April 29, 2010

Re-Visiting the Road Map

Back in October and November, I presented the "Road Map to Relevancy" (Part I / Part II) for the football program. Now that we're ~5 months into the Mike London era, I thought it might be interesting to re-visit the road map.

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

We haven't seen a Mike London coached Virginia team in action, Other than in the open practices, the intra-squad scrimmage at ODU, and the spring "game." But you know what? I'm already prepared to check Step #1 off of the list. I believe with every ounce of my being that Mike London is the right coach for Virginia. He's a fire & brimstone style players coach who is completely at home in the state of Virginia.

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

$99 season tickets for UVA faculty/staff. New uniforms. Assistant coaches allowed to grant interviews. The coaches working the campaign circuit. The ODU scrimmage. All signs are pointing toward the fans being gently coaxed back toward Virginia Football. I'd still like to see cheaper tickets across the board, an apology for the disastrous re-seating by the VAF, and an actual spring GAME, but these things can often be glacial. The bottom line is that I think Coach London "gets it" when it comes to building a fan-friendly football program.

Step #3 -- Schedule cupcakes.

London inherited the Richmond and USC games from Al Groh. Scheduling VMI and Eastern Michigan for the 2010 season suggests that he is interested in snacking on some cupcakes, at least until the team is ready to win some tougher non-conference games. We'll see what kind of schedule he builds for 2011.

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

Offensive coordinator Bobby Lazor specializes in developing QBs, and assistant Mike Faragalli also has experience coaching the passers. London reeled in QB prospects Miles Gooch, Jake McGee, Mike Rocco, and Michael Strauss late in the process for the 2010 recruiting class. He's recruiting several top-notch passers for 2011. It looks like London has pinpointed the right coaches, and is now attempting to flood the QB position with talent. Good.

Step #5 -- Recruit the state.

Late in the game, London added Stephen Lawe (Norfolk), Jake McGee (Richmond), and Mike Rocco (Lynchburg) to the 2010 recruiting class. He's already landed Diamonte Bailey (Richmond), Ross Burbank (Virginia Beach), David Dean (Virginia Beach), and Clifton Richardson (Newport News) for 2011, and is in hot pursuit of many, many more Virginia kids. He's made recruiting the state one of his primary objectives, but it remains unclear if he'll be able to reel in the really big fish. Getting to that point is a process, and loading the roster with Virginia kids is the first step.

Step #6 -- Establish a system.

This is one we won't know until we see the team in action in games that matter. And we really won't know until after a few seasons. But it looks like London and his staff are married to the Power-I and the fast 4-3, so I'd say we're definitely on the right track. These are very Welshian principles.

Step #7 -- Redshirt EVERYONE!

The rubber hits the road this summer. I'm sure a few incoming freshmen will need to play, but I'm hoping to see a majority receive the 'shirt. I'm also hoping to see some mid-career redshirting, to heal some of the scorched earth Groh left behind.

Add it all together... and I'm very, very excited about the trajectory of the program. None of it matters if we don't get the talent and put it in position to succeed, but we're definitely on the right track in pretty much all phases of the rebuilding process.


We're going to tackle Virginia's place in full-blown conference realingnment soon enough. But first, some required reading:

David Teel's Blog -- Conference realignment again?

Tony Barnhart's Blog -- Would the SEC look to the ACC in expansion?

Bob Molinaro -- College football's superconference idea not super for fans

Dennis Dodd -- If conference expansions come true, college athletics will never be the same

Dennis Dodd -- Lucrative Big Ten Network could be driving force for expansion

Dennis Dodd -- Texas' expansion decision will set off big domino effect

Dennis Dodd -- Expansion variables that could spawn conference revolution

Interesting stuff. I worry about Virginia's footing on the shifting tectonic plates. If we're hit with truly seismic conference realignment, will the Hoos have a place in a SUPERCONFERENCE? I think so. I hope so. Because if not, our football and basketball programs could be left to wither and die... or join the Ivy League!

April 27, 2010

Post-Spring Depth Chart

Just released...

20 Tim Smith - 6-0, 180, Soph.
2 Jared Green - 6-2, 180, Jr.

67 Landon Bradley - 6-7, 285, Jr.
79 Sean Cascarano - 6-6, 260, RFr.

63 Austin Pasztor - 6-7, 325, Jr.
75 Isaac Cain - 6-4, 300, Jr.

68 Anthony Mihota - 6-4, 270, Jr.
60 Mike Price - 6-5, 265, So.

65 B.J. Cabbell - 6-6, 310, Sr.
70 Luke Bowanko - 6-6, 280, RFr.

72 Oday Aboushi - 6-6, 310, So.
76 Hunter Steward - 6-7, 310, RFr.

83 Joe Torchia - 6-6, 250, Sr.
89 Colter Phillips - 6-6, 245, So.

6 Marc Verica - 6-3, 215, Sr.
13 Ross Metheny - 6-2, 195, RFr. OR 10 Michael Strauss - 6-2, 205, Fr.

33 Perry Jones - 5-8, 185, So.
22 Keith Payne - 6-3, 255, Sr.

34 Terence Fells-Danzer - 6-1, 240, Jr.
36 Max Milien - 6-0, 210, Jr.

18 Kris Burd - 5-11, 195, Jr.
81 Dontrelle Inman - 6-3, 190, Sr.


92 Zane Parr - 6-6, 275, Jr.
90 Jake Snyder - 6-4, 255, RFr. OR 47 Bill Schautz - 6-4, 245, So.

94 Matt Conrath - 6-7, 270, Jr.
59 John-Kevin Dolce - 6-2, 250, Sr.

96 Nick Jenkins - 6-3, 280, Jr.
93 Will Hill - 6-4, 255, So.

56 Cam Johnson - 6-4, 260, Jr.
58 Jeremiah Mathis - 6-3, 245, RFr.

LB (strong-side)
26 LaRoy Reynolds - 6-2, 215, So.
39 Tucker Windle - 6-3, 225, So.
37 LoVante Battle - 5-10, 195, So.

LB (middle)
52 Aaron Taliaferro - 6-2, 225, Jr. OR 53 Steve Greer - 6-2, 230, So.
51 Connor McCartin - 6-3, 210, So.

LB (weak-side)
55 Jared Detrick - 6-1, 240, Sr. OR 30 Ausar Walcott, 6-4, 220, So.

19 Ras-I Dowling - 6-2, 205, Sr.
16 Javanti Sparrow - 6-0, 185, So.

7 Corey Mosley - 5-10, 205, Jr.
23 Dom Joseph - 6-1, 195, Jr. OR 29 Corey Lillard - 5-11, 195, So.

4 Rodney McLeod - 5-10, 185, Jr.
1 Trey Womack - 5-11, 190, Sr.

13 Chase Minnifield - 6-0, 185, Jr. OR 42 Devin Wallace - 5-11, 205, So.

A few thoughts:

1) Are Metheny and Strauss really in a dead heat as the #2 QB behind Verica? I have to think that doesn't bode all that well for Metheny.

2) I love seeing Perry Jones atop the depth chart at tailback. I think he'll cede that spot to Dominique Wallace after summer practice, but PJ is a weapon we will surely see on the field this fall.

3) I'm feeling pretty good about Tim Smith / Kris Burd as our starting WRs.

4) LaRoy Reynolds a starting linebacker? Wow.

April 21, 2010

2nd Round...

Virginia's Chris Cook should hear his name called at some point on Friday night. Is he a 2nd rounder? I think he is...

With no real introduction, let’s just slam right into Part II of the First Annual Wahooze Mock Draft!


Pick #33, St. Louis Rams – Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
I’ll be shocked if this pick isn’t traded to some team desperate to move up for Jimmy Clausen. But we’re not plotting trades in this mock, so the Rams stay put and attempt to address their glaring need for a #1-type receiver for Bradford to throw to. I’m not sure if Golden Tate is a legit go-to receiver, but his talent certainly helps to lift the Rams at this position.

#34, Detroit Lions – Rodger Saffold, OT, Indiana
Opting to forego their sucking need for o-line help in order to draft Suh in the first round, the Lions now need to circle back and find a tackle. Saffold has first-round talent but not first-round name recognition or hype. I think Detroit would be very happy with this pick in the long haul, as Saffold has better raw tools than any of the first round tackles.

#35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ricky Sapp, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Bucs need a speed rusher to pair with McCoy to rebuild the d-line. Sapp fits the bill, and instantly becomes the team’s best pass rusher the second his name is called by the commissioner.

#36, Kansas City Chiefs – Charles Brown, OT, USC
He’s a ho-hum, middling member of this loaded offensive tackle draft class, but he fits the Chiefs’ primary need at this point and brings pretty impressive ability to the table.

#37, Philadelphia Eagles – Nate Allen, S, South Florida
Now with Robinson and Allen (a very solid free safety prospect) in tow, the Eagles secondary appears to be officially rebuilt.

#38, Cleveland Browns – Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
No way he slides this far, but if he does, Browns fans rejoice. (Or do they? I seem to remember another “NFL-ready” Notre Dame quarterback failing in Cleveland. And pretty recently, too.)

#39, Oakland Raiders – Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Wouldn’t this just be the ultimate irony? I really can’t avoid this projection, try as I might. It’s just too perfectly imperfect. It’s crazy. Al Davis crazy. I have goosebumps just thinking about the potential of this happening. Everyone knows JaMarcus Russell is a bust with a capital B, so on some level it makes sense that the Raiders would make this pick. Tim Tebow in the Black Hole... I just love it.

#40, San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech
They made the luxury pick of Demaryius Thomas at #28 knowing that they’d have some nice options to fill their RB need here at #40. Dwyer is the second best bellcow-type runner in this draft, behind Mathews.

#41, Buffalo Bills – Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
I really love how and where the QBs are falling in this mock draft. Trent Williams / Colt McCoy is just about the best possible scenario for the Bills with their first two picks. For the record, McCoy is my favorite QB in this draft. I think he has Brees-esque tools.

#42, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
Perhaps a bit redundant with the Ricky Sapp selection seven picks earlier, you must keep in mind that the Bucs really need help at the defensive end position. Sapp is a small, fast edge rush type and Dunlap is a big, athletic power rusher, so the two are really complementary, and should work well in tandem.

#43, Denver Broncos – Damian Williams, WR, USC
A slick, polished receiver with solid #2 potential, Williams doesn’t completely fill the massive void left by Brandon Marshall, but he’s a very good start. This is the type of receiver that ends up being a rock-solid player and citizen that other teams end up coveting while they try to wrangle their own divas at the position.

#44, New England Patriots – Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
Da Gronk should be a nice fit with Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. He’s not flashy, but he’s effective and complete. If it weren't for the back injury he suffered last season, Gronk would have been a first round lock. He's eerily similar to Heath Miller.

#45, Denver Broncos – Thaddeus Gibson, OLB, Ohio State
A major coup for the Broncos here. Gibson is just a hair behind Graham, Kindle, and Sapp in the explosive 3-4 edge rusher pecking order.

#46, New York Giants – Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
The Giants backfield is a bit of a muddled mess, but Gerhart’s hard running and high energy level should play well in the NFC East. Gerhart is the grinder that the team always hoped Brandon Jacobs would become.

#47, New England Patriots – Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern
Wootton is a nice plug&play option for the Pats, who have a big need at defensive end.

#48, Carolina Panthers – Everson Griffen, DE, USC
Welcome to the party, Panthers. Griffen is immensely talented, but constantly needs a fire lit under his ass. In other words, the perfect player to replace Julius Peppers.

#49, San Francisco 49ers – Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama
The Niners roll the dice on the immense girth of Mount Cody to fill their need at nose tackle. Cody is a truly galvanizing player in this draft. Some see his clear first round potential, while others can't get past his ballooning weight issues. In the end, I think the film of last season and especially 2008 sells some team in the second round. The Niners need a nose tackle, so here it fits.

#50, Kansas City Chiefs – Brian Price, DT, UCLA
In a draft this loaded with talent, you will see some surprising slides. Here, the Chiefs gladly reap the rewards of one such slide. Worthy of a first round pick, Price is a very good player, as a penetrating-type one gap tackle who makes tons of plays in opposing backfields.

#51, Houston Texans – Tyson Aluala, DT, California
Aluala is another fast-riser in this year’s draft. Teams covet his versatility, non-stop motor, and high character. He fits with the Texans as an instant-impact part of the Amobi Okoye/Shaun Cody DT rotation.

#52, Pittsburgh Steelers – Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
The Steelers have to do something about their cornerback position. Jackson has elite physical skills, and just needs refinement. Great pick for Pittsburgh here.

#53, New England Patriots – Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU
The Patriots are getting old at the wide receiver position. LaFell gives them a contingency plan for when Randy Moss walks as a free agent after the 2010 season.

#54, Cincinnati Bengals – Chris Cook, CB/S, Virginia
This pick kills two birds with one stone for the Bengals, who need a rangy ceterfielder type of safety and also a solid developmental #3 corner and nickelback. Cook’s ultimate position in the pros is undecided, but Cincy can use him either way. Projecting him to the NFL, I think Chris Cook has an awful lot of Rod Woodson in his game.

#55, Philadelphia Eagles – Linval Joseph, DT, ECU
Joseph is an incredible athlete at 330 pounds. His meteoric late rise up draft boards culminates with being picked in the second round by the Eagles, who can use reinforcements all along their d-line.

#56, Green Bay Packers – Vladimir Ducasse, OT/G, UMass
Ducasse is a massive but raw o-line prospect. He’s a nice fit for the Packers, who can grant him the luxury of learning behind Chad Clifton and/or Mark Tauscher for a year or maybe two.

#57, Baltimore Ravens – Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida
The Ravens need an heir apparent to Todd Heap, and Hernandez fits the bill. He’s a great receiving tight end with the potential to really improve quickly as a blocker.

#58, Arizona Cardinals – Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State
BPA for the Cards. Cox should quickly become a good starter, giving the team numerous options in the secondary.

#59, Dallas Cowboys – Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas
The Cowboys will likely flex Houston out to end. He’s a squat, bowling ball type of lineman who is very good against the run.

#60, Seattle Seahawks – Jahvid Best, RB, California
Pete Carroll is on record saying the Seahawks will be looking for a workhorse-style power back. Best isn’t that. He’s a 10-12 carry per game big play weapon ala Reggie Bush. The ‘Hawks can wait on the power back, and enjoy the idea of having the explosive Best in their rebuilding backfield.

#61, New York Jets – Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech
Burnett fills a big need at safety for the Jets. He’s a bit of a work in progress, but has all of the measurables to emerge as a quality starter in time.

#62, Minnesota Vikings – Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB, Indiana (PA)
This small school stud has Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie type potential at a position of immediate need for the Vikes. AOA is also a top-notch return man.

#63, Indianapolis Colts – Daryl Washington, LB, TCU
Washington, a smallish, athletic, attacking-style linebacker, is an excellent fit with the fleet-footed Indy defense.

#64, New Orleans Saints – John Jerry, G/T, Ole Miss
The Saints fortify their o-line with this talented swing man. Jerry has the potential to fill any of three spots along the line – LG, RG, or RT.

April 20, 2010

First Annual Wahooze NFL Mock Draft -- Round 1

You already know I’m a uniform dork and a recruiting nerd, so it should come as no shock to you that I’m also a huge, pimply, sniveling, coke bottle glasses-wearing, pocket-protected NFL draft geek.

With the draft set to launch in prime time this Thursday night, I thought it would be fun to unleash my little mock draft upon the unsuspecting denizens of Wahooze Nation.

I’ve tried to keep the explanations brief, and have avoided simulating any trades, as I think that just muddles the effort. Enjoy.

(Special thanks to my friends Nathan and Paul for their input into this mock draft. Thanks guys! It is hotly appreciated!)

Pick #1, St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Despite the rumors of the Browns trading up, this pick has been locked in for weeks. The Rams are finally going to land their franchise QB. I have my doubts about Bradford as the face of a franchise, but he does throw a pretty, accurate ball.

#2, Detroit Lions – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
The Lions probably need a left tackle a bit more than a DT, but Suh – the best player in the draft – is too hard to pass up. With the quality o-line depth in this draft, the Lions can afford to wait at that position.

#3, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Another pick that has been telegraphed for weeks. Apparently, the Bucs think McCoy is Warren Sapp v 2.0, and it's hard to find any negative pub about the guy.

#4, Washington Redskins – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
The Skins must rebuild the o-line in order to protect their investment in Donovan McNabb. Okung is the best tackle in a draft class loaded at the position.

#5, Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
The Chiefs need o-line help, but the game-changing playmaking ability of Berry is impossible to refuse here. Making this pick is especially delightful for the Chiefs, knowing how many teams covet Berry.

#6, Seattle Seahawks – Brian Bulaga, OT, Iowa
The Seahawks desperately need to replace Walter Jones. Bulaga is another in a long, distinguished line of NFL-ready Iowa linemen developed under Kirk Ferentz. Bulaga has been slipping a little bit on draft boards late in the pre-draft process due to his short(ish) arms and perceived weakness against NFL-ready pass rushing talent (Brandon Graham), but he's still a top-of-the-draft type of talent.

#7, Cleveland Browns – Earl Thomas, S, Texas
The Browns will mourn the Chiefs’ pick of Berry at #5, but Thomas is a very nice consolation prize, and is probably more of a true safety.

#8, Oakland Raiders – Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
This pick is a bit of a shocker, but it makes a lot of sense for four main reasons: 1) Al Davis never cares about off-field baggage, 2) Bryant’s size is a perfect complement to Darrius Heyward-Bey’s speed, 3) Bryant is probably the draft’s most purely talented receiver since Calvin Johnson, and Davis loves talent, and 4) drafting Bryant here potentially screws the hated Broncos three picks later... and Al Davis loves that!

#9, Buffalo Bills – Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
I think the Bills will wait to fill their gaping hole at QB. Jimmy Clausen is just too risky, and Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow lurk later in the draft. The Bills will have options at that position in this draft, and they know it. Trent Williams is a physical stud and fills another huge hole for this team, one that won't be so easy to fill later.

#10, Jacksonville Jaguars – Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
The Jags need to improve their pass rush, but they have recently been burned by drafting defensive ends early. McClain is a superstar, and fills another big need for this team, both as a starting MLB and as a defensive leader.

#11, Denver Broncos – Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
With Bryant and McClain off the board, the Broncos have to scramble a bit. They could consider Maurkice Pouncey or entertain offers to trade down. If they're stuck making the pick, the massive (6-2, 330) Williams makes sense. He provides a great anchor at nose tackle for a team building a bonafide 3-4 D.

#12, Miami Dolphins – C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
Here’s a bit of a first round surprise. The Dolphins opt to go “best player available” (BPA) and choose the explosive Spiller. With questions lingering around Ronnie Brown’s health and Ricky Williams' advancing age, the pick makes some sense.

#13, San Francisco 49ers – Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
This pick fills a big hole at right tackle for the Niners. Davis is a great player, but projects more to right tackle in the pros, which is why he slips out of the top ten.

#14, Seattle Seahawks – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
After replacing Walter Jones with Bulaga at #6, the Seahawks effectively replace Patrick Kerney with Morgan here.

#15, New York Giants – Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
This is a nice marriage of need and value for the G-Men. Odrick is a bit of a milquetoast pick, but he's a versatile player. You know that the Giants value d-line talent, and will always look to actively restock when the time comes.

#16, Tennessee Titans – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
JPP is raw, but he is extremely dynamic and explosive. With this pick, the Titans begin repairing their once-dominant pass rush.

#17, San Francisco 49ers – Joe Haden, CB, Florida
It’s a gift from the heavens for the Niners. No way should Haden slide this far… but he does… and they pounce.

#18, Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
An obvious choice for the Steelers. Iupati is a powerful, dominant run blocker who excels on the pull.

#19, Atlanta Falcons – Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan
Graham adds a nice piece to the pass rush puzzle for an improving Falcons defense. His draft stock is soaring right now, and might not last 'til pick #19 as teams could aggressively look to trade up to get him.

#20, Houston Texans – Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
The most complete workhorse-type back in the draft, the Texans improve their offense and defense by upgrading their running game.

#21, Cincinnati Bengals – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
The Bengals opt for Gresham over the unrefined, potentially positionless Taylor Mays at this pick. This pick puts pressure on the team to [finally] integrate the tight end into the offense and help take pressure off of Carson Palmer.

#22, New England Patriots – Sergio Kindle, OLB/DE, Texas
The Pats manage to upgrade their flagging pass rush with the last elite-level edge rusher in this draft. Kindle is like the Brandon Graham consolation prize.

#23, Green Bay Packers – Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
The Pack has a need at cornerback, with their starters in advanced ages. The team is reportedly in love with McCourty, even if the pick is a slight reach at this spot. (Patrick Robinson and Kyle Wilson are ranked ahead of McCourty, but stubborn ol' Ted Thompson doesn't always follow conventional wisdom.)

#24, Philadelphia Eagles – Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State
The run on corners begins in earnest, as the Eagles move to replace the departed Sheldon Brown.

#25, Baltimore Ravens – Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington are both coming off knee surgery, and Wilson is a well-rounded, tough, Ravens-type defensive player. It all fits.

#26, Arizona Cardinals – Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
BPA for the Cardinals, but Weatherspoon also fills a bit of a need as the team attempts to fill the hole left by Karlos Dansby.

#27, Dallas Cowboys – Taylor Mays, S, USC
Mays might be a project, but Jerry Jones will never shy away from his type of talent, especially at a position of need.

#28, San Diego Chargers – Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
The Chargers prepare for life without Vincent Jackson (a free agent in ’11) by drafting his clone. Thomas is another hulking receiver with great deep speed. (The Bolts will be hoping that Ryan Mathews falls to #28, but if he doesn't, they'll wait until later to find their power back to complement Darren Sproles. No use making a massive reach here.)

#29, New York Jets – Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
After acquiring Santonio Holmes, this might look like an unnecessary flood at the WR position for the Jets. But Holmes and Braylon Edwards are only signed through 2010, and the team could be looking for a more long-term solution and a high-upside receiver to pair with Mark Sanchez.

#30, Minnesota Vikings – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
Many mocks you’ll see will have Jimmy Clausen here, but I don’t buy it. This team is on the precipice of a championship… no way they sink this first round pick into anything other than a player who can contribute early. Pouncey has the goods to step right in at any of the three interior line spots.

#31, Indianapolis Colts – Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
The Colts are trying to get bigger and stronger (and younger) along the o-line. Campbell is big and strong.

#32, New Orleans Saints – Jerry Hughes, LB/DE, TCU
The Saints need to add a bit more juice to the pass rush, and Hughes is a versatile player who can give them a lift in that department.

If the first round of the draft plays out this way, you can expect plenty of offers to head to St. Louis as QB-needy teams attempt to trade up in order to land Jimmy Clausen. Then again, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow are still lurking on the board, too.

Part II (2nd and 3rd round) coming soon!

April 15, 2010

Spring Football Cliffs Notes

There have been a million stories in the news outlets about UVA's first spring football practice gauntlet under Mike London. I'm not trying to re-hash any of those numerous human interest pieces. Instead, I just want to provide a quick-hitting summary of the knowledge I'm taking away from this spring's work at the McCue Center and on the practice fields.

(For my observations on the spring game, roll the wheel on your mouse.)

-- Under London and [Offensive Coordinator] Bobby Lazor, Virginia will be running a Power-I formation on offense. Welcome back to the offense, tight ends and fullbacks!

-- With a foundation built on the power running game, the play action passing game should open up nicely.

-- The tight ends and fullbacks will be heavily involved in the passing game.

-- Barring unforeseen disaster, you'll be seeing Marc Verica's #6 jersey behind center in the season opening game against Richmond. (But Ross Metheny could push him hard later in the season if Verica struggles and/or the team isn't winning. Metheny will be the most popular player on the team amongst fans... as the #2 QB.)

-- On defense, ends have shifted to tackle, outside linebackers have shifted to end, safeties have shifted to outside linebacker, and cornerbacks have shifted to safety. The goal? Get faster on defense. London and [Defensive Coordinator] Jim Reid are trying to build a fast, aggressive, attacking defense. The scheme is simplified, and read & react situations will be minimized. I'm certain we'll be seeing plenty of blitzing out of Mike London's 4-3.

-- Many players on the roster will be capable of generating pressure on the opposing QB. Cam Johnson, Zane Parr, Matt Conrath, Bill Schautz, Justin Renfrow, and Will Hill should all be productive in the pass rush. (And this doesn't even include the linebackers and defensive backs who will be coming in on the blitz.)

-- Get ready for a new batch of stars. My short list for "breakthrough performers" of the 2010 season include Tim Smith at WR, Dominique Wallace and Perry Jones at RB, Terence Fells-Danzer at FB, Joe Torchia and Paul Freedman at TE, Oday Aboushi and Anthony Mihota on the o-line, Cam Johnson, Bill Schautz, Zane Parr, and Justin Renfrow at DE, Jared Detrick at LB, Dom Joseph at safety, and Chase Minnifield at CB.

-- Be confident in the secondary, defensive line, running backs, wide receivers, and punting as we head into training camp. Be nervous about the linebackers, quarterbacking, and kicking.

-- Many spots on the depth chart have been settled during spring ball. The battles for starting spots that will linger into the summer include: left tackle -- Landon Bradley vs. Hunter Steward, #2 wide receiver -- Kris Burd vs. Dontrelle Inman, weakside linebacker -- Ausar Walcott vs. LaRoy Reynolds, free safety -- Corey Mosley vs. Dom Joseph, kicker -- Robert Randolph vs. Drew Jarrett vs. Chris Hinkebein.

-- If you want to try to project wins and losses at this early stage, follow this guideline: probable wins -- Richmond, VMI, Eastern Michigan; possible wins -- @ Duke, Maryland, @ Boston College; longshot wins -- Florida State, North Carolina; near-certain losses -- @ USC, @ Georgia Tech, Miami, @ Virginia Tech. Be happy if this team gets to five wins.

-- Watch the o-line closely. If it comes together, gels, and plays at a high level, we could be a pretty decent team by season's end. I think o-line play is this season's x-factor.

-- 55% of Virginia Tech fans fear Mike London on the recruiting trail.

April 11, 2010

Spring "Game" Notes

It was a gorgeous spring afternoon in CVille yesterday, and the football program made it's annual right of passage with it's "Spring Football Festival." I attended the festivities, and took a few notes I'd like to share with you, in no particular order...

-- First, let's talk about format. This has been a long time gripe of mine: we never play a straight-up scrimmage. Until we do, we'll never draw 10,000+ fans. People want to see a game, or at least a reasonable facsimile of a game. All of this oddly-scored offense vs. defense / situational drills stuff is for the die-hard Virginia Football dorks, only. If we want a big crowd of enthusiastic fans, split the team into two squads, kick the ball off, and play a scrimmage!

-- Perry Jones. Perry Jones. Perry Jones. The other running backs looked decent, but Perry Jones really caught my eye. His cuts were decisive and at top speed, and he really flashed some breakaway ability. He looked explosive and dynamic. Very impressive.

-- Marc Verica still looks like Marc Verica. Capable of throwing the prettiest pass you'll ever see, and then making a bad read and throwing a wounded duck directly to the free safety in the very next play. Despite his obvious warts, I think he's still our starting QB. (Ross Metheny and Michael Strauss showed off a couple of very good arms, but they still look like exactly what they are --- freshman quarterbacks. They had trouble reading our vanilla spring game defense; the same D they've been practicing against for the last three weeks, minus any overly tricky blitzes.)

-- WR Dontrelle Inman looks rock solid, and ready to deliver the goods in his senior season. He and Verica hooked up on a nice 25-yard cross early in the "game."

-- Back to Marc Verica for a second... His ability to throw a nice deep pass has always been underrated. I expect to see us take some shots downfield this season to take advantage of this, especially out of play action.

-- We've been hearing all spring about how Tim Smith has emerged as our best wide receiver. Mike London has been quoted as saying that Smith is "like a blur." Yesterday, Smith ran a handful of post routes, and it's true, the guy can really burn.

-- Cam Johnson at defensive end is a natural and obvious position switch. I think he'll emerge as our 2nd-best defensive player this season, behind Ras-I Dowling. Cam was putting constant pressure on the QBs yesterday, until he rolled his ankle and left the game. I predict double-digit sacks for him this season, if he stays healthy and on the field.

-- Another DE that really caught my eye is Bill Schautz (who just about a week ago moved from OLB.) Schautz was in the backfield on almost every passing play, and would have been credited with a pair of sacks, if such things existed in this wacky spring "game" format.

-- Keith Payne looked slow to me. Like running in quicksand slow.

-- Ross Metheny looked quick. He ripped off a 20-yard scramble at one point, as protection broke down.

-- He might not see the field much this season due to the logjam of players at the position, but redshirt freshman wide receiver Bobby Smith looked like a BEAST. He's huge (listed as 6-5, 205) and strong. I'm not sure how fast he is, but at one point he had back-to-back receptions, one in which he tore away from a tackler and another in which he deilvered a wicked stiff-arm in order to generate some serious RAC yards. He might be a candidate to move to tight end / H-back at some point in his career, but right now he's looking like a monster of a possession receiver. The WR pecking order appears to be Tim Smith, Inman, and then Kris Burd... my money is on Bobby Smith to make a strong bid to be that #4 receiver in 2010.

-- I left the spring game feeling pretty good about our defensive line. In addition to Cam Johnson and Bill Schautz, Zane Parr also had a good day. He was active and aggressive whenever he was in the game. Justin Renfrow was credited with two "sacks." Nice day for the d-line.

-- For those of you who haven't been following the spring practice updates, one of the bigger position switches was moving Terence Fells-Danzer from linebacker to fullback, to help spackle a woeful lack of depth at that position. There's been a lot of hype about TFD quickly taking to his new position this spring. I saw it with my own two eyes yesterday --- the guy looks like an adequate lead blocker, but he was fast in the open field and showed off some sure hands when it came to catching the ball out in the flats. A 24-yard screen pass on 3rd and 19 proved it yesterday. I won't be surprised if TFD emerges as an offenive weapon at fullback for us this season. Look out for that fullback screen, ala the heyday of Jason Snelling.

-- Ross Metheny probably outplayed Marc Verica in the latter stages of the afternoon's festivities. He threw a nice pass 27-yard pass to WR Quentin Hunter and later tossed a beautiful TD pass to walk-on WR Ray Keys.

-- At one point, Michael Straus got into the hot passing action and threw a beautiful 25-yard touchdown strike to walk-on TE Kyle McCartin.

-- Our kickers were pretty bad yesterday. Jimmy Howell's punting was great, but the field goal kicks were not good, from all three kickers.

-- Kris Burd has some great hands. He showed flashes last year, but this year I think he's ready to settle in as a solid starter. He's not the biggest receiver and he's not the fastest receiver, but he might be the most dependable because he just tends to catch everything near him.

-- Ras-I Dowling is a stud. No ifs ands or buts about it. Stud.

-- Chase Minnifield isn't a slouch, either. Our cornerback position is definitely our strongest position heading into this season.

-- At this point, it's pretty clear. The Virginia Defense >>> The Virginia Offense

That's all I've got. I wish I had spent more time watching the o-line, linebackers, and safeties, but there was really only about 45 minutes of meaningful action to digest, and my eyes are glued to the QBs, receivers, and Perry Jones.

At this point, here's my [educated] guess on who will start against Richmond on September 4th:

QB) Mark Verica, Sr.
RB) Perry Jones, So. / Dominique Wallace, RS Fr.
FB) Terence Fells-Danzer, Jr.
TE) Joe Torchia, Sr.
WR) Tim Smith, So.
WR) Kris Burd, Jr.
LT) Landon Bradley, Jr.
LG) Austin Pasztor, Jr.
C) Anthony Mihota, Jr.
RG) B.J. Cabbell, Sr.
RT) Oday Aboushi, So.

RDE) Cam Johnson, Jr.
DT) Nick Jenkins, Jr.
DT) Matt Conrath, Jr.
LDE) Zane Parr, Jr.
WLB) Ausar Walcott, So.
MLB) Steve Greer, So.
SLB) Jared Detrick, Jr.
FS) Corey Mosley, Jr.
SS) Rodney McLeod, Jr.
CB) Ras-I Dowling, Sr.
CB) Chase Minnifield, Jr.

K) Robert Randolph, Jr.
P) Jimmy Howell, Jr.

If it shakes out like this and we suffer no attrition (however unlikely that may be), we'd have eight starters returning on offense and ten starters returning on defense for the 2011 season. That could set us up for a very good year. Patience, Hoo fans.

And who knows... maybe the 2011 spring game will actually be a GAME.

April 10, 2010

Pre-Pre-Preseason ACC Hoops Power Rankings

From Andrew Skwara, from the ACC Sports Journal:

Pre-Pre-Preseason ACC Hoops Power Rankings

Like I said, I'm stuck on basketball. I'm just finding this ongoing transition from Leitao to Bennett to be... so... damn... interesting...

Anyway, on the topic of the overall state of the ACC ----- I actually think the conference will be stronger next season, from top to bottom. Duke, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Wake Forest will all most certainly take at least a small step back from their 2009-10 performances. But Virginia Tech, Florida State, North Carolina, NC State, Boston College should all be markedly improved.

I think Skwara took a good stab at it in his article for the ACC Sports Journal. Here's my attempt at a pre-pre-preseason power ranking:

1) Duke. They just cakewalked to the national championship, but I think they'll be even better in 2010-11. Singler should be back, and Nolan Smith is the team's perimeter star. The Plumlees should take the next step with more playing time, and as usual, the recruiting class is amazingly talented.

2) Virginia Tech. No way Delaney goes to the NBA; he's just testing the waters right now. Besides, I don't even think he's the Hokies' best player. That distinction is reserved for Dorenzo Hudson. Allan Chaney should be a very important x-factor for this team.

3) North Carolina. I really like what I saw from John Henson during the Tarholes' NIT run. He should emerge as a bonafide star next season. Barnes, Bullock, and especially Kendall Marshall will bolster UNC's weaknesses in the backcourt.

4) Boston College. All five [rock solid] starters return, and a new coach should add that extra twist to make BC tougher to deal with.

5) NC State. I'm not sure Sidney Lowe has the coaching chops to get State out of the cellar, but Tracy Smith and an improved backcourt can cure a lot of ills.

6) Florida State. I think they'll lose Solomon Alabi, and he's an impossible talent to replace. Their defense will still be good enough to buoy them in the top half of the league.

7) Miami. I love the combination of Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant in the backcourt, with DeQuan Jones on the wing. They'll need to find some bigs if they want to challenge for the NCAA Tournament.

8) Clemson. They need a coach and someone to replace Trevor Booker. Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant form at least a decent nucleus to build around.

9) Maryland. They lost A LOT, but I think Jordan Williams is ready to emerge as a star, and Sean Mosley can provide a steadying influence on a young team. They'll be competitive.

10) Virginia. Yeah, I'm a homer. But at the very root of my being I truly believe that Harrell+Harris+Baron+Johnson+Regan > Landesberg+Meyinsse+Jones+Baker+Spurlock. Year two of the Tony Bennett era should give us a team that has embraced and become efficient at running the pack line defense, and that alone will be good enough to steal a few wins. I also believe in Sammy Zeglinski and Mike Scott stepping forward as key players.

11) Georgia Tech. When enigmatic Iman Shumpert and Mfon Udofia form the nuclues of your returnees, you're in trouble. Paul Hewitt's coaching alone guarantees a few extra losses.

12) Wake Forest. Next year is setting up to be an unmitigated disaster for the Deacs.

April 9, 2010

New Uni Video

Click this!

New Uni Update

A better picture, from virginiasports.com. Visit that website and thesabre.com for lots and lots of new pictures, to be posted soon, I'm sure.

New Unis!

Crappy cell phone pictures, but you get the idea:

Just back from U-Hall...

I think the uniforms look great. Nothing drastic changed, except to maybe clean up the whole look and add in the orange jersey and pants for the mix & match options ala Oregon.

The so-called "goat horns" are gone and the blue on the helmet has a metallic sheen, so I think we can safely say we're back to having the best helmets in college football.

These uniforms, although very modern in technology, are clearly designed to have a simple, old school feel to them from the visual standpoint. The color combinations have both 80's and 90's looks, especially when throwing the black cleats and low white socks. The pants do have more detail with the striping on the side and back, the hip logo, and the "Wahoos," "Virginia," and/or "Hoos," on the back (depending on pant color.)

I think these unis look very sleek, but are still obviously classic UVA uniforms. Maybe a little bit like Boise State with the possibility of the blue/orange combos and like Florida with the orange/white.

I love the contrasting borders around the numbers.

Overall, I was expecting a bigger splash ("Oregon of the East," these unis are not), but I'm very happy with the results. They aren't gaudy.

Big Ten Expansion... to Include Virginia?!?

It sounds crazy, I know. But Scott Wilson from Bleacher Report makes a pretty compelling argument.

I honestly hate the idea of seeing us leave the ACC. But if Duke and Carolina bail out, I do think we should follow them. Besides, the ACC treats us like second class citizens, especially in terms of scheduling and officiating. The ACC expansion to include Miami, BC, and Virginia Tech has been an unmitigated disaster -- the football championship game has fallen flat, the creation of an unbalanced basketball schedule has tainted that once-elite product, and now the conference is struggling to find even a decent television contract. (Ready for ESPN2 Wednesday night football, ACC fans?)

The Big Ten, meanwhile, provides the holy grail of television revenue: its own dedicated network. The football is at least as strong as the ACC's (and I would argue better, once Michigan returns to its rightful level of strength as a program, and especially if Notre Dame joins the conference), and the basketball played by Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois more than replaces what we'd be leaving behind in NC State, Wake Forest, GT, BC, VT, Miami, Florida State, and Clemson.

Virginia would be hailed as one of the gems of expansion as the Big Ten becomes the Big Sixteen.

So while I hate the idea of leaving the ACC, I must admit that the lure of the Big Sixteen is pretty strong right now.

Major "seismic" conference realignments seem to be coming this decade, and I hope we end up in a position of strength once the quakes die down.

Big 16 West:
Notre Dame

Big 16 East:
Michigan State
North Carolina
Ohio State
Penn State

April 8, 2010

A 96-Team Tournament? Bring It On!

It's sounding more and more like tournament expansion is about to become a reality, as soon as next year. While the talking heads are boo-hooing the expansion, I couldn't be more excited. Like I've said before, I guess I'm just not sophisticated enough to understand how more of a good thing isn't just more of a good thing.

Sure, tourney expansion is a shameless money-grab by the NCAA. But who cares? They've built the single best sporting event, so why shouldn't they cash in on it? The increased windfall trickles down to the schools that play under the NCAA banner, which includes UVA. An expanded field gives UVA a better chance to make the tournament in any given year. So even when peering through the orange and blue lens, I love the idea of a 96-team tournament!

One last point: If you thought the concept of a 16-seed beating a 1-seed was exciting, wait until a 17-seed beats a 1! Or until a 24-seed beats a 9! Et cetera. Again, how can more of a good thing not just be more of a good thing???

Here are some pieces from some of those talking heads and keyboard warriors. With this year's wacky, wild, wonderful brackets still dancing in your head, I encourage you to read while the iron is still hot. Understand their points, but dare to keep things simple for yourself and just be a fan.

CBS's Gary Parrish, Gregg Doyel, and Mike Freeman have mixed feelings on tournament expansion.

ESPN's Dana O'Neil thinks that greed-driven tournament expansion will taint the tournament experience.

ESPN's Mark Kreidler thinks the answer is not a bigger tournament, but better teams. He suggests following baseball's lead in this endeavor.

SI's George Dorman offers four solid reasons why tournament expansion would be horrible.

SI's Alexander Wolff unveils the real reason behind tournament expansion: TV money. (Ya think?)

But if you read any of these, you should read this one. The Washington Post's John Feinstein wraps up the tournament expansion topic into a neat little package.

April 7, 2010

*NEW* Football Unis to Debut Friday!

First-year Virginia football coach Mike London will debut the new Nike football uniforms the Cavaliers will wear during the 2010 season Friday, April 9 at 3:30 p.m. in front of the McCue Center. The public is welcome to attend the unveiling event that will include members of the Cavalier Marching Band and spirit squads.

Several Cavalier players will be on hand to model the new uniforms that will feature multiple possible color combinations on game day. The uniforms are part of Nike’s new Pro Combat Uniform series and will be unique to the Cavalier program. Also set to debut Friday will be a redesigned helmet the team will wear starting in 2010.

The ceremony will also feature Virginia’s new team equipment truck. Painted orange and blue, the 53-foot trailer features Virginia football signage and logos. The 18-wheeler is provided by former Cavalier Charles W. McDaniel, president of Hilldrup Moving and Storage.

Hilldrup Moving and Storage has provided transportation and moving services to the Cavalier football program since 1998 using a vehicle half the size of the new model. This truck will be in service by Hilldrup Moving and Storage during the week providing the Cavalier football program very noticeable exposure across the mid-Atlantic region.

Take a look at the Nike Pro Combat uniforms that debuted last season: BANG IT HERE.

I really like the unis Nike put together for Miami, Oklahoma, LSU, Ohio State, Mizzou, VT, and Florida State. The TCU and Florida unis are fairly horrendous. So by my rough math, that's about a 75% success rate.

I'm really hoping we can avoid the shoulder stitching that looks like feathers. I love the numbering on the Miami and VT uniforms, and the unconventional color scheme in the Missouri version. I'm really hoping that they integrate the sabre into our uniforms, like they integrated the feather into the FSU version.

I'm a big uniform dork... so I really can't wait 'til Friday!

If anyone wants to join me at the presser and unveiling on Friday at 3:30, let me know!

April 6, 2010

Adios, Jeff Jones.

And the basketball attrition continues...

Virginia men’s head basketball coach Tony Bennett announced on Tuesday that junior guard Jeff Jones is leaving the Cavaliers’ program.

“Jeff informed me on Sunday that he would be transferring,” Bennett said. “Although I’m surprised, I’m not shocked and wish Jeff well in the future. Every player is entitled to do what he thinks is best for his future. Jeff obviously believes that is not UVa., and if a player feels that way it will not benefit him or the team.”

The 6-4 Jones played in all 31 games, starting seven, for the Cavaliers during the 2009-10 season. He averaged 7.3 points and 1.3 rebounds a game. Jones shot 42.8 percent (71-166) from the field, including 43.5 percent (40-92) from three-point range, and 78.9 percent (45-57) from the free throw line.

During his three years in the Virginia program, Jones played in 90 games, starting 41. He averaged 6.2 points and 1.6 rebounds a game.

Jones will finish the semester at Virginia.

I will admit that this news is more shocking/upsetting to me than either of Landesberg or Spurlock. Perhaps that's just based on the timing? I thought JJ was a solid "buy in" to the Bennett program. Guess not.

This opens up playing time for Mustapha Farrakhan, K.T. Harrell, Billy Baron, and Joe Harris for next season. To update my "Pie Slicing" post from Sunday:

Mike Scott (27.4) -- 30 minutes per game in 2010-11
Sam Zeglinski (29.0) -- 30
Mustapha Farrakhan (21.0) -- 25
K.T. Harrell (Fr.) -- 23
Jontel Evans (16.5) -- 18
James Johnson (Fr.) -- 15
Assane Sene (12.6) -- 13
Billy Baron (Fr.) -- 13
Joe Harris (Fr.) -- 13
Will Regan (Fr.) -- 10
Will Sherrill (15.4) -- 10
Akil Mitchell (Fr.) -- redshirt

Does this open the door for a 7th recruit in the 2010 class? Stay tuned...

April 4, 2010

Slicing the 200 Minute Pie

I'm stuck on basketball.

Perhaps it's due to the most exciting NCAA Tournament in years, or the interesting post-mortems on the 2009-10 Virginia Basketball season, but whatever the reason I'm stuck on basketball.

Despite what has been a "big news" type of spring football practice period, I'm still stuck on basketball.

I think the main reasons are four:
1) The way the team played to end the year, without Landesberg. In the Maryland, BC, and Duke games I saw a tough-minded, hard-nosed team. A Tony Bennett team.
2) Butler. They are the next great model for what a smart, tough, fundamentals-based team can accomplish. I see them succeed and I see the same opportunity for Virginia to succeed under coach Bennett.
3) A 96-team NCAA Tournament. Most oppose the expansion. I do not. I guess I'm not sophisticated enough to understand how more of a good thing isn't just that -- more of a good thing. You can't tell me that this year's Ole Miss, Rhode Island, Illinois, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, and Dayton teams weren't better than some of the scrubs that made the tourney. I'm greedy, I want more basketball, and I'm happy about tournament expansion. (Pssssst... a nearly 50% increase in the tourney field increases Virginia's chances of making the tournament in any given year by 50%. Isn't that a good thing, Hoo fans?)
4) The six incoming recruits. That's a HUGE incoming class, by any standard. How will they mesh with the seven returning players to form next year's team?

On the topic of #4... Here's my guess at how the 200 minutes per game will be distributed next year. (2009-10 minutes per game average in parentheses.)

Mike Scott (27.4) -- 30 minutes per game in 2010-11
Sam Zeglinski (29.0) -- 25
Mustapha Farrakhan (21.0) -- 20
Jeff Jones (18.3) -- 20
K.T. Harrell (Fr.) -- 18
James Johnson (Fr.) -- 15
Jontel Evans (16.5) -- 15
Assane Sene (12.6) -- 13
Billy Baron (Fr.) -- 12
Joe Harris (Fr.) -- 12
Will Regan (Fr.) -- 10
Will Sherrill (15.4) -- 10
Akil Mitchell (Fr.) -- redshirt

Thoughts generated by this exercise:
-- It probably won't be this way at the beginning of the season, but the five players I expect to see starting the majority of the games are Evans / Zeglinski / Harrell / Scott / Sene.
-- I think Will Sherrill will cede minutes to Will Regan. The two are very similar players, except Regan is more athletic and has more upside.
-- James Johnson needs to be able to assert himself in the low post early and often.
-- Farrakhan and Jones coming off of the bench together could be a wonderful way to push the tempo and manufacture scoring bursts.
-- Jontel Evans vs. Billy Baron will be a very interesting battle. One of those two guys will run the point... but I fully expect to see Sammy slide into that role in crunch time until/unless Evans develops a somewhat reliable shooting stroke.
-- There will be a lot of pressure on K.T. Harrell to assume a big chunk of Sylven Landesberg's vacated scoring. It will be interesting to see how the youngster responds.
-- I think Joe Harris will play an important role on next year's team: sniper.
-- I still have high hopes for Assane Sene. He's never going to be a scoring threat, but if he can "get it" as a pack line defender, our overall team defense could be really tough. Having a shot blocker on the floor can really allow the pack line to flourish.
-- I don't actually expect to see a 12-man rotation next season. Coach Bennett will find an 8- or 9-man rotation that works, and then will stick with that. Of the 12 players I gave minutes to above, the three most likely to be excluded from the rotation are Will Regan, Will Sherrill, and Assane Sene.
-- A three-guard look is almost a certainty. But with the makeup of this roster, we could be looking at some heavy doses of a Marquette-esque four guard look. Can Mike Scott handle the pivot in such a system? I have my doubts.

No matter what, next year should be fun. I love watching freshman receive their baptism by fire in the ACC, and we'll be seeing that big time next season.