January 31, 2012

Virginia 65, Clemson 61

A few thoughts from tonight's game:

-- 18 wins at the end of January.  Pretty freaking good.  I know our SOS isn't the greatest, but... c'mon!  18 wins!

-- Mike Scott was a beast tonight, as usual.  I especially liked the hook over the 7-footer, the three blocks, and the clutch free throws at the end of the game.

-- Joey Hoops came through, big time.  5-for-6 from three.  Sweet as Yoo-Hoo.

Kingpin quotes, anyone?

-- Really, really impressed with Akil Mitchell tonight.  Kid made a bunch of crucial plays, especially defensively.  Sank some key free throws, too.  35 minutes of action tonight, and it's not hard to squint and see a solid starter for next year.

-- Sammy: 1-for-7 from 3.  Is the slump back on?

-- Are we a better team on the road than at home?  We've played some flat games at home lately...

-- Tonight is a perfect example of why Jontel Evans frustrates the heck out of me.

-- The press made me very nervous.  We need to shore up our ability to break the press.

-- Malcolm Brogdon showed me something in late game action.  Kid was fearless.  Didn't make all of the plays, but at least had the stones to try.  I really like Brog's future... I just wish he'd drive the lane a bit more right now.

-- We need to squeeze more minutes from Darion Atkins and Paul Jesperson.  13 minutes between the two isn't enough.  We're going to lose a game due to tired legs (Pete Gillenism!) if we keep doing the ironman routine with the starters and Brog.

-- Bring on the Noles.  I like our chances in Tallahassee on Saturday.  Golden opportunity to land a second marquee win and get off the bubble and improve our seeding.



A quick wide-lens view of the 2012 recruiting class, which isn't likely to change between now and National Signing Day tomorrow...

Matt Johns
Greyson Lambert, 6-5 / 195, 3-star, Jesup, GA
Matt Johns, 6-5 / 200, 3-star, Warrington , PA
Lambert chose the Hoos over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Miami, and a few other big-time football schools.  Landing his golden arm was a coup for the program.  Johns (who committed before Lambert) didn't blink when we landed the surprise commitment from Lambert -- I like Johns is unafraid of long-term competition from a more highly-regarded fellow recruit.  I'm guessing that Lambert is on the trajectory to take over for Mike Rocco after Rock exhausts his eligibility in 2013, which would make Lambert the starter in 2014, 2015, and 2016... unless David Watford hangs in there and ends up starting during his senior season in 2014.  Johns seems like a career backup, but that was the plan for Matt Schaub also, and we all know how that shook out.  In any case, with this pair of incoming recruits (actually, Lambert enrolled for the spring semester this January and is already taking classes at UVA), our depth chart and succession plan at the quarterback position is finally repaired from the gross mismanagement of the late stages of the Al Groh regime.

Running Backs
Kye Morgan, 5-10 / 165, 3-star, Somerset, NJ
Kye Morgan
We pursued a number of power backs in this class - Imani Cross, Chris Mangus, and Nathan Staub namely - but came up short in those recruitments.  Morgan is a fine consolation prize, chipped from the same block of chutzpah-marbled granite as Perry Jones.  Morgan is not a between-the-tackles grinder, so that bellcow type back becomes an elevated need in the 2013 class.  However, Morgan's versatility and receiving ability should be a very good fit in Lazor's offense, so don't sleep on this kid.  He has quick feet, great cutting ability, and plus level instincts and timing.  A good running back who emerged later in the recruiting process, we're lucky to have him.  It's hard to say if he'll be more Perry Jones or Khalek Shepherd, but it's always good to have a full deck of aces in the backfield.

Wide Receivers
Canaan Severin, 6-3 / 215, 4-star, Worcester, MA
Anthony Cooper, 6-0 / 187, 3-star, Virginia Beach, VA
Mario Nixon, 6-4 / 216, 3-star, Norfolk, VA
Adrian Gamble, 6-2 / 175, 3-star, Fork Union, VA
Kyle Dockins, 6-4 / 200, 2-star, Virginia Beach, VA
Jamall Brown, 6-0 / 178, 2-star, Hampton, VA
Adrian Gamble
This year was the motherload of wide receiver recruits.  Severin is the headliner, and he's an elite-level athlete; a big receiver who is really more of a WR/TE hybrid.  The same can be said for Nixon (a basketball player turned wideout, sound familiar NFL fans?) and Dockins (an undersized tight end recruit moved to wide receiver).  It seems to me like Lazor is sort of phasing out the true prototypical "6th offensive lineman" blocking-savvy tight end in favor of more Gronk/Graham type athletes.  It's an interesting transition, and I can see how it could make our offense more explosive in the long run.  In any case, it seemed like finding a few big receivers was a priority in this class.  Mission accomplished.  We are following the trail blazed by the Alshon Jefferys and Juron Criners of the world.  Meanwhile, Cooper is a Kris Burd-type all-around receiver, Gamble is a wildcard after his prep year at FUMA, and Jamall Brown is the lightly-recruited darkhorse.  This is a big haul of receiving talent, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how these guys fit with Darius Jennings, Dominique Terrell, Miles Gooch, and E.J. Scott over the next few seasons.  The cupboard is now very well-stocked at wide receiver... I bet we're about to see a lot more 3- and 4-wide spread-like tendencies from our offense.  Lazor wants the ball in the air, and now we're getting close to having enough studs to catch it.

Tight Ends
No Recruits
Kyle Dockins was technically a tight end recruit, but the staff already told him he'll be getting his first look as a wide receiver.  Max Valles might also get a look here, but my thought is he'll end up on defense.  So this is another year where the tight end position is lightly recruited, further proof that Lazor is moving away from the prototypical TE in his base offense.

Offensive Line
Andre Miles-Redmond, 6-4 / 260, 3-star, Richmond, VA
Mike Mooney, 6-5 / 265, 3-star, Malvern, PA
Sean Karl, 6-6 / 284, 3-star, Manorville, NY
Ryan Doull, 6-3 / 305, 2-star, Fork Union, VA
Jackson Matteo (recruited walk-on / blueshirt), 6-5 / 276, 2-star, Ashburn, VA
Just like at the quarterback position, the o-line had an alarming lack of numbers after Al Groh razed the depth chart on his way out the door.  Recruiting the big uglies has definitely been a focus for Mike London, and he landed four OL recruits in the 2011 class, and now five more in 2012.  Consider the line re-stocked and the pipeline flowing again.  This year's haul is slanted a little bit toward the interior of the line, so finding legit tackle prospects could be a key to next year's recruiting class.  In any case, this is a talented, athletic group of linemen that will help the Virginia offensive line continue its solid play in the future.

Defensive Ends
Eli Harold, 6-4 / 215, 4-star, Virginia Beach, VA
Mike Moore, 6-4 / 255, 4-star, Hyattsville, MD
Courtnye Wynn, 6-6 / 240, 3-star, Norfolk, VA
Eli Harold
Any 4-3 defense worth its salt has the ability to put two good edge rushers on the field at the same time, in the two defensive end spots.  The big, run-stopping pluggers are also important, but it's the juice around the edge that really elevates this base defense into something special... and it's edge rush talent that our team has been lacking since Mike London took the reins and switched things over from Al Groh's 5-2 base... sorry... 3-4 base.  Anyway, with Cam Johnson gone and Bill Schautz working to return from a gruesome broken leg, it's important that we find some edge rush talent from our incoming freshman class.  Enter Eli Harold.  He's a little on the skinny side and will need to add some weight, but there's no way he redshirts.  Dude's the top recruit in our class, and the top recruit in the state of Virginia this year.  He's a terror around the edge, and I'm sure there's a niche role Jim Reid can carve out for a guy like that, despite his lack of beef.  Moore and Wynn are also good pass rushers, but they are more all-around talents that could play LDE, or in the case of Moore, bulk up a little and slide inside to tackle.  This is a top-notch trio of d-end recruits, and I am very excited about these guys joining the team.

Defensive Tackles
Tyrell Chavis, 6-3 / 300, 3-star, Richmond, VA
Chavis is a wide-body zero-technique or one-technique nose tackle; the type of recruit that is really hard to find.  He would have been a great fit as a nose in Groh's 5-2... er... 3-4.  Under tackles (the smaller / lighter DT in the two-DT formation) are much easier to find, and in many cases defensive ends grow up into unders (see also: Matt Conrath).  Therefore, it's less important to find those under tackles in recruiting.  But the big baby behomth nose tackles... you gotta recruit those as is, and they are rare.  Chavis moonlights along the offensive line, but he's a nose tackle recruit for us, all the way.  He's a bit unheralded, but Boston College and Vanderbilt were on him hard, and he's a well-regarded recruit in coaching circles.  Good enough for me.

Kwontie Moore, 6-2 / 243, 4-star, Norfolk, VA
Mark Hall, 6-4 / 225, 3-star, Virginia Beach, VA
Max Valles, 6-5 / 210, 2-star, Hammonton, NJ
Kwontie Moore
If Eli Harold is the recruit I'm most excited about in this class, Kwontie Moore is a close second.  THIS is what I wrote when he first committed, and nothing has happened in the eight months since to make me change this opinion: "Mike London is a defensive coach, and he now has his defensive centerpiece.  I don't want to overstate it, but imagine the day the Baltimore Ravens drafted Ray Lewis."  Yep, just dropped the Ray Lewis bomb.  Again.  Boom.  Meanwhile, HERE is what Mike had to say about Mark Hall, a guy who projects to be a very good player at either outside linebacker position.  Valles is a raw athlete who could end up at tight end or defensive end, but my guess is outside linebacker.  Make no mistake, he's a project who could really land anywhere on the roster once his physical development trajectory is set.  Linebacker is one of our more thin positions in terms of the overall depth chart, so I am surprised we aren't seeing more recruits at this position in this class.  That said, Moore and Hall are two big-time recruits that should solidify our defense as future starters.

Demeitre Brim, 6-3 / 215, 3-star, Lakeland, FL
Demeitre Brim
Brim's recruitment was a bit of a roller-coaster, as he emerged from darkhorse status amid offers from Miami, Florida, and a full-court press from UCF.  He broke his jaw and missed a big chunk of action on the field, but his stock continued to rise.  It's a bit of a miracle that we were able to hang on to his commitment.  Beating Miami at Miami and then Florida State at Florida State with Brim in attendance for both games definitely helped.  Is this late bloomer a future star at safety?  Who knows.  Heck, he might not even end up at the safety position, as he's already almost too big for that spot... he could easily bulk up to linebacker (think LaRoy Reynolds.)  I'm listing him at safety here, mostly because we desperately need safeties on the roster, and partly because safety is the position Brim played in high school.

C.J. Moore, 5-10 / 165, 3-star, Buford, GA
Maurice Canady, 6-0 / 160, 3-star, Richmond, VA
Kelvin Rainey, 6-1 / 174, 3-star, Houston, TX
Divante Walker, 5-10 / 157, 2-star, Virginia Beach, VA
Wil Wahee, 5-11 / 179, 2-star, Norfolk, VA
Divante Walker
Along with wide receiver and offensive line, this is the most exciting numbers haul in the 2012 class.  This class of corners includes a bunch of athletes slotted at cornerback -- Canady, Walker, and Wahee all fit that description.  Moore and Rainey are more traditional cornerback recruits, though both saw mysteriously light pursuit from schools in their home state (GT didn't recruit Moore, and Georgia never offered; only Rice delivered an in-state offer to Rainey.).  I'll admit, this group feels a bit like "throw something against the wall to see what sticks," which I am totally fine with.  One or two of these guys (Canady, specifically) might be able to move to safety, one might land at running back, and those that don't stick on defense will at the very least be plus-level contributors on special teams.  The hope is that we find two serviceable cornerbacks from this group of five, and I think that's a lock.  Canady, Walker, and Wahee are all Virginia guys who have earned a lot of accolades as underrated prospects, so I'm excited about that.  It will be interesting to see what comes of this group of recruits as their UVA careers progress.  (Note: for some strange reason, I have a very good gut feeling about Maurice Canady.  Not sure why.  Just some of the comments I've read about him have made me feel especially optimistic.  I felt the same way about Perry Jones when he was an incoming recruit.)

Dylan Sims (recruited walk-on / blueshirt) -- Kicker, Lynchburg, VA
James Coleman (recruited walk-on / blueshirt) -- Punter, Martinsville, VA
Hallelujah!  Two specialists, zero scholarships out of the chute.  Gone are the days when Al Groh would toss around all-important grants-in-aid to lure kicking prospects.  Gone are the days when good in-state kickers went to other schools over UVA.  Gone are the days I'll need to hate our kickers just because.  Sims has a booming leg and might handle kickoffs as a true freshman.  Coleman will compete for the starting punter job as a freshman.  Bring 'em on!

What is a "Blueshirt?"

Consider this a Wahooze terminology lesson.

In the world of big-time college football recruiting, we already know what a "redshirt" is (when a player sits out a year but retains that year of eligibility, yet is able to practice / work out with the team.)  We also know what a greyshirt is (when a player delays his enrollment at his future college so that his eligibility clock will not start ticking until he arrives on campus during the second semester of the year.) But what the heck is a "blueshirt?"

It's a term I just recently heard bandied about.  I didn't know what it meant, so I looked it up.  Basically, a blueshirt is a player who arrived on campus as a "preferred" or "recruited" walk-on and then eventually earns a football scholarship.

Interesting concept.  We actually have three blueshirt candidates (maybe more) in this year's recruiting class: kicker Dylan Sims, punter James Coleman, and offensive lineman Jackson Matteo.

Propers to Pre-Snap Read for spelling out the system, explaining the history of the practice at New Mexico State (where the term originated), and illuminating the potential problems the NCAA could face with blueshirting.  It's a good read, I'd recommend checking it out.

The Last (First?) Piece from North of the Border

The Football staff has been flirting with 6-3 235 Canadian Athlete Trent Corney since Mid-January and it looks like both sides are ready to pull the trigger. Sources are reporting that Corney has been extended an offer to join the Hoos next January. While this seems strange it is most likely the best solution for all parties involved.

This process is called "grey-shirting" which is a term used to designate an incoming freshman who waits until the second semester to enroll rather than the fall. College athletes are allowed a five year calendar to play four seasons. The calendar begins once one is enrolled. By waiting until the spring to start college, a player will be playing his last season in the sixth year after high school rather than the fifth. This is especially appealing to a player like Corney because his football experience has not been the best, since he is from Canada. Corney is most likely headed to Fork Union in the fall.

Corney is being mentioned as a potential linebacker or fullback, but if I had to guess I would say he is going to play fullback. Mostly due to the positional scarcity on the roster. UVA will most likely start a walk on this season.

January 30, 2012

Huge Win 3: The Return of Sammy Z

After bouncing back with a win against BC earlier in the week, UVA's basketball team went down to Raleigh this weekend and escaped with a hugely important win. Despite having the lead for the majority of the game, there can't be anyone who was confident in the team pulling it off until the final horn. NC State swarmed the paint all game, dominating the glass on both ends and out-rebounding the Hoos 42-25. The Pack's athleticism really highlighted the disadvantage Virginia faces now that they're down to eight available scholarship players. Without their 7-footer, the Hoos big men were left winded and in foul trouble, allowing the Pack to run a tip drill every time they missed a shot inside. That all being said, we won. So how'd the guys pull it off?

Mike Scott donates his swag to the less fortunate. (Photo: AP/J.Bounds)

Shooting. That's right, our offense won the game for us. The Hoos shot a cool 44% from the floor for the game, but more importantly, a staggering 46.7% from beyond the arc. After the display the team put on against VPI (and a couple other recent games for that matter), 46.7% ON THE ROAD is nothing short of remarkable. Such is basketball though, droughts come and go. But if this team looked to make the Big Dance in the first time in forever, it needed the drought to end quickly. And boy, did it end convincingly. Zeglinski got back to form, after a stretch of 5-6 games where he couldn't throw the ball in the ocean, Sammy started the game off right by burying a three on the first possession. He finished 4/5 from downtown, while Joe Harris chipped in a couple. With teams focusing on Mike Scott all game, it's absolutely critical that the Hoos score regularly from outside and as we saw against State, outside shooting success can win games. This isn't to say that the team blew it on defense (they held the pack to 13.3% from downtown), but without their sharpshooting, the Hoos go home losers.

No ACC road victory is unimportant, but this one was particularly critical. While the team's record is impressive, the resume is not. After losing to the lowliest-of-lowly Hokies (AT HOME) in what can only be described as "The Worst Display of Anything Remotely Resembling Organized Sports in the History of Things with Long Titles," the Wahoos needed to steal a win away from home against a quality opponent. Recent shellacking by UNC aside, State is a quality team. In fact, if they shot near their usual FT % on Saturday, the Pack would have won. But the Hoos were due a payback poor-shooting game, so it's all a wash to me. By the way, I want to root for the Wolfpack to do well, I generally like their fans and support anyone giving Duke and UNC trouble, but man am I unimpressed with Mark Gottfried. Not that he's a bad coach, but he's teetering towards "unrootable" status as a competitor.

A little too much whining and posturing. (Photo: AP/J.Bounds)

So where does this all leave us? I think Kendall is spot-on in his prediction: if the Wahoos go 6-4 down the stretch, they're definitely in. I'd bet on 5-5 working out for us, but it'd be really stressful up until Selection Sunday. The next step is taking care of business at home tomorrow against Clemson. Unless we steal a game from FSU or UNC, things are going to be really tight down the stretch. Should be fun.

January 27, 2012

Dreams of a 2012 Big Man

Wahooze, this is Charles Mitchell, Charles Mitchell, Wahooze. I would love to give us the oppurtunity to get to know each other better, say over the next 4 years? That sounds good.

Mitchell is a 6-7 250 pound bruiser out of Marietta, Georgia and quite possibly might be the best shot we have at getting a premier big man. When Kendall and I discussed Mitchell previously Kendall mentioned that Mitchell looked a lot like DeJaun Blair. I am going to one up Kendall and say the Mitchell reminds me quite a bit of Sir Charles Barkley. That's high praise, but let's look closer.

Mitchell is a big kid. Not very tall for a Power Forward but he is a load on the block. Mitchell is a true back to the basket scorer who understands his role in an offense like ours. When doubled down Mitchell appears to have tremendous vision to be able to find the open man. Are you intrigued? Well it gets better. Mitchell  can also demonstrate a very high basketball IQ by being able to read when and if a team is going to double down on him, which not only makes it easier to find the open man, but also makes him a great Bennett-Ball style forward. That intelligence will help on the defensive end as well, especially if he is call on to be the hedge on a guard screen like Mike is this year, though I think Justin Anderson has that locked up.

The biggest knock on Mitchell is obviously his conditioning. Throughout his high school career Mitchell has gotten into and out of shape multiple times. He also doesn't get much lift or have much range on the glass which limits his effectiveness on the defensive end. Having said that this is a perfect Jerome Meyinsse situation all over again. Get that kid on a conditioning program and watch him blossom.

Mitchell would be a great final piece to add to 2012, however almost every team that still needs a big man will most likely be knocking on his door. Mitchell currently holds offers from UVA, Georgia, Clemson, Tennessee, Alabama, and Virginia Tech. That being said UVA has two major things to offer Mitchell. First is obviously PT. Mitchell would most likely be a key part of UVa's rotation next season, unless Coach Bennett decides he needs to redshirt to get in better playing shape. That being said we are most likely not the only school that is going to say the word redshirt to him, and since we are the most in need of a solid PF, we might be the one that offers him the best shot at some early PT. The second big thing we can offer is Coach Bennett's track record with making marginal bigs into good bigs. I really think that Mitchell is one of those players that can explode when he gets the right coach, and hopefully Coach Bennett is that coach.

Go Get HIM!

January 26, 2012

The Gus Malzahn Story

After watching Gus Malzahn's misdirection offense methodically pick us to pieces in the Peach Bowl, I've added his offensive genius to the list of coaches - namely Mike Leach and Chip Kelly - I follow, read about, and study.  True innovators at a time of rapid-fire football innovation.  It gets me excited.  I'm a football offense geek.

Today, I stumbled across this awesome piece from SI's George Schroeder.  If you're curious why a clear offensive wunderkind like Malzahn ended up at podunk Arkansas State... take a few minutes and read:

Once the next hot head coach, Malzahn lands at Arkansas State

I am now a Red Wolves fan.

1000 words?  No, this picture says it all.

New 2012 Targets enter the crosshairs

In case you haven't heard Greg Schiano has been hired by the Tampa Bay Bucs to be their next head coach, a move that perplexes me a little bit but that is neither here nor there. What matters most is that now there is a free for all in New Jersey, and for all the Rutgers recruits, which believe it or not are fairly numerous and high in quality. Two players in particular have grabbed our coaches attention. Let's look at them a little more closely.

Quanzell Lambert (LB) 6-2 240 Sickleville, NJ
Lambert was a player that UVA desperately wanted, but missed out on. He would make a great strongside lineback to play alongside Kwontie Moore. At 6-2 240 Lambert already fits the part, making it obvious why UVA would be so high on him. Lambert is an excellent tackler and excels in run support, which I think makes him and excellent cantidate to play on the strong side to help take some of the pressure off our smaller DE's, especially if Harold remains as slight as he is. Having a sure tackler in run support behind you makes it a little easier to rationalize having lighter DEnds in for a more aggressive pass rush. All that being said I don't think we will see Lambert jump ship. There are stories written about how Lambert is now recruiting other talent in New Jersey to come on board. That being said Virginia has the same advantages on the depth chart that Rutgers had, so it will be interesting to see if Coach London can work some magic here.

Chances we can get back in: 2/10
Chances we can land him: 1/10

Chris Muller (OL) 6-6 287 Boyertown, PA
Muller is a more likely prospect to come on board, but UVA will have to get in line here too. It'd hard to believe but scouting reports say that once this kid fills out he could be a mauler. Think a more athletic Austin Pasztor. Muller has the strength to bowl kids over and the speed to get out to the second level. UVA is in the fortunate position to not have Muller be a need to get kind of kid, but is he a want to get? Absolutely. In the 2 hours after Schiano took the Tampa Bay job Muller had 28 missed calls and 18 voicemails. Must be nice!

Chances we can get back in: 6/10
Chances we can land him: 4/10

There are some other prominent kids from New Jersey that were considering Rutgers including 2 big time stars that UVA had offered in Devin Fuller and Darius Hamilton, but both those players had eliminated the Hoos. Fuller seems now destined to Nebraska, his only other official visit, while Hamilton will most likely head to Florida, though Miami is still in the mix. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. I personally think all these kids will wait to see who is hired before they sign. That being siad with it so close to signing day, this could be one of the more interesting stories we've had in a while. It all is going to hinge on a few guys, I think if Lambert jumps ship, there will be a big time exodus. If he can convince Hamilton and Fuller to commit, then nothing will change. Should be fun!

Hoo to Follow

Sorry for the stupid title, but it felt appropriate. I have fallen into the twitter trap (@mikev1b, follow me!) and have decided this might be a good time to tell everyone who they absolutely must be following on twitter to get some good info/entertainment regarding UVA sports.

1. LaRoy Reynolds (@Rampagee9)

Favorite Tweet of late: We in there tonittttteeeee !!

About 95% of the time I have absolutely no idea what LaRoy is talking about. He will tweet the most random stuff providing absolutely no context for it. Case in point the example above. He's always good for a head scratcher at least once a day, though recently there has been some sort of strigfe involving a girl that must have lied to him or something. I have been glued to the twitter for updates.

2. Mike Scott (@MScottuva23)

Favorite Tweet of Late: My pops txted me shm .. lol I said, its SMH dad lol wow

Mike is great. He will twitpic everything he does, which is always a treat. He also seems to shake his head at everything. EVERYTHING. The best part about Mike is that he will follow you back, no matter who you are. Plus his shit is hilarious.

3. Eli Harold aka Swaggdaddy GQ (@Medgar_Harold)

Favorite Tweet of Late: Errythings purple errythings purple swagg swagg swagg swagg!

If your phone does push notifications you should a) change that, and b) not follow Eli. Kid is a machine on the twitters. Also tweeting some of the dumbest things I've ever read but does occasionally tweet at other recruits. It's well documented that he is recruiting kids to UVA almost as hard as the coaching staff, so at least for this class, it's fun to see who he talks to. Current targets appear to include Salem QB Bucky Hodges, and Bayside RB Smoke Mizzell.

4. Jamie Oakes/Wahoos247 (@JamieOakes247/@Wahoos247)

Favorite Tweet of Late: UVa is in the hunt for 2013 Gladstone (N.J.) Gill St. Bernards four-star point guard Jaren Sina ...

Jamie is the moderator of Wahoos247 which Kendall says is the best recruiting site out there and I am starting to agree. His stuff is always solid and seems to be able to scoop everyone else. If you have the spare cash to invest in this and love recruiting, do it. It's well worth it.

5. Virginia Baseball (@UVABaseball)

Favorite Tweet of Late:Just 24 days til the UVA baseball season opener ... and only 4 weeks until the home opener vs W&M!

If you like baseball you have to. It is very well done and keeps you up to date on everything.

Those are just a few. If you know of some that I missed drop it in the comment section. Twitter is actually a surprisingly useful tool as a sports fan which I am finally using. If you don't use it, give it a try! No one says you have to tweet anything...

January 25, 2012

Welcome to the Bubble

Virginia fans aren't used to being on the bubble.  It's been a long time since we've been there.

Note: just found THIS PAGE on ESPN.com.  It's worth a click.

Looking back in time, we weren't close in either of the last two years, and Dave Leitao's last season (2008-09) was a disastrous 10-18 grease fire.  2007-08 was Sean Singletary's last year (wow, it's been that long???), which ended up a disappointing 17-16 with an "epic" run in the CBI.  2006-07 was our last trip to the Tournament (wow, it's been that long???), but we were never really on the bubble that season, with a hearty 11 wins in the conference before we wilted a little bit down the stretch.  2005-06 and 2004-05 were .500-type seasons.  The last time were were kinda on the bubble was 2003-04, when we won 17 games, but only managed six ACC wins.  We were on the bad side of the bubble that year; it was more wishful thinking than actually being in tourney contention.  2002-03 was also a .500 season, and 2001-02 was a 16-11 season that culminated in the NIT.  2000-01 was the last time we were on the bubble - and I mean really ON THE BUBBLE - and we ended up making it in as a 5-seed despite losing eight of our last 11 games.  You might remember that season was the year we got dumped out of the postseason via the 5-12 upset against Gonzaga.  Our prior NCAA Tournament appearance was in 1997, when the Harold Deane / Curtis Staples / Courtney Alexander / Norman Nolan team was crushed by Iowa in the first round.  1995, of course, was our last impressive run, turning a 4-seed into an upset over 1-seeded Kansas and an Elite Eight appearance.  But I digress...

It hasn't been a good 17-year run for our basketball program since that '95 team's success, but this year it seemed like we finally had the substance to make a return trip to the Big Dance and maybe make a little noise once we got there.  We were (still are) ranked and had earned some degree of national respect.  Things were looking very good... until we crapped the bed at home against the Hokies on Sunday night.  So welcome to the bubble, Virginia fans.  Our RPI is decent, but our strength of schedule sucks and our "quality wins" are losing their quality.  We are a bubble team.  We ARE a bubble team.  Poke it HERE and take a look for yourself.

With the book on how to defend us (double and triple team Mike Scott, force our ice-cold shooters to make shots) now in mass production and distributed to every coaching hack on the East Coast, the time to circle the wagons and embrace bubblehood is upon us.

The reason I'm posting this now is make sure that everyone in Wahooze Nation (that's right people, we're a freaking nation now) is self-aware of the situation the Virginia Basketball team is now in.  The margin for error is shrinking, and with FSU and NC State on the come, the road ahead is not easy.

It's a freaking battle that lies ahead.  A knuckles-bloodied, jaw sore, skin-under-the-fingernails fight for survival.  It's a soul sucking siege from today to Selection Sunday.  And if we want to see our beloved Cavaliers in the NCAA Tournament, it's going to take some boys becoming men on our basketball team, along with the second testicle descending for our basketball fanbase as well.  No more losses in JPJ Arena, no more losses to inferior teams.  It's a fight for survival.  Kill or be killed.

Eight more wins.  That's what we need to get to the Dance.  Eight more wins.

Any fewer than eight?


Wahooze Baseball Preview

Can you feel it?
Hello Wahooze and welcome to my domain, the baseball diamond. This is the insanely, overly in depth, Wahooze baseball season preview. There is nothing I love more in this world than baseball and that will slowly become apparent as the spring/summer progresses. Without further ado let’s get into this. Here is a tip on how to read this:

Before every entry there will be a boldface overview of the player that has an L/L, L/R, R/R, R/L, S/L, S/R. That notation is for Bats/Throws and tells you what the players bat and throw. So L/R means they bat left and throw right.

The Studs:

These are the players that are returning starters that will be looked to to continue the UVA winning tradition as upperclassmen leaders. All these players have considerable experience that hopefully will translate into a passing of the baton from players like Hicks and Proscia.

Reed Gragnani (3B/RF) S/R 5-11 180 Richmond, VA
                I really like Reed’s game, especially in the outfield. In the blue orange world series he was starting at third base and hitting in the middle of the order. I don’t necessarily agree with putting him at third, but I have learned never to doubt Coach O’Connor. Gragnani to me is the perfect 2 spot hitter. While he is not without power he is more of a gaps hitter which plays well in the second spot. Also having a lefty bat in the two hole is huge to take advantage of the larger gap left between the second and first baseman with a runner on first. I fully expect Gragnani to break out this season and turn into one of our more productive bats. I also suspect that he will return to the outfield at some point this season. Especially with the new talent coming in (more on that later.)

Jared King (1B) R/R 6-1 195 Radford, VA
                There is no one on this team I was more happy to see do well last season than King. I won’t go into all the details but Jared has had a roller coaster ride while he has been here. King has shown glimpses of being the power and RBI man for this team this season and it is to be expected that he settle into that role. While he doesn’t have the raw power of a Steven Proscia he has enough polish as a hitter to assume the number 4 spot and excel in it. This is not going to be an SEC type offense full of power hitters who can knock the cover off the ball. We will be a smart, gap hitting team that takes extra bases and sac bunts and all the stuff that makes baseball a thinking man’s game. And Jared King is the perfect cleanup hitter for that.

Keith Werman (2B) L/R 5-7 150 Vienna, Va
                I have had to listen to how good Keith Werman is since 9th grade. As a catcher (I’ll pause to let you wrap your mind around that) in high school Keith allowed 0 past balls in his entire career and was All State his senior season. That is an obsene amount of praise for a 5-7 catcher. I don’t understand him, it upsets me greatly, but today I will admit that Keith is pretty damn good. Will he ever knock the cover off the ball? Probably not. Is he going to play in the pros? No chance. But is he exactly the kind of player this team needs? Absolutely. Keith brings an intelligence to the game that is so important. He knows situations and knows exactly how to handle them with a level of expertise that is such a luxury to have on a team, especially with a Coach like Coach O’Connor. Anyone can figure out a bunting situation, but he can figure out where it needs to go to get the optimal results. I fully expect Keith to end up as a GA somewhere and I really hope that it is here. That being said as far as this season goes, I expect him to hold down the number 9 spot as always and be a stalwart defensively.

Chris Taylor (SS) R/R 6-0 170 Virginia Beach, VA
                Chris is our best player. That became apparent towards the end of the season. I fully expect an All-ACC season out of him this season. Chris will most likely hit number 3 and be relied on to drive in a good chunk of the teams runs, and if he keeps up the torrid pace he was on at the end of the season that should be absolutely no problem for him.  Taylor brings something that John Hicks couldn’t to the three spot and that is a good bit of speed. I think this year’s team, as I stated before, is going to be much more based on taking extra bases and flying all over the field, and having a player like Taylor in the three spot is a great luxury to have. Think a poor man’s Asdrubal Cabrera, not doing anything great, but does everything very well.

The Aces:

While we have lost quite a bit of talent from the rotation, well all the talent, the cupboard is far from bare. Branden Kline and Kyle Crockett will anchor what should be one of the more devastating one two punches in the ACC and maybe even the country this season. The best part about that tandem at the front of the rotation is how complimentary they are to one another. While Kline is a traditional Friday night power arm who will strike a ton of guys out and look absolutely dominant on the mound, Crockett will rely more on deception and pitch movement to confused and frustrate his opponents. Two completely different styles that make it extra frustrating for any team that has to prepare to face the Hoos this season.

Branden Kline (SP) R/R 6-3 190 Frederick, MD
                No one on this team has bigger shoes to fill than Branden this season. The challenge of replacing the best player in program history  is one that could make one buckle under the pressure. That being said there is absolutely no reason to expect that to happen this season. Kline showed in the extra innings South Carolina game in the College World Series that he has the stuff to rise to any challenge. While he was a dominant closer it was apparent to me at least that Kline was better suited for the rotation. Had Will Roberts not stepped up to the role of Sunday starter I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Kline get a shot for that job. Watching Kline pitch it always took him a batter or two to really get his stuff going the way he likes it which is indicative of a starting pitcher over a reliever. Think Justin Verlander getting stronger as the game goes on. I think that if the CWS performance was any indication we will be in for a great season out of Kline, and once again have a dominant Friday night starter anchoring the rotation.

Kyle Crockett (SP) L/L 6-1 160 Poquoson, VA
                By no means am I comparing myself to a division 1 athlete, but Kyle Crockett throws the exact same way I used to in high school making him my favorite player on this team. Kyle goes into this season with high expectations and firmly entrenched as the team’s Saturday starter, which in my opinion might be the most important game of the weekend. While Kline relies on power to get people out and will most likely rack up the strikeouts (1.3 K/9) and get all the acclaim, Crockett relies more on movement and deception to get his batters out. Crockett will never light up the radar gun but he will frustrate the hell out of almost every batter he faces. If he can learn to master the movement of his pitches, and Coach Kuhn can teach him how to approach the game mentally, Crockett can turn into one of the most productive pitchers we’ve had in a while. And if Kyle decides to gain any weight anytime soon he can only get better.

JT Thompson (RP) R/R 6-1 195 Danville, VA
                Thompson has a shot to get the closer role for this season but if I had to guess I would say he is staying in the set up role as Chris Fern who was the Florida JUCO closer of the year is poised to take over the team. Thompson however will be a key cog in the bullpen this season. While most are not terribly excited to see him in that role I think Thompson has the stuff to excel, the key question is will he be able to mentally put his past shaky appearances behind him and be a strong veteran in the bullpen that we need. Also I’m hoping he got a haircut.

The Next Men Up:

                The departure of David Coleman, John Hicks, and Steven Proscia left three giant holes in the field that will need to be filled with new players who are not only capable of,  but hungry for success in their new roles. While some of these positions could be filled with players from the stud recruiting class Coach O’Connor has brought in there are two players we are going to highlight that should immediately step in and be great.

Colin Harrington (OF) R/R 5-10 170 Johnstown, PA
                Harrington was used primarily in the DH role last season but also saw time in the outfield. While he is never going to blow you away with power or speed he is a solid player who will contribute. He hit .353 last season and was 5/6 on stolen base attempts. If you need a dominant player to carry your team, Harrington is most likely not going to be that guy, but if you need a guy that can be a solid contributor every game, then he is perfect. Harrington will most likely be starting in left field and batting in the 6-8 spot. Harrington will be the perfect guy to either lay down a bunt if you need, situationally place a ball in a spot you need, or keep a rally going to roll the lineup over. Anything you need

Mitchell Shifflett (OF) R/R 6-1 180 Midlothian, VA
                Shifflett is easily the fastest player on the team. He might even be one of the faster players on the football team. Shifflett will be taking over for Chris Taylor in the leadoff spot and will instantly improve the lineup. Assuming he gets on base (.326 OBP last season) Shifflett will be on third most likely within two pitches. Shifflett was 9-9 in stolen base attempts last season. A player with that kind of speed allows Coach O’Connor to do even more with his lineup than he could last season. Paired with Reed Gragnani in the two spot we should expect to see a ton more hit and runs put on with the very distinct possibility that Shifflett will be able to score from first on anything in a gap. That kind of speed also widens the 1st base gap at first as the first baseman will have to monitor Shifflett closer than normal. This will help Gragnani and Taylor even more. Shifflett has game changing speed, and if he can improve his on base percentage, it will be greatly utilized this spring.

Call to the Pen:

                This is the one area where we will need some guys to step up. The strength of last years team has now become the biggest question mark going into this year. The rotation has two strong aces at the top but the depth is somewhat questionable. That being said I have absolute faith in not only the talent on the roster, but also the coaching staff, to be able to turn this rotation into one of the great ones again this season.

Whit Mayberry R/R 6-0 185 Alexandria, VA
                Whit is from the same area I am so my friends and I know a good bit about his style of pitching. He is yet another different style of pitcher for this rotation. My friend Steve Kouril who was a walk on at UVA described Whit as throwing a “heavy” ball, which is pretty accurate. Whit gets hit, but the ball doesn’t go very far. That’s how a heavy ball works. Whit will pitch to contact but hitters will never seem to be able to really get a hold of a ball. It is incredibly frustrating, just ask Steve. While Mayberry will not be lighting up the gun he is the perfect starter for a Sunday, a day that is traditionally ruled by the offense. Having a pitcher that people can make contact with but can’t get the kind of explosive results they expect will be the perfect end to a weekend that will most likely leave the teams we play both confused and annoyed, and lead to a bunch of Cavalier victories.

Scott Silverstein L/L 6-6 235 Brookeville, MD
                Silverstein will most likely be the midweek starter. At 6-6 235 Silverstein looks every bit the part of a legit D1 starter, which is what makes him perfect for the middle of the week when we play smaller programs. There is something to be said for the intimidation factor that Silverstein brings to the table in games that will most likely be the toughest that these smaller colleges will play all season. Silverstein is a huge wildcard since we do not know much from last season’s performances.  Silverstein missed all of 2010 with shoulder issues and his limited time in 2011 may not be indicative of his future success on the hill. Look for Silverstein to battle Mayberry for the Sunday spot.

The Fresh Faces:

                The 2011 recruiting class is an interesting bunch. Coach O’Connor has brought in a very solid trio of outfielders as well as a SS/3B that should be the foundation of the roster to come.

Derek Fisher (CF) L/R 6-3 210 Lebanon, PA.
                Fisher is a stud. An absolute stud. Read this article if you don’t believe me. Picked in the 6th round by the Texas Rangers, Fisher decided to turn down the big dollars and enroll at UVA, where he could very well secure himself a starting spot in the outfielder. In his senior season Fisher  hit .484 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI in his senior season and was named Pennsylvania state player of the year. Fisher will be looked to to eventually replace the power in the lineup that left with Steven Proscia and John Hicks last season, and could be in line to make a run at the RBI record that Proscia currently holds if he gets off to a hot start. Keeping with the theme of the kind of baseball Coach O’Connor likes to play Fisher is no slouch out in the field , which could very well accelerate his path onto Davenport Field.  In fact Coach O’Connor offered him a scholarship after seeing him go hitless at the plate but play outstanding defense. It will be interesting to see where he ends up this season.

Nick Howard (3B) R/R 6-3 215 Olney, MD.
                Howard is a highly touted recruit out of my neck of the woods and St. John’s High School in Washington DC. Though the WCAC is mostly known for its football and basketball prowess they are no slouch on the diamond either. And St. John’s is consistently one of the top teams in the conference. Howard was named All-WCAC twice during his high school career and was rated as the number one prospect in Maryland by Perfect Game, the preeminent baseball showcase camp. Howard was also named All-Met as one of the best players in the DC Metropolitan area. Howard hit .403 with 28 RBI and 20 stolen bases his senior season and could challenge Reed Gragnani for the vacancy left at third base this season, allowing Reed to move to the outfield. Howard boasts a tremendous amount of arm strength and solid footwork so the transition to third should be an easy one. And the inexplicable absence of Stephen Bruno at any point last season is also playing into his favor. It will be intriguing to see how Coach O’Connor decides to use him, especially since if Chris Taylor has another big season, this could be his last in Charlottesville.

Mike Papi (OF)  L/R 6-3 190 Tunkhannock, PA.
                Papi just looks like a good player. I realize that is a very stupid statement to make but it’s true. He is most likely going to play right field for the Hoos at some point in his career. Papi has plus carry on his throws from the outfield, meaning he has a cannon, and decent speed. Papi projects as a top or bottom of the order kind of hitter. If I had to guess I would say his future will be in the number 2 hole, where is it advantageous to have a solid lefty bat that hits for average and has some pop to it. Papi to me projects as a gaps hitter, whereas his outfield counterpart Derek Fisher will provide the punch. Papi’s approach at the plate has been described as calm and simple, the signs of a good gap to gap hitter. Papi batted .531 with six home runs, 24 RBI, and a .708 on base percentage and was named All-State in Pennsylvania in senior season. He’s no slouch.

Brandon Downes (OF) R/R South Plainfield, NJ.
                Downes is the third of the top outfield prospects the Hoos brought in this season. Boasting a sweet swing from the right side of the plate Downes looks like the real deal. He is also easily the smartest of the palyers we are bringing in this season boast a 4.95 GPA out of 5 in that stupid New Jersey grading scale. This is a point that cannot be overlooked because as seen with Keith Werman last season, being a smart player is just as important to Coach O’Connor as being a physically gifted player. Downes was named all state his senior season Downes brings a strong bat and glove to the table. He finished one home run shy of the New Jersey state record during his junior season. Currently Downes plays left field but could shift to center depending on how the lineup shakes out. I don’t expect much playing time for Downes this season just based on the amount of outfielders we currently have on the roster but I would expect to hear from him in the future.

Nate Irving (C) R/R 6-0 220 Yonkers, NY
                Does the prospect of a true freshman catcher scare you as much as it scares me? Well I'm not entirely sure it should. I went through the Orange and Blue World Series and Irving had what I would describe as a good game in 4 of the 5. While it would be nice to have a solid veteran behind to plate with all the transition that is going on it might be a blessing to have a young catcher who is able to learn on the job. Offensively Irving's game is all there. He collected 8 hits in the 5 games of the Orange and Blue World Series. It will be interesting to see how he handles the staff. Look for Coach Kuhn and Coach O'Connor to have a good deal of influence on pitch calling this season, and for the whole staff to grow together along with Irving. This will especially benefit the younger pitchers who will develop with Irving and may reinvigorate the staff to get the kind of season we had last year.
Those are the 4 players I expect to have an immediate impact on the program. If I had to guess I would say Irving, Howard, and Fisher have the best chance of cracking the starting lineup this season. Virginia also brought in some intriguing arms this season but with the exception of Kyle Crockett and Branden Kline Coach O’Connor and Coach Kuhn have been hesitant to throw young pitchers to the wolves before they are ready (we’re a fragile breed). That being said UVA signed3 lefties and 2 righties, including one giant Brett Lisle from Colorado who is listed at 6-9 who has me intrigued, and Chris Fern, who some think may challenge to replace Kline as the team’s closer. UVA also added 2 infielders and 2 catchers. The team has certainly been restocked for the future with this class.

Depth Chart:
This is the depth chart I think that the coaches have in their office at the moment. I'm not sure how long this Gragnani at third experiment is going to last but I fully expect Gragnani to end up starting in right and having Nick Howard emerge as the starter at third.
C:            Nate Irving/Chase Mitchell
1B:          Jared King/Kenny Towns
2B:          Keith Werman/Stephen Bruno
SS:          Chris Taylor/Brandon Cogswell
3B:          Reed Gragnani/Nick Howard
LF:          Colin Harrington/Derek Fisher
CF:          Mitchell Shifflet/Reed Gragnani/Brandon Downes
RF:          Shane Halley/Mike Papi


Friday:                  Branden Kline
Saturday:             Kyle Crockett
Sunday:                Whit Mayberry
Weekday:           Scott Silverstein
Set Up:                 JT Thompson
Closer:                  Chris Fern

Batting Order:
This is the order I think we should roll out on opening day. Whether or not this is what is going to happen is up in the air but this is my post so this is what I am putting up there.
1.       Mitchell Shifflett              CF
2.       Reed Gragnani                  RF
3.       Chris Taylor                         SS
4.       Jared King                           1B
5.       Derek Fisher                      DH
6.       Nick Howard                      3B
7.       Nate Irving                          C
8.       Colin Harrington               LF
9.       Keith Werman                   2B

Strengths and Weaknesses:

This team is extremely right handed. With only one switch hitter (Gragnani) and one lefty (Fisher) projected in the starting lineup this could turn into a bit of a problem for Coach O'Connor. I would not at all be surprised to see a platoon develop in the outfield to see Mike Papi get more playing time. The platoon would be in left field involving Harrington, Fisher, and Papi.

Team speed has become a big strength of this team, which is good because we are losing a lot of big bats. Look for the Hoos to be much more mobile on the basepaths this year stemming mostly from Mitchell Shifflett at the top of the order. This will also lead to more tinkering from Coach O'Connor which will lead to a much more exciting style of baseball, and more intelligent too. Look for more close games where it will come down to coaching. And man does that give us the upper hand.

Quite possibly the strongest part of our team is the front end of our rotation. Kline and Crockett have a chance to be one of the best in the ACC if not the country. That being said the back end of the rotation has a lot to prove. If they can step up this team can be dangerous, if they falter, we could be in for a long season.


I think we have the 5th or 6th best team in the ACC this season. Georgia Tech and UNC are unbelievably stacked and will be the class of the conference. The next tier is FSU and Miami who are somewhat flawed but have the raw talent to overcome their problems. UVA and Clemson are in the 5/6 range and will most likely battle it out all season. UVA gets GT, UNC, and Clemson at home. We NEED to beat Clemson, and possibly sweep them, as well as hopefully stealing a series against GT or UNC. We have to hit the road to both Florida schools. Stealing a series there would be nice but not getting swept by both would be ideally what we should shoot for. If I had to guess I would pick us to finish 4th in the ACC and get a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

This entire season lies on how quickly the team can gel with it's new pieces and how well those pieces can adjust to college. If they all play up to their potential they will be great. If they struggle so will we. I think Fisher will develop nicely this season into one of our main cogs, and Howard will show flashes as well. Look for Papi to steal the job from Harrington and Gragnani to finally move to the outfield where he should be.

The Wahooze writers will be in the very underrated right field bleachers this season which is not only close to the bathrooms but also the under utilized first base line snack bar. Come sit with us!

Go Hoos