August 30, 2010

Depth Chart Released!

Click here to see the depth chart that was released at today's press conference.


Some observations from the depth chart for the season-opener against Richmond:
  • Kris Burd and Dontrelle Inman starting at WR.  Tim Smith #3.  This confirms two things I've heard recently: 1) Inman has been having a terrific training camp, and 2) Tim Smith has been struggling to catch the ball.  Burd/Inman as the starting duo basically limits the downfield passing opportunities, but increases the possession receiving and downfield run blocking.  I'm happy for Inman, and not really worried about Smith.  He'll get his chances to shine.
  • Morgan Moses is on the two-deep!  Giant congratulations to the mountainous young man.
  • It looks like Mike Rocco has beaten out Michael Strauss for the #2/#3 QB role.  I've been hearing great things about Rocco, and he might be the man to beat for starting duties in 2011.
  • Perry Jones/Raynard Horne at RB1.  Interesting.  I know Horne has been showing serious flashes in camp, but I'm surprised that he was able to leapfrog Dominique Wallace.  Here's hoping he's a complete revelation this late in his career.
  • I was apparently wrong about Max Milien.  It looks like the light has come on, and he's secured a starting spot for the season-opener.  This is the type of situation in which I enjoy being wrong.
  • JKD will start over Matt Conrath.  Makes sense -- get your senior co-captain in that starting spot, and see how he holds up as a sawed-off DT in an attacking 4-3.  Like with Tim Smith, Conrath will get his opportunities to play.
  • It looks like Darnell Carter made a late rally to insert himself into the discussion at sam linebacker.  Good stuff.  As much as I like the idea of LaRoy Reynold's speed, I like the idea of Carter's size, strength, and experience.
  • Taliaferro or Greer?  Greer or Taliaferro?  It looks like the coaches still can't make up their mind.  I guess it's a good problem to have; two starting-caliber mike linebackers at the center of your 4-3.
  • Walcott has ridden his hot camp to a starting job.  I'm really happy for him, and can't wait to see his #26 flying around the field.
  • Perry Jones returning kicks and punts.  This tells me that the staff is planning to ride Ray Horne as the bellcow RB.  I like a battle-hardened senior in that role.  Like I said in the running backs trifecta box -- never forget Marquis Weeks.
  • In general, it looks like a lot of upperclassmen were granted starting spots.  That's never a bad policy to have, though I suspect we'll be seeing this depth chart evolve rapidly as the season progresses.
  • Glaring omissions from the depth chart, in no particular order: Bobby Smith, Dominique Wallace, Torrey Mack, Keith Payne, Luke Bowanko, Bill Schautz, Tucker Windle.

I cannot wait for Saturday!  GO HOOS!

August 27, 2010

Report Card


To put a nice pretty bow on the trifecta box series, here's how I'm grading each position group heading into the season.

Remember, a C is average.  A+ is reserved for position groups like Alabama's running backs position (featuring reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, future NFL workhorse back Trent Richardson, and explosive change of pace back Eddie Lacy).  F is reserved for positions destined for no possible outcome other than total and complete disaster.  I think you get the picture.

Anyway, here's the position-by-position report card, along with a BRIEF! synopsis.

Quarterbacks... C-
I believe in Marc Verica, but there is only freshmen behind him, which is totally scary.

Running Backs... C+
There's a nice mix of talent here, but none of these guys have carried the load successfully on the college level; they're all a bunch of unknowns at this point.

Fullbacks... D+
Neither TFD nor Max Milien have played the fullback position at the D-1 college level.

Wide Receivers... B-
Burd will be steady, Tim Smith will be explosive, and the depth will be effective.  Still, there's no proven gamebreaker in the bunch.

Tight Ends... B-
Torchia has the pedigree and has shown flashes in the past, and Colter Phillips is a fine #2.

Offensive Line... C+
Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi, and Morgan Moses form a talented (yet inexperienced) core.  Landon Bradley, Matt Mihalik, and B.J. Cabbell might be below-average components.  Add it all together, and it's just slightly above average.

Defensive Ends... C+
I love Cam Johnson and Zane Parr's potential as starters, but like so many other position groups, the headliners are unproven.

Defensive Tackles... B-
Nick Jenkins is a rock, and Conrath should prove to be effective.  The depth chart is a bit thin.

Outside Linebackers... D+
As excited as I am to see what the two converted safeties can do as starters, this is yet another position group that is more question mark than exclamation point.

Middle Linebackers... B+
Between Steve Greer and Aaron Taliaferro, I think we'll have an effective mike at the center of our defense.

Safeties... B
The starters are great, the backups are shaky.

Cornerbacks... A-
Ras-I Dowling has the talent to be a top-20 draft pick, and Chase Minnifield and Devin Wallace round out a top-notch unit.  All that's missing is a true shutdown cover corner.

Kickers/Punters... D
Howell is a decent punter, but I have zero faith in the Randolph/Hinkebein two-headed kicking monster.

Returners... C
We haven't had an explosive return game since Alvin Pearman was doing it.  Until we see otherwise, we have to assume more mediocrity.

OVERALL TEAM GRADE... C
We'll be a decent team, able to beat most "bad" opponents.  But against the ACC powerhouses -- FSU, GT, UNC, Miami, BC, VT -- and against USC, average won't cut it.  I think our ability level puts us in position to be able to beat Richmond, VMI, EMU, Duke, and Maryland.  Expecting a 5-7 record means we won't slip up at all in those "can win" games.  Or it means we'll drop one of those games, but steal one of the "shouldn't win" games along the way.  On the strength of our defensive secondary and myriad options in the rushing attack, that's what I'm going with.  This is an average, 5-7 team in 2010.  But we're building toward something bigger...

Trifecta Box: Kickers, Punters, Returners

This is the way the [trifecta box series] ends

This is the way the [trifecta box series] ends
This is the way the [trifecta box series] ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's specialists this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...



April is the cruellest month...


WIN:
  • K) Robert Randolph, junior & Chris Hinkebein, junior -- Randolph is the accurate guy with the weak leg, Hinkebein is less accurate but boots it hard.  It stands to reason, then, that Randy will handle the short field goals while Hinky will handle the long kicks and kickoffs.  Moving on...
  • P) Jimmy Howell, junior -- Along with a truly rockin' last name, Jimbo kicked for a 40 yard average last year.  That's a very workable number for a punter.  The only problem is that he can be a bit slow to get his punts off... which could lead to a blocked punt every now and then.
  • PR) Chase Minnifield, junior -- Minnifield is a pretty decent punt returner, who fields the ball cleanly.  I'm not sure we'll see many big play punt returns from him, however.  He's the proverbial "safe" option.
  • KR) Perry Jones, sophomore & Rodney McLeod, junior -- Jones is the jitterbug and McLeod is the burner.  These two should be able to put together some big plays this season.  I will admit that I'm a bit nervous with McLeod returning kicks, given the dangerously thin depth at safety.
  • LS) Danny Aiken, junior -- He's rock solid.

PLACE / SHOW / ALSO RAN:
  • K) Drew Jarrett, sophomore -- I'm hearing that he's going to redshirt this season, to put some space between him and the Randolph/Hinkebein duo.
  • PR/KR) Tim Smith, sophomore -- It makes sense that our fastest receiver would see some action returning kicks and punts.

ANTE POST: We will win a game this season via a clutch end-game field goal from Drew Jarrett.  We will lose a game this season via a missed field goal from Chris Hinkebein.  Why is the kicking game a part of football?

August 26, 2010

Trifecta Box: The Secondary

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's defensive backs this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...

Ras-I Dowling: superfreak.


WIN:
  • CB) Ras-I Dowling, senior -- He enters the season as a Playboy first team All-American, a candidate for the Thorpe Award, and on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list.  He's on a clear trajectory toward the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.  In a word, Ras-I is a STUD.  At 6-2, 200, Dowling is a classic "big" corner.  His pure coverage skills have been spotty at times (see also: last year's game against Virginia Tech), but I think he's ready to put it all together this year, and I'll be rocking my own navy blue #19 jersey up in the nosebleeds.  I love this guy.
  • CB) Chase Minnifield, junior -- Minnifield is a slick, polished cover corner who stands to put up a mountain of stats this season as teams will be trying to throw away from Dowling.  In training camp he has faced a fierce battle from Devin Wallace, but I'm assuming that Minnie's successful gameday experience will win out.
  • SS) Rodney McLeod, junior -- The coaches are saying that McLeod is ready to emerge as a star player this fall.  He's super fast, and his effort level is always through the roof.  I love watching him chase down a play from the backside, because he runs like his ass is on fire.
  • FS) Corey Mosley, junior -- He's a thumper who prides himself on being able to lay the biggest hit.  It's the simple, routine plays that sometime elude him, unfortunately.  If he can iron that out and put together a complete game, he could be a real asset to the defense.

PLACE:
  • CB) Devin Wallace, sophomore -- Word out of camp is that we'll be seeing a lot of three-CB looks this fall, just so the staff can get Wallace's supersonic speed and playmaking ability on the field.  He's not a polished corner, but the way he runs makes him indispensable to the defense.
  • CB) Mike Parker, senior -- He's bounced around between corner and safety, but seems to have found a home as the 4th corner for this season.  He's not a bad player, but he doesn't really bring any specific strengths to the table.  He's just a solid depth chart filler who can play at a reasonably high level if pressed into duty.
  • S) Dom Jospeh, junior -- He filled in admirably while Mosley was out of spring practices rehabbing an injury.  Joseph has since faded into the background, but it's nice to know that he has the ability to step up when Mosely goes down... and given Mosely's desire to hit and hit hard, it's pretty likely that he'll pick up some dings and dents this fall, and Joseph will see the field.
  • S) Trey Womack, senior -- A core special teams player who moonlights in the secondary, Womack is capable of filling in for a stretch in a pinch.  But if two of McLeod, Mosely, and Joseph go down for an extended period of time and Womack is asked to log major minutes in the base defense... we could be in a spot of trouble.

SHOW / ALSO RAN:
  • CB) Chris Broadnax, sophomore -- I know absolutely nothing about this walk-on, other than the fact that he won a spot on the three-deep at cornerback coming out of spring practices.
  • CB) Rijo Walker, true freshman -- He'll likely redshirt, but he brings a full set of cornerback skills to the table, and could quickly push for playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2011.
  • CB/S) Pablo Alvarez, true freshman -- At 6-foot-3, he has the kind of size you love to see in the secondary, and he's also a world-class leaper.  He's been practicing at corner in training camp, but most observers believe that he's destined for the safety position.  A redshirt is definitely in order this season.
  • LB/S) LoVante Battle, sophomore -- He's been moved to linebacker, but I could easily see him working back at safety if the injuries pile up at that position.

ANTE POST: Our starting secondary is fierce, and easily the biggest strength on the team.  But if injuries begin to mount, the lackluster depth behind Devin Wallace and Dom Joseph could doom the entire defense.  UVA fans should panic every time we see one of the DBs limping off the field.  BOLD PREDICTION: Ras-I Dowling won't increase his three INTs from last season, but Chase Minnifiled will more than double his, going from two in '09 to five in 2010.  Devin Wallace will pitch in two INTs, as well.

August 25, 2010

Trifecta Box: Linebackers

Two-a-days continue with the linebackers...

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's Linebacking corps this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...


Jared Detrick: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

WIN:
  • SLB) LaRoy Reynolds, sophomore -- Those of you watching Building of a Program know that "Roy" is quickly developing into one of the key young leaders on the defensive front seven.  He consistently sets the tone in practice and in the weight room.  I think he's been an absolute revelation since sliding up from the safety position, and I'm really looking forward to watching him make plays with his superior speed and instincts this fall.
  • MLB) Steve Greer, sophomore -- He's probably the closest we have to a "sure thing" at the linebacker position heading into this fall, after he put together an exceptional freshman season in 2009.  Yet, he's receiving intense pressure in an all-out battle with Aaron Taliaferro for the starting mike spot.  I trust that Greer will ultimately win that duel, and glide right back into his career trajectory as UVA's next great linebacker
  • WLB) Ausar Walcott, sophomore -- Another safety convert, Walcott brings great quickness and cover ability to the will spot.  Like Greer, Walcott is locked in a battle royale situation in training camp, with Jared Detrick bidding to steal his starting spot.  Detrick is more of a true linebacker, but Walcott is the faster player... flip a coin, but maybe give the weighted side to the speed guy, since Coach London and Jim Reid are building this defense to be as fast as possible.

PLACE:
  • SLB) Tucker Windle, sophomore -- Yet another sophomore in the linebacking mix, Windle is a more traditional linebacker than the converted safeties... but he's still learning to speed up his game, and until he does, he'll be relegated to the second team.  I'm sure Windle will have a role in the goal line and short yardage defenses, as he brings a bit more size and strength to the table than guys like Roy and Walcott.
  • MLB) Aaron Taliaferro, junior -- Like Anthony Mihota on the o-line, Taliaferro is an immensely gifted player who was always stuck in the Al Groh doghouse for whatever reason.  A run & hit linebacker all the way, Taliaferro is taking full advantage of his second lease on life under Mike London, and has been pressing the team's best overall linebacker (Greer) as hard as possible.  He might not end up being the starter, but Taliaferro has certainly earned serious playing time this fall.
  • WLB) Jared Detrick, junior -- Detrick might be the most athletically talented linebacker on the roster, and he has shown flashes of greatness as a core special teams player.  His problem has always been his inconsistency --- it's said that he doesn't have the best instincts for the linebacker position.  That being said, it seemed to me like Detrick was finally starting to "get it" in spring practice.  Hopefully that has translated to training camp success and will lead to him being able to make a positive impact in the fall.

SHOW:
  • SLB) Darnell Carter, senior -- It's a shame he could never put it all together to make a dent in the rotation at linebacker.  He's a big, fast guy, who (I guess) just isn't wired to be a totally effective linebacker.
  • MLB) Connor McCartin, sophomore -- He's batting third at mike, but is still forcing his way onto the field with his propensity for big hits and his appetite for mixing it up and making contact.  I think he'll see some time on D as a situational pass rusher, and he'll see plenty of time as a core special teams player.
  • WLB) LoVante Battle, sophomore -- The third converted safety working at the linebacker position, Battle might have the best pure feel for the game, but is too small at 5-foot-10 and just over 200 pounds.  A mid-career redshirt might be the plan, because an extra year of work in the weight room could transform this young man into a true weakside terror.

ALSO RAN:
  • Henry Coley, true freshman -- Coley fits the profile of being a "prototypical" linebacker for Mike London's attacking 4-3 defense. He's quick, instinctive, is a sure tackler, and has a nose for the football. Many think he was hidden gem of the 2010 recruiting class.  A redshirt is probably in order for this season.
  • Cam Johnson, Bill Schautz, Jeremiah Mathis -- I'm sure any of these three defensive ends could slide back to outside linebacker in a pinch.

ANTE POST: If any position group on defense will emerge as a weakness of the team, it is the linebackers.  Everyone knows that.  There is a lot of youth on this unit, and a lot of players projecting to fill prominent roles who are playing the position for the first time.  That being said, I rather like this group of players, especially the starting trio of Reynolds, Greer, and Walcott/Detrick.  UVA hasn't had this kind of speed at the linebacker position since the days of Jamie Sharper and James Farrior.  I think the linebackers will be great in pursuit, and sensational when dropping back into coverage.  However, when coupled with what is also a weird, smallish d-line, the Hoos could really struggle to stop the power rushing games of teams like BC and Virginia Tech.  Make no mistake, teams will be trying to run right at us this fall.  Guys like Steve Greer and Aaron Taliaferro stepping up as run-stoppers will really be important to the overall play of the defense.  BOLD PREDICTION: Steve Greer is named to the All-ACC first team this season, after he tops his fantastic 92-tackle freshman output.

Trifecta Box: Defensive Line

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's defensive line this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...



Zane Parr (#92) could emerge as a d-line star for the Hoos this season.
 
WIN:
  • RDE) Cam Johnson, junior -- He easily has the most potential to post double-digit sacks of anyone on the roster.  At times last year, he struggled to put it all together, tending to arrive at the play a step late.  As his experience level grows, his ability to read and predict plays will improve.  I'm guessing that this year he steps up as a true impact player on the edge.
  • DT) Nick Jenkins, junior -- I know he must be excited about moving from the 3-4 nose tackle spot to a 4-3 DT spot.  He should be more free to break into the backfield and make plays this season, instead of just absorbing blocks.  I think we'll see Jenkins arrive as a force in the middle of the defense this fall.
  • DT) Matt Conrath, junior -- We loved this guy as a 3-4 end, but I'm honestly not sure how he'll fare as a 4-3 tackle.  I think he's a little on the tall side, and doesn't carry enough weight to be able to maintain leverage at 6-foot-7.  He's active and should generate an interior pass rush, but I worry that he'll struggle when teams decide to run right at him.
  • LDE) Zane Parr, junior -- He really came from nowhere to impress a lot of people in spot time last year.  He's a lot like Conrath in that he's an active, aggressive player who has a nose for making plays.

PLACE:
  • DE) Bill Schautz, sophomore -- Like Johnson, Schautz moved down from linebacker.  He brings a relentless motor to the pass rush, but needs to be stouter against the run at the edge.
  • DT) John-Kevin Dolce, senior -- He's a captain, and I think he'll see plenty of time on the field this fall.  JKD is tiny (6-2, 250) for a DT, but uses leverage extremely well, and is like a little bowling ball in the interior pass rush.  He's a fixture in the nickel and dime defenses.
  • DT) Will Hill, sophomore -- After moving over from end, he has struggled a bit to establish himself at tackle.  He has a world of natural ability, however, and the light should blink on pretty soon...
  • DE) Jeremiah Mathis, redshirt freshman -- Another ex-OLB who can bring plus speed to the defensive end position, but who might struggle in the size/strength department.

SHOW:
  • DE) Jake Snyder, redshirt freshman -- Unlike Johnson, Schautz, and Mathis, Snyder's natural position has always been defensive end in the 4-3.  As such, he might be able to leapfrog one or more of those players in the DE rotation this fall.
  • DT) Justin Renfrow, redshirt freshman -- Reports from spring practice and training camp are that this kid is a BEAST.  The problem is that his game needs serious refinement.  He'll see action this fall, as the coaches try to cultivate his immense talent at a position that is perilously thin with good size/strength prospects.
  • DT) Hunter Steward, sophomore -- He moved from o-line to d-line this offseason, and the coaches have been pleased with the results so far.  Like Conrath, I think he's a little top-heavy at 6-foot-7, but Steward is apparently a real battler.
  • DE/DT) Chris Brathwaite, true freshman -- He's likely headed for a redshirt season as the coaches decide if he's an end or a tackle.  I'm really excited about this kid --- it's said that his nasty demeanor on the field is off the charts, and that he's a naturally gifted playmaker/disrupter on the d-line.

ALSO RAN:
  • DE/DT) Brent Urban, redshirt freshman -- This massive Canadian was beelining toward a spot on the two-deep before a serious knee injury derailed his development.  He's likely out for the first half of the season, and will need to tiptoe back into action once he's healthy.  Look out for him in 2011, however.
  • DE/DT) Stephen Lawe, true freshman -- He was a lightly-recruited "jumbo athlete" coming out of the 757.  The coaches like his potential on the d-line, as he has a natural feel for footwork and use of hands.  He could develop into a nice interior technician later in his career.
  • LB/DE) Connor McCartin, sophomore -- He's a linebacker all the way, but the coaches are experimenting with getting his plus speed and nose for the football on the edge for passing downs.

ANTE POST: I'm bullish on Cam Johnson this season.  I think he arrives on the scene as a bonafide pass rush stud, and racks up double-digit sacks.  Eventually, he will start being double-teamed, which will free up Zane Parr to make some plays in opponents' backfields, as well.  On paper, I like the 2010 pass rush better than the one we saw in 2009 with Nate Collins, Matt Conrath, and JKD leading the pass rush --- I think we'll see MUCH more pressure coming up the middle this season.  Anyway, for a bold prediction, how about this: UVA breaks the 30 sack plateau this season (we had just 21 sacks in 2009).

August 24, 2010

Big K's Fantasy Football Sleeper Picks

I'd like to interrupt your regularly-scheduled trifecta box for this quick list of fantasy football sleeper picks for this season.

I'm offering up one sleeper for each round of a traditional re-draft league (no points-per-reception!), based on ESPN's average draft position for 12-team leagues.  These are guys I expect to outperform their current fantasy draft position... and YES, you can have a 1st round "sleeper!"

I'll do my best to stay away from the guys I already drafted in the Cavalier Keeper League (our AWESOME league -- the best one on mother earth) so I don't seem like the unmitigated homer I am.


Frank Gore: straight up money.

1st round: Frank Gore -- Everyone knows that Gore is a stud, playing in a run-first offense for a defensive-minded head coach.  I think he's a virtual lock for 1400+ yards and 12+ TDs in 2010.  Why is he being picked behind guys like Steven Jackson and Ray Rice?!?

2nd round: Ryan Grant -- He's not flashy, and when you think of the Packers you think of the passing game.  But Ryan Grant gives you first round production in the second round of your draft.

3rd round: Tony Romo -- In Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Felix Jones, Romo has the explosive targets that can buoy a #1 player at the QB position.  I'm not saying that Romo is destined for the top spot amongst QBs this year... but I guaran-damn-tee he finishes in the top four.

4th round: LeSean McCoy -- No, he's not Brian Westbrook... Shady is a [much] better runner between the tackles.  He'll cede goal line carries to Philly's power backs, but I think McCoy has the goods to be a good low-level RB1 or a really high-level RB2 in fantasy.

5th round: Hines Ward -- Look, I hate the guy.  I absolutely hate him.  But I don't think Mike Wallace can completely fill the hole left by Santonio Holmes' departure, and Whines Hard will be the one taking up the slack.  He's a rock-solid WR2, and will produce at the same level as guys taken two or three rounds before him in your draft.


Buy, buy, buy, BUY Jahvid Best in 2010... and beyond.

6th round: Jahvid Best -- I said I wouldn't do this, but I just can't resist.  The 6th round?  For Barry Sanders version 2.0?  Look, I know he's a bit on the small side, and I know he's fragile.  But he's every bit as dynamic as Jamaal Charles and Felix Jones, and is playing in an offense with a young QB who will turn to the dump-off pass quite often.  I love this guy's upside, especially if you're playing in a keeper or dynasty league.

7th round: Eli Manning -- If you wait to draft your QB, Eli is a pretty good option in the middle rounds.  This is a guy who quietly threw for 4000 yards and 27 TDs last year, and he still has the same injury-riddled runners in his backfield.  His young receivers will be a year better, also.  I'm definitely buying Eli Manning this season.

8th round: Terrell Owens -- You should know that I follow the Bengals pretty closely.  I've seen all three of their preseason games so far.  TO looks great.  He also looks like the #1 wideout on the team.  So if you're tempted to draft Ochocinco -- DON'T!  Wait for TO four rounds later.

9th round: Chris Cooley -- He's back to 100%, and Donovan McNabb has made stars out of lesser tight ends than this.  I don't trust that Redskins o-line as far as I can throw 'em, and I think McNabb will be tossing desperation dump-offs to Cooley on the reg.

10th round: Fred Jackson -- I saw a lot of C.J. Spiller while he was at Klempsun.  Fast guy.  But you know what?  Spiller just lacks that 6th sense that all the great running backs seem to have.  That "it" factor that allows them to wiggle through traffic and avoid hits.  I guess you can call it natural running back instincts for lack of a better term.  So yeah, I'm low on Spiller because I think he's missing that x-factor, I don't think he's that good, and I think he'll get hurt.  Fred Jackson reaps the rewards.

11th round: Derrick Mason & Jerricho Cotchery -- Last time I checked, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez were both young QBs.  Young QBs tend to rely on their security blankets; those sure-handed possession receivers that can be trusted over the middle.  I think both Mason and Cotchery have better-than-expected seasons as a result.


The older the Berrian, the sweeter the juice.

12th round: Bernard Berrian -- This one's easy.  With Sidney Rice out for two months after hip surgery, and with Percy Harvin's head threatening to explode at any moment, Brett Favre has to have someone to whom to chuck the rock.  Berrian wasn't healthy last year, but he looks like the Vikes' only reliable receiver this year.

13th round: Josh Cribbs -- He's the Browns' best player.  And it's not even close.

14th round: Mat Hasselbeck -- T.J. Houshmandzadeh.  Dump-offs to Justin Forsett (another great sleeper for the 6th/7th round area).  John Carlson.  Screens to Leon Washington.  Possibly Vincent Jackson.  Hass has some weapons this year.  If he can stay healthy, he'll be a good QB2, with a chance to rise up to the low QB1 territory.  Not bad for the 14th round.


Legit.

15th round: Mike Williams -- Remember, you don't have to worry about going to class when you're not in college anymore.  His NFL coaches are comparing him to a young Reggie Wayne.  He's Tampa's #1 WR, and should be your #3.  With a bullet.

16th round: Bernard Scott -- I don't trust Cedric Benson to stay healthy all season, but even if he does, Scott will have a role.  The Bengals have all sorts of stuff planned for this guy, and he's a dynamic weapon who can handle the burn.  This late in drafts, you're just looking for lottery tickets.  Take Bernard Scott to the bank.

Trifecta Box: Offensive Line

I need to hustle this process along!  The season starts in just eleven days!

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's o-line this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...


UVA's o-line: Strength or weakness of the 2010 team?  I'm guessing it's a strength.
 
 
WIN:
  • LT) Landon Bradley, junior -- Bradley is solid and fairly athletic, but probably better at pass blocking than run blocking.  He's no lock to start this fall, but I think his starting experience will win out.
  • LG) Austin Pasztor, junior -- Probably our best overall offensive lineman, the increased emphasis on the running game should be a boon to his play.  He can really excel as a pulling guard, getting out in space on the move.
  • C) Anthony Mihota, junior -- He was never able to escape Al Groh's doghouse, but I think he's a better talent than Jack Shields, the player he replaces at center.  The key for Mihota is quickly assuming a leadership position on the line, and making the correct line calls.
  • RG) B.J. Cabbell, senior -- He tends to have a hard time staying healthy, but I think he's a fairly solid starter otherwise.  Like with Pasztor, Cabbell should benefit from the new "run-first" mindset.  If Morgan Moses forces his way into a starting role as a true freshman, I suspect it will be at this right guard spot.
  • RT) Oday Aboushi, sophomore -- One of the most improved players on the team, it is said that Aboushi could quickly emerge as the best player on the o-line.  He's replacing the inconsistent Will Barker, and we could see an instant upgrade of play on the field at right tackle as a result.

PLACE:
  • LT) Sean Cascarano, redshirt freshman -- He's been one of the young, emerging stars of training camp.  His lack of experience will probably doom him in his battle with Bradley to join the first unit, but I think Cascarano is a better overall talent.
  • LG) Isaac Cain, senior -- This battler has been practicing at both guard spots, to go along with his work at center in the spring.  He's a tough, versatile interior swingman who is a true asset to the o-line rotation.
  • C) Cody Wallace, true freshman -- If Mihota goes down for an extended period of time, and Issac Cain or Mike Price can't hold,down the fort at center, I think Wallace's redshirt will be burned.  He's the future at the center position, and a lot of folks around the program are very excited about the tools he brings to the table.
  • RG) Luke Bowanko, redshirt freshman -- There's a real roster scrum at guard behind Pasztor, Cabbell, and Cain, and I think Bowanko has the most physical talent of the players fighting for the #4 guard spot.
  • RT) Morgan Moses, true freshman -- We'll see the massive (6-6, 350) freshman on the field this fall, be it at starting right guard or in the sub package at right tackle.  He has Andre Smith upside, and could serve as the ideal run blocker for a team that wants to make hay by running the football.

SHOW / ALSO RAN:
  • Matt Mihalik, sophomore -- He was a great defensive lineman in high school, but he's too high-slung at 6-foot-7 for a switch to defensive tackle at the college level. He could stick on the o-line as an Issac Cain-ish swingman. This year, he's probably the 5th OT behind Bradley, Aboushi, Cascarano, and Moses.
  • Mike Price, sophomore -- Price probably isn't an ACC-caliber lineman, but he could be pressed into duty at the center position if Mihota gets injured.
  • Aaron Van Kuiken, sophomore -- He's been passed by Aboushi, Moses, Cascarano, and now Mihalik in the OT pecking order, and frankly I fear that he might never be able to make a dent in the depth chart.
  • Conner Davis, true freshman -- A redshirt season is definitely in order, but he has the talent to emerge as a factor in another year or two.
  • Hunter Steward, sophomore -- He has officially moved to DT, but could slide back to the o-line in a pinch.  The coaches love his talent on both sides of the ball.

ANTE POST: With a renewed focus on run blocking, the o-line can now be built around a singular identity.  With three returning starters and the two newcomers representing tangible upgrades over last year, I think the UVA offensive line will emerge as a strength of the team in 2010.  I count three future NFL starters in the mix -- Pasztor, Aboushi, and Morgan Moses.

August 20, 2010

Trifecta Box: Tight Ends

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's tight end position this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...

Is Joe Torchia the next great one in line at "Tight End U?"  You have to be pretty
great to catch a touchdown pass from Jameel Sewell, and Torchia did it twice last year.
 
 
WIN: Joe Torchia, senior
 
To this point Torchia's UVA career has been up and down (but mostly down).  He started out toiling behind Tom Santi, John Phillips, and Jonathan Stupar, then had to bounce back from several semi-serious injuries, then had the offense pulled out from under him when Virginia made the ill-fated switch to the spread offense.  The fact he has been able to hang in there through all of that adversity speaks volumes to his dedication and determination.  He's an easy guy to pull for this year, as he tries to re-claim the glory that UVA once had as "Tight End U."  But does Joe Torchia have the goods to duplicate or even come close to the level of success enjoyed by guys like Heath Miller, Patrick Estes, Santi, and Phillips?  I actually think he does.  He's a good, solid blocker, and a good, solid receiver.  He has top-notch instincts for the position, and a clear willingness to mix it up in traffic.  He should quickly emerge as a reliable security blanket for Marc Verica this season, and Torchia should also begin to quickly assert himself in the red zone.
 
 
PLACE: Colter Phillips, sophomore
 
Phillips recently lost his father in the August 9th Alaska plane crash (RIP, Bill Phillips), so it's difficult to say whether or not Colter will even suit up for the Hoos this season.  If he does play, he comes in with the advantage of having enjoyed a huge majority of practice reps in spring ball, while Joe Torchia was rehabbing an injury.  Phillips is another "complete package" type of tight end, though his blocking skills lag a bit behind his receiving skills at this point.  He's probably not a special athlete, but he has enough tangibles to play and play well at the ACC level.  Between the above-average play of Torchia and Phillips, expect to see a lot of two-tight end sets this fall.  I'm looking for Colter to easily eclipse last year's production (5 catches for 34 yards).
 
 
SHOW: Paul Freedman, sophomore
 
I don't want to beat a dead horse, but if it weren't for the desire to scorch the earth (or just plain blatant stupidity) of Al Groh, Freedman would be coming off of his redshirt season, ready to play the next four years.  Instead, he comes in as a true sophomore, battling with Phillips for the top spot in the 2011 tight end rotation.  This season, I think Freedman will make his mark as a blocker in the jumbo package -- he's the type of big-bodied tight end who virtually serves as a 6th offensive lineman.  Freedman has great upside, but his receiving skills are raw.
 
 
ALSO RAN:
  • Zachary Swanson, true freshman -- This three-star recruit from Katy, Texas is said to have plus athleticism, and should be a force as a receiver once he develops physically.  UVA beat out Miami, Stanford, Arkansas, Cal, and Oklahoma State to obtain Swanson's services.
  • Jake McGee, true freshman -- This QB convert has a huge frame at 6-5, 225.  Here's hoping his career follows the same path as another lightly-recruited big QB-turned-TE... Big Money himself, Heath Miller.
  • Andrew Cordasco, true freshman -- A "preferred" or "recruited" walk-on, Cordasco is a thinking man's tight end.  It is said that he has a sixth sense for using angles and picks in order to get open in the passing game.  I know the coaches are high on what he might be able to bring to the table.  As a walk-on, he is unlikely to redshirt, so we might see him early on special teams and in the sub package.

ANTE POST: Joe Torchia will lead all UVA receivers in touchdown receptions in 2010... with six of 'em.  He'll shine as our primary receiving target in the red zone, and he'll play well enough to earn a middle-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

August 19, 2010

Trifecta Box: Wide Receivers

Sorry for the delay.  My fantasy football draft is over, work is calming down just a touch, and I'm ready for a hard rally down the stretch.  Let's get to it.

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's wide receiver position this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...
 
Kris Burd: Virginia's new go-to receiver.
 
 
WIN: Kris Burd, junior & Tim Smith, sophomore
 
Youngsters Kris Burd (31 receptions, 413 yards, 1 TD) and Tim Smith (15-204-2) emerged as the starting WRs last year.  Their stats were unimpressive, due mostly to a poorly-conceived offense and general ineptitude from the quarterback position... to put it nicely.  My point is that I think the WR production was down because of extenuating circumstances moreso than because of poor play from the receivers themselves.  I actually like the Burd/Smith combo quite a lot heading into 2010.  Burd is the savvy route runner with sticky hands and the chip on his shoulder, and Smith is the blazingly fast deep threat.  Burd is a plus blocker, which always helps in a run-first offense.  Smith is a tireless worker who is hellbent on improving his game.  I think we're pretty well set with these two guys breaking the first offensive huddle next month.  Burd will be the steady short and intermediate range posession guy, and Smith will be the guy that stretches defenses.  They complement each other well, and both are top-tier talents in their own right.
 
 
PLACE: Dontrelle Inman, senior & Bobby Smith, redshirt freshman
 
Inman is a senior, after having not received a redshirt last year during an injury-plagued season.  He should have two years of college football left to play... but his old head coach payed him a disservice during a lost season.  Inman is looking to go out with a bang in 2010, and he has the goods to produce on the field.  He's a big, strong, sure-handed possession receiver who should be a nice fit in the new offense.  I list Bobby Smith here alongside Inman based more on a hunch than on any actual insider information or working knowledge of the depth chart or wide receiver pecking order.  Bobby Smith is HUGE (6-5, 215) for a receiver, but moves with enough quickness to be able to stretch defenses.  As a die-hard Bengals fan who has spent the last two weeks celebrating the Terrell Owens signing, I have recently learned that I prefer my receivers to be big, tall, hulking freight train m*therf#ckers who can beat up on DBs.  Bobby Smith brings a little TO to the table, I think.  And I think that's something that a guy like Mike London will want to get on the field.
 
 
SHOW: Jared Green, junior & Matt Snyder, junior
 
After showing serious flashes as a freshman, Green regressed quite a bit last year.  He's tallish (6-2) and can run pretty well, but just seems to struggle to get open and make plays when the ball is in the air.  If the light flickers on and he takes the next step, he could challenge for much more playing time.  As it stands right now, he's being lost in the shuffle just a bit.  Matt Snyder meanwhile, has battled his way from unknown walk-on to a true factor in the wideout rotation.  Those of you who are fans of the pro game -- watch Houston's Kevin Walter.  Snyder and Walter are true parallels.  I think Snyder has a good chance to see the field this fall... and if he gets there, my gut says he will produce.  He's not flashy, just a solidly-built guy who runs good routes and catches the ball well.
 
 
ALSO RAN:
  • E.J. Scott, true freshman -- A Tim Smith-esque speed burner, Scott has been the star of the early summer practices.  By most accounts, he is a truly explosive downfield receiver, and could force his way onto the depth chart as a true freshman.
  • Kevin Royal, redshirt freshman -- In spring practice, Royal was moved over to tight end, where coaches thought his big (6-3, 215) frame and quickness would jive well at H-back... but that experiment went bust and Royal is back with the wide receivers this summer.  His skill set is fairly redundant with what we already have in Inman, Bobby Smith, and Matt Snyder.
  • Ray Keys, junior -- This walk-on was the star of the spring game, and won a scholarship for this season through his hard work and improvement in practice.  He's a heady downfield guy who has deceptive deep speed.
  • Khalek Shepherd, true freshman -- I covered this guy in the trifecta box for the running backs.  Here's what I said about him there: "He's smurfy (5-6, 165), and likely bound for the wide receiver position as a slot specialist after his redshirt year... but if he sticks at running back, he's got the most pure speed and wiggle of anyone else on the roster at the position. Dare we think Dexter McCluster? Naaah, that's a reach. Call Shepherd the Poor Man's McCluster."

ANTE POST: A long touchdown pass from Marc Verica to Tim Smith will win us a game we aren't supposed to win this year.  I'm thinking either against UNC on October 16th or Miami on October 30th.  With opponents' #1 corner on Kris Burd, Smith will have some chances to get deep.

August 4, 2010

Trifecta Box: Fullbacks

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's running back position this fall, here's how I'd structure the bet...

Incoming freshman Ryan Cobb is likely the future at the fullback position.


WIN: Terence Fells-Danzer, junior

Let me start by saying that I am elated about the return of the fullback to the UVA offense.  Yes, I was a strong proponent for the nohuddleshotgunspread last year... and I'm man enough to admit... I was wrong.  The spread is great, if you have the speedy jitterbug athletes to run it and the time and patience to develop the mindset.  Last year, Virginia and her coaches and fans had neither.  So yeah, welcome back, fullbacks and tight ends.  Let's go knock some heads.

Leading the pack at the rebuilt and reestablished fullback position is Terence Fells-Danzer, who was once buried on the linebacker depth chart, but now gets a chance to play as a starter on offense.  The position isn't unfamiliar to TFD --- he was a halfback/tailback/fullback in high school, along with being a linebacker.  In spring practices, TFD proved himself to be a plus athlete at the position, and remarkably, an excellent receiver.  His lead blocking is still raw, and probably won't ever be a strength of his game.  But he should prove to be a Snellingish weapon out of the backfield, and his background on defense suggests that he won't be timid with contact.  He was one of the real bright spots of the spring, and I'm excited to see what he can do on the field this fall.


PLACE: Max Milien, junior

Milien came to Virginia as a moderately-hyped receiving specialist at the running back position.  His cream has failed to rise in the crowded backfield, and now he is a non-hyped receiving specialist at the fullback position.  I don't know much about his game, other than the fact that he's injury prone, not especially fast or quick, and not a great blocker, but is apparently a good enough pass-catcher that he was almost moved to wideout.  My guess is that if TFD goes down this fall, we'll either see Ryan Cobb's redshirt burned, and/or UVA running a lot of ace-form with two TEs.  From my comfortable armchair, I'll just say that Milien is an entirely underwhelming option.  I hope he proves me wrong if he gets a chance to shine.


SHOW: Ryan Cobb, true freshman

No position group is complete without the sight-unseen hotshot rookie who has all-american potential.  I'm certainly guilty of overhyping the young guys.  I'll own that personality flaw.  Therefore, I won't hold back on Ryan Cobb.  He's another linebacker/fullback hybrid, and by all accounts he has nice skills and plays with the perfect amount of "football anger," whatever that means.  I like angry fullbacks, so I roll with it.


ALSO RAN:
  • Curt Orshoski, junior -- Before TFD and Max Milien switched positions, I thought Orshoski would be our default starter at the fullback position.  He's a tough, heady walk-on who might be the best pure lead blocker of this quartet.

ANTE POST: Terence Fells-Danzer will emerge as one of our most potent, dynamic receivers this season.  I predict 20+ catches, 150+ yards, and a trio of TDs for TFD.

2010-11 Basketball Schedule Sneak Peek!

A buddy of mine leaked this info...  Keep it under wraps for now, if you can.


11/12 -- William & Mary
11/15 -- SC Upstate
11/18 -- @ Stanford
11/22-24 -- Maui Invitational (field includes UConn, Kentucky, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Washington, Wichita State, and of course, Chaminade)
11/29 -- @ Minnesota (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
12/5 -- @ Virginia Tech
12/7 -- Radford
12/20 -- Norfolk State
12/22 -- Seattle U
12/30 -- Iowa State
1/2 -- LSU
1/4 -- Howard
1/8 -- North Carolina
1/15 -- @ Duke
1/19 -- @ Boston College
1/22 -- Georgia Tech
1/26 -- Maryland
1/29 -- @ Wake Forest
2/2 -- Clemson
2/5 -- @ Miami
2/12 -- @ Florida State
2/16 -- Duke
2/19 -- Virginia Tech
2/23 -- @ Georgia Tech
2/26 -- Boston College
3/2 -- NC State
3/5 -- @ Maryland
3/10-13 -- ACC Tournament (Greensboro)


Some waaaaaay-too-early thoughts, analysis, and predictions:
  • This is another lame OOC schedule, especially at home.  ISU and LSU are the biggest draws, and they aren't really basketball powerhouses.  And sandwiched around New Year's... not awesome.
  • We have a very real chance to start the ACC schedule at 0-3 in the conference, headed to BC.
  • I'm calling it now.  We will beat Virginia Tech on February 19th.
  • We have five "good" OOC games -- Stanford, Minnesota, our Maui opponent, Iowa State, and LSU.  We will win two of these games.  We need to win four if we want to go dancing.
  • Predicted ACC regular season record: 7-9.