September 30, 2009
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.
September 29, 2009
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
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 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
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
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
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
September 2, 2009
September 1, 2009
Longwood -- Easy win. 1-0, 0-0
@ USF -- I don't have a good feeling about this one, on the road, early in the season. Close loss. 1-1, 0-0
Rider -- Don't listen to Adam Gottschalk. The Broncs are a quality mid-major team. This game will be a battle, but I think the Hoos pull away late. 2-1, 0-0
Oral Roberts -- O-Rob is tough. Brace yourselves for a home loss. 2-2, 0-0
Stanford (in Cancun) -- Yikes. 2-3, 0-0
Kentucky or Cleveland State (in Cancun) -- Double yikes. Kentucky is loaded, and CSU is a bonafide bracketbuster. Another loss. 2-4, 0-0
Penn State -- The Nits have a good team, but I like our chances homestanding after a few losses pile up. Backs against the wall, we represent the ACC and pull out a win. 3-4, 0-0
@ Auburn -- Another tough road game. Auburn is looking pretty good this year. 3-5, 0-0
UNC Wilmington -- Time to get "healthy" against the soft part of the schedule. Win. 4-5, 0-0
NJIT -- Win. By 40+ points. 5-5, 0-0
Hampton -- Win. 6-5, 0-0
UAB -- This is a quality team, but we're surging a little bit at this point. Tough-fought win. 7-5, 0-0
Texas Pan-American -- Easy win. 8-5, 0-0
@ NC State -- Here's where the rubber meets the road. Raleigh isn't the toughest venue in the ACC, and State isn't one of the ACC's better teams. I like the Landesberg/Spurlock show to win the day. 9-5, 1-0
Georgia Tech -- I'm glad we're getting them earlier in the season, but they are loaded with talent this season, especially up front. It'll be our perimeter game vs. their interior game. I tend to favor the bigs, so I'm predicting a loss here. 9-6, 1-1
Miami -- Just a gut feeling on this one. Win. 10-6, 2-1
@ Wake Forest -- Hrmmm. Tough game. Loss. 10-7, 2-2
Virginia Tech -- Ha ha ha, you think I'll ever pick a loss against the turkeys at home? Hell no. 11-7, 3-2
@ North Carolina -- Ahem. 11-8, 3-3
NC State -- I love this game at home. 12-8, 4-3
Wake Forest -- And this one, too. 13-8, 5-3
@ Maryland -- Too much rivalry here to expect a road win. 13-9, 5-4
@ Virginia Tech -- Malcolm Delaney is good. Really good. He guns Tech to the close win in this win. 13-10, 5-5
Florida State -- On the surface, this looks like a ho-hum game. But I think it's actually the most pivotal game of our season. We'll likely need a win here to see the postseason. I think we'll get it done. 14-10, 6-5
@ Clemson -- Toughie. 14-11, 6-6
@ Miami -- Hard to see a win here. 14-12, 6-7
Duke -- Not this year. Not yet. 14-13, 6-8
@ Boston College -- I really don't ever understand how BC is good. But they almost always are. This is a loss. 14-14, 6-9
Maryland -- Here it is, all on the line. Win, and you go to the NIT. Lose, and you need two wins in the ACC tourney to get to the postseason. I think we'll prevail. 15-14, 7-9
15-14, 7-9 looks very unimpressive, but I think as the season unfolds we'll all be excited about what Coach Bennett is building in the JPJA. I can't wait.