt for his lost 2015 season, Jack McDonald (Jr.), Sean Karl (Sr.), Steven Moss (So.), Grant Polk (RS Fr.), Ryan Bischoff (RS Fr.), R.J. Proctor (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: Stephen Spanellis (3☆), Ben Knutson (3☆), Dillon Reinkensmeyer (2☆)

Hope for the Future: Lots of guys have played, so the 2016 line should feature a lot of experience.  Some of the young guys (English, Fieler, Polk, a few others) carry promising upside.

Reasons for Pessimism: Oh man, where to begin.  Okay, first, the 2016 line will only feature 15 guys who were recruited and offered a scholarship to play OL.  (Most college programs shoot for 17, I'm more comfortable at 20, given that it's a position rife with injuries and attrition.)  In 2017... here's where it gets scary... the 15 dips to 10.  And that's just the numbers, I haven't gotten started on talking about how bad the o-line has been these last two (three? four? five?) seasons.  If there is one thing Mike London can point to as the primary reason he has sucked at Virginia, it's not the boneheaded gameday decisions, the shitty quarterback play, or the awful special teams, it's his inability to effectively roster plan and recruit the offensive line while trying to run a power-based offense.

Position Grade: D.  The talent of a few individuals save this group from a failing grade.  But - holy jeezus - we are going to be very, very THIN on the o-line for the next few seasons.  It's terrifying.  The new staff is going to need to recruit OL fast and furious.

Sadiq Olanrewaju is a guy I like to come from out of nowhere
and emerge as a pretty good player on the line.

Defensive Tackle

Eligibility Exhausted: David Dean

Returning Starter(s): Andrew Brown (Jr.)

Other Returnees: Donte Wilkins (Sr.), Andre Miles-Redmond (Sr.), James Trucilla (RS Fr.), Eli Hanback (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: none (so far)

Hope for the Future: If the o-line situation is terrifying, then defensive tackle is like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Damien the Omen, and Pennywise the Clown hunting you down in the Overlook Hotel.  But this is the 'hope for the future' section, so I'll say: Wilkins and Miles-Redmond might be able to hold down the fort while the new coaching staff hopefully coaxes some production out of Andrew Brown and attracts some instant-impact talent to Charlottesville.

Reasons for Pessimism: Oh man, 2017 and beyond?  Yikes.  Brown could be back as a senior, but who knows how good he'll be.  James Trucilla looked like a decent recruit (3☆ out of Pennsylvania), but his other offers were from the FCS and the MAC.  Eli Hanback was a 2☆ offensive lineman whose other offers were from JMU, ODU, and W&M.  London recruited him and then moved him to DT.  And that's it.  That's all of the defensive tackles.  Horrifying, right?  What makes it even worse is that London's [surprisingly decent] lame duck / swan song 2016 recruiting class doesn't have any DT recruits, unless linebacker Kenneth Ruff bulks up and moves to tackle, which is an ambitious projection.  None of the ends have DT potential, either.  Granted, a new staff will have a chance to rally for some DT recruits at the end of the 2016 recruiting cycle, and 2017 recruits might be able to play as true freshmen in the fall of 2017, but this is still a terrible spot on the roster.

Position Grade: F

We're just absolutely fucked if Andrew Brown doesn't end up being
worth a damn as an upperclassman.

Defensive End / Pass Rush

Eligibility Exhausted: Mike Moore, Kwontie Moore, Trent Corney

Returning Starter(s): none

Other Returnees: Darrious Carter (So.), Chris Peace (So.), Cory Jones (So.), Steven Wright (RS Fr.), Gladimir Paul (RS Fr.), Naji Abdullah (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: none (so far)

Hope for the Future: Thankfully, Jon Tenuta has recruited lots of positionless pass rushers over the last few seasons.  2016 is when the rubber hits the road with these guys.  There are six candidates for playing time, and we'll need at least four of them to prove worthy.  The pure, raw, stupid pass rush talent is in place, now we just need a competent staff to "coach 'em up."

Reasons for Pessimism: Carter and Peace have played some in 2015, but neither has been good enough to force an absolutely awful Trent Corney to the bench.  That is not a good sign.  Weight, meanwhile, is light on the six young guys -- Carter 235, Peace 240, Jones 215 (!?!), Wright 235, Paul 210 (?!?), Abdullah 215 (!!!).  Steak sandwiches, y'all.  Steak sandwiches and french fries.  Lots and lots of french fries.  With bacon and cheese.  Cheddar cheese fries, dudes.  Wash it down with a milkshake.  [Oh, and Cory Jones and Gladimir Paul are currently listed as outside linebackers.  Knowing what I know, both are one-dimensional pass rushers, which is fine... but they should be considered ends for the purposes of this exercise.]

Position Grade: I'm leaning somewhere between a D+ and a C-.  I like the six young guys.  I like Jon Tenuta's track record of unearthing underrated pass rush gems out there in the high school ranks, and these six represent his best efforts to stock the cupboard here at UVA.  Odds are good that at least one of them ends up being legit.  Remember Max Valles.

Wright might just be a four-year starter at LDE for the Hoos.


Eligibility Exhausted: none

Returning Starter(s): Micah Kiser (Jr.), Zach Bradshaw (Sr.)

Other Returnees: C.J. Stalker (So.), Eric Gallon (So.), Mark Hall (Sr.), Jahvoni Simmons (RS Fr.), Dominic Sheppard (RS Fr.), Malcolm Cook (Jr.)

Incoming Recruits: Kenneth Ruff (3☆), Stephen Moye (3☆), Landan Word (3☆), Matt Terrell (2☆), Robert Snyder (2☆)

Hope for the Future: Thanks to the linebacker recruiting boom in the 2015 and 2016 classes, this position is well-stocked with warm bodies.  Micah Kiser certainly looks like the real deal, even if he's struggling to shed blocks this season.  I'm banking on Kiser as the star of the defense in future seasons.  I also think it's safe to assume that at least a couple of Stalker, Gallon, Simmons, Sheppard, Ruff, and Word will bubble up into solid impact-making starters.  The depth chart should be in good shape for the foreseeable future.

Reasons for Pessimism: We know the potential, but we haven't seen the production.  (That's college football in a nutshell, I guess.)

Position Grade: I liked them when we were recruiting them, and I have no reason to dislike them now -- Stalker, Gallon, Simmons, Sheppard, Ruff, and Word should yield a very solid position unit given proper development and experience.  Here's a tasty B for the report card.

Micah Kiser is the key to everything on defense.

Safety / Big Corner

Eligibility Exhausted: Maurice Canady, Mason Thomas

Returning Starter(s): Quin Blanding (Jr.), Kelvin Rainey (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Wilfred Wahee (Sr.), Juan Thornhill (So.)

Incoming Recruits: Jordan Mack (3☆), Nick Grant (3☆), Chris Moore (2☆), Bryce Hall (2☆)

Hope for the Future: Well, Quin Blanding is back for at least one more season (2016) before he is draft-eligible, so he'll join Micah Kiser as a headliner on D.  Kelvin Rainey provides a very solid running mate and Wil Wahee provides good depth and special teams acumen.  2017 and beyond should be served well by Juan Thornhill, who is already pushing for playing time as a true freshman.  The 2016 recruits each feature tantalizing upside, so this position group looks like it's in pretty good shape overall.

Reasons for Pessimism: None, really.  Losing Canady after this season will hurt, but the rest of these guys are ready to step up, I think.  I'll be interested to see how the quartet of Mack, Grant, Moore, and Hall shakes out.  One or two of those guys will probably be asked to play instead of redshirting in 2016.

Position Grade: I'd say this grades out about the same as the quarterback position.  B+.

Sophomore slump for Blanding, but he's still a star.

Coverage Cornerback

Eligibility Exhausted: Demetrious 'Tra' Nicholson

Returning Starter(s): none

Other Returnees: Tim Harris (Sr.), Divante Walker (Sr.), Kirk Garner (Jr.), Darious Latimore (So.), Kareem Gibson (RS Fr.), Myles Robinson (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: Deedrick Daniels (3☆), Darrius Bratton (2☆)

Hope for the Future: Oh man.  Here's where three seasons of Jon Tenuta coordinating your defense comes to haunt you.  Tenuta likes his corners BIG, so therefore you end up running a bit short of small/quick guys who are generally better players in coverage.  I don't believe in Tim Harris, but he'll be our top cornerback in 2016.  At least he'll be buoyed by a fair amount of playing experience.  I'm guessing that Divante Walker will play a lot as a senior, too... but he's sight unseen at this point in his career.  Kirk Garner must not be very good, because he doesn't play at all, can't get on the field.  Latimore, Gibson, Robinson, who knows?  Hope for the future?  I suppose it's Tim Harris and the fair chance that one of the unknowns might bubble up.

Reasons for Pessimism: There are many.  This area has been under-recruited and underdeveloped by the outgoing staff.  It joins the OL, DT, and DE positions as areas upon which the new staff will need to focus.

Position Grade: D.  I don't like what's happening here, at all.  And that's seriously fucked-up, given the huge number of positionless WR/DB athlete-types Mike London has recruited during his time here.  No go-to WRs and no shutdown corners.  What the fuck?

I sincerely hope I'm wrong about Tim Harris...
but I just don't think he's a very good player.

Special Teams

Eligibility Exhausted: Ian Frye

Returning Starter(s): Nicholas Conte (Sr.) - punter, Dylan Sims (Sr.) - kickoffs, Tyler Shirley (Jr.) - longsnapper, Andrew Mackay (Jr.) - holder

Other Returnees: James Coleman (Sr.) - punter, a bunch of other walk-on specialists

Incoming Recruits: Holland Corbett (2☆) - kicker

Hope for the Future: Conte is averaging a robust 46.4 yards per punt as a first-time starter.  The snapping and holding operation seems stable, and the components return in 2016.  Holland Corbett is a standout kicking talent who should be able to step in as a true freshman (and January enrollee!) and receive the baton from Ian Frye.  Moving on from Larry Lewis will be addition by subtraction.

Reasons for Pessimism: Who returns kicks and punts?  Is that Olamide Zaccheaus?  If so, I am excited about those units.  What about coverage?  That's the big question mark... but given our roster composition (heavy with receivers, running backs, linebackers, and defensive backs), plenty of capable candidates should emerge.

Position Grade: B

So... Is the Cupboard Bare?

Uh, well, look.  The trenches, man.  The trenches.  Things are not in great shape in the trenches.

THAT BEING SAID, I think there is talent in place that could be effective (to the tune of 6 or 7 wins in 2016) if it's deployed in the right kind of system.  Specifically, if it's deployed in a guile-based, spread-to-pass system; the Air Raid or an Air Raid offshoot, if you will.

If we try to line up and pound the rock with power, ala Stanford, this roster tops out at about 3 or 4 wins.  Power football is not the path forward for Virginia, at least not in the near future, at least not given the current construction of the roster.

Another thing you really have to consider is the 2016 schedule.

  • ACC Home Games: Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Louisville
  • ACC Away Games: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
  • OOC: Richmond, Central Michigan, @ UConn, @ Oregon (ugh)


And just because I can, here's the 2017 schedule.

  • ACC Home Games: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Boston College
  • ACC Away Games: Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Louisville
  • OOC: William & Mary, UConn, Indiana, @ Boise State (arrgghh)

That's a pretty favorable 24-game slate, frankly.  Only two boneheaded OOC games, and no Florida State or Clemson in conference.

Our new coach is going to have some holes to fill, but it's not an impossible task.  The cupboard is far from fully stocked, but it also isn't completely bare.

Maybe something like this.

So, yeah, it's a rebuild job.  Let's not get it twisted.  But that's exciting in many ways -- being able to watch a new coaching staff build a roster.  That's what college football is all about!

[Whispered aside: This is also why I favor a young coach over an older one - like, for example, Matt Campbell over Mack Brown.  We need a young guy who will carry some real nitroglycerin on the recruiting trail.  We need someone with the youthful energy and single-minded obsessive stupidity to pull those 100-hour weeks it's going to take to get Virginia Football headed back in the right direction.  Long days and nights on the road, recruiting.  Mickey D's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Hotels, motels, airports, rental cars.  It's going to be a grind.]

The Shopping List:

-- A hand-picked QB for the new system
-- A go-to wide receiver
-- Field-stretching speedster WR(s)
-- A 4☆ or better tight end
-- Ten OL over the next two recruiting classes
-- DT, DT, DT, DT, a total top-to-bottom rebuild of that position
-- A defensive end (or two) with some size
-- A fast, sideline-to-sideline, playmaking weakside linebacker
-- At least one and preferably two instant-impact cover corners

What say you?  Do you agree or disagree with my synopsis?  Is the cupboard bare for 2016 and beyond?