April 27, 2011

Post-Spring Depth Chart

This was released two days ago.  After an elongated digestion period, I (of course) have a few thoughts:
  • Lots of "or" popping up on this thing.  Indecision from the coaching staff, parity on the depth chart, or battles for pecking order that just weren't settled this spring?  I gotta say, it makes us look a little bit silly.  If you're releasing a depth chart, release a freaking depth chart!  I think it's a given that the post-spring depth chart is subject to change.  I'll be honest --- it's shit like this that makes us look a shade below a serious football program.
  • Okay... Metheny/Rocco sit atop the QBs list.  Not a big surprise.  But as I said before, I think this is Mike Rocco's job to lose.
  • Ryan Cobb has leapfrogged Terence Fells-Danzer at fullback.  With the crunch against the 85-scholarship limit, I think TFD is probably one of the 5th year seniors who won't be invited back.  That makes me a little bit sad, because I was really excited about his position switch from linebacker after what he showed last spring.
  • Landon Bradley was out of action all spring, which really opened the door for Luke Bowanko to get concentrated work at right guard.  Now, when Bradley makes it back, the staff will need to decide which line is better (from left to right) -- Aboushi/Pasztor/Mihota/Bowanko/Moses or Bradley/Pasztor/Mihota/Moses/Aboushi.  I might like the Bowanko line better, as it puts big Morgan Moses at right tackle, where I think he can really flourish.  But if (southpaw) Ross Metheny wins the starting QB job, do you out Bradley on his blindside at right tackle?  This situation will be interesting to watch unfold, but having six starting-caliber offensive linemen is never a bad thing.
  • Jeremiah Mathis...  I've got a feeling about this guy this season.  Just a gut feeling.  He's got an interesting skill set for a motion-type H-back, and his listing in a string of "or" at starting tight end maybe tips the staff's hand that they are planning to use him a lot this season.  It makes sense, with a new [young] starting QB --- give him as many dump-off options as possible.
  • Khalek Shepherd is nowhere to be seen on the tailback depth chart.  That surprises me a little bit, I'll admit.  I thought the kid looked really good in the spring game.  Better than Kevin Parks, if I'm being honest.  (Why not throw another "or" on the board?)
  • Looks like Jake Snyder won the day over Brent Urban at LDE.  Interesting.  Snyder is a try-hard type of player, whose hustle and motor I really like.  But Urban has so much size and strength.  It might be light on the pass rush, but I think that duo has a chance to be pretty productive in a heavy rotation.
  • Will Hill is the 3rd guy at defensive tackle.  But where is Chris Brathwaite, and why isn't he listed?!?  Total travesty.  Brath looks like a bigger, stronger version of John-Kevin Dolce to me... which is a total compliment, by the way.  I doubt the staff will be able to keep him off the field this fall.
  • I like Schautz backing up Cam Johnson.  Gotta generate pass rush pressure from the "glamour" spot of RDE, and Billy is probably the second-best rush end on the spring roster.
  • The "or" at mike linebacker is probably more of a nod to the great spring Henry Coley had as it is a slight to Steve Greer's chances of starting.  Greer will start.  But Coley seems like he's really coming on.  It's never bad to have talent stacked up at middle linebacker, one of the most important positions at the heart of the 4-3 defense.
  • I was [obviously] wrong about LaRoy Reynolds being slotted at sam linebacker.  D'oh!  It makes sense, though.  Roy is a natural on the weak side.  I hope we get to see him blitzing a little bit this season.  He can be like a heat-seeking missile.
  • It's good to see Rijo Walker lock down that starting cornerback spot opposite Chase Minnifield.  But his battle begins in earnest this summer, when Tra Nicholson rolls into town.
  • Speaking of battle...  Watch out for LoVanté Battle at strong safety.  Like with Jay Mathis on offense, I've got a good feeling about Battle on D.  There is a role for violent-hitting linebacker/safety hybrids in an attacking 4-3.  Plus, Battle will have a chance to be a star on special teams coverage units.
  • Our secondary is perilously thin.  Reinforcements arrive this summer, and we'll need several true freshmen to push for spots on the depth chart.  Case in point, Drequan Hoskey is a nice prospect, but no way should a redshirt freshman walk-on be listed on the two-deep at the cornerback position.
  • By all accounts, Matt Fortin is a very good long snapper.  But do you think teams will try to pressure our kicks up the middle?  At 5-11, 190 pounds, Fortin isn't throwing much of a blocking presence into the mix.
  • We could easily have as many as twelve seniors in the 22-person starting lineup.  That's a pretty big number of upperclassmen, and it bodes pretty well for the season ahead.  If you can't have over-the-top talent, you want experience and chemistry.  I think we have a good chance to see a grizzled, tough team take the field this fall... with a sophomore starting at quarterback.  Ugh.

April 25, 2011

Bengals & Panthers

Most of you guys reading this blog know me personally.  And knowing me personally, you know that I've suffered through 24 years of being a die-hard Cincinnati Bengals fan.  That's 24 years... the last two complete decades of which featured exactly two playoff appearances and an 0-2 postseason record.

This past season, while watching an "all in" (see also: signing Terrell Owens) type of season swirl the tank into a 4-12 disaster, I decided that I had hit a wall.  Here's what I posted on my fantasy football message board for my 11-person support group to help me deal with, simply titled Breaking Point:

Guys, I've talked about jumping ship, but I've never seriously considered it. Until now. The only thing keeping me a Bengals fan is my friend Doug, a hat I really love (but is quickly getting worn out), and a #78 jersey hanging in my closet.

I'm thinking about parting ways, and seeking a new NFL team to love. Hopefully one that will bring me happiness, not misery.

Loyalty is sacred in my mind, but I honestly don't think I can take any more of this shit.

I need someone to talk me back off the ledge. And if you can't do it, I'm taking recommendations on a new team to follow. My rules are simple: good owner and management, but no long history of success and no Super Bowl wins. I'm not a frontrunner.

I might jump ship, I might not, but life is too short and the NFL is too awesome to waste it waiting around on this shitbag franchise.

The follow-up:

It's Mike Brown. And not just Mike Brown, but his entire family. Good people? I don't know, I guess so. Good at running a football franchise? No. I can't keep this source of negativity in my life, it's like poison. I'm in a bad mood every Sunday. And for what? A team whose owner couldn't give two shits about my happiness?

I love football too much to abandon the NFL and wait out this latest roster rot Mike Brown invited onto this team. And once these players cycle through, we'll just be on to the next batch of scumbags and bad draft picks. 20 freaking years is a pattern, and it's long enough to stay in an abusive relationship. I've seen all I need to see.

I mean, I'm on my main Bengals message board talking about the Bengals' next coach, and we can't allow ourselves to even think about the team bringing in an established good coach? What kind of life is this? Being the underdog is great, but the Bengals don't play the game to win. Mike Brown doesn't play to win, he just plays to exist. He's stagnated and content to suckle from the teet of the teams that care enough to put a good product on the field. And I can't take it anymore.

I'm afraid my only option is to let the Bengals fanship go into hibernation and find a new franchise to roll with. That "B" is like a scarlet letter, and it's one I never deserved to be branded with. I don't live in Cincinnati, I never visit Cincinnati, I kind of hate Cincinnati. I have zero regional loyalty --- my home is (and will probably always be) in Virginia.

I have two kids now. I don't want them to hate football because they inherited the Bengals from their old man.

Post #3:

This process is both appealing and appalling.

I chose the Bengals after that Redskins game in the late '80s. Then they went to the Super Bowl and I was hooked. Then Paul Brown died. Then the Bengals started to suck, but I felt like I had to prove my loyalty by staying true. Then the 2000s came, Marvin Lewis came aboard, and this ship finally started to turn. Then that '05 playoff loss, and the rest is history. The realization that the ship never actually turned, that it was just a mirage. The realization that Mike Brown doesn't really care about winning, and that he doesn't really care about the fans. I haven't been to a game in Cincinnati in nine years, and I don't really have a pressing desire to make it happen. I can't really watch the Bengals on TV... and I don't care. I enjoyed watching Colts/Texans last night as much as I enjoyed watching any Bengals game (other than the Pittsburgh and Batlimore wins) last year. I can't help but be jealous of my friends that are Bears fans, Broncos fans, Panthers fans, and... yeah, I'll say it... Steelers fans. Because where I have a lie that tastes like hope, they have actual hope. Where I never dare to have expectations, they pile 'em on. Where I have been conditioned (like a badly beaten dog) to be feeble, they have the pleasure to be bold.

It's appealing to choose a new team. It feels like I'm finally a customer again, and the teams I'm looking at need to woo me.

But it's also appalling. Because if I quit on the Bengals now, I'm a quitter, and the concept of my loyalty is shattered.

But let's be honest here --- It's been a long time since this team has deserved its loyal fans. And that's a fact.


Okay, I've reached a decision.

I can't drop the Bengals. I'll never be able to. I just don't have it in me. So I'll ride out the rest of this season, hope the coaching search goes well, and hope we find the wisdom to dump some of these shitbags. But the Bengals are and will always be my #1 team.

Meanwhile, I'm going to continue my research and soul-searching, and find a team to adopt as my #1a.

I can follow two teams at once. I can do it. There are no rules that regulate against that.

And then I arrived at the Carolina Panthers.

My choice is the Carolina Panthers. Six main reasons:

1) A nice, easy, short 3.5 hour drive from CVille to a beautiful stadium in (what I think is) an awesome little city in an area I really like.

2) I've been completely dialed-in with the NFL since the day the Panthers franchise was conceived in 1993 and created in 1995. I've witnessed the organization's entire history. And I was right there pulling for them along the way when they beat the Steelers in '96, made the playoffs, and knocked off the defending-champion Cowboys. Then again when they went to the Super Bowl in 2003 as the Cardiac Cats. This team has knocked on the door, but it hasn't quite made it in. I like that about them.

3) They are basically at square one right now. The John Fox era is about to end, and at 1-6 and going nowhere fast, I'll be getting in at the beginning of a new era for the franchise. It is very important to me that I'm not portrayed as a cheesedick bandwagon jumper as I go through this process of choosing a new team.

4) The Rookie. I'm not going to lie about this --- I really wanted to choose a team that one of my good friends is already a fan of, so that we can discuss the team, go to games together, etc. As I realized that the Bears, Broncos, Ravens, Giants/Jets, Redskins, Steelers, and Cardinals wouldn't work, it left me with the Panthers. The fact that Rook is laying some roots (with a beautiful home where me and Jeff can crash) in Durham is icing on the cake.

5) On a basic, philosophical, fundamental level, I think the Panthers are about good defense and a strong running game. They are a new franchise with an old-school NFC feel, which I really like.

6) Jerry Richardson is exactly the kind of owner I like. He's an old-school type of guy. He's a former player who reveres the game, and he believes in hiring a football-savvy GM to run the football operations.

So there it is. I am now officially in my infancy as a Carolina Panthers fan.

That was on November 5th, 2010.  A month and a half later, I had a follow-up.

It's been almost two months since I made the decision to take the Panthers as my #1a. For all who care, here's a little status report on how things are going... (It's a numbered list, but items are presented in no particular order.)

1) I've had a great time learning about the Panthers history and ownership. I won't bore you with the details, but this is absolutely a "blood & guts" type of franchise. Plus, I now eat at Hardees a lot more often than I used to.

2) Oddly enough, becoming a Panthers fan has made me enjoy being a Bengals fan more than I ever have. I'm not sure if I can explain why, so I'll attempt a [potentially spotty] analogy: Married man loves his wife, but feels like she's getting too bitchy and feels stuck in the marriage. Man takes on a goomar (Sopranos for "mistress") who is a head case in her own right. Tasting the flavor of a new woman and experiencing her individual pros and cons makes the man appreciate some of the things he had begun to take for granted with the wife. Man, wife, and goomar live happily ever after. I'm not sure how this works exactly... but taking on a new team has helped me to change my point of view with the old team. I allowed myself the freedom and power to wander, and it led me back to where I began. I no longer feel stuck. It's like having a second child -- it makes you appreciate all sorts of stuff you took for granted with the first child. Et cetera.

3) Loyalty is a big deal to me. So I'm worried about how I will be perceived as a "two team fan." You guys are my friends, and I value and respect your opinions.

Why do I bring all of this up on Wahooze, my UVA sports blog?  A few main reasons:

1) I wanted to formally announce my Panthers allegiance to all of my other friends who are not part of the Cavalier Keeper League.

2) I wanted to give a little background on where I'm coming from before I add a bit more NFL content to the blog.

3) I want to attempt to recruit other "floaters" into hardcore Panthers fanship.  Doug, Keens... I'm looking at you guys.

4) I want to hear some feedback on how this process went down, and how I am now perceived by the football-loving public.  So please, post your comments below.  And don't pull punches.  (Post as "Anonymous" if you feel the need.)

5) How close is Virginia to being the college football and college basketball equivalent of the Bengals?  That's a much bigger blog post for a much longer day, but it's coming, so be ready.  (And for the record, I'll NEVER jump ship on Virginia.  It's my freaking alma mater.)

April 19, 2011

Adios, Big Woody

Will Regan Leaving Virginia Basketball Program

Virginia men’s head basketball coach Tony Bennett announced on Tuesday that freshman forward Will Regan (Williamsville, N.Y.) is leaving the Cavaliers’ program.

“We wish Will the best,” Bennett said. “He expressed a desire to be closer to home and find a situation that he felt suited him better. Transfers are an increasing part of college basketball today and I hope things work out well for Will. We appreciate his contributions to our program.”

The 6-8 Regan played in 20 games for the Cavaliers during the 2010-11 season. He scored 25 points and had 18 rebounds. He was named to the 2011 All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Men’s Basketball Team.

“I would like to thank Coach Bennett and the entire coaching staff for the opportunity to be involved in a program like this one,” Regan said. “I know the future is bright for Virginia Basketball and that makes this a difficult decision for me. I want to enjoy achieving my basketball and academic goals and believe I will be better able to do that in another situation. I appreciate all of the support I’ve received at Virginia and wish my teammates the best in the years ahead.”

Regan will finish the semester at Virginia.

More attrition, but this time the writing was on the wall --- Regan was never going to get meaningful minutes on this team anytime soon.  Mike Scott, Assane Sene, James Johnson, and Akil Mitchell were already higher in the pecking order, and incoming freshman Darion Atkins has a more ACC-ready game, too.  2012 recruit Mike Tobey had a higher pedigree.  So this is probably a good move for all parties.

Now let's see how (and when) Tony Bennett uses this scholarship...

April 15, 2011

19 Football Tweets for Nathan

I just dropped off our order forms for our pod of eleven $99 season tickets for the 2011 football season.  My dear friend Nathan is joining us again this year, and I'm ecstatic about that.  In an e-mail exchange we had yesterday, he said:

"Gonna have to find some time to read up on the team.  Something like a quick position-by-position primer."

And I replied:

"What kind of overview would make you feel 'caught up,' and can I provide that on Wahooze?"

I'm nothing if not accommodating, right?

So I want to do a quick position-by-position primer for Nathan, as the Hoos exit spring practices and prepare for the hard work of the late spring and early summer with [UVA strength and conditioning coach] Evan Marcus.

To keep things short enough for Nathan to read quickly, I'm limiting myself to the Twitter standard of 140 characters for each of the positions.  It's a quick, rapid-fire overview... but I hope it's enough to stoke Nathan's fire.

Let's get to it.

Looks like Rocco has the edge leaving the spring, but he's far from a sure thing. If any position can short-circuit the team, it's QB1.

Running Backs
Perry Jones = Tiki Barber Lite.  Khalek Shepherd looked great at the spring game.  Kevin Parks has a ton of talent.  All are smaller backs.

Milien/Fells-Danzer/Cobb looks like a solid trio. Are any capable of taking the tough 'tween-the-tackles carries left behind by Keith Payne?

Wide Receivers
NUMBERS! Kris Burd - good player. Tim Smith - burner. Matt Snyder - very solid. Incoming frosh Jennings and Terrell are explosive slot guys.

Tight Ends
'Tight End U' is back in effect! Colter Phillips is a B+ starter. Paul Freedman is a good #2. Look for a breakthru for H-back J. Mathis.

Offensive Line
Best starting five since 2004. Aboushi, Moses, and Pasztor are future pros. The depth looks solid across the board. PUMPED about the OL.

Defensive Ends
Cam Johnson will be one of our stars. Scrum at LDE will include Jake Snyder and Brent Urban. Bill Schautz will force his way into action.

Defensive Tackles
Solid with two senior starters -- Jenkins & Conrath. Need to find a difference-making powerhouse. Brathwaite could be that guy; he's a stud.

Greer at mike will make a ton of plays. LaRoy Reynolds will be much improved. Worried about the other OLB spot. Depth is a tad shaky.

Mosley & McLeod are three-year starters. They should be good, but we've seen their liabilities. Depth chart is unsettled after those two.

Love Minnifield, total ballhawk. Rijo Walker had a good spring. True frosh Nicholson will likely start; most talented player on the team?

Randolph is accurate but has a weak leg. Howell is rock solid at punter. Worried about long field goals and kickoffs. Can Hinkebein step up?

Shepherd could be a standout. E.J. Scott might find a role here. Excited to see the Jennings/Terrell duo at work. Pair of gamebreakers.

Coverage Units
Expecting much improvement in this area as London's push to recruit speed starts bearing fruit with all the young guys on special teams.

Offensive Coordinator
Lazor must find a develop a good QB1. In the meantime, he'll need to lean on the running game. Is it possible without a big power back?

Defensive Coordinator
Reid MUST show us improved run fits and tackling. I'm looking to see more blitzing. There are a lot of improvements needed on D, in general.

Head Coach
London needs to get to 6 wins and a bowl, else the honeymoon phase will turn sour. He has some key decisions to make on redshirts this year.

(For Paulie) 2012 NFL Draft
Kris Burd, Cam Johnson, Chase Minnifield, and Austin Pasztor will play on Sundays. Nick Jenkins and Rodney McLeod will have a chance.

If we had a good QB, this is a 7-8 win team. The schedule is cake, so six wins should happen. The O will be okay, the D will be better.

That was fun.  Much tougher than I thought it'd be.  140 characters go quickly.

April 13, 2011

AD for a Day

You ain't got to lie, Craig.

Step aside, Craig Littlepage.  I'm taking one day at the helm of the University of Virginia's athletic department.

Trying to be at least somewhat realistic, and doing my best to avoid the pie-in-the-sky stuff, here is my to-do list for my reign of terror as UVA's athletic director:

  • Apologize to season ticket holders and all fans alike for the football re-seating fiasco of 2007.  It was a bad move with horrible timing (with the football team slowly being squeezed and fan enthusiasm crushed by the Al Groh iron fist), and the fans should know about the athletic department's regret and remorse.  Even it's just a simple "hey, we fucked up" letter... something... anything should be done to acknowledge the horrific blunder and attempt to earn back some of the lost good will.
  • Lower ticket prices.  Simple enough, right?  I think the $99 season ticket for football (now available to ALL fans, not just faculty/staff) is a GREAT start.  Those $10 basketball tickets from two years ago were along the right track, too.  But across the board, ticket prices need to come down!  $405 for season tickets for basketball is way too high.  Carve out a $150-$175 option.  And no more $35+ single game tickets.  I don't care if it's a game against Duke in basketball or against Florida State in football.  If you want rowdy fans at big games, let them through the gate for twenty bucks.  And for the "crappy" games -- i.e. William & Mary or Idaho in football or Norfolk State or Radford in basketball -- find a $8 or $10 price point.  Get the fans in the stands!  This also extends to the escalating ticket prices for the non-revenue sports.  $8 for a baseball game is probably too much.  Make it a square $5 and let's add more outfield bleachers to Davenport and forge a real home field advantage.  Same thing for women's basketball.  Five bucks.  Let's see if we can fill enough seats in the cavernous JPJ to be able to raise the blue curtain and create an atmosphere for the ladies.  $7 for a lacrosse game?  That's just nuts.  Try three bucks, and let's pack Klockner to the gills.  Et cetera.  Lower ticket prices, attract more fans, make it cheap for them to bring thier kids, cultivate NEW fans, build a rockin' fan base, create an intimidating home field/court advantage.  And hey, if you need to make up for the lost revenues, jack up the concessions prices.
  • Increase the amounts of GA seating at football and basketball games.  Maybe the answer is to set certain "low expected attendance" games as general admission games.  Screw the donors and season ticket holders -- get the rowdiest fans in the door and put them closest to the court/field.  I bet we wouldn't have lost to Seattle U this season if the team had some jacked up fans circling the court, spurring them on.  One of the best atmospheres I've experienced at John Paul Jones Arena was for the 2008 CBI game against Bradley.  No exactly a marquee tournament, not a marquee opponent, but it was a marquee crowd.  Why?  General admission.  Why not set one of the seven football home games and three or four of the 17 home basketball games as GA?
  • Raise the money to build a practice bubble for football.  And include all of the bells and whistles.  It's the missing piece to the puzzle, and would give Mike London even more traction on the recruiting trail.  I understand this project is already in the works, but it should be accelerated from its current glacial pace.
  • Talk to President Sullivan about creating an academic track for athletes.  Nothing over the top like the basket weaving or apparel management classes you'll find at football factories like Ohio State or Virginia Tech, but something that can attract those recruits who don't want to have to constantly worry about their academic standing while in college.  Yes, I know this is compromising some of Virginia's academic pride and prestige... but it's also something that must happen if we ever want to have a nationally relevant football program.  UVA will never grant academic leniency to its student-athletes, so it needs to carve out an academic track that is attractive to recruits who truly want to focus on football while they are in school.  I personally think the juice is worth the squeeze on this.  Academia disagrees, but when have they ever been right?
  • Pay Brian O'Connor!  Seriously.  Hand the man a blank check.  Do whatever it takes to keep him in that Virginia dugout for the next 30 years.
  • Hire a marketing firm.  The sports promotion division does an okay job, I guess.  But the University of Virginia needs more.  Specifically, we need a professional company to assist us with establishing a brand and developing a brand identity.  Pull out all the stops -- explore new forms of media, unveil alternate logos, develop mutually beneficial relationships with sports apparel companies, etc.  Put the crossed sabres in the public eye, and make it mean something.  Let the experts find a way to make Virginia seem cool to the kids.
  • Axe The Adventures of Cavman.  It was kinda awesome when it first started and it plays okay when you're drunk, but now it's just a silly cartoon of crappy quality.  It's corny.  The kids don't like it.  It's embarassing.  Replace it with something edgy, showy, sexy, and rock n' roll.  (I hate to admit this, but I am highly jealous of Virginia Tech's Enter Sandman.  We need something like that.  How about Tool's Forty Six & 2?  Tell me that wouldn't be a completely badass entrance song.)
  • WHOO Wahoo Radio.  Okay, okay, kinda pie-in-the-sky here... but I think UVA athletics deserves a true flagship radio empire.  24/7 Virginia sports programming on your AM dial.  Coaches shows, call-in shows, play by play for every sport you can cram in, so on and so forth.  Is it legal for the UVA athletic department to subsidize something like this?  Not sure, but I'd explore the concept.
  • Get the ball rolling on booting Boston College from the ACC.  Look, I understand why the conference picked BC.  They thought the move would deliver some of the lucrative Boston media market.  Newsflash: Bostonians care about the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics.  They don't give a crap about Boston Freaking College.  The school is not a geographic fit with the ACC, and to me its inclusion sticks out like sore thumb.  The ACC should boot BC, and pursue one of these schools as the replacement: Pitt, USF, Louisville, UCF, or ECU.
  • Find a way to bring Minor League Baseball to Davenport Field.  I've heard rumors that this very idea is currently floating around.  Davenport is big enough, with the capacity for a few more sets of outfield bleachers being added at minimal cost.  Why can't a low single A or rookie league team draw crowds in Charlottesville?  I can tell you that this town is a baseball town, based on what I've seen at UVA baseball games.  If Bristol, Danville, and Pulaski can support Appalachian League (advanced rookie) teams, why can't CVille?  I think you have to do everything you can to make Charlottesville more and more of a sports town.  Sometimes that process is as simple as making more sports available, cheap, fun, and accessible.  To me, there's not much better than minor league baseball on a lazy summer day.
  • Figure out why our students are such shitty sports fans, and FIX THE FREAKING PROBLEM!  Seriously.  I'm not sure what the answer is.  Probably more winning in general.  But our students need to fill the student section for football and basketball, and they need to be LOUD.  Currently, I find our student sections to be completely embarrassing.  Dorky, quiet, moody, lazy, flaccid, stale, limp, and cheesy..... and worst of all, not there.  Find a way, any way, to get their asses in the stands.  Maybe give a credit hour for every ten sporting events they attend.  I don't know.  Do something!
  • Embrace tailgating.  A topic near and dear to my heart.  Tailgating happens at UVA, but you never get the sense that it's anything more than simply tolerated.  I think the athletic department should embrace the act of tailgating, and really work to roll out the red carpet.  How?  A few key ideas to get the ball rolling: 1) Establish a shuttle bus service from U-Hall, the JPJ, and the Emmet/Ivy Garage.  Let the people get soused without forcing them on a mile-long hike to sober up before they get to the game.  Let 'em ride dirty and arrive surly.  2) Sell stuff in the lots.  Plop a few Bookstore vending tents in each of the bigger lots.  3) Swag.  I like the cheerleader carts with the tee-shirt cannons that visit Fontaine on game days.  That's a good start.  Now multiply that effort times ten.  4) Release a public statement that you accept, encourage, and embrace tailgating.  Celebrate your fans and their tailgating efforts.  5) Allow re-entry into the stadium at halftime.  That's a controversial one, but I think it's probably a pretty important one.
  • Punish season ticket holders that give/sell tickets to Hokies.  This is pretty self-explanatory.  If a Hokie sits in your seat, you are blacklisted from ever buying a ticket again.

That's a lot for one day, I'll admit it.  But I'm pretty enthusiastic about the job.  Give me a pot of coffee, some granola bars, and a few Mountain Dews, and I promise you I'll accomplish a lot of shit in my 24 hours as the AD.

Slicing the 200 Minute Pie, 2011-12

I did it a year ago, so let's just consider it an annual rite of Spring.

Like every year around this time, I'm stuck on basketball.

Virginia Baseball certainly has my full attention, but when my mind wanders... like during the morning shower, when I'm driving home from work, cooking dinner, daydreaming (and nightdreaming), et cetera... when my mind wanders it's currently wandering to basketball.

The 2011-12 season is an important one for Tony Bennett.  With Mike Scott back and another good recruiting class stacked on top of the stellar 2010 group (Joe Harris, KT Harrell, et al), I think it's time for us to allow our expectations to rise to the point of NCAA Tournament contention.

But how will the playing time shake out?  Here's my guess at how the 200 total minutes per game will be distributed next year. (2010-11 minutes per game average in parentheses.)

Mike Scott (33.7 mpg 2010-11) -- 32 min./game
Joe Harris (29.4) -- 28
Sammy Zeglinski (25.6) -- 27
Assane Sene (22.5) -- 22
KT Harrell (22.2) -- 20
Malcolm Brogdon (Fr.) -- 20
James Johnson (RS Fr.) -- 18
Jontel Evans (27.3) -- 13
Paul Jesperson (Fr.) -- 12
Akil Mitchell (15.1) -- 8
Will Regan (6.6) -- 0
Darion Atkins (Fr.) -- redshirt

Thoughts generated by this exercise:
  • Fir the first time I can remember, there is a clear 10-man rotation, with starters and true backups.  At the point, it's Zeglinski/Evans, at the 2 it's Harrell/Brogdon, at the 3 it's Harris/Jesperson, at power forward it's Scott/Mitchell, and at center it's Sene/Johnson.  I'm sure it won't work out to be exactly that, but it's clear that depth will be a strength of the team.
  • Sammy Zeglinski can -- and should -- be the starting point guard as a 5th year senior.  My guess is that he'll likely approach the 30 minutes he averaged down the stretch this season.  As noted above, that increase in minutes for Sammy comes at the direct expense to Jontel Evans.  Much like the quarterback position in football, I think our so-so point guard play has the chance to undermine what should shape up to be a very good season.  Sammy really needs to step up in his last season... especially at the free throw stripe late in games.
  • Watching the Sene/Johnson battle should be interesting.  Sene is the "win now" option, while the future of the program can be positively impacted by significant on-court experience gained by James Johnson.  I think the player who could ultimately suffer from this situation is Akil Mitchell, who might cede minutes to Johnson at the 4.
  • I'm hoping KT Harrell's lackluster play in conference games was simply due to a bit of a rookie slump... but I'm perfectly happy in having Harrell insurance in the form of Malcolm Brogdon.
  • Brogdon might also be able to steal some minutes at point guard.  Might not be a bad option if Zeglinski doesn't pull it together.  (I'm not sold on Jontel Evans as anything more than a situational role player at this point.)  A Brogdon/Harrell/Harris backcourt could be particularly explosive.
  • No more Joe Harris moonlighting at the 4.  This past season's thin spot -- the frontcourt -- will be next season's deep spot.  A healthy Mike Scott will see 30+ minutes on the floor, Sene has proved himself worthy of extended time, the staff has to find time for James Johnson, Akil Mitchell shouldn't be kept in the cold... and don't forget Will Regan, who should be improved.  And what about Darion Atkins?  I think a redshirt should be in order for the talented young big.
  • I'm thinking about Paul Jesperson like I was thinking about Joe Harris at this time last year.  "I think Joe Harris will play an important role on next year's team: sniper."  Harris was a sniper, but he was also so much more.  I hope I'm just as wrong about Jesperson, but for now I'm only expecting him to give Harris an occasional rest during games.
  • I'm excited about 2011-12, but a little nervous about 2012-13.  Mike Scott, Sammy Zeglinski, and Assane Sene graduate.  Will James Johnson, Jontel Evans (or a 2011 transfer or 2012 recruit), and freshman Mike Tobey be ready to step into the starting lineup?  I guess Akil Mitchell could start at the 4 with Johnson at the 5...  The staff is recruiting point guards and a power forwards for the remaining scholarships in the 2012 class.  I can see the puzzle coming together a little bit now.
  • This team still needs players who can: a) take the ball to the basket, and/or b) get their own shot.  Evans has part 'a' of that equation, but to this point has been a horrible finisher.  Harrell has the potential to be able to do both, but he needs to develop that part of his game.  By all accounts, Brogdon can do these things.  But we still need more.  Watching the 2011 NCAA Tournament, I saw the teams that were able to consistently penetrate and score having the most success.  UConn with Kemba Walker.  Kentucky with Brandon Knight.  Butler with Shelvin Mack.  Et cetera.  We need one of those guys if we want to win games in the postseason.  We need one of those guys if we want shooters like Joe Harris and Paul Jesperson and athletic igs like James Johnson and Akil Mitchell to realize their full potential.

No matter what, next year should be fun. I can't wait to see Malcolm Brogdon and James Johnson in action, and I can't wait to see what Mike Scott can do as a 5th year senior.


April 6, 2011

Starting Lineup Best Guess

Mike Rocco is my best guess at UVA's starting QB in 2011.

If you know anything about me, you know that I tirelessly seek out info on Virginia Football.  With that being said, and with me trying to beat the gun to 5:00 and quitting time, here is my early spring best guess at the 2011 starting lineup for the football team.  (Returning starters in bold.  Ongoing position battles in RED.)

QB) Michael Rocco, So.
RB) Perry Jones, Jr.
FB) Max Milien, Sr.
Flanker) Kris Burd, Sr.
Split End) Tim Smith, So.
Slot) Darius Jennings, true Fr.
TE) Colter Phillips, Jr.
LT) Landon Bradley, Sr.
LG) Austin Pasztor, Sr.
C) Anthony Mihota, Sr.
RG) Morgan Moses, So.
RT) Oday Aboushi, Jr.
RDE) Cam Johnson, Sr.
NT) Nick Jenkins, Sr.
DT) Matt Conrath, Sr.
LDE) Brent Urban, So.
WLB) Aaron Taliaferro, Sr.
MLB) Steve Greer, Jr.
SLB) LaRoy Reynolds, Jr.
SS) Rodney McLeod, Sr.
FS) Corey Mosley, Sr.
CB) Chase Minnifield, Sr.
CB) Demetrious "Tra" Nicholson, true Fr.
NB) Rijo Walker, So.
K) Robert Randolph, Sr.
P) Jimmy Howell, Sr.
KR) Khalek Shepherd, Fr. / Perry Jones, Jr.
PR) Dominique Terrell, true Fr.

April 5, 2011

Blueblood Rankings

Last week (prior to the Final Four and UConn's national championship) ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan put together a nice piece about Connecticut knocking on the door of joining college basketball's elite fraternity of "blueblood" programs -- UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, and Indiana.  Click HERE to read the article.

After last night, I'd say that UConn has indeed joined the illustrious ranks of the college basketball bluebloods.  Three national championships earns your inclusion, I'd say.  5+ appearances in the Final Four gets you close.  1,500+ all-time wins also gets you into the discussion.  And a coach that emerges as an icon of the sport doesn't hurt.

How does Virginia Basketball stack up on the blueblood meter?
Years of Existence: 106
All-Time Wins: 1,403
All-Time Record: 1,403-1,101 (.560)
20+ Win Seasons: 16
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 16
NCAA Tournament Record: 22-16 (.579)
Sweet Sixteens: 7
Elite Eights: 5
Final Fours: 2
NCAA Titles: 0
Iconic Coach:  Henry Lannigan?  Terry Holland?

It's a reasonably good history, but I'd say we're just on the outside of the top 25 in the "blueblood rankings" (if such a thing existed).

You know what?  Such a thing SHOULD exist.  In fact... here it is.


The True Bluebloods:

#1 -- UCLA
Eleven national championships.  No other program can even come close to touching that.

#2 -- Kentucky
With seven national championships, UK is the only program with more than half of UCLA's total.

#3 -- North Carolina
Five national championships.  You can't think about college basketball without thinking about UNC.

#4 -- Duke
Four national championships and an all-time best .758 winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament (94-30 overall record in the NCAAs).

#5 -- Kansas
At one point, KU was coached by the man who invented basketball.  It feels like they should have more than their measly three national championships.

#6 -- Indiana
Five national championships and the sport's most recent undefeated season (1975-76).

#7 -- Connecticut
Three national championships, four Final Fours, 1,547 total wins, .622 percentage in the NCAA Tournament.  Yes, they are blueblood.  Welcome to the penthouse, Huskies.

Tier Two Bluebloods (aka Baby Bluebloods):

#8 -- Syracuse
If there's a program next in line for knocking on the door for true blueblood status, it's Syracuse.  They only have one national championship, but boast 1,783 total wins in program history, including a 52-33 (.612) record in the Big Dance.

#9 -- Michigan State
Two national championships, a .693 record in the Tournament (52-23), and Tom Izzo is only 56 and isn't going anywhere.  I could easily see him double his championship count before he's finished his run with the Spartans.

#10 -- Louisville
Their two national championships in the '80s buoy them among the game's best programs.  Rick Pitino seems hellbent on delivering another championship to the Cardinal faithful.

The Rest of the Top 25:

#11 -- Cincinnati
Surprising, I know.  If you're like me, you only remember them from the Bob Huggins era.  But they have two national championships ('61 & '62) and rank 23rd in all-time program victories.

#12 -- NC State
One of their two national championships was fluky... but it's also one of the all-time great upsets and moments in the game's history.  At present, they are a middling ACC program, but the right coaching hire can quickly deliver them back to relevancy.

#13 -- Oklahoma State
Six Final Fours, two championships.  They have a rich history of basketball goodness, if not greatness.

#14 -- Florida
The Gators are nouveau riche, but their two national championships puts them in elite company (only thirteen other programs have multiple championships).

#15 -- Ohio State
Ten Final Four appearances (6th most all-time), one national championship, and a .643 record in the NCAA Tournament.  Thad Matta has them poised for an era of sustained greatness.

#16 -- Georgetown
One national championship, five Final Fours, and a lasting image of really good basketball teams led by John Thompson and Patrick Ewing.

#17 -- Maryland
They're slipping in these rankings after peaking with their 2002 national championship.

#18 -- Villanova
A program that will always be synonymous with the ultimate underdog story.

#19 -- Arizona
Elevated into an important program under Lute Olsen, now trying to gain traction as an elite program under Sean Miller.

#20 -- Michigan
The NCAA would have you believe that the Fab Five never happened... but we all know the truth.

#21 -- Arkansas
The Hogs rank in the top 20 in NCAA Tournament wins and overall team winning percentage, and in the top 10 in Final Four appearances.

#22 -- Marquette
It's a historically important basketball school with a national championship to its name.

#23 -- Temple
1,740 all-time wins, 6th most overall.

#24 -- St. John's
Very close to Virginia in terms of overall profile, but 1,703 total wins gives them an edge.

#25 -- Notre Dame
Not much success in the NCAA Tournament (sub-.500 record at 30-34 all-time), but with 1,674 total wins in program history, they deserve a spot in the top 25.

Just missed the cut: Houston, Illinois, Kansas State, Oklahoma, UNLV, Utah, California, Iowa, Memphis, Virginia, Purdue, Butler, Georgia Tech, Pennsylvania, BYU, Princeton, Wake Forest, LSU, Pittsburgh, Missouri, Xavier

I had some help from Wiki.

April 4, 2011

Haith to Mizzou

Frank Haith to Coach Mizzou

I gotta say, I would be PISSED if I were a Missouri fan.  What an underwhelming choice for a fairly high-profile coaching gig.  That said, it's a sad day when the ACC is losing coaches to the Big XII.

And now we have two coaching searches to follow in the ACC -- NC State (who was just publicly rejected by Shaka Smart today) and Miami.  Both are "coach killer" type positions, but the ACC needs both hires to be good in order to eventually elevate the product being put on the floor and return the conference to its rightful summit atop the college basketball mountain.


This weekend in Virginia Baseball action...

Friday night: Hoos 18, Hokies 3

Saturday: Hoos 9, Hokies 3

Sunday: Hoos 10, Hokies 2

An interesting stat from richard2 on Cavs Corner:
VPI scored a total of 8 runs, all of which were the result of 4 home runs. UVA scored a total of 37 runs, 3 of which came on 1 home run. Small ball is alive and well in Charlottesville!

At 28-2, the Hoos are off to their best 30-game start in program history.

This week, we take on Radford tomorrow night in Davenport Field, and then head down to the ATL for a key weekend series against Georgia Tech.

The ACC standings:

School / Conference / Pct. / Overall / Pct.
Florida State / 8-4 / .667 / 21-7 / .750
NC State / 5-7 / .417 / 17-12 / .586
Boston College / 4-7 / .364 / 10-15 / .400
Clemson / 4-8 / .333 / 14-12 / .538
Wake Forest / 4-8 / .333 / 10-17 / .370
Maryland / 2-10 / .167 / 13-15 / .464

School / Conference / Pct. / Overall / Pct.
Georgia Tech / 11-1 / .917 / 23-6 / .793
Virginia / 9-1 / .900 / 28-2 / .933
North Carolina / 10-2 / .833 / 26-4 / .867
Miami / 8-3 / .727 / 17-11 / .607
Duke / 3-9 / .250 / 16-14 / .533
Virginia Tech / 1-9 / .100 / 14-16 / .467

A series win this weekend would be HUGE.


April 2, 2011

Spring GAME(!) Notes...

Thanks to my amazingly awesome wife, I was able to invest 4.5 hours of my Saturday at Scott Stadium, basking in the festivities and taking copious notes.  Emptying the five-and-a-half pages of my composition book onto your computer screen...

  • I rolled in at around 11:50, just before the lacrosse game got started.  There wasn't a single empty parking spot near Scott Stadium.  "Gotta be a good sign," I thought to myself.  (I ended up parking on Shamrock.)
  • Walking in to the stadium, it hit me (as it usually does this time of year) just how awesome our home stadium is.  Truly a beautiful place to take in a game.  I love Scott Stadium.
  • Nice crowd on hand when I arrived.  My guesstimate would be somewhere around 12-13K fans.
  • I'm not going to spend too much time on lacrosse, but it was a part of the day, so here goes.  Basically, in a nutshell... we stink.  By Virginia Lacrosse standards, we stink.  Shamel Bratton didn't play today, so that might have made an impact, but the offense looked lethargic and passive, the ball movement was lacking, and our attack exhibited horrendous shot selection.  As usual, we were not good at faceoffs.  The defense was spotty.  Just everything about the lax team, top to bottom, looked like crap today.  Soft.  Sloppy.  The Maryland goalie was lights out, but it honestly wouldn't have taken a herculean effort to keep the Hoos under control today.  We lost the game, 12-7, and honestly it wasn't even that close.
  • It was chilly and windy all day today, but with around three minutes left to go in the lacrosse game, a freak snow (yes, snow) storm blew through, sending the fans scattering.  I found a seat under the overhang, beside [sophomore offensive lineman] Luke Bowanko's parents.  I quickly made friends with Mr. Bowanko, as I do.  He offered me lots of great insight to the program, so for the remainder of this blog post, if I heard it from him, it will appear in blue.  Onward to the SPRING GAME!

  • Once the spring game got started, I'd say the crowd had dwindled to around 8,000 fans.  I blame the weather.  Cold.  Windy.  Overcast.  Really sort of dreary.
  • It was a true split squad scrimmage today.  Two teams.  Four 10-minute quarters.  Regular college football rules (other than the shorter quarters).  A true split squad scrimmage.  Hallelujah.
  • The Blue team featured most of the offensive starters, and was coached by Bill Lazor.  The Orange team featured most of the defensive starters, and was coached by Jim Reid.  Makes sense.
  • The Blue's starting QB was Mike Rocco... which to me was pretty clear writing on the wall who the coaching staff currently sees as the QB1.
  • It's important to note that injuries have mounted in a serious way with the wide receiving corps.  Kris Burd and Tim Smith were already out.  Matt Snyder and Bobby Smith didn't play today, after picking up injuries during spring ball.  Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell don't arrive on Grounds until the summer.  So it was a piecemeal skeleton crew at the wide receiver position today.
  • Coach London spent most of his first season installing the schemes.  This spring, he has been busy elevating the energy level within the program and setting up a lot of competition through open battles for starting spots.  Mr. Bowanko thinks fans will be seeing a Virginia team with more of an "edge" this fall.
  • I saw some of that chippiness with my own two eyes today.  The guys were really going at it, on both sides of the ball.
  • It's easily the biggest, most important topic of the spring, so I won't spend any more time beating around the bush.  On the subject of the quarterbacks...  Mike Rocco is clearly the guy the coaches want to see take charge.  He has the best arm of the quartet, and seems the most comfortable in Lazor's pro-style offense.  If Rocco has a true challenger, I think that person is Michael Strauss.  I thought Strauss looked pretty good today.  He had a moxie about him; he came across as a gunslinger, which I like.  Ross Metheny doesn't have the arm or the dropback rhythm, and the fact that he's a southpaw works against him a little bit.  I'd say he's running third.  David Watford, very clearly, needs to take a redshirt.  He looks... lost?  Good athleticism, fine arm, zero accuracy, zero touch.  Looks like a young Aaron Brooks.  So as of this moment, if I'm betting money on which QB starts under center against William & Mary in the season opener, my wad is on Rocco.
  • The coaches love Rocco.  The players are warming up to him, but Metheny is probably their favorite QB.  Strauss had the best early spring, but has dropped off a bit lately.  Watford isn't close to being ready.
  • At last year's spring game, the player that most caught my eye was Perry Jones.  This year, it was Khalek Shepherd.  He's quick, he has a nose for finding the hole, and he's got nice hands and will be a real plus in the passing game.  I really liked what he showed me today.
  • Shepherd will be a fan favorite, in short order.  All he does is make plays.
  • But speaking of Perry Jones...  The more I see him, the more he reminds me of Tiki Barber.  All the way down to the muffed punts!  The offense will need a lot from Jones this year, and I think he'll be ready to deliver.
  • Pound for pound, Perry Jones is the strongest player on the team.  Luke loves blocking for him.
  • Max Milien looked fast to me today, and showed off some nice hands in the passing game.  He'll likely start at fullback, but he looks ready to get many of the "tough yardage" carries Keith Payne got last year.
  • Kevin Parks didn't impress me today.  His ball security was bad, and he didn't seem particularly decisive with his cuts.  You can see his talent bubbling below the surface, but he looked like exactly what he is -- a freshman running back.
  • Redshirt freshman fullback Ryan Cobb looks the part.  He blew open some holes for the backs, and he made a couple of nice catch and run plays in the flats.  I think he might make Terence Fells-Danzer expendable, as London searches for fifth year seniors to cut for scholarship space.
  • Ryan Cobb is the best fullback on the team.  Milien is more of a big tailback, and TFD hasn't had a great spring.
  • The quarterbacks threw to the backs A LOT today.  The dearth of receivers probably led to that, but expect to see a lot of screens, curls, and drags to the backs this upcoming season.
  • Look for lots of quick drops and short passes, trying to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers.  Between Tim Smith and the two incoming freshman receivers, we'll have more gamebreaking RAC-type receivers than we've had in a while.
  • Chase Minnifield is a stud.  He's the best player on the team, I think.  Today, he made several great plays in coverage, including a nice pick.  He also set a tone with his aggressiveness.
  • If Minnifield is the team's best player, Steve Greer isn't far behind.  He was a tackle machine today, and was extremely quick into his run fits.  He attacked the ballcarriers.  Greer should be a real strength in the middle of the defense, and I'm stoked to have a stud player at mike linebacker.
  • Greer is really locked in and focused right now.  He wants to single-handedly elevate the play of the defense.
  • Speaking of setting tones... safety/linebacker hybrid LoVanté Battle breathes fire out on the field.  He'll be the heart and soul of our special teams coverage units.  I hope he can play his way into the rotation on defense.  I was enamored with his intensity today.
  • I come away from the spring game less worried -- and actually pretty excited -- about the defensive line.  Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins were their normal, solid selves.  But some of the younger guys really stood out.  Billy Schautz is active, and made a lot of plays by staying on his feet and staying aggressive.  Chris Brathwaite looks like a MONSTER.  He got great push all day long.  Brent Urban is also huge, and was tossing blockers around like rag dolls.  Jake Snyder looks like a playmaker-in-the-making, and I like his cerebral style of play.  He made a lot of good instinct plays today, including batting down passes at the line.  Justin Renfrow looked a lot like a young Chris Canty to me today.  Connor McCartin, converted from linebacker, played well as a speedy rush end today.  All around, I was really happy with the way the young guys on the d-line played today.
  • Lots of good young talent on the d-line.  Brent Urban could be a beast, as early as this season.  He looks like Chris Long on a lot of plays.
  • Tra Nicholson will probably end up starting at cornerback this fall, but Rijo Walker and Dom Joseph both made strong bids for themselves today.  Both were solid in coverage, and both made nice breaks on the ball.  Joseph turned in a pick six.
  • For the most part, the receivers were crappy today.  But Miles Gooch oozes potential.  He really looks the part.  Long arms, strong frame, good hands.  He could develop into a very good possession receiver down the road.
  • Matt Snyder has been the best receiver this spring, but Gooch has easily been the second best.
  • I don't mean to dog out all of the receivers.  Today, E.J.Scott showed off some good speed and explosive playmaking ability.  He'll be a factor in the return game this fall.
  • And Ray Keys has a great set of hands.  He made a few "wow" catches downfield today.
  • I thought a few other walk-ons acquitted themselves well today.  Cornerbacks Drequan Hoskey and Chris Broadnax made some plays in coverage.  Receivers Brendan Morgan and Johnny Pickett were able to get open and make some catches in traffic.  Fullback Billy Skrobacz was fluid and dynamic as a receiver in the flats.
  • One of the best things Coach London does is attract high-profile walk-on talent.  Kids want to play for him, and are sometimes willing to pay their own way to do so.
  • A young tight end -- redshirt freshman Zachary Swanson -- really impressed me today.  He's long and lean, all knees and elbows, but he's fast, showed off some good hands, and was active and aggressive on special teams.
  • Our tight ends are great this season.  They'll make a lot of plays.  Colter Phillips especially.
  • Overall, the o-line looked good.  It's tough to focus in on them in this type of setting, however.
  • Jimmy Howell is a very good punter.  He'll be a nice field position weapon for us again this season.
  • Award winners and captains: Rock Weir Award (most improved player) -- Austin Pasztor and Rodney McLeod; Z Society Dudley Award (first-year player for his excellence in the classroom, on the field and in the community) -- Morgan Moses; Cavalier Academic Achievement Award -- Will Hill and Luke Bowanko (his parents went nuts when this was announced); Iron Cavalier (performance and dedication in the weight room) -- Matt Snyder; 2011 Team Captains -- Matt Snyder, Perry Jones, Rodney McLeod, and Nick Jenkins.  Chase Minnifield picks too many fights in practice to be a team captain.
  • Coming out of the spring game, I am excited about the running backs, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, and special teams.  I'm worried about the quarterbacks.  Go figure.

Spring "GAME"

I can't wait to see David Watford in action today.

Thanks to my wonderful wife being willing to take my terrific kids to Richmond to visit family today, I am lucky enough to be able to attend the lacrosse game vs. Maryland in Scott Stadium, and then the UVA Spring "Game."  (At least, I hope it's a true game and none of this offense vs. defense and situational drills bullcrap we've had to deal with lately.  Big time programs have spring GAMEs, dammit.)

I'll post all of my thoughts from today's action by the end of the weekend.  So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you have some time to burn, you can watch the spring game streaming live on ESPN3.  Tap it here!  Coverage starts at 2:30.

Some things I'll specifically be looking for at the spring game:
  • The number of fans.  Is the event growing?  Or are we still toiling amid a swirl of fan apathy?
  • The QB derby.  Four may enter, but only one (or maybe two) will emerge.  I think it's vitally important that we leave the spring with either a starting quarterback or a two-man battle that will unfold in the summer.  There are limited reps, and four guys sharing them is about two and a half too many.  My eyes will be glued to Ross Metheny, Mike Rocco, Michael Strauss, and David Watford today.
  • Is Perry Jones ready to carry the load as the lead back?  Or are Kevin Parks, Khalek Shepherd, and/or Max Milien poised to command some carries?  Will we need incoming uberback Clifton Richardson to play as a true freshman, or will he be afforded the luxury of a redshirt?
  • With Kris Burd and Tim Smith missing spring ball with injuries, and now with Matt Snyder banged up, which receivers will step up?  This is a golden opportunity for Miles Gooch, Ray Keys, Kevin Royal, E.J. Scott, and Bobby Smith to gain some traction in their bids for playing time.  If three of those five guys don't emerge, the table will be set for Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell to see the field as true freshmen.  (Not necessarily a bad thing.)
  • Is Colter Phillips the next star tight end at "Tight End U?"
  • Is the o-line truly gelling into a difference-making unit and a true strength of the team?
  • Is the defensive line ready to take a crucial step forward and improve on last season's shaky showing?
  • Are the linebackers improved, and is LaRoy Reynolds ready to realize his star potential?
  • Can the safeties cover anyone?
  • With Devin Wallace off the team, who will be the #2 corner alongside Chase Minnifield?  Is Rijo Walker ready to emerge?  Has Dom Joseph battled his way into a relevant role?  Will the Hoos need Tra Nicholson to start from day one?
  • Am I idiotic to have confidence in Robert Randolph as the placekicker?
  • Overall, does the team look better than it did a year ago?

April 1, 2011

Ranking the Basketball Coaches of the ACC

Nope, sorry Goonberg.  Not #1.

Whiling away a lazy Friday afternoon...

Here's my ranking of the 11 ACC basketball coaches (NC State is still coachless as of this writing).  Commentary included!  If you disagree, please post a comment of your own!  (Speaking of which, just please post comments in general --- I love receiving the feedback.)

#1 Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
What does it say about me that I didn't have to look up how to spell his name?  He's a coaching legend.  He's even giving me a run for my money on the ownership of the letter "K."  Despite his all-too-often NCAA Tournament flameouts, he has to rank #1 on a list like this.

#2 Roy Williams, North Carolina
He has elevated the "aww shucks" huckster approach to coaching to an all-new artform.  He's a phenomenal recruiter, and though his system probably requires over-the-top levels of talent, since he's able to recruit so well he can usually pull it off.

#3 Gary Williams, Maryland
Can you believe that Maryland fans are so delusional that they are trying to nudge Williams toward the hot seat right now?  That fanbase never fails to completely astound me.  He erupts like a volcano during games, but he might be the conference's best pure Xs and Os guy.  His struggles in recruiting and the general shittiness of Maryland are the only things holding him back from multiple national championships.

#4 Tony Bennett, Virginia
Look, I'm a homer.  So sue me.  That said, I would stack Bennett's system and ability to recruit players who fit that system [and the school] against any other coach outside of K.  I'm still drinking the kool-aid; I'm gulping it down.  To coax a 7-9 ACC record out of the group he put on the floor this past season?  Outstanding.  And really, a living testament to his coaching chops.

#5 Brad Brownell, Clemson
He was great at UNC Wilmington and Wright State, and just led Clemson to its first NCAA Tournament win since 1997 ...in his first year on the job... and without Trevor Booker.  I think he'll go on to do great things at Clemson, which (like Virginia) is a bit of a sleeping giant in the world of college hoops.

#6 Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
He's got an m/o: recruit long, bouncy athletes and apply a system of tight on-ball pressure defense.  That approach worked well enough to take a moribund Miami program to 22+ wins and the Sweet Sixteen, and he has repeated the feat at FSU.  I think there's a fairly low ceiling here, but that ceiling is much higher than anything Florida State basketball was formerly used to.

#7 Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech
He's improving as a recruiter, but his failure to make it to a single NCAA Tournament with the Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen core is a damning indictment of his coaching and motivational ability.  This guy is probably about the best VT can hope for, but in my opinion he's just a mediocre college basketball coach.

#8 Steve Donahue, Boston College
Of course you remember Cornell's run to the Sweet Sixteen last year, with Donahue at the helm.  He's a solid coach, but the jury is out on his ability to attract ACC-level talent to BC.  The Eagles are about to take a nosedive with the graduation of so many key seniors, but if Donahue can recruit the right kind of players he should be able to rebuild this program on a sustainable foundation.

#9 Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech
It's really pretty simple:  He's a good recruiter, but a relatively bad coach.  To me, this was a highly underwhelming hire for Georgia Tech, which should be able to tap a nice coaching talent.  However, if Gregory can properly recruit the ATL while maintaining GT's pipeline to New York, he could dumbass his way into a nice collection of talented players... good enough to overcome his poor Xs and Os.

#10 Frank Haith, Miami
In my opinion, the Miami job is by far the worst in the ACC.  Haith, a coach who seemed destined for a career as a top assistant, is probably about the best the Hurricanes will ever be able to get, unless they throw a pile of money at a young up-and-comer and get lucky.  He's actually been reasonably successful at Miami, though I'm hearing that their administration is beginning the hand-wringing over one NCAA appearance over the course of his seven seasons in Coral Gables.

#11 Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest
This guy's average tenure at any one place is 2.5 years.  There's a reason for that.  He sucks!  I honestly have no idea why Wake fired Dine Gaudio (not a very good coach, but a damn fine recruiter) in order to hire this stiff.

Not pictured: NC State, whose search is reportedly down to VCU's Shaka Smart, Notre Dame's Mike Brey, and Arizona's Sean Miller.  I'm impressed by this list of names, as I think NC State is kind of a no-win type of job.  You'll never be able to compete with Duke and UNC for the hearts and minds of the North Carolina public.  But since I'm a gamer, here is where each of those coaches would rank on my list: Smart -- #9 (I'm not sold on the guy, sorry*), Brey -- #6 (he's decent), and Miller -- #3 (I think this guy is the real deal).

* Okay, here it is.  He's been the coach at VCU for two years.  He didn't have a particularly good regular season, and barely made it into the Tournament off of the bubble.  He's riding the hot shooting of four senior starters and he's winning with players he didn't recruit.  He might be the best college basketball coach of all time, but I'm not sold yet.

The (Mid-)Major League

I love shit like this.

SI.com's Stewart Mandel: Butler and VCU should create brand new conference of elite mid-majors.