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.)


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


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.