December 30, 2009

Welcome Back!


I'm back from my holiday hiatus with a HUGE piece of news --- as per Jeff White, Ras-I Dowling is returning to UVA for his senior season. While he didn't have a great season in 2009, his return adds a blue-chip NFL-caliber talent to our secondary, and actually improves two positions, as Ras-I at corner allows Rodney McLeod to stay at safety. I'll stack our starting secondary -- Dowling, McLeod, Chase Minnifield, and Corey Mosley -- against anyone in the ACC. What a fantastic [late] Christmas present! GO HOOS!

December 16, 2009

20 > 0


In case you missed it on Sunday, UVA won the national championship in men's soccer.

I'm not a soccer fan (at all), but I am a fan of seeing the Hoos win national championships.

We've now won 20 national championships. Six in men's soccer, six in men's lacrosse, three in women's lacrosse, two in boxing, two in cross country, and one in track & field.

I'm guessing at least one of baseball, men's lacrosse, and/or tennis brings home a championship this spring.

Compare this record to that of Virginia Tech. Zero national championships. A much better football team than ours in recent years, but zero national championships.

Suck it, Hokies.

December 11, 2009

The 4-3 Defense


Many college football fans are used to seeing the 4-3 defense. In fact, other than places in which they run "gimmicky" 4-4, 4-2-5, or 3-3-5 defenses, I'd say most college football fans are used to the 4-3. Why, then, is Mike London's announced switch from Al Groh's 3-4 back to the traditional 4-3 an exciting thing for UVA fans? Well, there are a few reasons.

1) At any level, a 3-4 base defense requires a huge, strong, behemoth nose tackle to anchor the scheme. These players must be short (generally less than 6-2) and squat, and must weigh 320+ in order to win the leverage battle at the point of attack. These types of players are extremely difficult to find coming out of high school, and since the nose tackle position is usually responsible for handling two blockers at the point of attack, the 3-4 nose isn't a stat-heavy position on the field. There isn't a lot of glory for the nose tackle. Therefore, it was nearly impossible for Virginia to recruit and develop ideal nose tackles... so in many ways, Groh's 3-4 defense was flawed from the drop. The 4-3 defense requires two defensive tackles instead of just one, but the 4-3 DTs can be a bit taller, and will often only be responsible for one gap, meaning they'll be more free to attack the quarterback in the pass rush, meaning there will be more stats and glory to go around. It's just a fact of football -- it's easier to find a 4-3 tackle than a 3-4 nose.

2) Defensive ends in the 3-4 function in many of the same ways tackles function in the 4-3. Here at Virginia, we were recruiting "big" ends (think Chris Long) or "small" tackles (think Nate Collins) in order to find our 3-4 DEs. Even though the two examples I just provided were star players at UVA, the 3-4 end is not usually a difference-making type of position. They are on the field to occupy blockers and free up the linebackers to make plays. Think about the Pittsburgh Steelers -- the NFL team largely credited with the current rise of the 3-4 defense. Are the Steelers' ends considered stars? Meanwhile, 4-3 defense ends are one of the true glamour positions on the football field. These guys are responsible for generating the pass rush out of the base defense, and typically end up with the sacks. The 4-3 can work with smaller defensive ends, as long as they have an explosive first step and the speed and quickness to attack the backfield. In other words, it's much easier to recruit 4-3 defensive ends than 3-4 defensive ends. Also, defensive ends in the 4-3 have the potential to be able to play much earlier in their college career, as they require much less physical development.

3) Outside linebackers in the 3-4 are generally the same as the defensive ends in the 4-3, in that they are responsible for generating the pass rush in the base defense. That being said, the 3-4 OLB is asked to drop back into coverage much more often than their 4-3 DE counterparts, so here is yet another situation where more development time must be invested before the players can see the field. Al Groh typically recruited high school defensive ends (like Clint Sintim and Darryl Blackstock) and shaped them into outside linebackers for his 3-4. Often, those former DEs turned OLBs would have [understandable] lapses in coverage, leading us to sacrifice big plays in the intermediate passing game. The 4-3 generally calls for less size and pass-rushing ability from its OLBs, providing another opportunity to put increased levels of speed on the field. In fact, big safeties can often be easily converted into weakside OLBs for the 4-3.

4) 3-4 inside linebackers are fairly equivalent to the 4-3 middle linebacker. The one exception is that [once again] the 3-4 calls for bigger/stronger players whereas the 4-3 can function with a smaller, faster MLB.


So across the board in the front seven, Al Groh's 3-4 defense usually meant sacrificing speed in favor of size, strength, and power, and was a more difficult system to sell to recruits. ("We're recruiting you, stud defensive end, to come to Virginia and learn how to play outside linebacker. Why would you want to go to Virginia Tech and play the same position you've been playing the last four years?")

I would argue that despite Groh's relative success on the defensive side of the football, Virginia was usually lacking one or two "playmakers" who could change games around by making explosive plays on that side of the ball. Yes, we usually kept scores low, but how often did the defense force turnovers and score touchdowns? Yes, Virginia's defenses were solid, but how often were they spectacular?

I'm not trying to bash the 3-4 defense. It's a great defense, where the opposing team has to constantly guess where the blitz is coming from. But without the right types of players and athletes in the front seven, the explosive blitzing Steelers-esque version of the 3-4 faded into a milquetoast version of a glorified 5-2 defense. Good enough... but never truly great. As Virginia struggled to recruit huge nose tackles and dynamic defensive ends willing to learn a new position, Groh had no choice but to go with nose tackles that were too small, and OLBs that weren't really elite-type talents. Therefore, the OLBs had to creep closer and closer to the line of scrimmage, and voila! We were running a 5-2 and calling it a 3-4. Too much size, too much thinking, too much reacting, and not enough attacking the offenses' weaknesses.


So Mike London is committing to the 4-3 base defense, and I think it will quickly prove to a boon to the Virginia defense. We'll be able to field faster players at DE and OLB, and we'll have a defense that can pin its ears back and attack... and hopefully generate a bunch of game-changing plays. As for recruiting, there will no longer be an absolute need to land the elite size/speed/strength pass rush specimens, as we can take smaller guys who can speed rush and also bigger guys who can push the pocket, and then play them at the positions which they are already comfortable. Instead of forcing the square pegs into round holes, we can just take the players and let them be who they are. Instead of watching our players being bogged down by indecision and overthinking

I love this move back to the 4-3. It worked for George Welsh, and it will work for Mike London. Hell, it works for most effective college defenses. Gone is Al Groh's paralysis by analysis, and while he'll be lauded for his effective defenses here at UVA, I'll slightly mourn the what-could-have-beens of players like Blackstock, Sintim, Aaron Clark, and pretty much any other players this decade that were forced to learn a new position in order to play in Groh's front seven.

December 8, 2009

Hitting the Ground Running...


Here are some of the choisest nugs from Mike London's first few days as UVA's new head football coach, in no particular order...

1) It's official. Coach London is switching the UVA defense back over to the traditional 4-3 scheme. This is great news, as hulking nose tackles and size/speed/strength specimens at outside linebacker are difficult for a school like Virginia to land in the recruiting wars. Operating out of a 4-3, London can now recruit smaller pass rushers at defensive end and big safeties to bring in and develop into outside linebackers. We'll be able to put more speed on the field via recruiting the 2- and 3-star caliber athletes that are typically in our wheelhouse. The initial switch could be difficult, as we lack numbers at defensive tackle, but the change is indeed a good one for the long-term potential of a Londonesque attacking defense.

2) According to the guys at CavsCorner, Noel Mazzone and Jim Reid are the best first-guesses for the offensive and defensive coordinator positions. That being said, it sounds like Mike London might be willing to wait out the Atlanta Falcons' season in attempt to lure Bill Musgrave back to his old post here at UVA. Remember the razzle-dazzle of the 2002 season? It was all Musgrave. No doubt that these coordinator picks are almost as important as the choice of head coach. London is great, but he is woefully inexperienced as a head coach. He needs experienced and effective coordinators supporting his mission.

3) Believe it or not, Coach London has already landed his first recruiting commitment as head coach of the Cavaliers, and it's at a position of dire need. 3-star quarterback Michael Strauss (from Miami, FL) said, "In the first few minutes of talking with him, I knew that I wanted to play for [Coach London]." Strauss is fully qualified and could enroll in January, which would be great as it would give him the spring practice sessions to stake his claim for our wide-open starting quarterback position. Strauss has been described as a heady passer who throws a very accurate ball and who has some wheels with which to scramble. I've heard comparisons to Ken Dorsey, Charlie Frye, and Riley Skinner so far...

4) If you missed Coach London's [impressive] press conference yesterday, bang it here for the full transcript. It's a long but exciting read.

5) It has been confirmed that Anthony Poindexter has been retained by Coach London and will join the new staff. Wayne Lineburg and Bob Price have also been mentioned as having the potential to return. It is expected that London will bring several members of his staff at Richmond with him to Charlottesville, including former UVA standout Byron Thweatt and offensive line coach and former UVA graduate assistant Bill Polin. Vincent Brown (linebackers) and Jeff Hanson (defensive line and associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at U of R) are two others who are being eyeballed. Hanson, a grizzled vet, has been coaching college football for almost 30 years.

6) The 2010 schedule is coming into focus. We already knew about the ACC slate (@ Duke, BC, GT, and VT and home against Maryland, UNC, FSU, and Miami) and the home game against Richmond and on the road against USC. Jeff White just announced that home games against VMI and Eastern Michigan have been added to the mix. It's interesting that we're playing two FCS teams, but we need wins of any sort (see also: "schedule cupcakes!") Only one of the FCS wins can count toward bowl eligibility. And won't it be weird/gut-wrenching for Coach London to face the Spiders in his first game as UVA's head coach?

December 7, 2009

Press Conference -- 1:00 PM Today!



Visit virginiasports.com at 1:00 PM today to watch the press conference announcing Mike London as Virginia's new head football coach!

December 6, 2009

MIKE LONDON!


I just learned that Mike London has been offered the job and has accepted the position. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new head football coach! Welcome [back] Coach London!

December 4, 2009

George Welsh rings in...


George Welsh recently shared some thoughts on Virginia Football with UVA's Jeff White. Bang it HERE to read!

Chris Long Interview


HERE's a great one-on-one interview with Al Groh's greatest player while at UVA, Chris Long. It's definitely worthy of being read. Enjoy!

December 3, 2009

MAJOR rumor...


I heard a rumor today that was sort of corroborated by CavsCorner's Chris Wallace: Mike London-to-UVA is a done deal, and Major Applewhite will be London's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. The announcement will take place no later than December 19th, also known as the day after the FCS national championship game. Please take all of this with a grain of salt, because it is just a rumor... But I will admit that it's a rumor that has me extremely excited.

Learn about Major Applewhite by banging it HERE.

December 2, 2009

Wednesday Afternoon Rumblings...


  • Jim Grobe has called for a mandatory team meeting for tomorrow afternoon. Rumors are swirling that he's going to tell his team that he's leaving Wake. But to go where? UVA? Marshall? Marshall makes a ton of sense because he's from Huntington and would be able to play out his career there without a ton of pressure. Losing Grobe from our list of candidates would be a bad thing, as I've recently gotten the sense that he was our "safety net." Two reasons it would be bad: 1) we lose our safety net, and 2) Wake Forest would enter the fray as competition for our coaching candidates, especially Troy Calhoun, who was an assistant under Grobe at Wake at one point in his career.
  • Charlie Strong to Louisville seems like a done deal. I feel a little tinge of jealousy there. I think Strong is going to be a great head coach.
  • Tommy Tuberville could be on his way to Georgia... as Mark Richt's new defensive coordinator. Good luck holding that powder keg together, 'Dawgs.
  • Brian Kelly-to-Notre Dame is picking up a lot of steam. I'd say that's the most likely scenario for both parties... which potentially hurts us here at UVA because Cincinnati would enter the coaching search bonanza and could conceivably have interest in Al Golden, one of our top candidates.
  • ESPN Insider has a blurb about Skip Holtz being named the next coach at UVA. I think that report is highly bogus.
  • Mac McDonald is standing by his earlier claim that Chris Petersen will be UVA's next head coach. (At least, that's what I think he's saying. That dude speaks worse and worse English with every passing day.) Take it with a grain of salt. I mean, I hope it's true, but I highly doubt it.
  • The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that Mike London will and should become our next head coach. The fit is almost perfect and the timing is exceptional.

Gottschalk's Blog...

There is some pretty good coach-search stuff on Adam Gottschalk's blog this morning. Spend a few minutes and CHECK IT OUT.

December 1, 2009

Chris Wallace on RivalsRadio

Click HERE to listen to Chris discuss the coaching search and the recruiting impact of a coaching change. Pretty good short interview.

November 30, 2009

Truth, Lies, and Rumors


When it comes to head coaching searches, I have absolutely no problem getting down in the mud and the muck digging for details. It's still extremely early in the process, but here are some nuggets I've been able to unearth:
  • Mike London remains the odds-on favorite to be UVA's next head coach. (And in case you missed it, please read THIS ARTICLE in order to get the appropriate warm fuzzies about London as a potential candidate.)
  • Jim Grobe is also very clearly in the running, according to Chris Wallace and Jamie Oakes over at CavsCorner. The interesting thing about Grobe is that he's available for negotiation right now, as Wake Forest finished 5-7 and isn't playing in the postseason. According to Chris and Jamie, Grobe is being championed by a specific BMD, and isn't necessarily one of the UVA administration's top picks.
  • The name that seems to be gaining the most traction right now is that of Air Force's Troy Calhoun. He seems to fit what I like to call the "Tony Bennett / Brian O'Connor / Brian Boland" mold of Littlepage's successful coaching hires -- young, energetic, charismatic, driven, and coming equipped with very specific systems and a very specific plan for success. The only potential problem with Calhoun is his limited experience recruiting the East Coast.
  • Go ahead and mark Phil Fulmer and Harvard's Tim Murphy off of the list. Apparently, their "candidacy" for this position was generated by their agents. The UVA athletic department ain't biting.
  • The hot name last week was Boise State's Chris Petersen. Jerry Ratcliffe and McMcDonald's journalistic integrity took major hits when Jon Oliver came forward and admitted that he has never actually met Petersen, despite his overt allegiances to Boise State. There's no connection there. And I think that if Petersen leaves Boise, it'll be for a more attractive destination than Virginia can currently offer.
  • And what about Tommy Tuberville? It seems like he would be interested in this position... but we haven't heard much of anything about his potential connections to the search process.
  • Sadly, it looks like Charlie Strong probably won't be a realistic candidate, either. There's no buzz whatsoever when it comes to the Strong-to-Virginia rumors.
  • Chris and Jamie are pushing TCU's Gary Patterson as a potential candidate, but aren't listing Derek Dooley. I have a hunch neither of these guys have much of a chance to end up at UVA. Patterson is aiming higher, and Dooley doesn't have the resumé to beat out London.
  • Al Golden apparently has BMD backing like Jim Grobe, so he'll probably be in the mix... unless Maryland swoops in and takes him first, which actually seems pretty likely.
  • Bud Foster isn't, won't, and will never be a real candidate for the Virginia head coaching vacancy.
  • Looking for the Bennett-esque, out-of-left-field type of hire? Check out Butch Jones.

Wahooze 2009 Season Awards


It was a terrible season, but that doesn't mean we didn't have some standout performances. I want to take some time to honor a few of the players from this year's team before we plow head-first into the coaching search. So here are the Wahooze 2009 Season Awards...

Player of the Year: Nate Collins
Collins emerged from afterthought status after sliding over from nose tackle to start opposite Matt Conrath at end. Many people worried that Collins would be too slow or too big at defensive end. Instead, he proved all of his critics wrong and likely elevated his stock to the middle rounds of the 2010 NFL draft. He applied great pressure in the backfield, and stepped forward as UVA's emotional leader and best player on the defensive side of the ball. He single-handedly won the Maryland game with the touchdown he scored (pictured above) in the mud and the slop. His stats for the season: 77 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 6 sacks, and an interception return for a TD. Great stuff for a 3-4 defensive end.

Offensive Player of the Year: Rashawn Jackson
Ask any UVA fan and they'll tell you --- the Ra-Ra Bus never got enough touches. His power and determination between the tackles was the one reliable staple of the offense. His clutch receiving ability out of the backfield was an underutilized weapon. 96 carries for 461 yards, 4.8 yards per carry average, 2 rushing TDs, 25 receptions for 222 yards, 8.9 yards per reception.

Defensive Player of the Year (other than Collins): Chris Cook
Ras-I Dowling got all the hype, but it was Cook who was usually the most effective player in the secondary. He also did a great job in run support. 40 tackles, 4 INTs, and 6 passes broken up.

Special Teams Player of the Year: Robert Randolph
It's nice to have a kicker we can count on once again. And since the special teams play as a whole was downright atrocious (and the area in which our new coach can make the most easy and immediate improvements), Randolph wins this award by default. 17/19 field goals, with both misses coming in bad weather and with bad snaps and/or holds, long of 49 yards, 6/6 PATs.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Tim Smith
Smith really emerged as one of our most explosive and best downfield threats in the passing game. If we had received any sort of quarterbacking or pass protection, his stats could have been doubled or tripled. I assume Smith will be a critical part of our offense as we move forward with the new coaching regime. 15 receptions for 204 yards, 13.6 yards per reception, 2 TDs.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Steve Greer
Greer lived up to the hype as a "more athletic version of Jon Copper." He led the team in tackles, and made a lot of impact plays from his ILB position. 92 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 passes broken up.

Most Improved Player: Kris Burd
Expectations were high for guys like Javaris Brown, Jared Green, and Tim Smith at wide receiver, and Burd was pretty much an afterthought. Instead, Burd bullied his way into the starting lineup and led the team in receiving. He emerged as a reliable possession receiver with good hands, good body control, and good leaping ability. Best of all, he provided very good downfield blocking. I'm truly excited about the future potential of the Burd/Smith receiving tandem. 31 receptions for 413 yards, 13.3 yards per reception, 1 TD.


Congratulations to the seniors and to Ras-I if he elects to go pro (which would, in my opinion, be a colossal mistake.) I have total faith that next year will be a much better one for Virginia Football.

Al Groh's Final Statement


I'm just going to post it and move on. I'll leave it to you to interpret any little barbs, egoism, sour grapes, bitterness, complete and total failure to acknowledge his and his program's loyal fans, and/or excuses you choose to read from this.

I am privileged to have represented this fine University, a school from which my two sons and I have earned degrees. I hope I have represented it well.

I feel very fortunate. I am an ordinary guy who has been lucky to have been around some extraordinary players and coaches who put me in a position to enjoy many fulfilling games and seasons, and that’s the truth. I gave everything I had to the position and to each game.

I have coached Hall of Fame players, worked alongside Hall of Fame coaches, and coached in two Super Bowls, but my time as the Head Coach of the Virginia Cavaliers has been my most memorable coaching experience. What I will remember the most are the players’ faces in the locker room after some of the great wins we had over legendary programs like Penn State, Florida State, and Miami; rivals North Carolina and Maryland; and in bowl games. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of all the coaches and players who have been a part of our program. I am indebted to you. I hope the players feel that one of their most positive college experiences was playing for Al Groh.

My coaching philosophy and method of building teams has trust and teamwork as bedrocks. We were poised to solidify our position as a top team. Instead, as that trust and collaboration deteriorated, I could see this day coming. We arrived with a set of principles that we have tried to remain faithful to and we leave with those principles intact.

Change can make things better or worse. I have every confidence that this will be a positive change for the Groh family and I look forward to my next game.

To all the members of the Virginia football family: I love you and God bless you.

November 29, 2009

It's Official

End of the Line for Al Groh.

1-8 against Virginia Tech. Disgraceful.

One Last Egotistical Act


At the end of his post-game press conference following yesterday's 42-13 shallacking at the hands of our arch-rival Virginia Tech, Al Groh was asked if he thought that game was his last as Virginia's head coach. His response was to reach into his pocket, pull out a piece of paper, and read the following poem:

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass.
The fellow whose verdict counts most in you life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

You may be like Jack Horner and chisel a plum
And think you’re a wonderful guy.
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

He’s the fellow to please-never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear to the end.
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass.
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.


Then Groh explained his recitation with this:

When I visited the guy in the glass, I saw that he's a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability. He's loyal. His spirit is indomitable. And he is caring and loving. I'm sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend.

I get what he's saying. He's not ashamed of himself. In fact, he's proud of the work he's done, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I just want to ask one quick question... At what point does staring in the mirror denote vanity? And at what point can a man's immense ego crush a football program into oblivion?

42-13, Virginia Tech.

Hey Al Groh, thanks for running our program into the ground. I wish you had just skipped the post-game presser, instead of humiliating yourself with that poem.

November 23, 2009

My Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa,


For Christmas, I want a new head football coach who will...

  • Recruit the state of Virginia more and better than Al Groh.
  • Allow the assistant coaches to speak to the media.
  • Be able to beat Virginia Tech on the reg.
  • Switch from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3 --- it's easier to find defensive tackles and defensive ends than it is to find nose tackles and big outside linebackers.
  • Be willing to kiss babies and pose in front of cameras.
  • Insist that UVA adds an orange jersey to the uniform mix.
  • Recruit good QB prospects.
  • Develop the QBs on the roster into viable, effective starters.
  • Drop the "Sea of Orange" bullcrap and just let the fans be the fans.
  • Take Virginia back to Welshian levels of consistent and reliable (7+ win) success.
  • Put together some sort of offense that is exciting to watch.
  • Not use a quarterback to return punts.

I've been a good boy, Santa. I rarely boo, I attend every game I can (unless I'm deathly ill), and I sing the Good Ol' Song when we kick field goals. I don't think I'm asking for too much here. Please don't give me a lump of coal like you did in 2000.

Sincerely yours,

Little Kenny

November 19, 2009

Handicapping the Coaching Search


I've been spending the better part of the last two weeks wallowing in the rumors and conjecture surrounding our search for a new head football coach. I've heard lots (30+) of names batted around, but only seven have bubbled to the surface as *realistic* candidates. Based on everything I've been hearing, here is the short list of coaching candidates, along with my best guess at the percentage chance that they'll be Virginia's next head football coach.


Mike London, Richmond -- 50% chance
The peoples' favorite has an impressive groundswell of support. Popular recent opinion has him poaching Chris Beatty from the West Virginia staff as an assistant. (For those of you who don't know, Beatty is renowned as a master recruiter in the state of Virginia, specializing in the talent-rich Tidewater region.)

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest -- 15% chance
He would have been a slam dunk hire two years ago... Wake's recent drop-off has tarnished Grobe's reputation and buzz-worthiness. There is currently a lot of smoke billowing from the Grobe-to-UVA rumors. Personally, I think Grobe would be a fantastic choice. He took Wake Forest to an ACC championship, which is akin to someone winning the SEC championship at Vanderbilt.

Chris Petersen, Boise State -- 10% chance
The guys at Cavs Corner have heard that Petersen is a serious candidate, probably due to Jon Oliver's connections at Boise State. I'm still in the process of wrapping my mind around the idea of Petersen as our next head coach... and just hoping that if it happens, it isn't Dan Hawkins at Colorado, Part II.

Al Golden, Temple -- 10% chance
He's done great things at Temple, and rumor has it he had some admirers among the athletic department staff when he was our defensive coordinator. I like Golden's ability to recruit the Northeast, but don't like the fact that he's a branch on the Al Groh coaching tree. Still, if you can win at Temple, you can win anywhere.

Troy Calhoun, Air Force -- 5% chance
His name is gaining serious traction after it faded almost completely away about a month ago. Calhoun is a candidate on the rise in terms of buzz and scuttlebutt. He's a "systems" guy whose personality really fits the Craig Littlepage hiring pattern. In a nutshell, I think Calhoun could be our Tony Bennett of football.

Derek Dooley, Louisiana Tech -- 5% chance
His obvious UVA ties keep him in the discussion, but many people think he hasn't shown quite enough at LaTech to warrant this opportunity. While I don't really disagree with that, I think if we miss this opportunity to hire him, an SEC school will snatch him up in another year or two.  If I were in charge of this decision, Dooley would be my man -- more than anyone else, he's a UVA guy, plus he has experience as a program administrator, plus he runs a bonafide spread-style offense, PLUS he's learned from the best college football coach in the nation in Nick Saban.  Dooley is my guy.

Charlie Strong, Florida (Defensive Coordinator) -- 3% chance
He's probably my personal favorite, but his name is fading fast in terms of buzz. That's unfortunate, because I think this guy will run through walls to succeed as a head coach, once he finally gets his chance. He also would be the best East Coast recruiter on this list, and would be able to lure in the highest quality assistants.

OTHER -- 1% chance it'll be a guy from this list:
Tommy Tuberville
Randy Edsall, UConn
Phil Fulmer
Skip Holtz, ECU
Brian Kelly, Cincinnati
Todd Graham, Tulsa
Kevin Sumlin, Houston
Gary Patterson, TCU
Mickey Matthews, JMU
Major Applewhite, Texas (assistant)
Turner Gill, Buffalo
Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Steve Logan
Brent Venables, Oklahoma (DC)
Dave Clawson, Bowling Green
Tim Murphy, Harvard
K.C. Keeler, Delaware
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
Mike Leach, Texas Tech
Danny Rocco, Liberty
Larry Coker

OUT OF LEFT FIELD -- 1% chance it'll be a guy we've never mentioned, thought of, or maybe even heard of.

Hang in there, my friends. The Al Groh era will end in just eleven days...

November 17, 2009

Don't Forget...


The chief theoreticians behind the modern athletics rivalry are sports writers and people who sell tee-shirts. Among persons with less obvious motives, and with more important things on their minds, this [Virginia / Virginia Tech] athletics rivalry is more jocular than serious.

While we're on the subject of replacing Al Groh, let's not forget that the University is already balls-deep in the process of replacing John Casteen. Let's hope (pray) that we find a more football-friendly President than this picklehead has been.

Quick Thoughts on the Basketball Team

I've been lucky enough to see chunks of the Longwood game and almost all of the South Florida game. Here are some quick thoughts, two games deep into the season...
  • Mustapha Farrakhan is much improved, and he seems to have a very serious role in Tony Bennett's rotation. He seems a lot more confident and explosive to me so far this season. Of all the players, I'm most excited about the improvement he's showing from last season to this one.
  • This team is missing Assane Sene and (to a much lesser extent) Jamil Tucker. Our thin frontcourt has become an extreme liability without those two on the floor. USF was able to pound the ball inside once Mike Scott got into foul trouble, and we had nothing with which to counter that strategy.
  • It's clear Coach Bennett's pack-line defense hasn't quite taken root and that his mover/blocker offense has only been installed in very small chunks. This season will be a learning process for this team as these systems are installed. Expect some ugly performances like the one last night. Be patient --- these two systems powered Washington State to the Sweet Sixteen.
  • Jontel Evans reminds me of a young Harold Deane. Strong, aggressive, and always playing at full speed. Evans has made a lot of mistakes in his first two games, but he's a freshman point guard, it's to be expected.
  • Sylven Landesberg is going to have to carry this team on offense from time to time. I think he needs to get a little bit more comfortable with the idea of being "the man" for this team. He seems slightly hesitant to me right now. Attack the basket, Syl!
  • As limited as he is, we just can't keep Calvin Baker off the court. The good news is that he'll rarely be asked to be the primary ball handler, since Bennett's system seems to share that responsibility across the entire backcourt.
  • Tristan Spurlock is even more raw than I thought he'd be. He's an explosive athlete, but so far hasn't shown much real basketball acumen. It could be a long year for the freshman if he doesn't start flashing some skill and discipline to go along with his speed and hops.
  • Walk-on Will Sherrill is a solid player. He'll log some minutes beyond the normal mop-up duty most walk-ons enjoy.
  • Jeff Jones is still looking a bit passive to me. It will probably take more than an offseason and a couple of games to coax him out of his shell. Dave Leitao really did a number on this young man's confidence.

Up next is a very tough Rider team in the JPJA on Thursday night. I'm looking for the Hoos to take a step forward and show us that they learned from the USF game. Rider is no cupcake. It will take a great effort to beat them (just ask Mississippi State.)

GO HOOS!

November 10, 2009

The Spread and the Run & Shoot


Gregg Brandon's no-huddle shotgun spread offense has been an unmitigated disaster here at Virginia. Some (myself included) might argue that the offense was a failure for three main reasons: 1) Brandon was never allowed to choose a quarterback and name him the starter and devote all first-team reps to that player during training camp, 2) UVA probably lacks the type of athletes on the o-line that the spread really requires, and 3) Al Groh pulled the plug on Brandon's spread after only the second game... not nearly enough time for the offense to take root. So the offense failed at Virginia, but before you write it off completely, you should read THIS.

November 6, 2009

Required Reading

HERE is a Bleacher Report article on why Charlie Strong isn't already a head coach...

And HERE is one anticipating his inevitable rise to a prominent head coaching position, somewhere, and soon.


I sincerely hope Virginia is a player in trying to land Strong as its next head coach. I think the guy will run through walls to succeed and to stick it to all of the racist ADs that have passed him over in years past.



Interestingly, Jim Grobe's star is starting to fade in the coaching world, despite the fact that he made the impossible possible by transforming Wake Forest into a football power. The Deacs haven't been exceptional since their ACC championship in 2006, but make no mistake -- this guy can coach, and he can [obviously] build and rebuild programs, laying down the foundation for sustainable success. In other words, he might be exactly what we need.


Suddenly, there's a little bit of smoke billowing from the Jim Grobe-to-Virginia rumors. Check it out: HERE and HERE.




And saving the best for last... If you haven't read THIS ARTICLE from the Washington Post, you need to do it ASAP. It moved me from thinking Mike London would be a ho-hum, safety net type of option, to thinking that he might just be the absolutely perfect man for the Virginia job.


As you watch the Hoos receive their beatdown in Miami tomorrow, allow your mind to wander to better days... as in, 24 days from today, when Al Groh is fired and the new era of Virginia Football begins.

November 4, 2009

15 Bold Predictions for Virginia Basketball


The new season [and new era!] of Virginia Basketball begins in just nine days. And since we're 26 long days away from the glorious shitcanning of Al Groh, I thought now was the right time to launch a quick basketball piece.

In honor of our best player, Sylven Landesberg, here are 15 bold predictions for this year's edition of Virginia Basketball, in no particular order:

1) We will win 17 games this season, including 7 ACC games. (17-12, 7-9 ACC headed into the ACC Tournament in early March.)

2) Jerome Meyinsse will be our starting center, and he'll have a very solid senior campaign. I think he'll average somewhere around 18-20 minutes, 7 points, and 5 rebounds.

3) We will beat Duke in the JPJ Arena on February 28th. It will be magnificent.

4) Mike Scott will average a double-double.

5) We will win a game in the ACC Tournament.

6) Calvin Baker's role will be minimized. He's great on defense, but Coach Bennett will hate his ball-hogging and penchant for turnovers, and Baker is coming off of knee surgery. Sam Zeglinski and Jontel Evans will split time at the point and Jeff Jones will log most of the minutes at shooting guard, leaving Baker to battle Mustapha Farrakhan for scraps of playing time... and Mu is a better shooter.

7) We will all be sweating out the late Spring, hoping and praying that Sylven Landesberg holds off on the NBA in order to play his junior season at Virginia in 2010/11.

8) Jamil Tucker averaged 18.5 minutes per game last year. This season, he will see half of that amount of time on the court. The reason: he's a liability on defense. He's too big/slow to guard small forwards and too small/weak to guard power forwards. Tristan Spurlock and Solomon Tat will take the minutes Tucker is vacating. We'll miss Tucker's three point shooting, but will gladly welcome Tat's defense and Spurlock's energy and athleticism.

9) As we enter ACC play in early January, our starting lineup will be Zeglinski, Jeff Jones, Landesberg, Mike Scott, and Meyinsse. Spurlock will be the first player off the bench, with Jontel Evans not far behind. Jamil Tucker, Calvin Baker, and Assane Sene will be the big losers from our coaching change.

10) Tony Bennett's pack-line defensive system will prove to be a MAJOR improvement over whatever bullcrap defense we were playing under Leitao's guidance. However, teams with good passing big men and perimeter players who can shoot the three will carve us to pieces. I think Miami, Florida State, and Maryland are specifically bad match-ups for Bennett's system.

11) Season ticket holders will come to realize that they have been screwed over by the home schedule this season. There is no home game against UNC, and the home schedule includes games against Longwood, UNC Wilmington, NJIT, Hampton, and Texas Pan-American. Our "marquee" out of conference home games are against Penn State and UAB. Bleccch.

12) We will lose a home game to either Rider (on Nov. 19th) or Oral Roberts (on Nov. 21st). Fickle Virginia fans will begin to question Tony Bennett's coaching ability and the wisdom of the hire... until...

13) We beat Stanford on Nov. 24th in Cancun.

14) As K.T. Harrell, Joe Harris, James Johnson, Will Regan, and Akim Mitchell play out their senior seasons in high school, the national media will come to recognize the fact that Coach Bennett has assembled a truly stellar 2010 recruiting class. Harrell and Johnson, especially, will ooze star potential.

15) NIT, here we come. (The 2011 NCAA Tournament will mark our "arrival" as a force to be reckoned with under Coach Bennett.)

November 2, 2009

Road Map to Relevancy, Part II

For part I, bang it here.


A few weeks ago, I started the "Road Map to Relevancy," which illustrates a plan that I think will bring Virginia Football back from the abyss. In Part I, we touched on the importance of hiring the right head coach to replace Al Groh, and then luring the fans back into the stadium by allowing an atmosphere of optimism to permeate the program via open use of the media to promote the new product.

Part II continues with...

Step #3 -- Schedule cupcakes.

For a listing and listless program, no amount of offseason promotion matters without wins to back it up. Forward momentum can easily be short-circuited with losses. So you do what you need to do to schedule wins. In 2010, we are already locked into a road game against USC and a home game against Richmond, neither of which classify as "should-win" games. Our ACC schedule is home against UNC, Maryland, Miami, and Florida State, and on the road against Boston College, Georgia Tech, Duke, and Virginia Tech, in some order. This is not an easy ACC schedule, not at all... which is why it is absolutely imperative that we find two creampuffs for the last two out-of-conference (OOC) spots. We need to schedule cupcakes; we need to schedule WINS.

This becomes even more important in 2011, when the honeymoon phase is over with the new coach and the fans begin to expect serious results on the field. The '11 schedule includes home games against Southern Miss and William & Mary and an away game against Indiana. Manageable. The ACC schedule is home: NC State, GT, VT, and Duke, and away: Maryland, FSU, UNC, and Miami. That last OOC game needs to be an "easy" home win, as the '11 season needs to culminate with a winning record and a bowl game appearance.

The point is, once you drop into the dregs of college football, only wins matter. We need to be willing to sacrifice the pride associated with playing a tough OOC schedule in order to schedule cupcakes and rack up easy wins to inflate the win/loss record. "Fake it 'til you make it," is sort of the mantra to live by in this regard. The difference between 7-5 and a bowl game and 6-6 or 5-7 and no postseason is immense, and if you can generate easy wins when you're a team in transition, you bloody well do it. Virginia Tech used this philosophy to climb to their current peak of national relevance. Now they are starting to schedule some decent OOC competition, and are systemically shucking their "weak schedule" reputation. The Hokies got fat by feasting on cupcakes, why shouldn't we?


Step #4 -- Make the quarterback position a priority!

It doesn't take a football genius to understand that the best college football teams are usually the ones with the best quarterbacks. It doesn't take a UVA football historian to recall that our most successful teams usually featured our most successful quarterbacks. Don Majkowski, Shawn Moore, Matt Blundin, Mike Groh, Aaron Brooks, Matt Schaub -- pretty much every era of Virginia football success corresponds with the playing career of a good quarterback.

So how do you generate good quarterback play? First of all, you recruit the position, and you recruit it HARD. Throw your best recruiters at the best QB prospects. If you can't land elite prospects, then land a lot of prospects -- throw numbers against the wall, and see what sticks. Instead of recruiting one or two QBs in each recruiting class, crank it up to three or four. Explore the JUCO ranks. Perhaps most importantly, spend the money it takes to hire a great quarterbacks coach, and don't bog that person down with any other responsibilities. Just find a talented coach and have them focus all of their energy and attention on developing whatever talent we can find at the quarterback position.


Step #5 -- Recruit the state.

Most of the state of Virginia's top football talent leaves the state to play for traditional football powerhouses -- Percy Harvin went to Florida, Phillip Sims is going to Alabama, etc. At this point, most of the elite players that decide to stay in state end up going to Virginia Tech. The step UVA must take is to open the door to any/all sub-elite football players from the state of Virginia who qualify academically and project to be FBS-level talents. If this means not recruiting a better player from out of state, so be it. We need to fill our roster with kids from the state of Virginia, and we need to do it ASAP. Two reasons: 1) it will be infinitely easier to recruit the elite player from in-state if their non-elite buddies from high school are already playing football at our school and 2) the Virginia/Virginia Tech rivalry just means so much more to players who grew up in the state of Virginia. That in-state edge is what I believe has given VT the advantage over us this decade -- their players from Virginia want to beat UVA much more than our New Jersey players want to beat Virginia Tech. Their guys will run through walls to beat us, whereas our guys mostly see the rivalry as "just another game." See my point?

Recruiting lesser players from the state also would endear our new coaching staff to the high school coaches in the state. If UVA is Sammy Linebacker's only FBS offer other than Marshall and Tulane, then Sammy will come to UVA and Sammy's high school coach will appreciate the fact that UVA came through with that offer and that opportunity to play football in the ACC. So when George Superstar Running Back becomes a high school junior/senior at that same school, his high school coach will be more likely to nudge George in UVA's direction. George will have his buddy Sammy already in place in Charlottesville and loving life as a Wahoo, and he'll have his coach singing the praises of the college coaching staff that believed in Sammy's talent all along, when no other power conference team (including Virginia Tech) did. It's win-win-win, and it's a critical step in strengthening our recruiting base in the long run while simultaneously weakening our biggest rival's recruiting ability. It builds pipelines from Virginia's best high school programs to the UVA football roster, and that can never be a bad thing, even if the overall talent level at UVA dips slightly in the short term.

The trick is to keep the program afloat with lesser talent on the roster while we wait to cultivate these improved in-state recruiting pipelines. It's a dangerous tightrope act, to be sure. But it does bring us to...


Step #6 -- Establish a system.

I often find myself using Wake Forest as the model of how to build a strong football program from the ground up. When Jim Grobe was hired as Wake's head coach, one of the first things he did was install the misdirection system on offense. That system enabled Wake to compete with teams that had more available talent on the field. It allowed Wake Forest to win games with lesser talent, and to recruit players that other schools maybe didn't want because they lacked the "traditional" baseline skill sets for players at their position. Wake's misdirection system played perfectly for them, and now they are one of the most solid and consistent teams in the ACC. Virginia needs to do the same thing -- establish a cohesive system, and stick to it. Put together a plan, and never deviate from it. It might be the nohuddleshotgunspread (an unmitigated disaster in 2009, but potentially a success in the future?), or whatever. As long as it is a unique system that opponents must specifically prepare for, then it will be a success.

A good system not only allows us to compete with less talent, it also will help us develop an identity. Look at what Paul Johnson's flexbone has done in just a season and a half at Georgia Tech. If we start doing something unique and start winning games for it, then we will be noticed, and the attention will be positive. There is no place for indecision and wishy-washy schemes in college football. If you try to me multiple and flexible in all things, then you end up just being mush. This isn't the NFL. Al Groh taught me that much.


Step #7 -- Redshirt EVERYONE!

This one is simple: a player's fifth year in the system is more valuable than his first year in the system. Patience is a virtue and instant gratification MUST be delayed if we want to build a program with sustainable success. This is another thing that Grobe did at Wake, and they reaped the rewards with an ACC championship season in 2006 on the backs of a ton of 5th-year seniors.

Redshirts Burned


For those of you keeping track of how, exactly, Al Groh is "scorching the earth" on his way out the door -- here is the exhaustive list of the redshirts he has [needlessly and stupidly] burned so far this season:

OT Oday Aboushi
DB LoVante' Battle
TE Paul Freedman
DE Will Hill
QB/WR Quintin Hunter
PK Drew Jarrett
HB/DB Perry Jones
DB Corey Lillard
LB Connor McCartin
DB Laroy Reynolds
WR Tim Smith
ATH Jovanti Sparrow
DL Brent Urban
HB Dominique Wallace (will receive a medical redshirt)
LB/TE Tucker Windle

That's 14 members of the excellent 25-person 2009 recruiting class. For 56% of this class, Al Groh has traded in the potentially super-productive fifth year in the program in order to have them play as true freshmen and help this team to a 3-5 start, including home losses to DUKE and WILLIAM AND FREAKING MARY. I don't just think this is idiotic, I think it is downright negligent. These kids committed to Groh and the University of Virginia, placing complete trust in the coach, assuming he'd make the decisions that best served them as students and as players.

Even more than the nepotism used in promoting Mike Groh to offensive coordinator, I think burning these redshirts this season has been Al Groh's worst decision and most damning mistake as head football coach at the University of Virginia. It is an unforgiveable sin, in my humble opinion, as most of these players aren't on the two-deep at their positions, don't travel with the team, and only see action on special teams. They are losing their fifth year of college football in order to play a handful of meaningless plays in a lost season. Egregious.

I just hope our next head coach can find the roster depth to extend mid-career redshirts to a few of these players in order to potentially salvage their future as football players.

Jameel Sewell's "Late Game Heroics"

Trailing Duke 18-17 with 3:45 left in the game, Virginia had the ball with a chance to mount a game-winning drive. Here's what happened:

1st down -- incompletion

2nd down -- incompletion

3rd down -- Sewell fumbles, and Duke returns the loose ball for the touchdown, 25-17 Duke lead.

At this point, we're still only down eight points, with 3:22 on the clock. Plenty of time for a game-tying touchdown drive. (But that, of course, would have required a real quarterback behind center.)

1st down -- incompletion

2nd down -- incompletion

3rd down -- incompletion

4th down -- sack

Duke then kicked a field goal to put the score at 28-17, and the game out of reach.

Five [ugly] incompletions, a sack, and a lost fumble. Not the stuff of legends, with the game on the line.

Al Groh will never do it, but it's time for Jameel Sewell to get the hook. Let Marc Verica play out the stretch and gain some experience for next season! Please!

November 1, 2009

Duke?!?


A few things I have to say about yesterday:

1) If it wasn't already, Al Groh's fate is sealed. You CANNOT lose to both William & Mary and Duke at home EVER. Much less in the same season.

2) Jameel Sewell... ain't the guy. No, screw that. I didn't start this blog so I could pussyfoot around saying what I mean. Jameel Sewell sucks. I hope he never sees the field for the University of Virginia again. His ball security is atrocious, his arm is erratic, and he has zero poise under pressure.

3) With all of the rumors swirling around (Mike London is "done deal," Charlie Strong is a "done deal," Charlie Strong is a "done deal" to Georgia with Mark Richt eyeballing the shot at UVA that he turned down nine years ago, etc.) I think it's high time for the UVA administration to unleash a public statement. It's time to let the fans know that Groh is done and that they're already working tirelessly to get the right leadership in place to be able to turn the page to a successful 2010 season and a new era of Virginia Football. Fat chance.

4) Al Groh burning redshirts is really pissing me off. I understand wanting to leave scorched earth in your wake, but for such a quote-unquote "UVA Guy," he sure is working hard to fuck over these kids and the next coaching regime.

October 21, 2009

The Pack-Line Defense


Just found a great article that details the Tony Bennett Pack-Line Defense... It's well worth a read.

October 14, 2009

Road Map to Relevancy, Part I


Apologies to my loyal Wahooze readers --- I've been having a hard time battling the depression of an 0-3 start to the football season. Now I'm fighting to wrap my mind around the win at North Carolina and the 47-7 shellacking of a decently solid Indiana team. What does it all mean?

Like Ben Gibson summarized, it's just Al Groh's annual October charge to save his hide. Nothing more, nothing less. Virginia Football is just not very good, as far as programs go. Top to bottom, there are damning problems holding our team back. We have a rickety infrastructure.

I think that deep down, we all know that this football program can be so much more than a .500-type outfit. But yet, here we are, wallowing in more mediocrity, losing games we shouldn't lose (WILLIAM AND FREAKING MARY), blowing late leads (Southern Miss), and then rubbing the fans' noses in the regret and disappointment by winning games it doesn't seem like we should win (UNC) and blowing out decent opponents (Indiana). At the end of the day, we're 2-3 and beelining toward 5-7... not good enough. Not nearly good enough.

UVA Football has become equal parts depressing, confusing, and grind-your-teeth-and-slap-your-momma frustrating. The Indiana win was nice, but I couldn't keep the vivid flashbacks of the William & Mary pick six out of my mind. And so it goes... Virginia Football will drive you completely nuts.

So how do we go from this point -- maddening inconsistency and a low overall ceiling for how high the program can rise -- to where we want/need/deserve to go? How can we transform a schizophrenic 6-6 also-ran program into a gritty, tough, consistent 9-3/10-2-type team that nobody ever wants to face? How can we repair the infrastructure, rattle Virginia Tech's cage by gaining a toehold on in-state recruiting, and obtain some degree of national respect? How can we make Virginia Football relevant?

Here is one fan's road map...


Step #1 -- Fire Al Groh and hire a new coach. Hire the right coach.

Seems obvious, right? Well, it's easier said than done. I don't want to spend too much time beating on this drum that has already been pounded to death, but we need to find a charismatic leader who can sell and properly promote the program. All Xs and Os aside, we need a media-friendly coach who can breathe some life into this deflated fanbase and repair our damaged public perception. (See also: Tony Bennett's effect on Virginia Basketball.) Also, we need our coaching hire to be somewhat "splashy" from a national perspective. We need college football fans around the nation to either say: "Wow, Virginia was able to get THAT guy?" (Tommy Tuberville) and/or "Wow, Virginia really did the right thing by hiring that guy!" (Charlie Strong, Derek Dooley, maybe Mike London.) Once we generate some forward momentum via a nice splash with the coaching hire, we can move headlong into...


Step #2 -- Lure the fans back into the fold.

Get the right coach, and most hardcore fans will return to the stands. But how do you bring back the casual fans? The ones that make the difference between 50,000 butts in the seats and a packed house for a Saturday in Scott Stadium? Well, it starts on the fundamental level of actually appreciating the fans and making that appreciation apparent. Make the ticket prices more palatable, offer a sincere apology for the reseating disaster, put the program on the line with a REAL "commitment to excellence" -- declare that this is an also-ran program no more; that Virginia Football is headed in a new direction and will not accept mediocrity. Have that message echoed in everything the coach says (and he should be saying a lot, working every media outlet that will have him.) Here's the master stroke: break away from the Al Groh policy of "one voice" and allow the assistant coaches to get out and work the media themselves. Sell the product, build excitement, develop some forward momentum, and get the fans excited. Virginia fans are great fans; they'll come back in droves.
To be continued...

"Why Do You Hate Me, Al Groh?"


Here's a great piece from Ben Gibson from bleacher report. He really succeeds in putting everything Virginia football fans feel into words. Definitely deserving of a five-minute read...

October 8, 2009

October 3, 2009

UVA 16, UNC 3

Nice win today. Tough, gritty, aggressive defense; a commitment to running the football. I like it. It's Al Groh's best recipe for success.

One down, four to go.

Indiana, you're next.

GO HOOS!

September 30, 2009

Five.


Something profound dawned on me today: We want our football team to lose, to guarantee Al Groh's swift dismissal at the end of the season. But if we lose TOO MUCH, would it potentially hurt our ability to find a good replacement; to hire the slam dunk head coach to take us back to winning and eventually to the next level?

Let's say we follow the current trajectory and end up at 1-11 or 2-12 this season. Wouldn't that show the world that this program is at ground zero, lacking the basic foundational infrastructure to win, and probably almost completely devoid of talent? It would certainly damage our standing in the unspoken/unseen pecking order of BCS conference teams, taking us down to Duke / Iowa State / Baylor levels of hopelessness.

Now let's say Al Groh rallies the troops to a 5-7 finish. It's bad, he'll still definitely get fired, but we'll still be hanging in there as a potential sleeping giant in the college football world. There would be evidence of upside, and a sense that the floor is still fairly high here at UVA.

The risk is that if we rally too much and get to 6-6 and a bowl game, however unlikely that may be. Would Al Groh get another season? One more year of Al Groh would plunge this program into the dark ages, and I think the administration and BMDs ("big money donors" -- an acronym I'll use a lot on this blog) understand that. But going 6-3 down the stretch would certainly get certain short-sighted fans excited.

So now for the rest of the season I'm officially pulling for the football team to win... five games. No more, no less.

And I'll call my shot. We *should* win the following games: Indiana, @ Maryland (god they're awful), and Duke. I think we'll also beat Boston College here at home. That takes us to four wins, which leaves one more win for the finding. I think it comes either @ UNC this weekend or home against Georgia Tech later this month. (But we better not win both of those games, because that would be six wins.)

This team isn't nearly as bad as they've played to this point, and for everything I dislike about Al Groh right now, he's not that bad of a coach. We'll win some games this season. The key is how many.

Five. That's what we need. No more, no less.

Five.

September 29, 2009

2010 Baseball Schedule Announced!

With football swirling the stinkhole, I find myself daydreaming of February baseball. And now the schedule has been released! Check it out...

Bang it HERE for the press release.

And HERE for the schedule pdf.

If anyone ever wants to go to a game, please let me know. I know Diddy and the Keens will be going to a lot of games with us, and I'm sure Joe and the Rookie will want to catch one or two also.

September 25, 2009

The Cupboard Isn't Bare

This horrific 0-3 start to the season has successfully stripped me of any sort of enthusiasm I had for the 2009 edition of Virginia Football. The fact that Al Groh wasn't handed his walking papers this week (during the bye week) means that he's our coach until at least the end of the season... which is probably the most prudent move UVA could have made, although a solid "he's retiring at the end of the season" statement being released would have eased fan angst and made these next nine games at least potentially enjoyable. Now we're left to worry about whether or not any given win will be the win that saves Groh's job. (Seriously, imagine if we end up winning six of the last nine and going to a shitty bowl game --- can't you see the administration buying into the "whole new offense" excuse and giving ol' Groh one... more... season...?) So 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 will take a backseat to emotion, and I'll pull for the Hoos, but the best thing for the program is continued losing and Al Groh's swift exit stage left.

So I've been doing a lot of dwelling on the negatives and wallowing in misery over these last three weeks. But 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.

A few days ago, on the Hoo's Next message board on Cav's Corner, Jamie Oakes wrote a very simple message: "The cupboard isn't bare for UVA's next head coach." That message was exactly what I needed to snap myself out of my embarrassing loss-induced funk and get the gears of optimism turning again. Jamie is right! The cupboard most certainly IS NOT bare for UVA's next head coach! Consider...

We have a lot of underclassmen starting on this football team, and thus, we'll be returning a lot of starters for the 2010 season --- four on the o-line, all the wide receivers, Torrey Mack, Dominique Wallace, and Perry Jones at tailback, all of the tight ends, Matt Conrath, Kris Jenkins, Steve Greer, Cam Johnson, Corey Mosley, Rodney McLeod (who has been playing GREAT football so far this season), Chase Minnifield, and possibly Ras-I Dowling. We'd be naive to think there won't be some attrition with a coaching change, but this is still a lot of talent returning to the field next season. Given the right breaks, I count eight returning on offense and either five or six on defense. Not bad. And of the guys we're losing to graduation, there isn't a lot of star power. Guys like Chris Cook, Will Barker, and Nate Collins are good players, but far from irreplaceable. In a lot of spots, I think we'll see tangible upgrades with the roster turnover (quarterback!)

Take a look at the projected depth chart for 2010, assuming a switch back to a more traditional two-wide offense and a standard 4-3 defense...

QB) Marc Verica / Riko Smalls / Ross Metheny / Quintin Hunter
The QB battle will be an interesting one to watch unfold for a new coaching staff. We have two traditional pocket passers and two scramblers. All four have legit talent.

HB) Torrey Mack / Dominique Wallace / Perry Jones / Max Milien
Wallace's injury casts his future into doubt, but it's not a terribly serious injury, so a complete bounce-back should be in the works. He could be the bellcow for a power running game, with Mack and Jones providing the curveballs and change of pace.

WR) Jared Green / Javaris Brown / Tim Smith / Kris Burd / Dontrelle Inman / Staton Jobe / Matt Snyder / Kevin Royal / Bobby Smith
It's raw, but there is a lot of talent here. The end of the TCU game and the first half of the Southern Miss game proved this unit's upside. The right coaching, the right system, and the right quarterback could coax it out.

TE) Joe Torchia / Colter Phillips / Paul Freedman
All three of these guys were big-time recruits.

OL) Landon Bradley / Austin Pasztor / Jack Shields / B.J. Cabbell / Billy Cuffee / Anthony Mihota / Oday Aboushi / Matt Mihalik / Lamar Milstead / Aaron Van Kuiken / Luke Bowanko / Hunter Steward
Groh's regime did a great job of recruiting the o-line over the course of the last two seasons. There is a lot of talent left in the program, as this unit only loses the inconsistent play of RT Will Barker.

DE) Matt Conrath / Will Hill / Zane Parr / Justin Renfrow / Jake Snyder / Tory Allen-Ford
I'm not sure that there's a true edge rush terror in this group, but there is solid talent. I'm sure the new coach will move some of the 3-4 OLBs to 4-3 DEs.

DT) Kris Jenkins / Buddy Ruff / Brent Urban / John-Kevin Dolce
The numbers are a bit lean for the switch to a full-time 4-3, but Jenkins and Dolce could really excel given fewer blockers to absorb.

LB) Cam Johnson / Steve Greer / Darnell Carter / Bill Schautz / Terence Fells-Danzer / Aaron Taliaferro / Jared Detrick / Jeremiah Mathis / Tucker Windle / Connor McCartin
It's difficult to say exactly how these positions will shake out (other than Greer at MLB and Cam Johnson at OLB), but moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 leaves this position flooded with warm bodies. The cream will rise.

S) Rodney McLeod / Corey Mosley / Ausar Walcott / Matt Leemhuis / LoVante Battle / Corey Lillard / LaRoy Reynolds
The safety position is absolutely LOADED with returning talent. So much so that McLeod might even be able to move back to cornerback.

CB) Ras-I Dowling? / Chase Minnifield / Dom Joseph / Mike Parker / Devin Wallace / Trey Womack / Javanti Sparrow
If Ras-I's play doesn't improve this season, his option of leaving early for the NFL will go the way of Kevin Ogletree's. I don't count on him returning in '10, but it is a distinct possibility. I'm bullish on Minnifield's ability at the position, and I really like the upside of Joseph and Sparrow. Solid.

K/P) Jimmy Howell / Robert Randolph / Drew Jarrett / Chris Hinkebein
Yep, they're all back.


So yes, there is talent on hand. The cupboard is not empty. And there is a great mix of talent that can allow a new coach to step in and turn this thing around quickly. I think that will attract potential candidates, and I think we could see brighter days ahead.

So that's what I'll be doing during these next nine games -- cheering on our underclassmen, watching the develop on the field, and daydreaming of the 2010 season and the excitement of a fresh start.

Is it sad to be looking ahead to September 2010 in September 2009? You bet your ass it is. But that's where I have to go to find my football happiness right now, so that's where I'll go.

September 17, 2009

I'm hearing that...


I'm hearing that there's a new hot name amongst the *powers-that-be* surrounding the Virginia football program: Charlie Strong, defensive coordinator, Florida. Very interesting...

I'm also hearing that Al Groh won't survive the bye week as UVA's head coach if the team loses in Hattiesburg on Saturday. Southern Miss has been installed as 16-point favorites by Vegas oddsmakers. It will take Groh's greatest Houdini act to find a win this weekend.

I'm also hearing that Gregg Brandon has made some BIG changes to the offense for this game, mostly in an effort to mask major deficiencies along the offensive line. That's the unit, by the way, currently serving as the popular scapegoat for the offensive struggles against W&M and TCU.

Last one: I'm hearing that Tony Bennett's latest recruiting commitment, California big man James Johnson, is destined for stardom in the ACC.

September 16, 2009

If I Were In Charge...

I don't exactly know who has their hand on the rudder of the UVA football program right now. Casteen is on his way out, Littlepage has made it abundantly clear that he has no appetite for the comings and goings of big time college football, the Board of Visitors is deafeningly silent, and the BTDs ("big time donors") are surely huddled together in secret enclaves, gathering money and making plans. But who is out there taking the point? Who is putting together the plan of action to save Virginia Football; to rescue it from the abyss that has become the Al Groh regime?

Lord knows I'm not in charge of much of anything. I have to embark upon a hardcore grassroots political campaign just to decide what to eat for dinner. But If I WERE in charge of the current Virginia Football Predicament, this is what I'd do...

Step #1 -- Announce very publicly that Al Groh is retiring/stepping down at the end of the year. This 2009 season is his last at the helm of the Virginia Football program. This accomplishes three things: 1) The fans can back off the venomous "Groh Must Go" campaign and just focus on supporting the team as best they can, 2) the new coach search committee can assemble and operate without the need for extreme secrecy, and 3) it gives Groh a chance to rally his team around the Alamo for one last heroic stand. Who knows? Maybe the team can pull it together enough to send its coach out with some amount of pride and dignity left intact.

Step #2 -- Submit a public apology for the Scott Stadium reseating plan. It was a terrible idea, poorly timed, and ill conceived. I think a lot of wayward fans would be able to begin their reconciliation after receiving a simple apology. "Hey, we really screwed up on that one. We'll try to do better in the future."

Step #3 -- Find a new head coach. One with the following qualities as baseline MUSTS:
  • The charisma to establish and sell a new brand for Virginia Football.
  • A background on the offensive side of the football.
  • College-based coaching experience of some sort.
  • Proven skill as a talent evaluator and recruiter.
  • The ability to emotionally motivate his players.

We basically need a person who can single-handedly pump instant life into a completely stagnated program. It's a tall order, but I think all Xs and Os can take a back seat to the task of rebuilding Virginia Football as an exciting entity.

I think the new coach has to be an offensive guy. We need to get to the point where we're scoring a lot and playing in shootouts. It's the easiest way to make bad football still be fun for the fans. Once we get the program on the right track again, the athletes (and thus, the defense) will come together.

I don't know. I've just been completely shell-shocked and depressed after the first two games of this season. It baffles me how far we've fallen down the list of relevant football programs. We have to find out way back, and we have to start that climb NOW.

September 8, 2009

The List...

The only thing keeping me off the ledge right now is my potential head coaches list. I hope it can save you like it's saving me...

I encourage you to hunker down and dig up some info on these guys. Try to find a chance to read about their teams or better yet, watch their teams play.

If you have any other names to add to the list, please let me know.


Mike London, Richmond
Ideal in a lot of ways, but he's too aligned with Al Groh for my tastes. I'd like a complete and total clean break from the Groh regime. If you're going to clean the house, then clean the effing house.

Troy Calhoun, Air Force
I really like the idea of this guy. But could we ever pry him away from his "dream job" at the AFA?

Derek Dooley, Louisiana Tech
Hasn't really proven himself yet, but he'll be out of our league once he does.

Todd Graham, Tulsa
He's a spread guy with a nice history of success, but I've got a feeling some of the "big boys" will come calling after this season.

Turner Gill, Buffalo
I think he's just a pipe dream for us. Kind of like basketball coach Anthony Grant.

Skip Holtz, ECU
I'm no fan of the Holtz family, but Skip is getting it done at ECU. (Sort of.) I doubt the administration would like to screw over Terry Holland by stealing his head football coach.

Larry Fedora, Southern Miss
Another disciple of the almighty spread. He's pumping some real life into the USM program right now... (as we'll see when the Golden Eagles beat us down in two weeks.)

Kevin Sumlin, Houston
He's from the Stoops coaching tree, and is doing very good things at Houston.

Randy Edsall, UConn
A Tom Coughlin protege, he's done a solid job at UConn, ushering them into D-1A and into the Big East with some success. Can you label this guy a program builder? Maybe. He wouldn't come cheap, as his current reputation far exceeds his career .492 win percentage at UConn.

Mickey Matthews, JMU
He won that D-1AA national championship and has had good recent success with the Dukes. At this point, you have to think he knows the state pretty well, after 11 seasons at JMU. Can he recruit at the highest level of college football? I have my doubts.

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
He's the perfect fit, and there's a sliver of hope that he'd leave Wake to come home and coach his alma mater. But it's only a sliver. He has too much of a good thing going in Winston-Salem to take on this grease fire in Charlottesville.

Tommy Tuberville, (former) Auburn
Is this even a realistic possibility? I tend to doubt it. But Tuberville (one B, by the way) is a popular pick amongst the message board riff-raff, so I've thrown him onto my list to appease them. I personally think he's holding out for a marquee job and/or marquee cash.

Larry Coker, (former) Miami
I'd almost rather keep Al Groh, but Coker is a guy that Adam Gottschalk named from his "inside sources" last year, so he's on the list.

Steve Logan, (former) ECU
He had a decent run at ECU from '92-'02, and is now kicking around the NFL as a position coach. he wants to return to college coaching, but does he have the chops UVA needs after a .543 career at ECU?

Phil Fulmer, (former) Tennessee
Personally, I think this guy is a scumbag who couldn't coach his way out of a pair of flimsy Chuck-E-Cheez fingercuffs, but like Coker he's a former national championship winner with a splashy name. I'll always be a fan of Virginia Football, but seeing us hire Fulmer would really test my loyalty.

Gary Patterson, TCU
Heard on CavsCorner: "This week's game could be a job interview, according to some donors I know." Grain of salt, grain of salt, grain of salt. But Patterson is a helluva coach.

September 6, 2009

I'm Happy


Now there should be absolutely no confusion; no wiggle room for the Groh apologists. Year nine of his regime, and we lose to William & Mary at home. Time for a change at the top, and there's really no argument to be made against that fact.

Sure, some will say, "let it play out, give him his year to win his 7 or 8 games and save his job." Some will say, "seven turnovers! It wasn't Al Groh out there fumbling the ball and throwing picks!"

No excuses. He built this team, and this loss is squarely on Al Groh. This loss, which is unquestionably the worst Virginia Football loss I've ever seen (and I've seen some really bad ones.)

To me, the worst part was the three quarterbacks looking and playing like they had each received one third of the practice reps in our brand new, completely different offense. If you read between the lines, Gregg Brandon wanted to name his QB early so he could get him ready. Al Groh took that decision out of Brandon's hands and into his own, and his ultimate indecision cost the team.

Yep, there should be no confusion now. We're getting a new head coach. Al Groh will play out the season (it's the "UVA Way"), but he cannot survive this loss.


Time to tune in to Air Force, Richmond, and Louisiana Tech (and Buffalo -- even if Turner Gill is a pipe dream for UVA ) football. Also, peek in on Tulsa. I think Todd Graham might also be a strong candidate.

September 4, 2009

10 Things I Want to See Against W&M


Consider this to be a postscript to the "10 things" list from a couple of days ago. This is a list of things I want to see in the game against William & Mary. Consider this my realistic wish list for the game tomorrow.
#1 -- A blowout victory.
This is William & Mary. This is a D-2... errrr... FBS team. We should annihilate this team. I'm setting my baseline for satisfaction at a three TD margin. If we don't roll the Tribe by 21+ points, I will not be happy.
#2 -- A touchdown pass thrown by Vic Hall.
Honestly, I've been waiting four years for this. I think Vic's first TD toss will be a moment of pure elation for him and for all of the fans that have followed his career and his gross positional mis-slotting by Al Groh.
#3 -- Solid linebacker play.
If this year's defense has a glaring question mark, it's at the linebacker position, which will feature three new starters. Granted, three of the four projected starters are seniors, and should be able to avoid being exposed and deliver good performances against a smaller, slower W&M team. I need to see it before I can fully believe it.
#4 -- No [serious] injuries.
To me, any significant injury along the d-line would be the worst thing for this team coming out of the gates. But it would be great if we can get through this game and into TCU week at more or less full strength. We'll need all hands on deck to win next week.
#5 -- An offense that seems like it has a plan.
I'm not demanding a 450+ yard offensive explosion in the first game with Gregg Brandon's spread attack, but I would really like to see the O deliver the goods and move the ball consistently against the Tribe. I want to see an effective running game (4+ yards per carry), and a passing game that completes 60-65% of its throws.
#6 -- A coach fighting to save his job.
Al Groh is already burning redshirts in an attempt to win as many games as possible this season. I don't typically like seeing redshirts burned, but I do appreciate the fact that Groh is doing whatever he can to save his job. In this game, I want to see the team throw some haymakers. Take some shots downfield in the passing game, blitz like crazy on defense. Try to take command of the contest early, and get the fans pumped up with some explosive plays. Nonchalant Al Groh grind-it-out football will not excite me, nor will it send the correct message to the fanbase.
#7 -- Fans that get angry if we screw around and allow this game to stay close.
We've suffered through enough mediocrity; tolerated enough failure. Now is the time for us to be wooed back into our passion, and it all starts with what we see on the field tomorrow. If #1, #5, and #6 don't happen, I want to see unhappy fans. Nothing could be worse for this program than total fan apathy. If the product isn't there, we need to convey our displeasure in no uncertain terms.
#8 -- Successful placekicking.
Ideally, our kicker (Robert Randolph?) will only be kicking PATs tomorrow, and lots of them. But I'm not naive enough to think we won't see some drives stall in field goal territory. I want to see a competent kicking game putting points on the board reliably.
#9 -- The building of some momentum that could carry over into next week.
If we start slow, that's fine. It's been a long offseason. But I really want to see a fast finish and a killer instinct so the team can build some level of confidence heading into the pivotal TCU game.
#10 -- A team that plays mean.
I want big hits. I want jawing on the field. I want tough blocking and hard running and fighting for extra yards. I want backs who don't go down on first contact and receivers who make tough catches in traffic. I want linebackers battling through blocks, cornerbacks bumping hard at the line, ends attacking the line of scrimmage, safeties lighting up receivers over the middle. I want Dex and Latrell Scott jumping around on the sideline. I want gunners who blow up the wedge and impale the returners. I want to see a team that plays with confidence and walks around with a swagger. I want something to cheer about and a team that I can fully embrace. For too long, Virginia Football has been soft. Tomorrow is the first chance to start changing that perception.
Wow, I actually whipped myself up into a frenzy writing this.