September 27, 2016

Two things not being discussed enough: Coaching and Benkert

A fantastic take from one of my absolute favorite posters on Wahoos247, Hoos Inc:

The job our coaches have done since Richmond is pretty damn spectacular. Now, I understand that it was their responsibility to have us prepared for week one... so they have a stake in the way things looked that game, and the historically poor performance. So this isn't to completely absolve them from that or from the debacle at UConn. 
BUT....that said, the turnaround has been undeniable on defense. Completely night-and-day performance by our front seven, especially. Despite the injuries at corner, poor depth overall, youth and inexperience in many positions, and athletes who weren't exactly superstars out of high school getting significant reps, the team has improved on that side of the ball each week. 
That is a testimony to the work of the coaches, especially with the linebackers and the defensive line, and they deserve an immense amount of credit for the improved execution on that side of the ball. There are those who said we need to drop the Bennett comparisons with Bronco. But there's at least one line of comparison I've seen validated through week four: consistent improvement of fundamentals and execution over the course of a season. That seems to be there, a third of the way through our year. And that's a welcome change from what we're used to. 
On offense, I will generally hold my tongue until I see more than one good week, but the CMU game was everything I imagined our offense being during my August Kool-Aid consumption. If we can execute at anywhere close to that level going forward, we'll be very competitive. 
But damn it, I won't hold my tongue on Kurt Benkert. The dude's the best looking QB I've seen at UVa in a LONG time. He's got a cannon. He throws balls that make the UVa fan in me that's watched a solid decade of mediocre QB play cringe in horror on release... and then he puts it on a rope and makes me feel like a fool. I feel like the enthusiasm and optimism about him has been muted because, frankly, we're not used to having good QB play. And we don't want to get snookered into believing there's something good there that isn't. But I see quality decision making, the physical ability and skill to make any throw, and improving efficiency in running the offense. I see downright good QB play. And it's in a guy who gives every impression of having the intelligence and maturity to get the most out of his opportunity, rather than squandering it being a bum and eating McDonald's like... *cough*... other players. I am incredibly excited that - assuming he stays healthy - we've got at least 20 more games with him at the helm.
But overall, the gist of what I want to say in this post is: I'm really pleased with the improvement we've seen. From where we were in week one, with an FCS team manhandling us in the trenches and totally exposing our defenders on the edge, I think we've made some really phenomenal progress. Heck, even down to the creativity on special teams in response to our insecurity on PAT's. Every week I've seen some form of adaptive response to the previous week. That's really, really encouraging. The attitude of the players, moreover, has been incredible. The demeanor on the sideline is tangibly different. That reflects on the staff as well. If wins come and that enthusiasm is maintained, it will eventually permeate our program and our fanbase. 
I like the way things are looking. The end of the UConn game was still unacceptable, and I'm skeptical of Anae... the fact that Bronco and he parted ways once before troubles me. I like the idea of his offense, but I'm not 100% sold on his ability to manifest it on the field or manage it. Time will tell. OC's are admittedly the easiest people to dislike or question on the staff... and it's that way for every fanbase of every team in the country. Every one of us thinks we could be an OC and do a better job. Just the way it is, and I'm as guilty of it as anybody... it's easy to retrospectively criticize the calls of a coach. So I want to give slack and time. I think Benkert's talent and continued development is going to give this offense as good a chance to shine as we could hope for.
UVa football became fun again, for me, this week. Looking forward to continued progress and markers of sustainable success.

September 26, 2016

Turning Point

Midway through the 4th quarter, score tied at 28 apiece, momentum pretty clearly on the side of the Chippewas... facing a 2nd and 6 from his own 18 yard line...

Kurt Benkert drops back, then does one of his patented quickspins to his left, rolls out, launches the ball down the sideline, and finds a streaking Olamide Zaccheaus, who burned his defender with a nasty double move.  82 yards and a high step later, and the Hoos were up 34-28, and Uncle Mo was back on the side of the Hoos.

This was the turning point of the game, and I contend that it will be the turning point of the Virginia Football rebuilding effort under Bronco Mendenhall.

September 23, 2016

Virginia vs. Central Michigan

Vegas sez we're a 3.5-point home underdog to the Chippewas, with an over/under of 49.5, therefore the sharks are predicting something like Central Michigan 26, Virginia 23.  I say nope.  Feeling like it's all about to come together and finally click, I'm sensing a much-needed Wahoo victory.

Wahooze Pick: Virginia 28, Central Michigan 24

More shots deep, better work in the red zone, grittier play in general, and a little bit of swagger on our home field.  Fuck yeah!


Light reading...

It's Academic, but Football Recruits for Virginia Too (blast from the past, from 1990)

Darden Workshop Offers Coaches Fresh Perspective

September 15, 2016

Virginia @ UConn

In Vegas, we're 4-point underdogs, with an over/under of 48½ points scored in the game. Vegas is essentially saying: UConn 26, Virginia 22.

I'm here to say, if we hold them to less than 30, we need to win this game.  If we want this season to be considered a success by the casual onlooker, we need to win this game.  If we hope to generate some positive forward momentum, we need to win this game.

It's a big, big game, make no mistake.

ESPN3, here we come!

Wahooze pick: Virginia 30, UConn 20

They're coming off of a tough loss to Navy, and the cut blocks from a week ago will help us tremendously, as will continued improvement from our guys.  I think Benkert has a nice game, and the D actually produces some good moments... including the season's first takeaway!


Meanwhile, some light reading...

September 9, 2016

10 Minutes to Kill...

...and I want to respond to dnice's comments from my Darkest Before Dawn post.

dnice's comment is in blue.

Say what you will about mike london and what he did to the program, There is no excuse, for us to get spanked by any fcs team.

True.  Don't disagree with you there!

This was the worst game that i can remember as a uva fan. Richmond ran over us like they were florida state.

Fair enough.  Yeah, it was definitely bad.

I know that this is Bronco's first year, but i don't want to hear that rome wasn't built in a day crap. Tom Herman improved Houston in 1 year. Jim Harbaugh did the same for michigan.

Herman and Harbaugh both inherited much better situations than Mendenhall did.  But point taken.  Meanwhile, do keep in mind it was one game, and there are 11 more this season.

Im not saying that i expect our team to win the acc or anything like that, but for heaven's sake, you cannot lose to richmond in a blowout.

I hear you, dnice!  But but but but but but but... This is a very good Richmond team.  VERY good.  It's not your standard crap-ass FCS outfit.

When Bronco was hired I was probably the only uva fan that wasn't very excited. I was about 50/50 on him. I think he is a good coach that will improve us from a discipline standpoint, but i feared that he couldn't recruit well.

You're not alone in consternation over the recruiting.  I'm not there, especially in light of what he said at his coach's show this week, but I understand and respect worry about the recruiting.

But more than anything, I hate, hate, hate, the spread/air raid offense. For the life of me i cannot understand why people overhype this offense. Don't get me wrong, this offense can score points and it can be exciting to watch, but there is a residual effect that people don't consider. Most teams that run this style of offense usually have average to horrible defenses (ex: the entire big 12 conference). The defense becomes soft when it has to practice everyday against a spread offense.

Great point.  This is the part I really wanted to be sure Wahooze Nation could see.  I'll admit, it's an angle I haven't considered... 'til now.

Also, it is difficult to run the football with power in this offense. There's nothing that i hate more than these teams running the ball out the shotgun over and over again. We wasted Kevin parks career by running out of the shotgun the majority of the time. 

I would contend that we ruined KP's career by insisting on having a crummy o-line, but, yeah.

Bronco use to run a pro style for a time at byu, i wish he would go back to it. 

He's fired Anae before, he could do it again.  If, after a few years, the spread isn't helping us win, I'm sure Bronco will make a change.

The last thing i want is for our team to become another texas tech, score 45 points in a game and still lose. 

Okay, but those Mike Leach TT teams did a lot of WINNING.

Leach's records at Texas Tech:


TOTAL: 84-43

I'd be pretty happy with a 10-year run like that at Virginia.

When i look at what we are doing in recruiting, i can't help but to shake my head. It is clear to me that bronco believes that this program can be consistently good but not great. He believes that he can take 2 star players who give great effort and make them good enough for us to perhaps become a 7 to 8 win team. 

Truth.  But, look, you have to start somewhere... and the fish are not exactly jumping into the boat.

This scares the hell out of me because if bronco consistently wins 7 games a season, he will be here forever.

Yes, he will.  And maybe I'm aiming too low, but I'd take 7-5 in perpetuity, and I'd take it in a heartbeat.

You have to be able to recruit talent if you are going to compete for championships, and that should be the goal. 

I agree.

Why is he sending scholarship offers to guys in hawaii and utah. There's talent right here in virginia, ask florida state. You also have the dc/maryland area. The carolinas, georgia, florida. I just don't understand his recruiting philosophy. 

Note: We currently have 9 recruits from Virginia, more than each of Mike London's last three classes.  Bronco is recruiting the state... he's just also casting a nation-wide net.

Im a uva fan for life, so im going to support the program, but i don't have a good feeling about this working out.

I think you're wrong, but one way or the other, we're going to find out!


Virginia @ Oregon

First of all: Fuck you, Jon Oliver.

There is no reason we should be playing this game.  Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.


In Vegas, we are now 25-point underdogs, with an over/under of 71 points scored in the game.  Vegas is saying: Oregon 48, Virginia 23.

I think we play a little bit better than that, and actually start showing some signs of progress under Bronco Mendenhall.  (It doesn't hurt that the guys are free of the pressure of playing at home against a team they should beat; they're free to just let it rip against the Ducks.)

Wahooze pick: Oregon 45, Virginia 28.


The untold story of how Bronco Mendenhall helped the Oregon Ducks 'Win The Day' and turn around the program

Short of a win over Oregon, what would give Virginia fans hope?

September 8, 2016

Let's Talk O-Line...

OL recruiting under Mike London...

Jay Whitmire
Ross Burbank
Tim Cwalina
Kelby Johnson
(John Pond was a recruited walk-on)

Mike Mooney
Sean Karl
Ryan Doull
(Jackson Matteo was a recruited walk-on)

2013 (featuring the late rally spurred by Tom O'Brien)
Sadiq Olanrewaju
George Adeosun
Jack McDonald
Eric Tetlow
Eric Smith
Jack English (DE moved to OT)

I do believe that if he had been able to stay healthy, big George would
have been a really good one for us.

Steven Moss
Jacob Fieler

Grant Polk
Ryan Bischoff
R.J. Proctor

Ben Knutson
Dillon Reinkensmeyer

To me, the big problem was that after the attrition of Cwalina, Johnson, and Adeosun, little was done in 2014-16 to try to backfill the OL. What we're left with is a unit with 12 scholarship OL in 2016 (one of which was a former walk-on who earned a scholie), and on a trajectory to feature eight non-true-freshman linemen in 2017 following the departures of Matteo, Smith, Mooney, and Karl.

2017 Offensive Line:
Jack English, Sr.
Jack McDonald, Sr.
Jake Fieler, Jr.
Steven Moss, Jr.
R.J. Proctor, RS So.
Ryan Bischoff, RS So.
Ben Knutson, So. / RS Fr.
Dillon Reinkensmeyer, So. / RS Fr.
~~~ walk-ons ~~~
Patrick Kidd, Jr.
Trenton Jenkins, RS So.
Ben Trent, So.
~~~ 2017 recruits / true freshmen ~~~
Tyler Fannin
Chris Glaser
Bryson Speas?
Mekhi Becton?
Ryan Nelson?
Zac Darwiche? (recruited walk-on)

It's pretty scary, but the situation could stabilize relatively quickly, given the following:
-- One or more of the walk-ons developing into a serviceable OL
-- One or more of the true freshmen coming in ready to play from day one
-- Incoming transfers

Who's our "star" on the OL in 2017?  Jack McDonald?
It's hard to see how the 2017 unit has the potential to be anything better than average.

I'm telling you --- Virginia needs to be landing AT LEAST four OL recruits in every recruiting class. I understand that adds up to 20 if you assume redshirts, but here's the thing: Attrition occurs on the offensive line. It just does. I think that to accelerate our rebuild, the o-line has to be the top priority... and it doesn't even matter what star rating the incoming recruits feature. (Look at Richmond's starting o-line, which manhandled us this past Saturday and would do more than hold its own facing an ACC schedule -- two 2☆ guys and three 0☆ guys.)