December 31, 2011

Not Special Enough

A few beers deep this fine New Year's Eve.  Gonna drop some F bombs.  Earmuffs for those with tender sensibilities.

Rocco played a great game, and D was okay (given the absence of Greer and Minnifield). It was the "special" teams that fucked us tonight.  You'll read a million newspaper articles about it - unless you're an illiterate Auburn fan - but I'll cut to the point...  Three things:

1) Time to relieve Anthony Poindexter of his special teams coaching responsibilities.  Seriously... we need some competency.  Sorry Dex.

2) I'm glad all three of our [shitty] kickers are exhausting their eligibility.  Won't miss a single one of these worthless scholarship-munchers.  (Thanks Al Groh.)  Robert Randolph is fired for his kicking approach alone.  Jimmy Howell?  You're a fucking embarrassment to your last name.  From now on, your name is Jimmy Smith.

3) Special Teams needs to be a major fucking focus during the offseason.  Get it fixed.  Damn.

Auburn was the better team tonight, but without the numerous special teams gaffes, I think it's a nailbiter coming down the stretch.  Good season, blah blah blah, rings a little empty losing our last two like choking dogs on national television.

Get to another bowl in 2012, and play against a non-SEC team, please.  We're not ready for this shit.

Fuck it, time to watch the ball drop.



Now all we need is the white one.

Love it.

Love it.

Peachy Keen?

Hopes, fears, and aspirations for the Peach Chick-Fil-A Bowl tonight...

-- A win.  Obviously.  Beating an SEC team (and the defending national champion) in SEC country on national television in a New Year's Eve bowl game to go to 9-4 on the season would be a huge accomplishment for the program in just its second year under Mike London.
-- A lively pro-UVA crowd.  Auburn is going to own 65-70% of the Geirgia Dome tonight.  We just need our 30-35% of the crowd to be loud and enthusiastic, and to help us build a reputation as a good fanbase for future bowl selections.  I wish I could be down there doing my part, but alas.
-- Be able to run.  Auburn's defense is not great against the run.  Their front seven is young, and though they are athletically awesome, they are also prone to mistakes.  If we can establish our ground game against this team, I think it proves that we can run on just about anyone [outside of Blacksburg].
-- Play better than UNC and Wake did in their bowl games.  In many ways, we are carrying the banner for the ACC this bowl season.
-- A clean game for Mike Rocco.  No more than one INT.  No boneheaded plays.  Just a controlled, collected, cool, calm game from Rock.  If he can play his normally effective, efficient game in the face of a supersonic SEC-style pass rush, I think it would be a springboard to future success for our young quarterback.

We need a good game out of you, Rock.

-- A blowout.  Let's be real here, this is an SEC team that just won the national championship twelve months ago.  It hasn't all come together for them this year, but they are still STACKED.  At evety single position they put a better athlete on the field.  It's very possible that they blow us clean out of the Georgia Dome tonight.  That would be bad, as we would be ending the season with back-to-back blowout losses.
-- A fired-up AU defense.  With Ted Roof gone to UCF, Auburn's head coach Gene Chizik will be coaching the defense.  All week, we've been hearing about how excited they are to be playing for the head coach.  We saw this same effect back in the 2005 Music City Bowl after Al Golden left for Temple.  Our defense played the game of their lives as we upset a very good Minnesota team, powered by Laurence Maroney and Ernest Wheelright.  I'm nervous that Auburn's defense will play its best game of the season with Chizik at the reins.
-- Turnovers.  When we take care of the ball, we win.  When we turn it over, we lose.  Auburn's defensive speed is specifically geared to generate takeaways.  We need Rocco to be quick and accurate with his passes, and we need the backs to secure the ball.
-- Needing clutch kicks.  I have zero faith in Robert Randolph if the game is on the line.  Zero.
-- Penalties.  We can sometimes struggle with the zebras.  Gotta play a clean game tonight.
-- Onterio McCalebb.  With thumper Michael Dyer out of the lineup, the much more explosive and dynamic McCalebb will be their primary ballcarrier.  I have nightmare visions of 65-yard touchdown scampers down the sideline as McCalebb beats our D around the edge.
-- The Auburn pass rush.  These guys can get after the passer.  We have to slow them down and give Rocco a chance to make reads and deliver throws.
-- The Virginia Football Jinx.  C'mon... I know it's real, you know it's real, everyone knows it's real.


-- Establish Perry Jones.  These Auburn linebackers are young and frankly, they are not very good.  Superman could conceivably abuse them, if we can get him out into space.
-- STOP THE FREAKING RUN.  It's not exactly rocket science, but it's the key to beating Auburn.
-- Send Chase Minnifield off in style.  Pick six, young man.  Pick six.
-- Send Matt Conrath off in style.  Two sacks, if you please.
-- Send Austin Pasztor off in style.  Pave the way for an effective running game, baby grizzly.
-- Send Kris Burd off in style.  Get in the end zone, buddy.
-- No crippling mistakes on special teams.
-- No devastating injuries.
-- If we lose, at least keep it close and lose respectably.
-- No, scratch that.  Win the freaking game.  It's really all that matters.

This is our chance to cement our place as a legit up-and-comer in college football.

December 30, 2011

Mike London gets an Extension

You earned it.
Mike London got a new 5 year deal from UVA today and it is well deserved. You can read the story here. Terms are not disclosed but it is something the program needed to do in order to fend off the rumors of London to Penn State, which were ridiculous to begin with. This helps on the recruiting trail as it not only shows that the administration has faith in what Coach London is doing, but also ensures recruits that this is not a stepping stone job for him. Coach London has described Virginia as his dream job and given the success he seems to have this could easily become a Mack Brown or Nick Saban type of deal where the coach can stay as long as he wants.

This also helps big time with Stefon Diggs, who is big on coach loyalty, as can be seen by his dropping of Florida when Charlie Weis, who promised he would be there, packed his bags for Kansas. Now the administration needs to open their wallets and pay the assistants and we will truly know that they are in for the long haul.

This is great news for the program, and for us fans. Go Hoos!

December 25, 2011

Lumps of Coal

You've already seen my brief post about KT Harrell leaving the basketball program.  By now, I'm sure you've heard the same is true about James Johnson.  If not, here's the blurb:

James Johnson Leaving Virginia Basketball Program
Redshirt freshman forward is planning to transfer
CHARLOTTESVILLE—Virginia men’s head basketball coach Tony Bennett announced on Saturday (Dec. 24) that redshirt freshman forward James Johnson (Wildomar, Calif.) is leaving the Cavaliers’ program.
“I met with James this morning (Saturday, Dec. 24) and he informed me that he would be transferring,” Bennett said. “I wish him well. Obviously with KT Harrell yesterday and James today deciding not to continue at Virginia I am disappointed. But with that being said, if James and KT feel it’s best for them not to be here I think it’s better for everyone to part ways.”
The 6-9 Johnson has played in six games this season, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds. He redshirted during the 2010-11 season.
“I love and respect all the individuals that make up the Virginia basketball program,” Johnson said. “They helped me grow in so many ways. The support and love they showed me was unbelievable and it will be very hard to leave this group. However, I feel strongly that it is in my best interest to pursue other opportunities. I will miss the guys on the team as well as the coaching staff a lot and I hope they have a great season.” 

A bummer, for sure.

If you're wondering about the timing of these two departures, I might be able to help.  Simply put, KTH and JJ have transferred now so that they can enroll at their new schools in time for the spring semester... which makes them able to begin playing in January 2013, after their mandatory year of sitting out.

Why are they transferring?  Simply put, they are candyasses.  Sorry to be so blunt about that, but after being passed on the depth chart and in the playing time pecking order by Malcolm Brogdon and Darion Atkins, both true freshman, neither KTH nor JJ were willing to stick around, see through their commitments to the Virginia program, and fight for a role on the team.

Our basketball program is still in the thick of the rebuilding process, and will be for another 2+ years, while Tony Bennett gets a full cycle of his own hand-picked players into and through the program.  The systems have to take root before things can really stabilize.  Attrition is a necessary evil for a rebuilding program, especially one with tenets like disciplined defense and patient shot selection at the heart of the systems being installed.  Bennettball is not for everyone, I'm sure it's not especially "fun" to play, and I'm sure the players toiling to earn their places but still falling behind the learning curve are going to get frustrated and potentially cut and run if they are not made of stern enough stuff.  Their departures open up scholarships with which to recruit players who might be better fits or better suited for the specific rigors of Bennettball.  At first blush this recent attrition might be alarming, but I think it's all part of the process of building a program.

For me, this is still an NCAA Tournament or BUST season, especially since it seems like next year is destined to be a half-step-back campaign with such little frontcourt depth returning on the roster.

Meanwhile, look for Bennett to add another player to the 2012 class -- we now badly need another big man in the mix for next season.

The big red bust.

December 23, 2011

KT Harrell Leaves UVA Basketball Team

KT Harrell Leaving Virginia Basketball Program
Sophomore guard is planning to transfer
CHARLOTTESVILLE—Virginia men’s head basketball coach Tony Bennett announced on Friday (Dec. 23) that sophomore guard KT Harrell (Montgomery, Ala.) is leaving the Cavaliers’ program.
“I was informed by KT and his parents today (Friday, Dec. 23) that he is planning to transfer,” Bennett said. “I was disappointed by his decision to leave Virginia. I was hoping he would stay, but I appreciate his contributions to our program and wish him the best in the future.”
The 6-4 Harrell has played in all 11 of Virginia’s games this season and started the first five. He is averaging 4.7 points and 1.0 rebound a game, while shooting 31.5 percent (17-54) from the field and 70.0 percent (14-20) from the free-throw line.
“I’m grateful for my experience at Virginia and for my teammates and coaches,” Harrell said. “They were very kind and good to me. I wish them the best.”
As a freshman during the 2010-11 season, Harrell played in all 31 of Virginia’s games and started 15 of them. He averaged 8.0 points and 2.1 rebounds a game. Harrell shot 42.3 percent (91-215) from the field, including 42.1 percent (24-57) from three-point range, and 64.2 percent (43-67) from the free-throw line. 

I'm sad to see KTH leave, but it was clear that Malcolm Brogdon had overtaken him.  I think it's a real bummer that the kid couldn't find a way to finish out the season and then transfer, but it is what it is.
Bennett's 2010 recruiting class is now reduced to one star (Joe Harris), one solid role player (Akil Mitchell), and one giant red-headed question mark (James Johnson).  Attrition is a part of today's college basketball landscape, but Tony Bennett seems to experience more than his fair share... and it also seems like he owns that fact.  I guess Bennettball isn't for everyone.

NCAA Tournament or bust.

Best of luck, young man.  You will be missed.

December 22, 2011

The Christmas List

I am sitting here at work all alone today with visions of sugar plums and other Christmas nonsense bouncing around in my brain and it got me thinking. As a UVA sports fan what do I want for Christmas. Considering that I asked for a jet ski when I was 6 years old I think this list can get as outrageous as I want, thus I will embrace that. Let’s go!

1.       Stefon Diggs

I’m sure most of you who read this blog know we love recruiting. I personally love it because it gives you hope. I’ve never had hope as a sports fan with the exception of a few season with the Capitals, and the 2003 Chicago Cubs. So recruiting/the draft/ free agency are really my go to sources of happiness. That being said I have never wanted to land a recruit as badly as I want UVA to land Stefon Diggs. The number 8 player in the country has UVA firmly in his sights. Here are a few bonuses to landing Diggs. First off it shows that Mike London can recruit ANYONE. Landing a player of his caliber shows that UVA has arrived on the national scene and takes away the stigma of “hometown school” to any big time local recruits. This does nothing but help our standing with local monsters that are coming out of Virginia soon like Ryan Burns at Stone Bridge, and Andrew Brown at Indian River. Secondly it blows the Good Counsel pipeline wide open. For as good as football is in the WCAC (DC Metro Private Schools) no one touches that program in terms of constant talent. If Coach London can bag a steady stream of prospects coming out of Olney that would be HUGE for this program. UVA can become a national power just by locking down the big regions they are close too, DC Metro, 757, and Richmond. Yes it’s nice to go get players from other states but this school can win with just those 3 areas. Remember that analogy I made to the Miami program? Well that should be the blueprint. Lock down VA and lock up a title.

2.       A back to the basket big man to replace Mike Scott
Beast. But can he do it alone?
Mike Scott put the team on his back last night to beat Seattle, who I never want to play again. But we need SOMEONE to step up into that role. Mike Tobey is killing it in High School right now so he looks to be the answer at the 5 spot but we need that big time athlete at the 4 to replace Scott. That was supposed to be James Johnson but that looks like a disaster.  A player like Ryan Rosburg would have been perfect but he is gone to Missouri.  Literally anyone we can throw the ball to on the block and be strong and athletic would be great. We have enough wings, get us some muscle. That being said I think the player to watch in this is actually Akil Mitchell. He needs to develop that offensive game a little more but with some polish he could be a poor man’s Mike Scott and a valuable asset to this team next season.

3.       Anthony Barber
Not just a good point guard from 2013. Anthony Barber specifically. Barber plays at Hampton and while he technically isn’t a prototypical type of TB point guard if Coach Bennett is going to succeed he NEEDS to start getting local kids. Barber already has an offer from Tech and could be a giant pain in our ass for the next 4 seasons if he goes there. Go get this kid Tony, it will not only help the program on the floor, but it will help you settle in as UVA’s coach, and shake the stigma that you have no recruiting ties to this area.

4.       A new athletic complex

This is pretty far out there so bare with me. We need to tear down UHall. It looks ridiculous and just sucks in general. Our athletic department, our extremely successful athletic department, should not have to be run out of a gym. Tear it down and build a state of the art athletic facility with a nice weight room for EVERYONE and nice new offices. Having great facilities helps every program not just in performance but also in recruiting. Reward those people that have been working hard to make us successful in everything, not just the sports that make the money.

5.       Expand Davenport

This is beating a dead horse so I’m not going to keep harping on it but please for the love of god make those bleachers permanent out there.  You want a big program? Invest in it.

6.       New Fans

If you read Wahooze this does not apply to you so please don’t be offended. If you are not a student and you wear a tie to football games please just don’t come. You look stupid. I will allow the students to do it because I guess it is a tradition but it is a stupid one. Ties symbolize everything that is wrong with UVA football. It’s not a cocktail party for you to be fashionably late to and leave early to go check your stock futures or whatever rich people do. If you want success on the field the whole attitude at the games and that starts with the fans. Drinking is fun but football is not an excuse to get drunk. If you want football to be special you can’t treat it like every other event affiliated with UVA. This isn’t foxfield or graduation, this is serious. And if you want big time football you need to be their early, and stay till the end. You are supposed to watch the players come in not the other way around.

7.       Get Rid of the Adventures of CavMan

I loathe this thing. How cheesy can you be? A cartoon? That hypes up I’d say about 0% of the crowd. The horse running out is cool, the song they run out to is…serviceable, but that stupid cartoon makes me want to rip my eyes out. Unless Cavman is going to start brutally murdering the other teams mascot I’ve had enough, get it out.

8.       A Better Touchdown Celebration
This will do

We are getting close to what I truly want for Christmas more than anything, and this makes that that much closer. I can’t believe I am agreeing with Mac McDonald on this one but we need something new and unique for when we score. He likes having a hockey horn (which I could get behind) but really anything will work. Maybe a nice cannon? How about some fire? Hell I wouldn’t mind Cavman riding out and beheading an opposing cheerleader and putting their head on a stake. Something that we can identify as ours.  It has to be something associated with Charlottesville or Thomas Jefferson or something for that to work so unless we are going to toast wine or write something I don’t really know what. But I am open to suggestions! Until then I can get down with a hockey horn!

9.       Get Rid of the Band
You don't know what just happened

I have no idea why the marching band thinks they are the shit but there is no student organization I would rather see wiped off the face of the earth than the marching band. These kids act like 7 year olds at summer camp constantly and just embarrass me as a UVA fan. Just as a statement to all band people that might read this blog. You literally do nothing to help the football team. So shut up and blow your damn horn. No one needs to read a shout out to the clarinet section on the jumbotron  (well no one needs to read any of that shit but that’s a whole different post). No one is going to catch on to your stupid little dances you are trying to start, and no one really likes you. You just take up good seats we could be giving to people who pay money for their tickets, like the staff section. We could be a good student buffer, because we have to deal with the students on a daily basis. As a comparison the Notre Dame band has to stand on the sidelines the entire game. Either learn your place or just please go away.

10.   Pay the football staff!

This is the last and most important thing on my list. While I really want the band gone this is the number one thing we need to do. Bill Lazor is going to leave if we don’t pay him. He’s too good, too young, and too smart to stay here without a significant pay raise. Other schools will come calling, and Florida seems to already have. The assistants are what make this program and while we ABSOLUTELY need to pay Mike London you cannot forget about the fantastic staff he has assembled here. We aren’t good enough yet to not be considered a stepping stone for these guys so break out the checkbook!

That’s the list! Let’s make that happen shall we? Merry Christmas Wahooze readers.

December 21, 2011

Wahooze Weekly Picks -- BOWL-O-RAMA!

As we move into the endgame of our season-long blog pick'em contest, we've seen a dramatic change atop the leader board.

Kendall -- 5 points
Pierce -- 3 points
Mike -- 2 points
Kato -- 1 point

Kendall -- 102 points
Pierce -- 100 points
Guest Pickers -- 96 points
Mike -- 88 points

It's a tight race between Pierce and myself.  Let's see how it all unfolds during bowl season...

This week's guest picker is Pierce's dad, Jeff.  No picture or anything, as the man prefers to operate from within a fog of anonymity.  It's cool, baby.  We'll take Pierce as the living testament to your greatness.

So instead of a pic of Jeff, here are the original Florida State Cowgirls, just for old time's sake.

This one never gets old.

On to the picks!

3 points: Chick-fil-A Bowl -- Virginia vs. Auburn (-1.5)
HOOS: Pierce, Jeff, Mike
WAR EAGLE: Kendall

Pierce Sez: I think the Hoos will do it. UVA's going to be beyond pumped to play and AU is apparently falling apart in every way already this offseason. Only thing holding me back is that we wont be in our all-whites.

Jeff Sez: UVA because my son and his mother went there.

Mike Sez: Both coordinators are gone AND their best player is suspended. How are we still dogs?

Kendall Sez: Picking Auburn just to hedge my bets on New Year's Eve.  I actually think we have a really good shot at winning this game, but Auburn puts better athletes on the field, and will have support from approximately 70% of that Atlanta crowd.

3 points: BCS Championship -- Alabama vs. LSU (-1)
BAMA: Pierce, Jeff, Kendall
LSU: Mike

Pierce Sez: Bama will win in their 2nd try - then the BCS will have yet another reason to be put to death.

Jeff Sez: Alabama on the theory that Saban is a better coach than Miles and their players’ bonuses depend on them winning, whereas the Bayou Bengals get paid either way, or so I’ve been told.

Mike Sez: LSU's offense has gotten better. And their defense is still better than probably 25-40% of the pro's.

Kendall Sez: I am one of the few people looking forward to this game, and I'm not really a guy who loves defense.  The talent just oozes out of the screen when you're watching these two teams play, and that's exciting to me.  I do agree with Jeff in that Saban is a better coach than Les Miles, thus the Bama pick.  With this long of a layoff, coaching takes on increased importance.

Love the Honey Badger, though.

1 point each:

Independence Bowl -- North Carolina vs. Missouri (-5)

Pierce Sez: UNC usually sucks it up in bowl games, right? Eh, Carolina sucks.

Jeff Sez:  I like Missouri to cover here for no reason other than my general loathing of all things Carolina, including that stuff they call barbecue sauce.

Mike Sez: I think the depression of being in Shreveport is much easier for people from Missouri to get over than people from UNC.

Kendall Sez: The Independence Bowl is always about finding the team that is best able to overcome the disappointment of being in Shreveport.  I don't think UNC football has ever overcome anything.  Screw them, Mizzou rolls.

Belk Bowl -- Louisville vs. NC State (-3)

Pierce Sez: The good version of the Pack should show up for this one.

Jeff Sez: NC State is a fickle bunch, but Louisville’s basketball coach dresses like a pimp so I’m picking the Pack despite the spread and the aforementioned loathing.

Mike Sez: NC State is pretty much at home. And their D can take advantage of a young Teddy Bridgewater.

Kendall Sez: It's a home game for the Wolfpack, and Tom O'Brien is a great postseason coach.  Slam dunk pick here.

Champs Sports Bowl -- Notre Dame vs. Florida State (-3)
FSU: Pierce, Mike, Kendall
ND: Jeff

Pierce Sez: ACC! ACC!

Jeff Sez: FSU ought to win this one handily, but something tells me they’re going to have trouble caring so I’m taking Notre Dame to at least cover.

Mike Sez: FSU needs to make a statement so they can get the hype going for next season. I forsee a thumping.

Kendall Sez: I've seen Notre Dame play numerous times this season, and I'm still waiting to be even remotely impressed.  Florida State sometimes sucks for no good reason, but I think this Irish team is fake good.  Noles by 17+.

E.J. Manuel is going to have a big game in Orlando.  Book it.

Music City Bowl -- Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State (-7)
Wake: Mike, Kendall
MSU: Pierce, Jeff

Pierce Sez: In the most underwhelming bowl game of the year, I'll go with the mediocre SEC team.

Jeff Sez: Mississippi State has the same number of syllables as Music City Bowl, ergo facto Bulldogs, even giving 7.

Mike Sez: Wake can keep this close. Mississippi State has been less than impressive.

Kendall Sez: It's been a year of enormous disappointment for the Bulldogs.  Meanwhile, Wake is tickled pink to be playing in any bowl game, especially an awesome one like this one in Nash Vegas.  I disagree with Pierce -- I think this will be a close, entertaining defensive slugfest.  Wake wins, 21-20.

Sun Bowl -- Utah vs. Georgia Tech (-3.5)
Utah: Pierce, Mike, Kendall
GT: Jeff

Pierce Sez: Plenty of time to prepare for the gimickyhorseshit offense. Al Groh still sucks.

Jeff Sez: Georgia Tech, for no particular reason.

Mike Sez: I'm submitting Sun Bowl as the shittiest bowl and am so glad we are not going.

Kendall Sez: There's a reason Paul Johnson has such a terrible record in bowl games.  With time to prepare for the triple option, a good defense can stop it.  GT's defense is so ho-hum, they won't be able to win the game without a lot of scoring, and the Utes will hold that option in check.

Sugar Bowl -- Virginia Tech vs. Michigan (-2.5)
VPI: Kendall
Meatchicken: Pierce, Jeff, Mike

Pierce Sez: David Wilson will probably pout his way through this game and straight to the NFL. VT's D can't hang with Denard.

Jeff Sez: I don’t see any reason why Tech shouldn’t win this, but I’d hate to be conflicted so I’m picking Michigan to win by more than 2.5 since I’ll be rooting for them to win by 52.5.

Mike Sez: Has Tech sold any tickets yet? Good thing Boise, Houston, or TCU didn't get this game.

Kendall Sez: Michigan doesn't put the SEC-level speed on the field that typically gives Tech such fits.  I've got a feeling we'll see a nice statement win from the Hokies, for the good of the ACC.  (We don't want them to lay an egg, lest our conference won't see another BCS multi-bid season, which means money out of UVA's coffers.)

Orange Bowl -- West Virginia vs. Clemson (-3.5)
Clemson: EVERYONE!

Pierce Sez: West Virginia is garbage, Clemson is pretty okay.

Jeff Sez: Ever since its President whined about the Pep Band’s performance at the Tire Bowl, I’ve enjoyed watching West Virginia lose and by a lot so, since that’s what I’ll be hoping happens, I’m taking the Tigers, points and all.

Mike Sez: This should be amusing.

Kendall Sez: One of the easiest picks of bowl season.


STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCKS -- 2 points each:

Rose Bowl -- Wisconsin vs. Oregon (-6)
If the Ducks win, they should win big.

Cotton Bowl -- Kansas State vs. Arkansas (-8)
Too easy. Arkansas is nasty good.

Holiday Bowl -- California vs. Texas (-3)
Cuz they’re Texas.

Military Bowl -- Air Force vs. Toldeo (-3)
Cuz they’re in the military.

Liberty Bowl -- Vanderbilt (-2) vs. Cincinnati
Love Vandy, but I hope they don't play well enough to land Wes Brown.

Hawaii Bowl -- Nevada vs. Southern Miss (-2)
Fedora goes out with a bang.

Cotton Bowl -- Kansas State vs. Arkansas (-8)
If any team is more deserving of Tech's spot in the Sugar Bowl, it's not Boise, Houston, TCU, or K-State... it's Arkansas.  The Hogs were left out of the BCS because of a stupid bylaw that states no more than two teams from any conference.  I think they will flex nuts in this game to show just how good they are.

Poinsettia Bowl -- Louisiana Tech vs. TCU (-10.5)
I know LT has a good defense this season and the Frogs are down,  but I still see this as a major talent discrepancy.  TCU in a walk.

Just because:

December 19, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

Fire? Brimstone? Hanukkah? You better believe it.
Kendall did the Yom Kippur article which has inspired me to do something similar in a Hanukkah themed article. For those of you who aren’t Jewish or haven’t been forced to read the bible cover to cover during 8 years of catholic school let me give you the extremely abridged summary of Hanukkah. Basically Hanukkah celebrates the retaking of the temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolution. In order to purify the temple they needed to burn sacred oil, which they only had one night’s worth of at the time. The great miracle at the base of the celebration is that the oil lasted for 8 days. Thus 8 days of Hanukkah. Seems simple enough right? Here’s how I am going to spin this into sports.

It is my estimation that there are 3 athletic programs that were in need of purifying and I am going to use this article to do just that. Each of the 9 candles (8 days plus the main one) will represent one aspect of the programs purification that deserve to be celebrated. That works as a connection right? I think so. Let’s get into it.

1.       The Villains
This is going to make it easy to figure out who the 3 programs are so this will be a good start. On the first night of the Wahooze Hanukkah we celebrate the villains, the people responsible for the demise of the programs. The people to celebrate are Al Groh, Dave Leitao, and everyone involved with the baseball program. Why celebrate them you ask? Because doesn’t it feel that much better knowing that you root for a team that was at the bottom, or on the brink of oblivion, and has now risen from the ashes.

Al Groh left the football program literally in shambles, which may not entirely be his fault. Getting one year station to station contracts really handicaps you when it comes to recruiting, but so does being a crusty old douchebag. Recovering from a program that decimated by neglect presents a tough challenge for anyone, making success that much sweeter.
Dave Leitao, while he could get decent players, was so loud and vulgar on the sideline that he might have done more damage to the basketball program than Al Groh did, because while the team sucked, he wasn’t an embarrassment to the university. Dave Leitao made JPJ a terrible place to go see a game, unless you enjoy seeing a giant man volcanoing profanities at his players.

Baseball was just about left for dead when Coach O’Connor got to town. It was well known that he may very well have been the last coach UVA Baseball had. All 3 factors deserve to be celebrated, and remembered, so we can remember where these programs have come from, and where they hope to go in the future.

2.       The Saving Grace
The second night of the Wahooze Hanukkah Celebration celebrates the Saving Graces. These are the players that were left in the various programs that will help turn their programs around. They’re like finding a needle in the haystack, if that haystack is something terrible. Like old leaky car batteries. Moving on. The players celebrated are Mike Scott and Perry Jones.

While Dave Leitao could recruit decent players he could never seem to bag the kids that were good basketball players. With the exception of Sylven Landesberg no one that Leitao brought in really showed much of anything other than being athletic. I submit Solomon Tat for review. The only player left over that proved to be a dominant ACC force and probably the savior of the Hoos for this season is Mike Scott. He was a gift getting a medical redshirt for last season allowing him to come back and shoulder the load for the Hoos this year. As the workhouse Scott, a double-double machine, is allowing Coach Bennett’s young players to develop around him and not putting the pressure on them, and Coach Bennett really, to prove that they can become “The Guys”. Having a player like Scott is so important to a young team and is really a gift, making him a savior of the program.

Perry Jones got the nickname superman this season and for good reason. Looking at the players we had on this team we desperately needed a player who could step up and single handedly win game for us, a player who could take the pressure off of the young QB, and a player that could be the focal point of the offense. While we were skeptical at the beginning of the season we had that player this year in Perry Jones. Jones became the game changing player that teams knew they had to focus on which allowed players like Mike Rocco to be taken out of the spotlight and be able to develop their talents at their own pace. Did it work? Absolutely. Is anyone concerned, or as concerned about the quarterback position going into this bowl game as they were at the beginning of the season? Not at all.

3.       The Game Changing Recruits
On the third night of the Wahooze Hanukkah Celebration we celebrate the Game Changing Recruits. The kids that are drinking the Kool-Aid of the new program and let you know what to expect in the future. These players get you excited about the future and what is to come. The players we will celebrate are Justin Anderson and Danny Hultzen.

Anderson has yet to arrive on grounds but the buzz about him is immense. When was the last time you saw a UVA recruit on ESPN? Never? That’s what I thought. The fact that we could swing JA is a testament to how much people have bought into this program. He could very well be one of the biggest recruits we have ever gotten to UVA. And unlike Landesberg, he appears to be coming for all the right reasons. While I don’t think he will do all 4 years here, which if he is as talented as he is billed to be he won’t, I do like that he knows he may have to fight for PT in his first season and still wants to come here. That speaks to his character and more importantly the faith he has in this program.

Danny Hultzen was the best player we’ve ever had. Period. I will argue that point until the day I die. His talent transcended anyone this team has had and brought the team to a new level. If you want to see the impact a true stud recruit can have on a program look at the baseball team. Hultzen brought it at the plate and on the mound and brought the program to heights it had never seen. His buying into the O’Connor philosophies changed the program.

I am saving a spot in this post for Stefon Diggs, who I think could be this kind of talent for the football program. Are we going to land him? No idea. Will he be a program changing kind of recruit if we do? Absolutely.

4.       The New Facilities
On the fourth night of Wahoo Hanukkah we celebrate New Facilities. If you watched our trouncing of Oregon last night you saw what a great facility can mean to your program. Eugene, Oregon sucks. Who would want to go there realistically when also getting offers from places like sunny Miami or Southern California? What makes Oregon great is the investment in facilities that they have made. Yes it helps to have Nike giving you a blank check every year but a solid investment in facilities does nothing but help you develop your programs. Adding seats to Davenport, and building JPJ and the new indoor practice facility provides such a boost to a program that it will improve our standing with recruits drastically and put our program even more on the map. 


5.       The Great Staff
On the fifth night we celebrate the great Coaching Staffs of the team. Not the head coaches but the assistants who really make the team go. When you look at the current coaching staffs you see why the results are coming. Names like Bill Lazor, Anthony Poindexter, Ritchie McKay, and Karl Kuhn help to take programs to the next level. When you look at the head coaches they are more of a figurehead of the program while positional coaches are the ones that really get into the coaching nitty gritty with the players. Having a strong foundation of quality assistants is paramount to a successful program.

6.       The Great Coaches
On the sixth night we celebrate the great Head Coaches. Coach London, Coach Bennett, and Coach O’Connor are the most responsible for the turnaround of these programs. They have taken their own personality and stamped it on the program. You can see Coach London’s passion on the football field, Coach Bennett’s defensive mind on the basketball court, and Coach O’Connor’s attention to detail on the diamond. Each of these men are perfect for what they need to be to succeed at UVA. They can attract their kind of players, and those players are perfect UVA students.

In Coach London’s case he is rebuilding a reputation of an entire program into something that kids want to come play for. His passion and intensity plays well with the players, while the programs family attitude and commitment to academics is what reels in the parents. London is building the program into something special that the school and the state can have pride in, while not sacrificing the integrity of the university to do so. He is the perfect Coach for this school and we should pay him anything to stay.

Coach Bennett has some enormous shoes to fill, not from Coach Leitao, but just based on the history of the program. Kendall asked me whether I thought UVA was a football or basketball school when I first started writing here and I answered with neither, but the more I think about it the more I think this is a basketball first school. UVA has never had a real storied football tradition to the extent that basketball has. That being said it will be interesting to see if Coach Bennett can rebuild that level of success. Reestablishing Virginia Basketball to the level it once was, especially playing the kind of fundamental and defensive oriented basketball he teaches, will be a welcome sight not only in Charlottesville, but in all of ACC country.
Coach O’Connor is exactly the baseball coach I would draw up if I had to list good attributes. He is exceptionally knowledgeable of the game and stresses that to his players. When you look at the players he has you know he is going to get the best out of them. Look at Keith Werman. Is he doing anything but shag balls for another program? No chance. But with Coach O’Connor you see his ability to see the finer points of the game and turn Keith into an indispensible part of the team. Having a smart coach like that who demands so much of you from the mental side is fantastic to see.

7.       The Redemptive Wins
The seventh night of the Wahooze Hanukkah Celebration celebrates Redemptive Wins. Wins that let us know that the team has or is about to arrive on the scene. These are wins like the UC Irvine win in the Super Regionals last year, or the win at home against Georgia Tech in football, or upsetting Minnesota and Michigan on the hardwood. These wins are to be savored for what they are and the national attention they give the program. They comfort us in our times of doubts, and let us talk a little smack to other fans who may doubt us. In reality, getting big wins is what being a fan is all about. It affirms your belief in your team and all the stress they have put you through, and gets you excited for what is to come in the future.

8.       The New Expectations
The eighth and final night of the Wahooze Hanukkah Celebration celebrates Future Expectations.  With big wins come big expectations and so far baseball is the only program to live up to the hype. Basketball is in a tournament or bust season and looks well on their way to the dance, while football is playing in a pretty good bowl game. The question is do these programs have staying power in their current positions. Are our programs to the point where we can expect to get to good bowl games, to make the dance, and possibly to contend on a national level? Not yet. But do we think they are on their way? Of course. These expectations are the way we keep the program growing and moving forward and how we can ensure that these programs stay at this level.

9.       The Administration
I’m going to use the last candle in the Wahooze Menorah, the middle candle which is used to light all the others, to praise the Administration. Craig Littlepage and Teresa Sullivan have done a fantastic job revitalizing these programs. One of the first articles I ever wrote was about how having a good sports team benefits the college as a whole. And both of these administrators seem to not only realize that, but embrace it. I must admit I am a little surprised to see this take place. I remeber when I first arrived at UVA we were having huge problems with football players being arrested, to the point that it was giving the University a bad name Seeing this reinvestment in the program and the other major athletic programs demonstrates a fantastic new commitment to athletics at UVA. Having a good sports program makes everyone involved with the University proud and makes us fans especially proud to be Wahoos, and very excited to celebrate our past, present and future.

Happy Hanukkah everyone and Go Hoos!