Third Frame... third phase of the game. Hot damn, I'm on a roll! Ha! "Roll!" Bowling-themed thing, and I just naturally say "roll." Do you understand how lucky you are to be able to bask in this brilliance?
The special teams tweet for Nathan:
Special teams were bad last year, but there's renewed focus on the 3rd phase now. New kicker, punter, punt returner = lots of uncertainty.
- Finally, FINALLY, we're not stupidly burning scholarships by dangling them to lure kickers to our school. Of all the things Al Groh did wrong, recruiting kickers with scholarships out of high school was my biggest pet peeve. Invite a guy to walk on and earn a job, and then offer him a mid-career scholie if he kicks well and deserves it. That's fine, I have no problem with that. But feeling the need to burn a scholarship to recruit a kicker out of high school? Asinine. Flasha little charisma and sell a guy on the chance to kick for a BCS conference school with the chance to earn a scholarship down the road. That's what Mike London is doing, and it's the correct way to do it. Just take a look at the story of [incoming freshman preferred walk-on] Willem Van Reesema's recruitment and the story of [incoming freshman preferred walk-on] Dylan Sims' recruitment. That's the way recruiting kickers is supposed to play out! Okay, rant over.
- Another true freshman, punting prospect Nick Conte, learned how to punt by watching videos on YouTube. I think that's awesome.
- In total, we have four "recruited walk-on" true freshman specialists arriving at camp this summer -- Van Reesema, Sims, Conte, and maybe the best of the bunch, punting prospect James Coleman. Like in the secondary, this looks like a "throw numbers against the wall" situation. Best of all, none of these guys required scholarships in order to come to UVA. What a breath of fresh air. (Dead horse, are you sufficiently beaten?)
- Obviously, we'll have a lot of legs in training camp, trying to win these jobs. I like the fact that there is competition. Hopefully, that means the guys who end up with the jobs will at least be somewhat battle-tested and will have flashed the ability to kick well when it counts the most. Or... maybe we'll simply be choosing the lesser of a few evils.
- Ian Frye - the early favorite to win the placekicking job - is a redshirt freshman with a long, powerful, whip-like leg. At 6-foot-6, he'd be the tallest starting kicker in the entire country. I like the freak show potential there. Also, if Frye can take control of the job, we could be looking at a four-year starter. That'll be a big deal when we need to drill clutch long kicks to win games in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. I'd really like to see him start down that path this season.
- It looks like we'll be starting a completely unknown quantity at punter in sophomore Alec Vozenilek. That said, I've heard that while he doesn't boom his punts, he does at least get them off quickly. Slow delivery was a problem that plagued Jimmy Howell throughout his career, so it will be nice to see a change in that area. I'm okay with a pop-gun punting leg, as long as the delivery is quick and compact, and the placement is good. Booming punts looks pretty, but I'd take a smart coffin corner or sideline hitter any day. Will Brice excelled at those, and he was the best punter in UVA history. Anyway, Vozenilek is a different kind of punter than what we've seen from Jimmy Howell, so get ready for a lot of 30-35 yard punts that don't sail past the coverage.
- I didn't notice any real problems with the snapping or holding operation last season, which means those guys were all doing their jobs well. Matt Fortin and Jacob Hodges are back for more of the same this season. Keep the machine quietly purring, gents.
- Say what you will about his kicking performance, but Robert Randolph's set-up, sashay, and delivery were embarrassing. I won't miss any of that runway model bullshit.
- Khalek Sherpherd is a good enough tailback to get some burn in the base offense, but he's stuck behind Perry Jones, Kevin Parks, and Clifton Richardson. So his best chance to shine is returning kicks... and he's a real weapon in that role, as exhibited last season. As a sophomore, I'm expecting him to enter Marquis Weeks "run from the cops" territory.
- Darius Jennings returned a lot of kicks last season, but now he's being asked to assume a much bigger role on offense as a starting wide receiver. So if he cedes some return work to another young guy, that'd be a good thing (paging a now-healthy E.J. Scott). That being said, if DJ does return kicks again this season, at least we know he's pretty darn good at doing it. If it's E.J. Scott that ends up in the spot beside Shepherd, I'm pretty confident in him after he showed great promise prior to his injury last season.
- New kicker, new punter, likely new punt returner(s)... that's a lot of turnover. But this unit was not good last year, so I'm okay with the new faces. The meek shall inherit the earth on this one, but in my mind this earth was scorched and needed inheriting and a little TLC. Hopefully Frye and Vozenilek can shore things up as brash youngsters.
- Special teams has been a bugaboo for the program ever since Mike London took charge. I'd like to think that this is the year things get solidified, but until I see it, I have a hard time believing it.
- I don't like the way Drew Jarrett bailed out on the program after he failed to win a kicking job, and is now trying to come back. I won't say I'm pulling against the guy... but I am pulling for other guys over him. Once a quitter, always a quitter, and we need kickers with some fortitude for, you know, clutch situations.
- Not sure who will handle kickoffs. Frye could do it, or he could be asked to focus on field goals, with true freshman Dylan Sims handling kickoff duties. I list this as a "gutter" because of the uncertainty, but I'm sure either of these two kids can do a great job, especially considering the lame new kickoff rules.
- On paper, Dominique Terrell looks like he should be a tremendous weapon on punt returns, with his quickness and change-of-direction skills. But functionally, he was pretty horrible in the role in 2011. He was shaky-handed and seemingly unable to make a good decision on when to call a fair catch, when to catch and run, and when to get the heck away from the damn thing. Hopefully he'll improve dramatically or be replaced in 2012.
- The fact that our most important offensive weapon, Perry Jones, had to shag punts in key situations is a testament to how bad the punt return operation was last year. If Superman has to return punts this season, it means something has gone terribly wrong... again. We can't have him back there risking injury.
- Our coverage units were very, very pedestrian last season. That's my nice way of saying they were not good, and only slightly north of bad. We need to see major improvement in that area this season, as well.
- Can we please start watching for trick plays run against us on special teams?
- I'm a little bit sad that my Ras-I Dowling jersey is now an Ian Frye jersey. #19 belongs on a cornerback, dammit! Rhonde, Ras-I... Frye?!? Sonofabitch.
Projected Depth Chart
K) #19 Ian Frye (RS Fr.), #11 Drew Jarrett (Jr.), Willem Van Reesema (Fr.), Dylan Sims (Fr.)
P) #30 Alec Vozenilek (So.), James Coleman (Fr.), Nick Conte (Fr.), Dylan Sims (Fr.)
Holder) #27 Jacob Hodges (Sr.)
KOS) #19 Ian Frye (RS Fr.), Dylan Sims (Fr.)
LS) #45 Matt Fortin (So.), #31 Blake Blaze (So.), #59 Charlie Richards (RS Fr.)
KR) #38 Khalek Shepherd (So.), #6 Darius Jennings (So.), #84 E.J. Scott (So.), Maurice Canady (Fr.), Adrian Gamble (Fr.)
PR) #2 Dominique Terrell (So.), #33 Perry Jones (Sr.), Anthony Cooper (Fr.), Maurice Canady (Fr.), Adrian Gamble (Fr.)
Pierce: The special teams unit is a Filet-o-Fish. It's never looked appealing to me, I don't know anyone who truly supports it, and in terms of being a burger, it needs a lot of work. Who knows, maybe with a new focus, restructuring, and a dedication to improvement, this season's special teams unit will actually have some beef - but I'm not ordering it without proof.
Mike: Special teams is a farty, smelly turdburger. I will believe it is good when I see it. Let Cooper return punts and Shepherd return kicks and hope for the best.
Kendall: Ha, ha, "turdburger." I like the Filet-o-Fish reference too, and will probably use that as the picture for this section (see above.) Can't beat either one of those, so I won't even try. Great job, guys.
Score for the Frame:
Okay, look, our Special Teams unit has not been good. But as the certain offseason focus, I actually have hope that it will improve this season... just like the defense improved last season after being the point of emphasis. As far as the already-stretched-thin bowling metaphor, this has to be another open frame. First roll: 3 pins, thanks to three new kickers! Second roll: 3 more pins, because I love Khalek Shepherd! Only 6 for the frame, terrible. We need to step it up if we want to even break 100!
Score Thru 3 Frames: 30