March 29, 2012

Wahooze on the Trail: Third Commitment!

The Hoos picked up their 3rd commitment of the Class of 2013 last night when ATH Trent Corney of Brockville, Ontario, Canada came on board. Corney will enroll in January of 2013 making him technically a member of the 2012 recruiting class, which is good because it allows us to save a scholarship in the 2013 class, which could be limited in size. Corney is 6-4 243 pound heat seeking missile who figures to play either fullback or linebacker for the Hoos. He is a tenacious player who is in attack mode really at all times, but also has good hands, which makes me think that he would be a very good fullback, or a TE/WR combo player. That being said that skill set also translates well into an outside linebacker role. Corney has not played against top notch competition much while in Canada so it will be interesting to see what he decides to do for the fall. My hope is he will post-grad at FUMA and come in ready to roll in the spring. His position will most likely depend on how he does in the spring with strength coach Evan Marcus, who has a tendency to turn boys into men. If he bulks up enough he could be used as a rush end, but I personally would love to see him at fullback, especially since he would do a good job catching that swing pass as well as destroying people as a lead blocker. Don't sleep on Corney whatever you do, he has a ton of potential. Welcome Trent!

Photo: http://www.canadafootballchat.com/news/recruiting/4002-class-2012-brockville-s-trent-corney-receives-his-verbal-fbs-offer.html


March 27, 2012

The All-Kendall Teams

For the last few weeks, I've been wrestling with ideas on how to properly honor Mike Scott's outstanding senior season, and the five years of hard work he put into Virginia Basketball.  It was a labor of love for him, and the effort cemented his place among my all-time favorite UVA basketball players.

So just now, it suddenly hit me --- the All-Kendall teams!  A quick, easy, fun way to take a stroll down memory lane and to illustrate where I think Mike Scott ranks on my lists of all-time favorites during my UVA basketball fandom.

[Please keep in mind that I didn't become a die-hard Virginia basketball fan until the early '90s with John Crotty (the first UVA player I ever loved), Bryant Stith (the best UVA player I've ever seen), Kenny Turner, and Ted Jeffries.  Sadly, I missed the Richard Morgan era, so you won't find him - or Ralph Sampson, Wally Walker, Othell Wilson, Barry Parkhill, Buzzy Wilkinson, Lee Raker, Marc Iavaroni, Tom Sheehey, Olden Polynice, Andrew Kennedy, etc., etc. - on my lists.  These lists only include players I was lucky enough to see play in my cognitive basketball-watching years.  So go ahead and understand that my UVA basketball fandom was born in 1991, and that's where the All-Kendall teams begin.]

Anyway, time to unleash the All-Kendall teams...

ALL-KENDALL FIRST TEAM
PG) Harold Deane -- Toughness, drive, and effort; he provided the true model for what a Virginia player should be.  All grit, no bullshit.
SG) Curtis Staples -- Quickest delivery on a perimeter jumper I've ever seen in all of my years watching college basketball.  Staples was the best 3-point shooter in school history, and probably always will be.
SF) Bryant Stith -- Still the best player I've ever seen in a UVA uniform, regardless of sport.  BOOM.  Bold claim, I know.  I stand by it.
PF) Mike Scott -- First team honors might be a little high, but I haven't seen a senior season like the one he just put together in a long, long time.  He sort of provided the blueprint for the modern 4, with his mid-range game.  I also think he just set the tone for an era of sustained success under Tony Bennett.
C) Ted Jeffries -- The gold standard for interior bangers at UVA.  His stats were never flashy, but his impact was always huge.  A real battler that was easy to love.

ALL-KENDALL SECOND TEAM
PG) John Crotty -- Slick with the handle, a great passer, a great playmaker, and just a really easy guy to root for.  I think a lot of people still think of Crotty when they think about UVA hoops.
SG) Roger Mason Jr. -- If only he hadn't left school early, the 2002-03 team would have been a top-10 type of unit.  Mase was a really, really good player.  Very multi-dimensional.
SF) Jason Williford -- The ultimate glue guy.
PF) Junior Burrough -- He was our version of Corliss Williamson.  Great rebounder and low post scorer, and the one guy you could count on to generate offense when we needed it the most.
C) Chris Alexander -- We don't have a good history of big men over the last two decades, but Alexander was a really good one.  He didn't score, but he did everything else, and was probably the best defensive big man I've ever seen at UVA.


ALL-KENDALL THIRD TEAM
PG) Sean Singletary -- He should be on the 2nd team in terms of how much I loved him, but Deano and Crotty simply out-rank him at point guard, so he's dumped to the third team.  Sorry Sean.
SG) Cory Alexander -- He was a point guard, but it's my list so I'm breaking the rules.  Cory was more of a scorer than a facilitator, anyway.
SF) Chris Williams -- Big Smooth left Charlottesville with a good amount of unrealized potential still in tow, but he was a really fun player to watch through the years.  Did you know Smooth is in 8th place on the career scoring list?
PF) Norman Nolan -- Probably deserves a spot on the 1st or 2nd team, but never carried the program into the NCAA tournament, which is a big part of these rankings for me.  That's why Mike Scott gets the nod over Norm, actually.
C) Travis Watson -- One of the best pure rebounders in school history, he also brought a devastating offensive game with his lefty-hooks and post-ups.  If his effort level hadn't dropped late in his career, he'd be a 1st or 2nd-teamer.


ALL-KENDALL HATE TEAM
PG) Keith enifer -- No "J."  Punk-ass attitude, crappy player.
SG) Sylven Landesberg -- If he had bought into Bennettball, we'd be celebrating back-to-back trips to the Sweet Sixteen right now.
SF) Mamadi Diane -- I appreciated his hustle and how hard he worked for the team, but he made so many boneheaded plays that I'd be remiss to not include him here.
PF) J.C. Mathis -- a walking turnover with the worst low-post hands (and feet!) I've ever seen.
C) Elton Brown -- So much unrealized potential, and a stupid alligator chomp.


ALL-KENDALL INSTANT OFFENSE TEAM
Put this team on the floor when you need to score...
PG) Donald Hand -- I just loved this guy's hard-nosed, fearless approach to scoring.
SG) Curtis Staples -- Again, he was simply the best 3-point shooter I've ever seen.
SF) Keith Friel -- A career 40+% 3-point shooter who got up near 50% for long [multi-game] stretches during his career.  1.5 points per shot is dazzling efficiency.  At 6-5, he can handle the small forward role.  Honorable mention: Devin Smith.
PF) Mike Scott -- Best shooting big I've ever seen at UVA.  By a damn spot.
C) Junior Burrough -- Had all the moves you need to own the low post.


ALL-KENDALL TENACIOUS D TEAM
Put this team on the floor when you need a stop...
PG) Jontel Evans -- The most tenacious on-ball defender I've seen play for Virginia.
SG) Harold Deane -- Led the team in steals all four of his seasons in Charlottesville.
SF) Bryant Stith -- Could guard 1-5, and do it well.
PF) Jason Williford -- A little small to guard the post, but a terrible pest for back-to-basket bigs.
C) Chris Alexander -- Blocked 148 shots in his UVA career.


ALL-KENDALL MEDIOCRE PLAYERS I LOVED TEAM
PG) Todd Billet -- He just had a flair for the dramatic, didn't he?
SG) J.R. Reynolds -- He was overrated, but still a very good player.
SF) Willie Dersch -- Never as good as his recruiting profile, he still fought hard and embraced his role.
PF) Jason Cain -- Fought through a world of disadvantages to give us a decent low post presence during the Singletary/Reynolds years.
C) Colin Ducharme -- "Vanilla Gorilla" was a really tough player, played really hard all the time, and played at a time when the team was mostly devoid of talent.  Plus,he was a super-nice guy in real life (yes, I knew him.)

March 26, 2012

Wahooze Spring Practice Q&A

Spring practice is upon us, and we are working our way toward the Spring Game on April 14th.  As Wahooze Nation transitions from basketball mode to football mode, we thought we would hit you guys with a sprawling, long-winded, spring football-themed, Wahooze-style Q&A. BOOM. Enjoy!


Is Mike Rocco really ready to take the reins and become our best quarterback since Matt Schaub?  What happens if Greyson Lambert is clearly our best quarterback during spring practices?

Pierce: Rocco’s ready, absolutely. He’s completely secure as the #1 QB on the team and should be more relaxed this spring because of it. His second half of last season was pretty dang solid, especially considering what we’ve had to accept as “quarterback” play for the past decade. Rocco’s a heady guy, I see nothing stopping him from continuing to improve and, considering his youth, becoming and All-ACC type of QB.

(Doesn’t All-ACC QB pretty much require a basic understanding of “players catch balls thrown at their hands, not their feet?”…anyway…)

Initial reports are that Greyson Lambert is the real deal. He’s 6’5”, towers over the other QBs, and throws a rocket of a pass consistently. Frankly, the kid seems destined to be a star for the Hoos (but didn’t our last 4-star QB (whoshallnotbenamedbecauseIbeliveinjinxes) seem that way too…?). As a friend of mine put it: “Greyson Lambert was born to Lord over UVA – his name is Greyson for [love]’s sake…I picture entitled NOVA or Northeastern UVA [ladies of dubious morality] from DG exclaiming ‘Greeeeyson’ with downward inflection and it just fits.”  And he’s right. Optimally, Lambert becomes the best UVA QB since Shawn Moore.* However, OPTIMALLY, that doesn’t happen for a couple years. Rocco should start. Lambert should redshirt.

*Note – remind some other time to rant about Matt Schaub’s completely overrated career at UVA and how he’s largely benefitted from being compared to everyone since him. Great guy. Great NFL QB. Not all that impressive at Virginia.

Mike: Mike Rocco is ready to move closer. I think the kid benefitted a lot from super low expectations last season. Let’s see how he does with some buzz about him. He lost his center and a pretty damn good left guard and his safety blanket receiver. Could he be that good? Yeah absolutely, but does he have the chops to rise to the occasion?  That remains to be seen. I think if he takes the reins and excels and leads the team in the spring then he will be right on track to be very good this season, but if he struggles adjusting, we could be seeing…

Greyson Lambert! While I think Rocco is good if Lambert is absolutely lighting it up in the spring you HAVE to open it up. You owe it to us as fans to get us excited about the future at QB. And nothing gets you more excited than a stud freshman. Ask Aaron Corp how that feels. If Lambert is clearly better than Rocco you start Lambert. There is zero reason not to. Remember when Calvin Baker and Mamadi Diane started all those games in Dave Leitao’s last season? Don’t you wish Sammy Z had some of those minutes?

Kendall: This is Mike Rocco’s team now.  No way does Greyson Lambert (who already stated he’d prefer to redshirt) supplant Rock atop the depth chart.  I’m excited about Rocco heading into this season, very excited. I think he’s already better than Marc Verica (2010), Jameel Sewell (2009 & 2007), Peter Lalich (2008), and Christian Olsen (2006) -- the last five opening day starters we’ve had under center.  Rock still needs to show me a little bit more, but I’m close to saying he’s better than Marques Hagans (2005 & 2004).  So yeah, I’m excited about Mike Rocco.  This will be his third season learning the Lazor offense, and his skill set fits his weapons perfectly.

Rocco’s presence as our starting quarterback is actually the root of all optimism I feel about the 2012 team.  Rolling into a season with an already-entrenched and proven effective quarterback gives you a huge leg up on the field, and for the first time in a long time, we have that.  Greyson Lambert cannot be tall enough, strong enough, throw a pretty enough ball, or spin it fast enough to overcome that edge that Mike Rocco has earned via his trial by fire in 2011.  Rock is not just ready to take the reins, I think he already has a strong freaking grip on them.


With everyone looking at Perry Jones to be the face of the program this year (maybe preseason All-ACC?), can he step his game up even higher and become a real superstar?  What does he need to add to his game to accomplish this feat?

Pierce: I think this will happen for three reasons:
-The o-line will still be a strength once everyone is healthy by the fall.
-The QB and receivers will have stepped up from last year. Teams are going to have to watch the deep pass.
-Coming off a Peach Bowl appearance, with a coach everyone wants to talk about/to, I think UVA rides an easy-ish early schedule into more of the national media attention. Boy does our football team mirror our basketball team or what?

Mike: PJ will absolutely be All-ACC, if he’s not I don’t really know what the voters are looking for. Giovanni Bernard sucks. Name me another ACC tailback worth anything…I’ll wait. With that being said teams will be gameplanning and gunning for Jones. PJ to me has all the attributes to be a good back, it’s his supporting cast that needs to prove itself, to soften up the defense. I can throw Adrian Peterson in the backfield but if your line is Aboushi, Moses and three folding chairs, AP isn’t going to do well. This is all going to depend on how the line gels, and how the passing game progresses. Other than that there won’t be much that can stand in Perry’s way.

Kendall: Perry Jones is going to be our superstar this season, of that I have no doubt.  What does he need to add to his game?  The ability to grind between the tackles with a bit more authority.  But the thing is, with KP and Clifton Richardson on hand to do that heavy lifting, I doubt PJ will be asked to do a whole lot of that short yardage stuff.  He might need to focus on his [already phenomenal] route running and pass-catching prowess this season, with Kris Burd gone.  I think we have the potential for a very good ensemble-type receiving cast, but it is entirely possible that Perry Jones leads the team in rushing AND receiving in 2012.  Won’t that be a neat trick?


Who will step up at wide receiver and try to fill Kris Burd's shoes?  What will the wide receiver positions look like as we exit the spring (prior to the true freshman receivers joining the fray)?

Pierce: Darius Jennings. He’s ready and able. A full spring/summer with he and Rocco as established starters will give him the experience to be comfortable in the role – and he’s going to excel in it. I love me some Timmy Smith, but in terms of the guy who’s going to take over as the go-to target, it’s going to be Jennings. I think Terrell will keep improving as well and should contribute more than his freshman year. Smith, Jennings, and Terrell should be the starters while hopefully the freshmen can all redshirt. That will depend on contributions from guys like Miles Gooch.

Mike: Tim Smith will be that guy. I think he has the potential to be pretty dangerous as the go-to receiver in this offense. I think the two sophomores have a chance to really stretch the field this season, and look for Canaan Severin to become the over-the-middle receiver. I think we will start to see what Bill Lazor plans to do with the tight ends based on how he uses Severin this season. More on that later.

Kendall: Like I just hinted at in the previous question, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Perry Jones take on the role of “go-to” receiver.  He can split out wide in two back sets, as we’ve seen.  I bet we see a lot more of that, with KP and Richardson both capable of serving as ace-type backs in a spread look. If PJ is our best pure pass catcher, why not make him the focal point of the passing game?

But this question is really about the wide receivers, not our ubertalented multi-faceted superstar scatback.  Which of the wideouts will step up?  I could see Darius Jennings’ talent bubble to the surface in his split end role or I could see Tim Smith make good on his offseason rhetoric as he tries to assume unit leader status.  Realistically, I think both players will make a huge leap forward, and we see sort of a split of the #1 status, similar to what we saw in 2010 with Burd and Dontrelle Inman.  Like I said, this is an ensemble-style unit of receivers, there is no true superstar go-to guy to whom we’ll pump a steady flow of passes.  In fact, don’t be shocked to see Dominique Terrell take hold in the slot and emerge as a real weapon.

With so many smaller/quicker athletes at the receiving positions, expect to see a “catch and run” theme emerge for the receivers.  Look for a lot of bubble screens, smoke screens, slants, comebacks, curls, drags, etc., etc. designed to get the ball into the receivers’ hands and let them do their work after the catch.  Quick reads and short passes for Rocco play directly into his strengths.  YAC will probably be a big part of our offense in 2012.  Remember Darius Jennings’ touchdown against Miami?  Yeah, that kind of stuff.  Catch and run.  Run after catch.  Yards after catch.  PJ, Smith, Jennings, Terrell, E.J. Scott, Kevin Parks... all are well-suited for that approach to the passing game.


We return all of our tight ends, but they were not used very much in Lazor's offense in 2010 or 2011.  Will that change this year, especially considering the absence of "safety net" receiver Kris Burd?  What signs of life should we be looking for from the tight ends this spring?

Pierce: I really hope we see more from the tight ends. The players are there and the coach has hinted to it. That being said, I’d bet on the production being only slightly higher. Lazor definitely relies on tailbacks catching passes and consistently looking for the deep ball and I don’t see him changing drastically from that. However, the TE’s are going to get their looks. Look for the offense to rely a little more on the pass in the red zone – hopefully working toward more TDs for TEs. Don’t sleep on Jake McGee, either.

Mike: I think the tight end is a dying breed in this offense. I think Canaan Severin and Kyle Dockins are prime examples of that. Coach Lazor seems to be more interested in having a big receiver split out wide rather than a pass catching tight end. I think at this point tight ends are going to be used more as extra blockers rather than receivers. Look for us to start converting smaller athletic lineman or maybe bigger linebackers to turn into blocking tight ends in the future.

Kendall: I have a feeling that the tight end position - from a traditional sense - does not really exist in the Lazor offense.  He seems to prefer trading blocking ability for receiving wildcards, and he seems to favor speed and wiggle over size and strength.  I think a hybrid-type player is going to emerge from the rubble of the destroyed tight end position, where we see big receivers like Canaan Severin, Mario Nixon, and Kyle Dockins step forward where there were once tight ends.

But for this season... smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.  Colter Phillips, Paul Freedman, Jeremiah Mathis, and Jake McGee are ready to contribute.  I’m sure Lazor will continue to turn a bit of a cold shoulder to those guys, but look for some jumbo packages (especially near the goal line) where the tight ends are primary receiving targets.

The fact of the matter is that our best talent lies elsewhere right now, so the tight ends (while all fine players) will continue to take a back seat.  Heath Miller is not on the roster right now, so I’m not sure I fully understand my fellow fans’ consternation over the tight ends’ lack of production. Lazor is a good offensive coordinator -- he’ll put the ball into the hands of his best playmakers.  The fact that that the tight ends aren’t getting the football should tell you all you need to know about how good those players actually are, compared to the other players competing for touches.


Who replaces Austin Pasztor at left guard and Anthony Mihota at center?  What does the two-deep look like along the offensive line?  Can we expect the o-line to remain a strength of the team?

Pierce: There’s a handful of OL sitting out spring practice with injuries, so it’ll be hard to be certain about the starting interior, especially since the coaches have been training a lot of guys at multiple positions. Look for Sean Cascarano, Cody Wallace, and Matt Mihalik to be in the mix to start. Ross Burbank, Jay Whitmire, and Kelby Johnson will get plenty of playing time as well, in my mind. Obviously Aboushi, Moses, and Bowanko should be solid in their starting positions.

Mike: As of right now it looks like it’s Sean Cascarano at guard and Matt Mihalik at center. I am never going to be concerned with the o-line. That is the strength of the team and I think we are very, very good at developing talent along the line.  I would be more concerned if Moses and Aboushi left early, but I think everything is according to plan in the o-line department.

Kendall: According to the pre-spring depth chart, Sean Cascarano is replacing Pasztor and Matt Mihalik is replacing Mihota.  Oday Aboushi returns at left tackle, Luke Bowanko at right guard, and Morgan Moses at right tackle.  The two-deep includes OTs Kelby Johnson and Jay Whitmire, OGs Cody Wallace and Tim Cwalina, and center Ross Burbank.

There is shaping up to be a lot of shuffling and cross-training along the line this spring, which is exciting.  Coach London has recruited eleven top-notch o-line prospects onto the team during his tenure, and is very focused on backfilling a group that had grown perilously thin under the Al Groh regime.

With this focus on the offensive line, and knowing the talent we have in place, I absolutely think that unit will continue to be a strength of the team.  It might look shaky during spring ball with so many guys out with injuries, but this is not an area about which I am worried.  Our o-line will be fine, and it will help us win games in the fall.



With Cam Johnson gone, where will the pass rush come from?  Will we see it take shape this spring?

Pierce: From DE, Billy “Cyborg” Schautz. He’ll be healthy. From LB, Da-Da Romero.

Mike: I love Billy Schautz, I think that kid is awesome on the pass rush. I also think we are going to see some Eli Harold in passing situation at DE. But the kid I am most looking forward to watching get after the QB is LaRoy Reynolds. That kid is a menace and probably my favorite player on the team for this season. I think Coach Reid will turn him loose more often this season to try to generate more up front. Also I think Will Hill is going to have a big season, and Justin Renfrow isn’t too shabby either. I think finally the DTs are good for a 4-3 scheme.

Kendall: Our pass rush stands to be much improved in 2012, but I’m not sure we’ll see it come together this spring.  Billy Schautz is out, and Eli Harold isn’t on Grounds yet, and those two guys will be instrumental in generating that pass rush.  I also think Daquan Romero will be asked to provide some pressure around the edge, even if he’s starting at Sam in the base defense (no reason he can’t also put his hand in the dirt as part of the nickel package.)  I’m not a big fan of Jake Snyder’s pass rush ability, but it has to be improved from last season.  And now with Will Hill looking to secure full-time starter’s minutes, I think we’ll see better pass rush from the interior d-line.  Ausar Walcott has also been moved to end full-time, and will be able to provide some pass rush ability.  Add it up, and I think we have some nice potential to get after the quarterbacks this fall.


Losing four starters from our defensive front seven, how will the front be rebuilt?  What will it look like during spring practices?

Pierce: Up front, we’re replacing three starters, but the new guys have a ton of experience. I don’t think there will be much of a drop off with Billy Schautz and Will Hill. The other starters could be Jake Snyder and Justin Renfrow, or Brent Urban and Chris Brathwaite. Obviously, super-recruit Eli Harold could get some playing time, but there are a whole lot of experienced bodies ahead of him.

For the linebackers, Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds will start. Who will join them? Probably Romero, but I think the coaches will try to get Henry Coley on the field as much as possible. After that, we really don’t have much depth. This is a big concern, in my mind.

Mike: I think we are going to see an LSU-style rotation on the front four. The staff really seems to like David Dean at DT, and Will Hill, Justin Renfrow, and Chris Brathwaite are no slouches. Plus, the presence of Brent Urban at both d-line positions makes DT surprisingly deep. I think if we need to stop the run we are set, and God help anyone on the goal line against that front. Players like Schautz, and freshmen Mike Moore and Eli Harold will be able to get after the QB from the DE spot. I think LB is set too, with Romero at Sam, Greer at Mike, and Reynolds at Will. I think we will see a lot of Henry Coley and maybe some glimpses of Kwontie Moore. Rumor has it Darius Lee has moved to safety…

Kendall: This is one of those areas where the preseason publications will bang on us for losing so many starters, but those that follow the program closely are actually expecting to see BETTER play that what we saw in 2011.  The biggest loss in the front seven is Matt Conrath, who had a very good senior season.  But beyond him, replacing Cam Johnson, Nick Jenkins, and Aaron Taliaferro isn’t an especially tall order.

Replacing the Conrath/Jenkins combo at tackle will be Will Hill and some combination of Justin Renfrow, Chris Brathwaite, Buddy Ruff, Vincent Croce, and the guy I’m really excited about -- David Dean.  This represents an upgrade in depth, talent, and explosiveness across the two DT positions.

At end, Jake Snyder returns as a starter.  Replacing Cam Johnson will be Billy Schautz.  The depth chart includes Ausar Walcott (moved up from linebacker after being moved up from safety, just like Cam Johnson) and Brent Urban.  I also have no doubt that Eli Harold will play as a true freshman, so don’t sleep on him showing up for training camp and wowing everyone.

At linebacker, Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds are locks to start, with Da-Da Romero likely replacing Taliaferro.  The depth chart is a little sparse, but Tucker Windle and Henry Coley can play.  We haven’t seen Caleb Taylor yet, but I think he’ll be solid, and D.J. Hill and Darius Lee should also be in the mix.  The linebacking corps will undoubtedly be bolstered by a true freshman (Kwontie Moore!)



On paper, it seems like the weakest part of the roster... So what seems to be the plan at the safety position?

Pierce: Honestly, I’m just excited to see some new guys at safety. Ant Harris should start, for sure. After that? I guess Rijo Walker – who I like, but haven’t seen him play much safety. There’s definitely room for the depth chart to get shuffled around with guys like Mason Thomas, Kyrrel Latimer, and Tweet Mack getting more reps.

Mike: Looks like it’s Ant Harris at SS and Rijo Walker at FS, though I’ve heard that Walker will move to CB if there is an injury or just terrible play. I am not all that concerned with safety, mostly because I have zero expectations for this group. I think Harris is going to surprise some people, but mostly I’m excited to not have to watch Corey Mosely and Rodney McLeod get torched every weekend.

Kendall: The plan is a trial by fire.  Anthony Harris, Rijo Walker, Mason Thomas, Kameron Mack, Pablo Alvarez, and Kyrrel Latimer will be thrown into the deep end of the pool, and we’ll see who swims to the surface.  I’m glad to move on from the Mosley/McLeod regime, but this is not an ideal way to transition.  If there’s a damning weakness on the roster, the safety position is it.  I’m frankly terrified to see what happens here, and this will be a primary focus during spring practices -- finding someone, anyone who is capable of starting and not ceding way too many big plays.


How can our terrible special teams improve in spring practice?  What specific positive signs are you looking for?

Pierce: Well, they should learn how to field a punt, block for kick returners, and replace the entire kicking staff. Easy enough. I’m looking for someone who passes the eyeball-test on returns. Someone who looks like they want to run the ball up the field, not someone who’s scared to drop it / get hit.

Mike: KHALEK SHEPHERD. Just give him both jobs and let him keep them. For the love of God, he was the only decent returner last season. I think you will see a bunch of the new kids on special teams, too. It’s always been my contention that your team depth is measured by the success of your special teams. This is the place where your young studs can prove themselves. I would love to see Eli Harold tearing down the field on kick coverage, or Anthony Cooper back taking punts. In fact I think that is the best option back there to be honest with you. Have Shepherd do kicks and Cooper do punts. The real thing to focus on is that we don’t have to watch our piece of shit kickers steal a free education from us anymore.

Kendall: My solution is a simple one -- put more starters on the special teams units, and make up for that added wear and tear by rotating more backups into the base offense and defense.

Specifically, I just want to see some players step forward and “own” their roles on special teams.  I want to see a kicker emerge by taking a stranglehold on the operation during the spring, and I want to see a punt returner do the same.

I don’t know, man.  I’m not really a special teams guy.  Just play better, that’s all I ask.



Which of the rising second-year players will exhibit the biggest jump in progression and production, and take advantage of spring practices to take a bold step forward on the two-deep?

Pierce: Darius Jennings. I think Daquan Romero might make a bigger jump in terms of “distance covered,” but Jennings could jump straight into an immediate star role on the offense.

Mike: I’m looking at three guys here -- Clifton Richardson, Brandon Phelps, and David Dean. Richardson needs to prove he can hold on to the ball better. I think he stands to be the change-up back this year over Kevin Parks (how’s that for bold?) if he can prove to be the big bruising power back with breakaway speed that he has the potential to be. I’m curious to see how he looks after an offseason of training and if he can become a real force between the tackles. Phelps I am dying to see step up and steal the CB2 spot from Drequan Hoskey. The kid has a world of potential and I think it would go a long way towards having a competent secondary to have him compete with Hoskey for the second starting CB spot. Dean is a kid that the coaches are in love with and while those expectations are high, I think he can and probably will live up to them. He could get into the rotation on the line with a strong spring.

Kendall: Awesome question (self-congratulation, because I wrote the damn thing!)  We have a lot of candidates that fit this description -- Jennings, Terrell, Kelby Johnson, Jake McGee, KP, Clifton Richardson, Zach Swanson, Miles Gooch, E.J. Scott, Brathwaite, Da-Da, Coley, Drequan Hoskey, and Brandon Phelps, among others.

My pick for this “second-year leap” is Kevin Parks.  He had a very good season last year, with 754 yards and 9 touchdowns on 152 carries, and adding 82 yards and another touchdown on 11 catches.  That was some great stuff, but there is room for more, a lot more.  I know this is a weird pick, with Perry Jones serving as the focal point of the offense and an extremely talented Clifton Richardson pushing hard for more carries.  The reason I’m picking KP is because I really, really like what I’ve seen from him in terms of being the best “complete package” of our running backs.  He’s got the power to work between the tackles, he’s got speed and wiggle to the perimeter, he’s got great instincts sifting through traffic and setting up blocks in the open field, he’s a goal line monster, he’s a plus receiver with a good feel for finding soft spots in coverage out in the flat, and he’s rapidly becoming a very good blocker.  KP has a nose for the end zone, and I think he’ll get the rock more often than anyone else in goal-to-go situations.  My hunch is that his yardage totals stay about the same, but his touchdowns climb up into the mid-teens, Keith Payne territory.  KP is a bit of a forgotten man this spring, but don’t sleep on our secret weapon.  I predict that he becomes the closer for our offense.  Coffee is for closers.


Entering the spring, do you think this year's team projects to be better or worse than last year?  Explain.

Pierce: Better. I’m betting on the o-line being fine, which is really upon what it all hinges. I think the offense will continue its upward progression, as Rocco should only get better and better, as well as the RBs. The defense won’t be great, but they definitely have the potential to be as good as last year. Yeah, the secondary is a mess, but despite folks saying it was solidified with senior leadership last year, you won’t convince me that they weren’t terrible. Being terrible this year won’t be a step back. Really, we need more production from the pass rush…hopefully that happens.

Mike: I think talent-wise we will be better, but results-wise probably worse. I think we lucked out last season to that 8-5 record. I think this team will finish strong as opposed to last year’s sputtering end. I will tell you this though; I would not want to be Tech at the end of this year, especially if we are getting hot and gelling at the right time. The worst thing to see is a team with no expectations coming in and leaving it all on the field. Not calling our shot just yet, but I’m slightly more confident going into Lane than in previous years. It is all going to hinge on how quickly our young players grow up.

Kendall: I’m drinking the kool-aid now.  I think we’ll be better... or just about the same but with more “good” wins and fewer “lucky” wins.  If Rocco stays healthy, I predict another bowl appearance, which in my book is exactly where we need to be in year three of the London era.  I’m an offense guy, and I buy into the simple Colin Cowherd premise of QB + weapons = wins.  I have the utmost faith in Mike Rocco, I like his weapons, and I think our defense will be good enough to not blow leads.  I really do like our chances for 6-7-8 wins and a bowl game this season.

(I do want to say one thing -- in interviews, the coaches sound more excited than at any point during the two previous springs.  They sound like they are very enthused about working with the players they have in the program right now, like they are happy with the current composition of the roster, and very comfortable with where the team is entering spring practice.  That has to bode well for the success of the 2012 campaign, right?)



Name five guys you are specifically excited to hear about during spring practices, and explain your choices.

Pierce:
-- Darius Jennings. Well yeah, if I think he’s going to be the next star, he better validate my belief.
-- Daquan Romero. Definitely mentioned him already as a guy with a lot of potential. If he locks down the other OLB spot with authority, the linebackers will be a big strength this year.
-- Tra Nicholson. Haven’t mentioned him yet, but he’s hands-down the bright spot on the secondary. The Hoos will need him to play even better than he did last year (and for pete’s sake, tell me he’s put on a little weight, please.)
-- David Watford. I want some definitive improvement from Watford. I don’t want him to immediately get passed by Lambert, but if it’s going to happen, let it happen this year. Good kid. Could play. Optimally, he’s 100% the backup guy, ready to go if anything happens to Rocco and certainly could be used here and there elsewise.
-- A kicker! Any kicker. Someone who can kick.

Mike:
-- Can Greyson Lambert be all five? He is first on my list. I can’t remember the last time there was this much hype around a QB here, mostly because I am trying to block Peter Lalich out of my memory. If Lambert is as good as billed, I could not be more excited.
-- A close second is Clifton Richardson. Nothing against Kevin Parks, but I am hoping Clifton becomes the dominant back he has the potential to be.
-- Third is Tim Smith. He’s been talking a lot of noise, time to put up or shut up.
-- The last two are Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings. We NEED them to develop into deep threats to keep teams honest and not stacking eight or nine in the box to stop our running game.

Kendall:
-- Kinda obvious, but my first pick is Mike Rocco.  I want to hear stories about how awesome he is playing and how fast he is progressing now that he is “the guy.”  I also want to hear about him taking a major leadership role and fostering a really good relationship with his backups.
-- Dominique Terrell.  He’s too talented to not be productive this year.  This spring could help him build the confidence he needs to take a stranglehold on the punt return duties, and though he was very shaky in that role last season, I think he has the chops to be a real difference-maker.  Also, he has the chops to be a playmaker as our slot receiver.  If Terrell has a good spring, it could mean very good things for the team as a whole.
-- Jake Snyder.  I want to hear about how his game is growing, and how he’ll be an impact player in his junior season, as the only returning starter on the defensive line.
-- David Dean.  The staff loves this kid.  I want to hear why.
-- Drequan Hoskey.  We so desperately need him to be a good player, if it all comes together for him this spring it will be a godsend for the program.
-- Honorable mention: Tra Nicholson and LaRoy Reynolds.  Two key players on defense, and two guys who need to improve a little bit more before they are ready to be stars.




Name five guys who are at risk of being passed over in the depth chart pecking order this spring.  Explain.

Pierce:
-- David Watford. I did not read this question before answering the previous one…Awkward…
-- Dominique Terrell. The coaches are committed to him, but E.J. Scott should not be overlooked. If DJ and Tim Smith fill the outside, E.J. could start in the slot, effectively re-passing Terrell, who played over the injured Scott last season.
-- Colter Phillips. Mathis is going to play in red zone situations. Jake McGee could steal a lot of time/attention at other times. If he steals enough, Phillips might find himself as the 3rd option at TE.
-- It’s hard to name anyone on the OL, because the three starters aren’t going to get passed, but I need to reiterate that Kelby Johnson is going to play in a big way, and soon. These guys are all going to the get shuffled around, but someone above Johnson on the two-deep is getting passed.
-- Wild Card Pick: Steve Greer. Henry Coley could be a better player if he starts making the consistent plays like Steve. His ceiling is way higher in my mind.

Mike:
-- Kevin Parks, for all the reasons mentioned.
-- Zach Swanson. I think LoVante Battle is going to be a really good fullback, just a hunch. Kid has to be hungry for some PT.
-- Chris Brathwaite. Justin Renfrow is a player I am really high on, plus David Dean is looming. There are a ton of options at DT.
-- Drequan Hoskey. I think Phelps is going to show what he can do, and he has a world of potential.
-- And lastly here is a surprise, Colter Phillips. I think McGee and Mathis have a good shot to supplant him for his catches as they become the WR/TE hybrid that we seem to be coveting in recruiting.

Kendall:
-- Sean Cascarano.  He’s moving over from tackle to top the depth chart at Pasztor’s vacated left guard spot, but I’m not buying it yet.  I expect the challenge to come fast and furious from Cody Wallace, now freed from the crushing responsibilities of the center position.
-- Colter Phillips.  I just don’t think he’s a great receiver, and Lazor prefers having GREAT receivers on the field.  Great kid, nice player, but maybe not a really dangerous playmaker.
-- Zach Swanson enters the spring as the de facto starting fullback, but I think that job belongs to LoVante Battle this season.  I’m also not sleeping on Billy Skrobacz, who has been toiling in anonymity for three years now.  (We’ll probably be pretty multiple at fullback, with Swanson playing the receiving threat, Skrobacz playing the sledgehammer lead blocker, and Battle playing the heat-seeking missile.)
-- Anthony Harris is listed as the starter at strong safety, but I think it’s still up in the air at this point.  The coaches will be looking for someone to take over that spot with some gusto this spring.  Harris might be that guy, but he might not.  I’m not betting against Mason Thomas on this one.  Just a hunch.
-- Miles Gooch needs a good spring in order to become entrenched as the primary big possession receiver. Because once the flood of talented true freshmen hits this summer, Gooch will be washed away if he hasn’t taken full advantage of the spring and impressed his coaches with his improvement.


Where will the team's strengths and weaknesses lie, based on the roster composition entering the spring?

Pierce:
Strengths -- RB, QB, Exterior OL
Weaknesses -- Safety, CB and LB depth, everything that falls under Special Teams

Mike:
Strengths -- Run Game, Linebackers, D-Line Depth
Weaknesses -- Secondary, Unproven Wideouts
I think there is the potential to be solid, but there are a ton of question marks with our weaknesses. The key to the season will lie on how quickly we gel and develop as a team.  That being said the strengths are quite strong. I am quite excited about the front seven and the running game. I think getting a good push up front and controlling the ball is going to be the key to success.

Kendall:
Strengths -- Starting quarterback, running backs, run-after-catch ability, offensive tackles, d-line rotation, linebacking experience, talent upgrade throughout roster and in playable depth
Weaknesses -- Interior offensive line, confusion about tight ends’ role, lack of starting experience on defensive line, both starting safety positions, CB2, special teams in total



Fill in the blank.  Spring football will be a success if __________.

Pierce: We avoid any serious injuries and both of the lines mesh together into strong groups (this can probably only happen on the d-line with all the injuries on the OL currently).

Mike: We can stay healthy and show progress on offense. I think the offense is going to have to support the team in the first half of the season while the D catches up so it will be good to see them in a good rhythm and lighting it up. Even if they are torching our young secondary.

Kendall: The right leaders emerge at the right spots, we develop more of an offensive identity, and the team stays relatively healthy.  I’m bullish about the overall talent level of this team right now, so if things start to gel, this could end up being another special season.

Weep Ye for the Tarheels

It's time to shut up North Carolina. Yes Kendall Marshall got hurt but if you can't win with a starting 5 of the best kids in the country, all who probably will be drafted in the lottery, let alone the first round, then you have a much bigger problem. Injuries make you realize what kind of fortitude your team has and more importantly how good your coaches are. I'm not saying Roy Williams is a bad coach (not directly at least) but at some point that's what it is going to come down to. Talent can mask a lot of deficiencies, but if you lose your point guard and your best scorer doesn't show up then it takes real coaching to overcome that and put your players in the proper position to succeed.

Spin this to UVA. Yes our tournament game was bad but we played a good chunk of the season with 8 scholarship players and towards the end only 7. That's division one scholarship players. Even after injuries UNC still almost had as many MCDONALD'S ALL AMERICANS as we had scholarship players. Even with those injuries we still hung tough with Carolina and Florida State twice? And not once did we hear Coach Bennett complain. Adjustments were made and the team moved on. That's the mark of a good coach. You need to have your team prepared for anything, and not use excuses to cover up what appear to be your deficiencies as a coach. If you have a backup point guard that is afraid to shoot the ball then you as a coach need to do something about it. Or just go bring in another McDonald's All American, and buy another shitty plaid suit. Tool.

March 23, 2012

Wahooze on the Trail: The Jake Kite Mystery

Jake Kite of Roanoke, VA (Hidden Valley) was born to be a Wahoo. His father Chris Kite played cornerback and wide receiver at UVA during the 80's. A 6-1 180 pound hard hitting safety he is also built to be a Wahoo. He absolutely crushes people with the ferocity that should get anyone excited, with the exception of his opponents who are probably terrified to see him bearing down. Is he a perfect form tackler? No not at all. But it seems like this is the perfect kind of kid to bring in, and one that would take a scholarship offer in a heartbeat.




And yet the Hoos are yet to offer, much to the confusion of Wahoo fans. Initially it was due to the fact that the Hoos did not have a documented time for the 40 for him. But now it seems that they have it, and at 4.5 he is more than fast enough. So now the question becomes what is the hold up. Yes this is supposed to be a small class, but this is starting to stink of a "Don't count your kegs before they're tapped" situation. If the staff is taking Kite for granted assuming he will want to follow in his footsteps they might miss out on him. I understand we are poised to take in an impressive haul for this class but Kite seems like a pretty good prospect for me. Kendall and Pierce both described him as a potential "wish UVA had offered" type kid later in his career and Kendall brought up the name Danny Coale as a prime example of a player like that. Is Kite a roll of the dice? Sure, but he has the drive to want to be a Wahoo which I think is a very important characteristic to have, especially for what the coaching staff is trying to model the team after. Even if Kite can't play safety effectively in college he has to potential to make a hard hitting fullback. I think given the solid performance of LoVante Battle in the spring that might be a solid back up plan. With all that being said I do not understand why there has not been an offer. I assume that if Kite came and ran for the coaches something would most likely get done, but until that happens all we can hope is that he doesn't commit to Duke on his trip this weekend.


March 22, 2012

Death of the 5

Here's a great little piece from ESPN's Myron Medcalf.

Era of the Postmodern Big Man

This sort of fits hand-in-hand with my prediction that the Hoos will use Mitchell/Atkins/Tobey at the 5 (barring the addition of a late-season recruit, a JUCO transfer, or an overseas player at one of the post positions) as we shift to more of a spread-the-court look with two guards and two wings in the lineup.

In any case, interesting read.

March 21, 2012

Center Help from Across the Pond?

Ready for some impressive scoop Wahooze? Check out this kid: Boris Bojanovsky.

In addition to having a name that makes me chuckle, he is a 7-1 center from Slovakia who is drawing comparisons to Maryland's Alex Len, who is a very serviceable, borderline good, ACC center. This is the kind of player we will most likely be looking at for a late addition to the class of 2012. A big man COMPLETELY out of left field. Going the JUCO or international route is a good band-aid for all the transfers and the lack of depth we'll have in the frontcourt, without screwing up recruiting rhythm and player progression through the program. But I'm not entirely sure that this kid would be a so-called "band-aid." In the U-18 FIBA basketball championships he averaged 22 points and 13 boards. That's not a bad tournament, and those are good stats. While he is drawing some limited attention from NBA scouts it looks like he is going to go to college for at least one season. This kid seems legit, and is a player the Hoos can hopefully get involved with soon, because he looks like a great prospect.

As of now, there does not appear to be an offer out there, but it is being implied that there is some interest in Bojanovsky from our staff. Let's hope we can gain some traction with this kid and get the program even more momentum!

Slicing the 200 Minute Pie, 2012-13

I did this last year and the year before, so I guess you could say slicing this pie is now an annual Wahooze tradition, and a rite of spring every bit as important as dancing 'round the maypole... whatever the hell that is.

This year, a Mike-assisted graphic for the pie-slicing:



Those numbers beside the names are the minutes per game I expect to see each of those players average next season, assuming no additions or subtractions to the roster (which is generally a bad assumption), and assuming no injuries (which is generally a terrible assumption.)

Ten players slicing the pie, which is not typically what Tony Bennett likes to do.  He historically prefers a nine-man rotation (five guards, four bigs), with a tight seven-man (four guards, three bigs) primary roation.  But given the composition of the roster as we head into next season, and given the experiences of this season's lack of depth grinding the team down in March, I think those tight rotations will loosen up to include all ten of our scholarship players.

I have a collection of thoughts generated by this exercise, but first I think we really need to sink our teeth into what - exactly - it is we are trying to replace heading into next season.

Primary in everyone's mind, of course, is Mike Scott.  Mike averaged 31.2 minutes, 18 points, and 8.3 rebounds per game.  Big numbers, enormous shoes to fill.  But I don't think any one player, or even any group of players will try to replace Mike Scott's production tit for tat.  Instead, the entire complexion of the team will change.  Instead of Mike Scott and the Six Dwarves, the 2012-13 team will be more of an ensemble effort --- more balanced scoring effort, more evenly-distributed shot attempts, more emphasis on team rebounding principles.  And I'm not sure the ensemble approach won't eventually be more effective, given the tenets of Bennettball.

Then there is Sammy Zeglinski, who averaged 32.3 minutes, 8.6 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.  Those minutes and points loom large, because we don't really have a backcourt stud stepping into the lineup.  Teven Jones isn't going to be able to take over right where Sammy left off.  That is especially true when it comes to defense --- Sammy was always an underrated perimeter defender.  He was short (and surrendered some shots against taller competition -- see FSU), but had active hands and was great at knowing his help responsibilities.  Anyway, his experience will be tough to replace on the defensive end.

I'm not including Assane Sene in this discussion, because we already saw the team play half a season without him.

So in total, we are trying to replace 63.5 minutes, 26.6 points, and 11.7 rebounds, among other assorted stats and production.

Where will all of that replacement value come from?  My predictions for each player in the rotation:

-- Jontel Evans will stay more or less steady at 30 minutes per game, but he'll be a lot more focused on attacking the lane as an integral part of the team offensive concept, which will lead to more points and more free throws... of which he will undoubtedly convert more than the 62% he managed this past season (it's sure to be an area of focus for him this summer.)  I think Jontel's FT% jumps to around 70%, and his scoring jumps from 7.3 ppg to somewhere around the 10.2 ppg he averaged over the course of our last 10 games.  Actually, throw him a bonus point for the improved free throws and call it 11 ppg from our senior floor leader next season.



-- Joe Harris will also stay steady at his 30 minutes per game.  I predict that Joey Buckets' scoring, however, will jump from the 11.3 ppg he averaged this season to somewhere in the 16-17-18 ppg range.  That's a big jump, but I'm bullish about it.  This is due to two main factors: 1) More shots.  Plain and simple, he'll be taking more shots.  2) No broken hand.  Joe was actually averaging almost 13 ppg before he broke his hand.  He's a 40% three-point shooter when he's healthy, and his number of shots will increase with Mike Scott not in the lineup.  Joe's 1.2 points-per-shot efficiency on three-pointers attempted is better than Mike Scott's 1.1 points-per-shot from the field from this past season.  Bottom line, Joe Harris will enjoy a new-found volume of shots, and if his form stays pure, we will very much enjoy seeing him jacking up threes.



-- Malcolm Brogdon averaged 22.4 minutes per game this past season, and I expect that number to climb to around 25 mpg next season, as he slides into the starting job at the 2.  The old college basketball adage is "the biggest improvement usually occurs between the first and second year," and if that holds true, I think we can realistically expect Brog to lift his production from 6.7 ppg on 39.6% shooting (32.4% from three) to somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 ppg based simply on an improved percentage from the field and a few more shots per game.  In any case, he'll be a more efficient scorer than Zeglinski was, due to an ability to penetrate and attack the basket.  (Brog's 80% free throw shooting will also help in this regard.)  Most people are saying that they hope Brog primarily works on his flat perimeter shot this offseason, but I'd prefer to see him focus on that dribble-drive game, where his size (6-5, 215) trumps most 2-guards that will be defending him.  He can also post those smaller guards up.  In any case, I think Brog will easily emerge as our #2 or #3 scoring option, and he brings more to the table in a starter's role than Sammy Zeglinski ever could.



-- Akil Mitchell won't ever be confused with a potent low post scoring threat.  That said, I think his minutes should see a modest jump from 22 mpg to 25 ppg, and his scoring production should rise from 4.1 ppg to around 6 ppg, due to sheer quantity of scoring opportunities (namely, offensive rebounds and stickbacks, which I believe will be his focus for the summer.)  What we really need most from Mitchell, however, is yeoman's work on the boards.  He averaged 4.4 rebounds per game (0.20 rebounds per minute) this season, and we need him to take that to Mike Scott's level of 0.27 rebounds per minute, which given the rise in minutes would take Mitchell to 6.8 rebounds per game in 2012-13.  Basically, we really need Akil Mitchell to become our rebounding specialist; our little Dennis Rodman (0.41 rebounds per minute in his NBA career --- utterly remarkable.  That's almost a half rebound every minute he was on the floor.)



-- Justin Anderson is the x-factor for the 2012-13 team.  Many people will tell you that he's raw, that he's not ready to play at the ACC level, etc., etc.  I say hogwash.  You cannot keep our best recruit of the last decade off of the floor as a true freshman, especially considering his defensive chops and his ability to play above the rim.  Sure, he lacks polish offensively, but his D will quickly win Tony Bennett over.  And with so much natural strength and athletic ability packed onto a bigger-than-you-think 6-6, 210-pound frame, I actually think Anderson will quickly win a starting spot in the lineup, as we shift to a four-guard (read: two-guard, two-wing, one-big) look.  This change accomplishes a few things: 1) It makes our offense quicker and more explosive, 2) It makes the pack-line more effective as more players are capable of guarding out to the 3-point line and "heating up the ball" as teams pass around the perimeter, and 3) It helps protect us from foul trouble with such a limited number of true post players.  So I'm penciling in Evans at the 1, Brog at the 2, Joey Hoops at the 3, Anderson at the 4, and either Mitchell or Darion Atkins at the 5 in our base lineup.  It's small, but I think it will work with the way Bennett likes to run his team.  As for Justin Anderson, I believe he will average around 23 minutes per game, pitch in 7 points per game, and add about 4 rebounds per game.  These are modest expectations for such an athletic player.  Whether I'm right and he starts, or I'm wrong and he comes off the bench, I do think he'll play a lot and quickly emerge as a major contributor next season.  He's simply too good not to.



-- Darion Atkins is going to be another key to the 2012-13 season.  If he's able to improve from his freshman to his sophomore season (a pretty safe bet, as he'll mature physically and will benefit from our coaching staff's above-average ability to develop post players -- look at Jerome Meyinsse), I think we'll see a major jump in minutes and production.  The most important thing for Darion, however, is learning to avoid silly fouls.  He's a good shot blocker, but taking the gambles necessary to block shots doesn't jive with the pack-line, nor does it help you stay out of foul trouble.  So if Akins can reconcile the fact that the team needs him to be a solid post presence and not a shot blocker extraordinaire, the team will really benefit.  Atkins averaged 10.2 minutes per game this past season, and for next season I expect that number to DOUBLE to 20 minutes per game.  We just don't have any other options, so for better or worse, Darion Atkins is stepping into a major role next season.  I have faith in the young man, as I really, really like a lot of what I've seen from him so far in his Virginia career.  With that jump in minutes, it only makes sense that his production will double; from 2.3 ppg to around 5 ppg, and from 2.3 rebounds per game to around 5 of those, too.  But since he'll be an improved player, I'm counting on 6 and 6.  Reasonable enough, right?  And oh yeah, since it's in Darion's blood to take those chances, go ahead and pencil him in for one blocked shot per game (which exceeds Sene's production in that category across the first half of the 2011-12 season.)



-- Evan Nolte is a very interesting player to have added to this mix.  At 6-7, he's a very long-bodied wing player who shoots like a guard.  He is not a post player.  I repeat, he is not a post player.  He's a shooter who could eventually fill out and become a similar player to what Mike Scott showed us as a 5th year senior; a finesse-based "power wing" is what I called it.  But really, Nolte looks more like an NBA-style "point forward."  The primary parallel I've heard is between Nolte and Florida's famous Chandler Parsons.  Nolte is a little bit shorter than Parsons, but is probably a slightly better shooter than Parsons was at this point in his career.  In any case, just like Parsons, Nolte presents major matchup problems for the opposition.  He's tall enough to shoot over guards and quick enough and possesses a good enough handle to drive past bigs.  Malcolm Brogdon, Joe Harris, and Justin Anderson present similar matchup problems, so teams will have to "pick their poison" and decide who their best wing defenders will cover... and I anticipate Nolte receiving the most favorable matchups given that poison selection.  So I'm optimistic about the kid, and guessing he sees around 17 minutes per game, scoring about 5 points per game.



-- Mike Tobey is, at this point at least, our only incoming big man.  He'll be the third big in the low post rotation, but like most freshman bigs, I seriously doubt that he'll be physically ready to handle the rigors of that assignment at the ACC level.  Many people expect more from Tobey than I do, but I'm just trying to be realistic.  Freshman big men just do not produce.  I think Tobey will play 12 or so minutes out of sheer necessity, but his scoring and rebounding won't be much more than 2 per game.  Look at Darion Atkins' production as a true freshman: 10.2 minutes, 2.3 points, 2.3 rebounds.  I expect about the same from Mike Tobey.



-- Paul Jesperson, sadly, struggled to find a cohesive role once the redshirt was burned this past season.  He's a shooter who was only able to notch 22.6% from distance.  His floor game was fine and he contributed decent minutes as a glue-type player, but at this point I'm just not sure where he fits in for next season.  Harris  is already entrenched at the 3, and Anderson and Nolte are both more talented swingmen.  Jespy figures to be the #4 wing player, which is a small role.  His minutes could rapidly increase if he speeds up his delivery, increases his confidence, and finds his stroke from three, but I'm not holding my breath.  I expect 10 minutes per game (which is honestly being generous) and negligible scoring and rebounding output.  If I'm wrong - and I sincerely hope I am - Jespy would cut into Evan Nolte's minutes and production that I detailed above.



-- Teven Jones will be Jontel Evans' caddy at the point guard position.  Any minutes Teven logs will be in Jontel relief, aside from two or three minutes each game when Brog slides over to the 1.  Jones is a relative unknown, but this caddy work will be vitally important, as he'll be the only true point guard returning to the roster for the 2013-14 season... but for 2012-13, I think he's just a direct-lineage backup.




Like I said, it's an ensemble cast.  Joe Harris will do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to scoring, with production pitched in from Jontel Evans, Malcolm Brogdon, and the freshmen.  With such a perimeter-based offense, we'll be prone to cold shooting and scoring droughts from time to time.  We'll be dangerously shallow in the low post, which is a reason I'm predicting the four-guard look.  But Mitchell and Atkins should be able to chip in enough rebounds and garbage scoring to help buoy the team's efforts.  I think we'll be better defensively, trading off Sammy Zeglinski and Mike Scott (not a tremendous defensive player) for increased minutes for Brogdon and the addition of Justin Anderson.  We'll struggle against teams with great offensive bigs, but those teams are rare outside of Duke and UNC.  In all, I think we're looking at a roster capable of 18-20 wins with enough player development and hot shooting.  Is that an NCAA tournament bubble team?  Perhaps, but I think it looks more like an NIT team.

I will say one thing, however.  The teams doing well in this year's NCAA tournament have great players that fill each of these three key roles: slashing scorer (think Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom), perimeter shooter (think Florida's Kenny Boynton), and rebounding specialist (think Baylor's Quincy Acy).  Next year, I think we'll have our own version of that holy trio:

SLASHER -- Jontel Evans / Malcolm Brogdon

SHOOTER -- Joe Harris

REBOUNDER -- Akil Mitchell

Not suggesting we'll make it to the Sweet Sixteen... but hell, why not?

I do know I'm excited to see the new guys in action, and I'm excited to see how Tony Bennett juggles this roster with the stakes increased after this year's tournament appearance.  Should be fun.