August 7, 2012

Bowling & Burgers, 6th Frame: The Linebackers

The LBs tweet for Nathan:

At LB, we have a nice blend of experience and ability, but the numbers are a little thin. Should be a good unit, barring injury/attrition.

Meanwhile, it has come to my attention that the "Bowling & Burgers" format isn't the most popular among some of our readers.  Sorry about that, but I don't really give a shit.  Using these nutty, ill-fitting, clumsily-conceived metaphors is what keeps the season preview fun to write and helps it avoid falling into the trap of the blah blah blah quarterback competition blah blah blah pass rush blah blah blah impact freshmen blah blah blah concerns in the secondary pulp diatribe you'll read elsewhere.  In closing, if you dislike the Bowling & Burgers, please just order another pitcher of beer and sit tight until we've bowled the 10th frame.  Thanks.

Anyway, on to the linebackers...

  • In Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds, we have two senior starters who have enjoyed extensive playing time since Mike London was hired and installed the 4-3 defense.  Greer is a rugged tackle machine at middle linebacker who has played a role in a whopping 254 tackles to this point in his career.  He's not especially big or strong, but he's quietly effective and extremely productive.  Reynolds is an active, athletic outside linebacker who has notched 15 tackles-for-loss over the course of the last two seasons.  He'll gamble at times and get burned, but he's also able to make some huge plays with that penchant for risk-taking and over-pursuit (see also: the 2011 Miami game.)  Both guys are impact starters, both will provide leadership and fire for the young defense, and both will be productive when it comes to stopping the opposition.  No worries with either one, both are "plus" players for the defense when they are on the field.
  • At the other starting spot, we will probably be seeing Daquan Romero this fall.  Da-Da is a converted defensive end that will likely be sent on blitzes on the reg in an effort to take advantage of his pass rush skills and to bolster the team's pass rush -- an area of generalized concern for many followers of the program (including me.)  Can Da-Da play well in space, covering tight ends and backs?  That's the big question, but the coaches seem to really be excited about his ability level.  If he has to learn a little bit on the job while being able to assist the pass rush, then I'm happy with the trade-off at Sam.
  • I'm going to go ahead and say we're loaded at Mike this fall.  Greer is a beast and Henry Coley is a nice talent who might be a bit of a swingman between the middle and the strongside positions in his reserve role.  This is his third year in the program, his physical development should be pretty far along, and his comfort level in the defense should be high.  I think we'll be seeing a pretty nice player in our #4 linebacker.  Note: Coley has opened training camp as the starter at Sam.  Interesting.  We'll have to see how this plays out...
  • Adding to the "loaded"ness at Mike, we have true freshman super-recruit Kwontie Moore, who might be asked to redshirt, or he might be asked to suit up and get his dick wet this fall.  My guess is that he'll play in 2012, with Coley bouncing out to the strongside more often than not.  Moore has the size (6-2, 245), pedigree, athletic ability, instincts, and reputation you love to see added to your defense.  Back when he committed to UVA in May 2011, I said: I don't want to overstate it, but imagine the day the Baltimore Ravens drafted Ray Lewis.  I stand by that assessment, and I stand by the assertion that a middle linebacker of Kwontie Moore's ilk is very likely to be the defensive centerpiece of what Coach London is building on that side of the ball.  I think Moore will play this fall, and I think we'll love the flashes he shows us.  One more Kwontie Moore prediction: He passes Coley and starts at Mike in 2013 and 2014 before leaving early for the NFL.  I'm pretty high on this kid.

  • I'm not sure what we have in Tucker Windle, and I'm not sure anyone is really sure what we have in him.  He's a senior, and has yet to really make a push for playing time, which tells me that he's "just a guy."  That's why I think we're seeing Coley kicking out to Sam -- as Romero insurance, to clear the path for Kwontie Moore to play at Mike, and to push Windle further down the pine.
  • D.J. Hill and Darius Lee are both athletic young guys who haven't tasted action yet.  Both are unknowns, but both should get on the field - at least a little bit - this fall.  Hopefully one of them emerges as a potential impact player down the line and as the heir apparent to LaRoy Reynolds on the weakside.  But for this season, expect Roy to play a ironman role, rarely leaving the field.  These guys just aren't ready.
  • If none of Windle, Hill, or Lee distinguish themselves, it might be tempting to burn some redshirts on some true freshmen.  Demeitre Brim is an athletically-gifted safety prospect who was a darkhorse star recruit who could quickly grow into an effective Will linebacker --- In fact, he's already practicing at linebacker.  Trent Corney could get his start at fullback, but he's currently listed as a linebacker on the roster.  He's an intriguing size/speed specimen who is very raw in terms of football skill.  But as a seek and destroy linebacker?  That could click for him early and without much seasoning.  Mark Hall is a very good talent who could be physically ready for some snaps on defense already, but could probably use some seasoning from a redshirt season.  Ideally, none of these three guys will play this season, but they are on the roster and could suit up if needed.
  • Finally, to appease Mike, I'll mention Eli Harold with the linebackers.  He's an option at Sam, I suppose, but if he's on the field in a linebacking position, we are either stupidly flirting with a 3-4 (read: 5-2) defense again, or something has gone horribly, terribly wrong... or both.  Eli needs to focus on playing defensive end and beating college-level protection to rush the passer this season, not trying to learn drops and coverages as a linebacker.
  • I like that Coach London allows the guys to choose their own numbers with a whole lot of freedom, but a starting linebacker wearing #9 and another wearing #13, with a reserve wearing #29?  That's just weird.  Kind of off-putting if you ask me.  I like my linebackers in the 30s, 40s, and 50s only.  That's a pretty big list of options, why you gotta dip into the teens and single-digits?

Projected Depth Chart
Sam) #13 Daquan Romero (So.), #44 Henry Coley (So.), #39 Tucker Windle (Sr.)
Mike) #53 Steve Greer (Sr.), #44 Henry Coley (So.), #34 Kwontie Moore (Fr.)
Will) #9 LaRoy Reynolds (Sr.), #29 D.J. Hill (So.), #40 Darius Lee (RS Fr.)


Pierce: LBs. These guys are a (hopefully) reliable and often impressive burger like the kind you get at Five Guys. Probably not an A+ group, but the potential is there for a great season.

Mike: Linebackers are your typical summer barbeque burger. You pretty much know what you're going to get and it's going to be tasty (Greer and Reynolds). However there is always the chance that someone will try something crazy in their burgers and it will either be awesome, or taste like a chalkboard (Coley). I'm thinking based on the raw ingredients we have that something delicious is about to come off the grill at Sam, but you never know, someone might think tofu would be a good addition.

Kendall: The linebacking burger has three main components: the steady and reliably good high-quality beef in the middle (Greer), an interesting new flavor you've never tasted before in the form of a jellied garden vegetable chutney (Da-Da / Coley), and a zingy, tangy, spicy hot sauce (Roy).  All together, it can get a little bit sloppy at times, but overall it's a tasty burger.

Score for the Frame:
I like this linebacking unit.  The presence of Greer and Reynolds ensures that this is a solid first roll... call it a nice 9-pin hit.  But with the relative lack of (reliable / proven) depth and somewhat limited upside on the depth chart, I think the second roll appears to be missing the remaining pin... but thanks to the presence of Henry Coley and Kwontie Moore, two players I really like in reserve, the pin is grazed, it wobbles, pirouettes, and eventually falls.  SPARE!

Score Thru 6 Frames: 80

The Game So Far:
| 7/ | 7- | 33 | 8/ | X | 9/ |   |   |   |   | 80

1 comment:

  1. Eli Harold WILL play stand up in a 3-4 in the NFL. He's built for it. That is all. I agree he shouldn't in a 4-3.