July 26, 2010

Trifecta Box: Quarterbacks

I'm not a degenerate gambler, but I do enjoy horseracing.  I especially love horseracing terminology.  Therefore, for this year's position-by-position look at the football roster and depth chart, I thought it would be fun to use the  the "trifecta box" format.  Some terms and their definitions, courtesy of the Horse Racing Glossary:

Trifecta - A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order. Called a 'Triactor' in Canada and a 'Triple' in some parts of the U.S. ('Tricast' in the UK.)

Win - The term used to describe a 1st place finish.
Place - A 2nd place finish, aka 'runner-up.'
Show - Third position at the finish.

Also Ran - The other horses in the race not finishing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the event.
Ante Post - Bets placed in advance predicting the outcome of a future event.  Usually, ante posts are placed on longshot odds or for extremely specific prop bets.  (In other words, "a fearless prediction.")
Now you know the format.  If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's quarterback position this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...
Marc Verica... the Hoos' version of Trent Dilfer.
WIN: Mark Verica, senior
Verica has struggled at times as the starter (specifically, 16 INTs against 8 TD passes in 2008), but has also played pretty solid ball as a starter, as well (specifically, leading the Hoos to wins over Maryland, ECU, UNC, and Georgia Tech in 2008.)  He found his way into Al Groh's doghouse for 2009, after he threw that back-breaking interception against the Hokies in the 2008 season ender, so he didn't play much last year.  He will potentially enjoy a late career rebirth as a senior under Mike London.  I don't think Verica is running away with this race, but his huge advantage in the experience department makes him tough to beat for the other QBs on the roster -- all freshmen.  Verica throws a nice ball, but he too often forces it into coverage... which leads to those costly interceptions.  If he can clean up that part of his game, he could be an average ACC-level starting quarterback.  (That might read like I'm damning him with faint praise, but "average ACC-level starter" is better than we've had under center at UVA since Marques Hagans was the QB back in 2005... so... yeah...)
I like Marc Verica.  I'm pulling for Marc Verica.  I have faith in Marc Verica.  I think he can get the job done this season, provided the o-line keeps him relatively clean and the receivers can get open and catch the ball.  As a game manager, Verica can be highly effective.  But if he's asked to come in and win games with his arm, he'll likely struggle.  In many ways, Marc Verica is to the 2010 Hoos as Trent Dilfer was to the Super Bowl Ravens in the early 2000s.  With low expectations, a simplified, run-first offense, and the return of the tight end and receiving fullback to prominence within the Virginia gameplan, there is an opportunity for Verica to succeed this season.  Will he surpass expectations?  I actually think he might.
PLACE: Ross Metheny, redshirt freshman
I'd feel like a complete bullsh!t artist if I tried to talk in depth about a player I know pretty much nothing about.  So I won't try to scam you here.  I've seen this guy play once, in limited action in the Spring "Game."  He looked pretty good in that setting, with a live arm and the ability to deliver the ball with some zip.  I give Metheny the nod for the backup role in 2010 for two simple reasons: 1) he already redshirted and thus a redshirt wouldn't be burned if he were asked to play, and 2) he already has a year of college-level preparation under his belt.  For those two reasons, I assume Metheny will be Verica's backup in 2010.  In that role, he should merit some time on the field in mop-up duty.  But if Verica struggles, things could get interesting in an hurry... and we might even see some true freshmen leapfrog the depth chart so the coaching staff can get a look at what they have.  If the Hoos end up struggling mightily in terms of wins and losses, we could see a de facto set of auditions at the quarterback position, and I'm not sure that Metheny would be #2 in the pecking order in that scenario.
SHOW: Michael Strauss, true freshman
I give Strauss the nod over the rest of the field simply because he was able to enroll in January and participate in Spring practices.  By most accounts, he has the strongest arm and most polished delivery of all of the QBs on the roster.  He wasn't highly recruited, but he did choose Virginia over an offer from Alabama... and that means Nick Saban thought he was scholarship-worthy, which is a pretty strong endorsement in my opinion.
  • Miles Gooch, true freshman -- Dual threat run/pass QB with a big (6-4, 220) frame.  Could move to receiver or even linebacker if QB doesn't work out for him early in his career.
  • Mike Rocco, true freshman -- He's sort of the darkhorse of the bunch.  He's got a nice skill set for the QB position, coming from a coaching family.  Could slide to safety if his UVA career doesn't gain traction at the QB position.
  • Jake McGee, true freshman -- One of only two players Mike London was willing to poach from his last recruiting class at Richmond.  McGee is a big dude with a big arm, but is likely to move to tight end during his redshirt season this fall.

ANTE POST:  Marc Verica will start all 12 games as a senior, he will improve his 1:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:1, and he will leave the program with the title of "best UVA quarterback since Marques Hagans."  (Note: the starting QBs since Biscuit, in the best order I can remember them -- Christian Olsen, Kevin McCabe, Jameel Sewell, Peter Lalich, and Vic Hall.  Yep, I think Verica has the ability to play better than any of those guys.  Bold, I know.)

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