January 31, 2013

UVAMBB Power Rankings -- 1/31/13

Previous editions:

At regular intervals during basketball season, I will unveil the power rankings for all of the players on the basketball team. This is essentially a relative measure of how they've been performing in recent games, coupled with an in-order listing of each player's value to the team moving forward with the season. On with it...

#1 Joe Harris (previous rank: #1)
His play in the win over NC State tells us all we need to know.  Joe is our star, the trusty choo-choo tank engine that pulls this train along.

#2 Akil Mitchell (previous rank: #2)
In our four game winning streak, BIG FUNDAMENTAL (I decided that it has to be in all caps whenever it is written) has averaged 34 minutes, 13 points (on 60% shooting from the field and 70% from the line), and 8 rebounds per game.  Those are "impact forward" numbers, right there.  And of course, there is this:

#3 Mike Tobey (previous rank: #4)
I mean, c'mon.  Who doesn't love our little Toblerone?  His testicles are descending right before our very eyes.  And he accepted the challenge from Richard Howell - a grown-ass man with a full-on beard and a rockin' last name - and went toe-to-toe with NC State's burly big man and best player (that's right, I said it -- suck it C.J. Leslie).  Tobes has emerged as an impact post player, with silky moves and a beautiful touch with the basketball.  Maybe more than anyone else on the roster, I'm excited to see what the future holds for this kid.  By the time he's done, he could join the likes of Ralph, Junior, and T-Wat in the storied annals of Wahoops.

#4 Paul Jesperson (previous rank: #6)
"The best zero-point, one rebound, one assist, one block, one steal, one foul game in the history of basketball."  That's the acclaim Jespy earned on Tuesday night against the Wolfpack.  He got a possession-ending deflection on each of State's last three possessions.  It's weird, but he kind of embodies everything that Bennettball is about.  If his deep shot starts dropping, ummmm... that'd be good.

#5 Justin Anderson (previous rank: #5)
There's a term I like to use, but it's usually in reference to point guards: he's the straw that stirs the drink.  During the win streak, J.A. has been that swizzle stick for us, with his hustle and explosive athleticism.  He's still red-meat raw, but you can see a real basketball player taking shape here.

#6 Evan Nolte (previous rank: #3)
Early foul trouble has taken him out of the flow of each of the last two games, but he still drilled seven three-pointers in the four game stretch.  He's officially our second-best perimeter scoring option, and does enough other stuff to merit mention as having a "good" all-around game.  I love this guy as Joe Harris 2.0, bigger, faster, more explosive.  Project Nolte to his junior season, and you see what I mean.

#7 Jontel Evans (previous rank: #9)
Trust me, I hate his non-existent jumper, and a HATE his 36% free throw shooting, but Jontel stepped to the line and knocked down the pair we needed to beat State.  Plus, there's no overlooking the fact that we're just a better team when he's on the floor.

#8 Darion Atkins (previous rank: #5)
The longer he's out, the further his stock will drop, especially with Tobey staking such a bold claim to increased playing time.  Atkins' six minutes against State were gimpy and weird, so we can just strike those from the record.  His defense, athleticism, and shot-blocking will be boons to the team when he's able to return at closer to 100%.

#9 Doug Browman (previous rank: #11)
Somebody has to spell Jontel.  J-O-N-T-E-L.  (Sorry.)  When Browman's on the floor, the opposing team knows exactly where to attack.  But, I like to say "Dougie," and I like to sing "Doug-Doug-Oh-Doug-Doug-Dougie-DougDoug."  See also:

And also, obviously:

#10 Teven Jones (previous rank: #8)
I wish I knew why Teven isn't playing.  I think a lot of people are wondering about that.

@ Georgia Tech on Sunday.  Can't afford to lose that one on the heels of such a great four-game stretch.


January 30, 2013

Xs and Os of Our New OC

So... we moved quick and hired Steve Fairchild to replace Bill Lazor as Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach.  We now have three assistant coaches with prior head coaching experience, though Fairchild's experience as a HC was limited to four dismal years at Colorado State, where he went 3-9 in each of his last three seasons.

But we hired him to run our offense, not serve as the head coach.  And this guy has been coaching offense for 30 years, most notably as the OC at Colorado State (before he took over as head coach), and the OC for the Rams, Bills, and Chargers in the NFL.

Here are some of the nuts and bolts of Fairchild's system, as best as I can tell from scouring the interwebs:

  • He runs a pro-style offense that is seen as more conservative than not.  Should be a good fit with Tom O'Brien doing quality control for the offense.
  • He's good at "coaching up" young / inexperienced offensive players and maximizing skills and abilities.
  • He likes the short and intermediate passing game -- call it dink & dunk if you wish.
  • He prefers versatile running backs who can contribute in the passing game.  (Smoke says hello.)  Fairchild really clicked with Marshall Faulk.
  • He elevates mediocre quarterback talent (Marc Bulger) into effective game managers and productive passers.  Everywhere he goes, he develops good QBs.  Losman in Buffalo is probably his biggest failure in this regard.
  • He throws to his tight ends A LOT.
  • He likes a limited number of plays run out of a lot of different looks, very much like Bill Lazor.
  • He delivered the best recruiting class in Colorado State history, and the book on Fairchild is that he is a very good, willing recruiter who has a little bit of a closer's mentality.
  • He picked up a lot of passing game savvy from his three years coaching under Mike Martz with the Rams.
  • He seeks run/pass balance, but at his core he's a passing game guy.
  • He's not afraid to grind between the tackles with a power running game (see: Travis Henry's Pro Bowl season in 2001).
  • He's fallen in love with throwing screens, drags, and slants recently.  Maybe he's lost his appetite for taking downfield risks after he's been canned at his last three stops.
  • He is not an innovator, and runs a very conventional attack.

Lots of good stuff about Fairchild on the CSU website, HERE.

It seems like it could be a pretty good hire.  The guy is on the downside of his coaching career, obviously... but what that means is that he brings a lot of experience to the table, never a bad thing.  I think he'll mesh well with Tom O'Brien, and that had to be a big concern with this hire.  He's also a very good QBs coach, another big concern.

This hire is not a home run, but it's a solid single that advances the runners.

January 29, 2013

huge win.

I'll just say, those two late-game Jontel Evans free throws were guided by the hand of God Almighty.


Welcome to the bubble.  Look for the tourney resume feature to pop up over on the right at some point  tomorrow. --------------------------------------------->

Why I think college football is better than the NFL...

(I wrote this as a guest piece on another blog, but thought it'd port well to Wahooze.  I hope you enjoy it, as it was a lot of fun to write!  I went a little bit crazy with the metaphors.)

Apologies for the long subject line for this post, but I couldn't figure out a good way to condense it. The upshoot of a long subject line is that it can be totally illustrative. For example, I feel free from the yoke of a taxing intro paragraph, because you already know what this post is, and what it’s about. So here we go. Here are my reasons why I think college football is better than the NFL!

The Fanaticals
You did know the term “fan” comes from the root “fanatical,” right? As in, fanatical devotion to following a team. Well, this point is short and sweet — while the NFL has great fans, college football has great fanaticals. Stack up the half-dead mausoleum that is EverBank Field (home of the Jacksonville Jaguars) against “The Swamp” in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (University of Florida, 70 miles south of Jacksonville) and you’ll see what I mean. The Jags have to suffer through local media blackouts because they can’t fill their 65K-seat stadium, while U of F has a 7-year waiting list for season tickets and fills their 90K stadium to capacity for every home game. Yes, this is a study of two extremes, but I think most would agree that college fans are simply more devoted and downright more fanatical than their NFL counterparts. Plus, the college tailgating is better, and the co-eds are hotter.

I’m not going to slam on NFL stadiums, because there are some downright beautiful temples to the Football Gods in the League. But college stadiums simply have more personality, more history, more of a story to tell. Give me The Swamp over EverBank Field. Give me The Big House over Ford Field. Give me the LA Coliseum over Qualcomm Stadium. Give me Kenan Stadium over Bank of America Stadium. Heck, give me Tiger Stadium over the Superdome! Et cetera. And this isn’t even about the corporate naming rights, it’s about the gritty realism of a college stadium vs. the hyperglossy overindulgence of an NFL stadium. College stadiums are about the football, while pro stadiums are about the branding of the shield. Just my opinion.

College uniforms are crazy. They are… less uniform.

Ticket Prices
College games are cheaper to attend. I hold UVA season tickets (7 home games) for about $100 a pop (average ticket price: $14.25 per game). That same $100 would buy me approximately 1.5 single-game tickets to see my beloved Bengals (average ticket price: $65 per game, $90 against the Steelers). James Madison University – a D-1AA/FCS school about 45 minutes away from where I live, sporting a fantastic gameday experience – sells this insane ticket package: 4 season tickets (6 home games, so that’s 24 tickets total), 4 footlong hot dogs for each game (24 dogs total), 4 large cokes for each game (24 cokes total), and 4 large bags of popcorn for each game (24 bags total) for $99. Sorry NFL, but you cannot compete with that. You just can’t.

Recruiting: More Interesting than Drafting
Look, I’m a total draft geek, 100% draft nerd. But the recruitnik in me wins out. Why? More players to get to know, and an intricate and complex system of recruiting pitches vs. playing time vs. distance from home vs. selling of a program vs. competing with other schools on the recruiting trail. Recruiting coups, steals, busts, upsets, stunners, shockers, head-turners, head-spinners, head-scratchers, knee-slappers, and butt-itchers are par for the course. Drafting is awesome fun, but it’s rigid to an extreme. Recruiting is a wide-open, high-octane, soul-sucking siege… and I love following the year-round, non-stop grind of it all. Stocks rise and fall, prospects get hot then cool to lemons, and everything is about selling your vision of the program to 18 year old kids (and their moms). It’s the definition of insanity, and a helluva lot of fun to follow.

More Players on the Roster = More Specializations in the Players
The NFL allows 53 players on the active roster. College allows 85 full-ride scholarships, and roster limits up over 100. That means college allows for more specialization and experimentation with player types, which means a more interesting brand of football. For example, I had a friend on the UVA team whose role on the team was to serve as the “swinging gate” on the punt pro unit. Specialization, baby. Evolution, baby. While the NFL gives you a full game of chess - pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, queens, kings - college ball gives you all of that plus dragoons, paladins, siege engines, catapults, archers, brothel maidens, cannibals, ghosts, doves, spies, werewolves, and demi-gods. (For a laugh, click HERE.) Weird metaphor, but I guess what I’m saying is that if NFL is chess, college is gigachess, with all new pieces to slide around the board in different ways. (Seriously, click that link.)

Bowl Games for Good Teams that Aren’t Great
As an NFL fan, your team either misses the playoffs, loses in the playoffs, or wins the Super Bowl. So one fanbase out of 32 gets to be truly happy at the end of the season. That’s 3.125% of the fanbases. In college football, there are 35 bowl winners out of the 124 FBS-level teams. 28% of the fanbases get to be happy at the end of the season! Yes, it’s all a bit more complicated than that, given the intricacies of expectations weighed against actuations, but you still get my point. I like the fact that good teams that aren’t great still have potential reward at the end of the season. I know I’m happy as hell when my Hoos win a relatively meaningless lower-tier bowl game! Tournament-style playoffs are pure, but bowl games hold a certain charm. The University of Louisiana-Lafayette will likely NEVER win a national championship, but wasn’t it fun as hell to watch the Ragin’ Cajuns beat ECU to win the New Orleans Bowl and see their fanaticals celebrate like they just beat Alabama in the BCS championship game? That’s what I love about bowl games.  Plus, there are a lot of them, which means more postseason football, which is always a plus. Don't overthink it. More football is never a bad thing.

Better, More Interesting Overtimes
A lot of people disagree with me on this one, but I much prefer the college overtime system to the NFL’s overtime system. Both teams get the ball, on the cusp of the red zone, alternate possessions until someone wins the game. And after two OTs, if the score is still tied, no more PATs! This overtime system gives us more of what we crave: exciting football plays born from exciting football situations.

Playing for Passion
I think most college football fans overstate this point, but it is still valid — there’s a big fat paycheck for the NFL guys, while a crushing majority of college players face the end of their football careers and press on for simple, pure love of the game (and retention of scholarship). The college guys put more emotion into the game, while the pros are more businesslike. It’s just a statement of fact.

Test Kitchen for Innovation
The NFL is fairly homogenized, while college football supports - even celebrates - insane little ugly bacteria cultures of football innovation. Look at the rise of the no-huddle shotgun spread over the last 10-15 years. Look at the read option (which is currently the craze via guys like RG3, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick in the NFL). Look at Chip Kelly’s Blur at Oregon. Look at the Air Raid. Look at Urban Meyer’s Spread-to-Run. It all started in college football. College innovates, and the NFL then uses the innovation. So where would you rather work? In the small trial medicine laboratory where the potions are spewing noxious green smoke and invention at the most basic level seems possible, or at Pfizer where it’s all about the business of slicked-out pharmaceutical sales? When it comes to football, I’m the lab rat, all the way.

Rapid Roster Turnover
I’m really fond of the term “building castles in the sand.” If you follow that metaphor, you can understand the root of roster building at the college level. Even the best collections of players have a very set, finite shelf life… because after four seasons of eligibility, *poof*, they’re gone. Ray Lewis led the Miami Hurricanes defense for four years, but then led the Ravens defense for 17. That’s what I’m talking about. You might land Andrew Luck to lead your college team, but after a few seasons, he’s gone. In the NFL, you can draft Luck and rely on him to lead your team for a decade-plus. So NFL rosters end up moving like glaciers when compared to the zig-zagging sonic speedboats of college rosters. And because of this rapid roster turnover, good teams can crumble quickly, and bad teams can rise up. There’s not as much true parity as there is in the NFL, but the conception and realization of hope is sometimes more magical to experience.

A simple formula spits out your yearly NFL schedule. In college, you play your conference slate, but the remaining 3-4 slots are open for you to schedule whomever you want! Trying to develop a recruiting foothold in Dade County? Go play a game against Miami in Coral Gables, put your wares on display for the local kids. Feeling a nice rivalry brewing up with those buttholes at Big State U? Lock it down with a contract to alternate home games and make the rivalry official with an annual matchup. Rebuilding season? Schedule for success by bringing in Cupcake U for a home field bloodletting. Want your kids to experience reward for sticking with the program and working through the NCAA sanctions? Schedule a game against the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. You get the point. You build your own schedule, for whatever reasons you want. It’s a bit chaotic, but there is really fun politicking that goes on behind the scenes with college football schedule-setting.

REAL Rivalries
There are some good NFL rivalries. Cowboys/Redskins. Packers/Bears. Ravens/Steelers. But college football? Ohmygosh. Born of proximity, history, and downright disgust, rivalries are a big part of what make college football so much fun to watch. Whether it’s for in-state bragging rights or conference or national superiority, there’s nothing quite like watching two bitter rivals take the field. Every team has a rivalry game(s) on its schedule, and each rivalry game is special in its own way. Iron Bowl, Egg Bowl, Commonwealth Cup, Bedlam, Red River Shootout, Cy-Hawk, Golden Boot, Fremont Cannon, Iron Skillet, Oil Can, Tiger Rag, Keg of Nails, Platypus Trophy, Civil War, Bronze Boot, Little Brown Jug, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

There’s a perception that college football is a southern sport. I kinda buy that. Meanwhile, NFL feels more New Englandy, more Mid-Westy. I’m more southern fried than yankee, so the “southern” thing appeals to me. But it’s not a point I’ll belabor. College football is just more blue-collar, I guess (even though that’s a term that I really hate). It’s more small town, school pride, meat and potatoes. It’s Mom & Pop Shop vs. Wal-Mart.

NFL divisions are cool, but the never-ending cyclone swirl of conference realignment is a totally interesting beast to me. As Wahooze readers know, I am a colossal REALIGNMAGEDDON geek.  The NFL offers nothing even remotely like it.

The NFL has its upsets. But when the Lions beat the Packers, how crazy is that, really? With great parity comes great dulling of upset power. In college, you have Appy State beating Michigan, you have Boise beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and you have UVA 33, #1 FSU 28. These upsets resonate; they rattle the foundation of your soul. (In the case of the last one I named, it’s still one of the fondest memories of my entire life, some 18 years, a wedding, and the birth of two children later.)

I’m sure I’ll think of some more points later, but that’s the list as of now.

How about you? Add your points to the comments section and let's compare notes!

Man Up

Originally I was very much against this Oregon game. It's a sure loss, and it seems like a cash grab to me. Especially since the IPF got a bit more expensive when it tried to kill itself. We've scheduled an unwinnable home and home with a national power, which seems completely stupid, and like we are now treating ourselves like a cupcake.

But then I got to thinking. What kind of garbage attitude is that? You know what doesn't make you a better team? Playing a shitty Penn State team. You will NEVER get better by scheduling cupcakes. Virginia Tech's rise to "prominence" is built on 10 win seasons over Austin Peay. But you know what happens whenever they play against a good team? They get boat raced. The wins they pile up from that garbage schedule they play looks good on paper, but ends up screwing them over. The idea that the way to build up your talent level is getting 10 win seasons over crap teams is ludicrous  That's not how you build a team of tough-nosed winners, that's how you build a team of over-inflated egos. And to quote the great Mike Singletary, I want winners. You build up a successful team by challenging the big dogs, exposing the kids to that level of play, and challenging them to come meet that level. If you don't want to accept that challenge, get out, I don't need you. If you want to build this program to a nationally relevant level, this is how it is done. This is also a no risk situation for us. Lose, well we didn't really have a chance. Keep the game close, it's a success. Win? It's a game changer. A win over Oregon, or Alabama, or Stanford, is the inverse of a loss to JMU by an over-inflated Virginia Tech. It shoots the season into the stratosphere. The more games we play, the higher the level of execution that is expected on a weekly basis, and the easier it makes games against Wake, Duke, or Maryland. Our schedule this year includes Oregon, BYU, Clemson, UNC, and Miami. Five teams that should be very good. Five teams that we should strive to get to the level of. Five teams that will help us get to the level WE WANT TO BE AT.

I think Kendall disagrees with me, but I think building a program on a foundation of shitty wins is not a strong base. That makes you a program with a bunch of 10 win seasons, and 0 national titles. A team that is expected to lose in big games, and a perennial choker. Why do people think the SEC teams are so good? The schedule. We NEED these kind of games to get us where we want to go. We NEED to not be afraid of these games. Otherwise, we are shooting for mediocrity. So UVA fans, quitcher belly achin' and man up. Let's go hunt some duck.


Okay, so we're not playing Penn State in Happy Valley in 2013.  Instead, we're playing an eighth home game... against... freaking OREGON.  I'm serious.

Also, it looks like Bill Lazor is leaving us to go coach quarterbacks for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Seriously.

Obviously these are two pretty big pieces of news, but unfortunately I don't have time to expand on either topic right this red hot second.  Maybe Mike or Pierce will give you something.  If not, I'll get it done as soon as possible.


Real quick though, I think by bringing in Oregon we are jeopardizing a safer route to six wins and a bowl berth - and a baby step for the progression of our program - by scheduling what is no doubt a certain loss.  But the tradeoff is that we put butts in seats, get a bigger payday, and boldly express our intent to play "big boy football."  As a fake it 'til you make it believer, I wanted Cupcake U to replace Penn State, but I've quickly come around to understanding and appreciating the desire to play against the Ducks.  In fact, I embrace the entire premise of scheduling up --- it builds toughness and swagger, attracts fans and recruits, and tells people we are big and bold, even if we end up being stomped to pieces by these teams.  I guess what I'm saying is that I don't like the fact that we scheduled a guaranteed loss, but I like everything else about the move.

Lazor leaving...  I'm actually not unhappy about it.  Obviously, Tom O'Brien will scoot into the OC role, and UVA's best years as a modern era football program came with OB calling the plays.  So that's comfortable and exciting.  What's also exciting is that it opens up another spot on the staff for a hot up-and-comer who can add even more juice to the recruiting effort.  Tyree Foreman seems like an obvious choice to me.  My only consternation comes from this one question: Who is going to coach the quarterbacks at UVA?

Anyway, big news, I'll have more thoughts for you later.

In the meantime, GO HOOS!  Beat NC State tonight, and climb aboard an NCAA Tournament bubble!

January 26, 2013

ACC / Big XII Alliance?

Sounds like an almost-too-good-to-be-true possibility.


Big 12 Exploring Alliance with ACC

Meanwhile, we're hearing that Penn State has backed out of their 2013 game against us, and that we're moving to fill that hole in the schedule with a "big-time" opponent.  Meanwhile, UVA is working on establishing a home-and-home series against Alabama, to possibly begin as early as 2014.

Yep, that's right.  I just said Alabama.


Last piece of scuttlebutt: UVA is working behind the scenes to position itself for an invitation to join the SEC, should the ACC crumble.  Word is, the SEC likes the idea.  A lot.

Stay tuned.




But for the record:

1) I absolutely LOVE the idea of an ACC/Big XII partnership.  That could really help both conferences stabilize themselves, and could set up some awesome matchups.

2) Screw you, Penn State.  Pansies.

3) Playing Alabama is a stupid, short-sighted money grab.  But maybe it'll force us to raise our level of play?  And maybe recruits will like seeing us strive for these insanely difficult out-of-conference schedules?

4) My preference is to stay put in a strong ACC.  If that's not viable, I'd love to see us move to the SEC.  The BigTen is a fine golden parachute, though I admit I'd have a hard time getting excited about it.  Worst case scenario is we end up stuck in a bombed-out ACC.

January 25, 2013


Great win last night.

We're now up to #114 in the RPI.

Our remaining schedule:
  • BC (#131) 
  • NCSU (#17) 
  • @ GT (#135) 
  • Clemson (#150) 
  • @ Maryland (#64) 
  • VT (#139) 
  • @ UNC (#35) 
  • @ Miami (#3) 
  • GT (#135) 
  • Duke (#1) 
  • @ BC (#131) 
  • @ FSU (#73) 
  • Maryland (#64)

Beating the six teams below us in RPI puts us at 19-12 (9-9 ACC). That does not earn an NCAA Tournament bid. So we need to win at least two of the other games, and probably three if we want to safely be a tournament team.

We all know we'll drop at least one of those six "gimme" games. So we need to win four of the seven tougher games. I'd rank our chances in descending order of probability:
  • Maryland 
  • NCSU 
  • @ Maryland 
  • @ UNC 
  • @ FSU 
  • @ Miami 
  • Duke (Sorry, just don't see us beating them this season.)

Can we take four of those seven? Three?

Let's say we go 5-1 in the "gimme" games and 3-4 in the "tough" games, then we'd be 21-10 (11-7 ACC). I think that's possible, and definitely our most likely path into the Tournament... but off the bubble and after sweating out a very nervous Selection Sunday.

My advice to UVA basketball fans right now is this: Enjoy the ride for what it's worth.  Recognize our fatal flaws, which is shoddy point guard play and not enough beef down low.  Enjoy the upsets we are certain to spring down the stretch this season, and try not to sweat the disastrous losses.  Embrace an NIT bid, if that's where we end up --- that's a great achievement for such a young team, and would set the table for what could be a truly special 2013-14 season.

January 15, 2013

The Truth Hurts

Andy Glockner's Bubble Watch:

"Virginia was excluded last week due to an RPI in the 120s and then lost at both Wake Forest and Clemson this week to drop to No. 155. Despite some solid wins and a team that's much better than that on paper, they are not a viable at-large discussion at this point."


UVAMBB Power Rankings -- 1/15/13

Previous editions:

At regular intervals during basketball season, I will unveil the power rankings for all of the players on the basketball team. This is essentially a relative measure of how they've been performing in recent games, coupled with an in-order listing of each player's value to the team moving forward with the season. On with it...

#1 Joe Harris (previous rank: #1)
He's not a guy who can single-handedly carry a team, and he sometimes struggles to create his own shot or knock down the big one when we really, really need it, but Joe's still our best player and biggest asset.  He leads the team, playing over 30 minutes per game, and hasn't failed to score in double-digits since the walk over Mississippi Valley State on December 8th.  I'm tempted to say we need more from Joe, but he's turning in a very good season, and seems to be playing all the way up to his ceiling.  Haters like to say that he's more Robin than Batman, but I think he's mostly Blue Beetle.

#2 Akil Mitchell (previous rank: #2)
He's still averaging close to a double-double, but an ankle injury has really wicked away his effectiveness of late.  He needs his explosive movement abilities in order to hold his own in the post, and he's lacked that so far in 2013.  Still, Big Fundamental is not the reason we're losing games right now.  His tenacity and grit are indispensable.

#3 Evan Nolte (previous rank: #7)
With Darion Atkins battling shin splints and playing like a shell of the player we saw early this season, Nolte leapfrogs all the way up to #3.  My reason is pretty simple: Nolte is a shot-maker, on a team that desperately needs to see shots being made.

#4 Mike Tobey (previous rank: #8)
Did you see his game against Wake Forest?  6-for-9 from the field, 14 points, 7 rebounds, and serious flashes of greatness.  That was in 21 minutes of work, subbing in for a hobbled Darion Atkins.  It was very encouraging to see (despite the ugly loss in Winston-Salem).  Tobes is developing right before our eyes...

It's the mask.

#5 Darion Atkins (previous rank: #3)
Hopefully he'll heal up during this week off, because we need him desperately, especially on defense where we seem to currently be powerless against big guys posting us up.  Devin Booker ate us alive on the low block on Saturday, and Devin Booker... isn't the world's best big man, let's just leave it at that.  Get better soon, Darion.  We need you.

#6 Paul Jesperson (previous rank: #6)
When we're winning, I'll happily say Jespy is our "glue guy," doing a little bit of anything/everything to help us win.  But when we're losing, I'll say this: Jespy is "just a guy" out there.  A shooter who doesn't (can't?) shoot, a guard with limited handle or ability to dribble-drive, and a liability on offense due to his limited tools.  He's still playing good-enough defense and his length can bother shooters, but he's giving up too much dribble penetration because his feet are simply slower than the shooting guards he's been facing.  (He really needs to be defending smaller 3s, not 2s.)

#7 Justin Anderson (previous rank: #5)
I'm back to being a little bit sour on J.A.  To me, he looks like an A+ athlete but a D+ basketball player.  Great raw ability, he's like a SG/SF version of Akil Mitchell's SF/PF freshman self.  The staff will develop Anderson into a good player, but it ain't happening this season.  As it is now, his mistakes and poor shooting far outweigh any contributions he makes in the energy / hustle departments.  Bennettball demands control, and that's something Anderson woefully lacks.

#8 Teven Jones (previous rank: #4)
I like Teven much more than this #8 ranking, but he must have found his way into Tony's doghouse again.  There's no other way to explain his 25 minutes in the losses at Wake and Clemson compared to Jontel Evans' 57 minutes in those games.  Evans played HORRENDOUS basketball in those two games, so why didn't Jones play more?  (He stepped up and drilled a pair of big 3-pointers against UNC, and a point guard who could shoot was seriously a sight for sore eyes.)

Hey Tony... less Evans, more Jones... please.

#9 Jontel Evans (previous rank: #9)
I don't buy the idea that he's "rusty."  I do buy the idea that he's just not a very good basketball player.  The guy can't shoot, can't make free throws, can't take care of the basketball, can't create offense for his teammates, can't get to the hole and score on a consistent basis, and can't make any sort of discernible impact defensively.  I hope I'm wrong and it's just rust or some kind of mini-slump, but I have zero faith in Jontel Evans right now.  I pin these two ACC losses directly on him (and dismal point guard play, in general.)  Devon Hall and London Perrantes can't get here soon enough.

#10 Taylor Barnette (previous rank: #10)
It's harsh, but I'm ready to say it: This was a wasted scholarship.  Him transferring after the season is the best possible outcome for him and the program, else he'll sit on the bench for three more seasons, eating up a scholarship that could otherwise be used on someone who could help the team win.  When a so-called "shooter" can't get some time in these last two games when we were absolutely starving for made shots...  Ugh.  I don't want to keep saying mean things about Barnette, who I'm sure is a nice enough kid, so this will be the last time I include him in these power rankings.

#11 Doug Browman (previous rank: #11)
Browman hasn't played in 2013, so he's no longer part of the power rankings, either.

We're at 11-5 overall, 1-2 in the ACC, #154 in the RPI, and #52 in the Pomeroy Rankings.  We're on the outside looking in, nowhere close to the bubble.  That's what back-to-back losses to ACC bottom-feeders can do for you.  Right now, Hoofans need to be focused on a few things for the remainder of this season:

1) Continued development for the young guys, specifically Nolte, Anderson, and especially Tobey.  We need two above-average starters to emerge from that trio of players.

2) Maintaining a record above .500 so we'll have a solid NIT candidacy at season's end.

3) Imagine this team, minus Jontel Evans, plus Malcolm Brogdon, plus uber-transfer stretch-4 Anthony Gill, plus stud point guard recruit Devon Hall, plus darkhorse point guard recruit London Perrantes.  2013-14 figures to be pretty special.  We just need to see zero career-interrupting injuries to Joe, Akil, or Darion.

4) Set or define your patience level with Tony Bennett and his program.  This is Year Four.  What do you expect to see moving forward, and in what kind of time frame do you need to see it?  I'm not suggesting Bennett should be sitting on a hot seat... but I am suggesting that the results need to start appearing here pretty soon.  That blowout against Florida in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament didn't do a whole lot to sate my appetite for March Madness, that's all I'm saying.  Yes, I know that this year's team is extremely young (four freshmen and two sophomores in the top nine players), but "wait 'til next year" is not young.  It is getting very, very old.

January 12, 2013

Notes Following a Couple Losses

There's little need to format this post in paragraphs while I watch Milton Jennings bank in multiple threes against our pathetic basketball team... so here's a list of my thoughts (some from a twitter conversation with Kendall) following this crapshow at Clemson and Wednesday's just-as-embarrassing loss at Wake Forest:

- Can't blame the refs, but they sure didn't help: Not including fouling at the end of the game, UVA has shot 8 free throws. Clemson? 23.

- A lot of that comes from getting abused in the paint all day. Atkins and Mitchell were both gimpy and Tobey just doesn't have the weight to deal with the likes of whichever Booker brother it was who beat us this year.

- The heart of most of our issues, which pops up much more on the road: the team is completely passive. Is Tony coaching them to play as such? I can't imagine it, but it seems like the only plausible explanation. Scared to shoot. Missing lay ups. Getting blocked at every turn in the paint. Throwing the ball at people's feet or out of bounds. Passive and stupid basketball: the theme of this week's games.

- Playing without a decent point guard can cause a lot of that passive play. Jontel had a decent game against UNC, but has otherwise been abysmal - stupid mistakes, no ability to shoot it, poor passes. Teven Jones, who at times had played like an ACC-level player, has been completely outclassed so far in conference play. Brogdon's injury has been really damning to this team - but they've had a year to prepare/adjust. A year.

- Defense? Bennettball? Clemson shot 51%. Wake at least only managed 40%. At times, the defense has been dominating. Look no further than keeping Wake without a FG for the last 10 minutes of the game. But it hasn't been enough. When your team can't run a pick and roll without traveling or throwing it away, you need to smother teams for 40 minutes a game. Isn't that why we give up on trying to offensively rebound?

- One of the more annoying aspects of this pitiful week is the level of competition. Clemson and Wake aren't just bad teams, they're horrendous teams. The ACC outside of a couple teams is just abysmal this year - and we can't take advantage of it, because we're abysmal too.

- It's also a shame that the basketball team can't alleviate any of the pain brought on by the pathetic football season. Frankly, many of the same complaints and uncertainties exist about both programs... yeah it's not quite as bad as football - but could it get there?

- It's too early to think past the rest of the season, obviously. But boy does there not seem to be anything but mediocrity in our near future. Next year? Devon Hall and London Perrantes both add actual talent to the 1 position, plus we only lose Jontel. I'm sure we'll have our hopes up...

- Duke lost. Haha. But I hate seeing Mike Gottfried happy about anything. It's a wash.

January 8, 2013

Wahooze Pix - 2012 Results

Dudes and dudettes,

After weeks (months?) of waiting, we're finally done with the 2012 bowl season. Boy, wasn't that a great game last night? Brent Musburger's on-air bonerjam was disturbing, but not as much as the Irish's tackling (ACC! ACC!).

Finally, some B button action in real life

 A four-team playoff may not be enough, but at least we wont end up with a travesty like that again. Before I get to the final results/standings of our season-long pick'em, let me share some musings after the bowls:

  • Louisville is clearly the best team in the new ACC. 

  • How hilariously inept was Northern Illinois? Yeah I know they were without their head coach, but good lord, FSU isn't even really any good. Go back and check NIU's schedule, they had no business being in a BCS game - but at least the ACC got a W.

  • Speaking of which, big ups to the ACC's performance in the bowls. Yeah a few of the bigger ones were against uninspired (USC) or undertalented (NIU) teams, but overall a 6-3 performance speaks well for the health of the new ACC.
Dabo & Co. repped the ACC well.
  • Favorite game: Clemson beating LSU. Not because I ever root for Clemson, just a great game/comeback/ACC! ACC! (Close second was USC's shootout with Michigan).

Back up QB game-winning TD
  • I'll be honest, I barely watched any of Johnnie Football's games before the Cotton Bowl. Obviously I knew he was good, but holy banana pants what a performance. The guy is the special-est of the special. 


Pierce: 20
Kendall: 17
Mike: 16
Jamie: 14

Maybe we'll have to include the bigger UVa blogs/sites next year, as we at Wahooze clearly lorded our prognostication over Jamie Oakes. Also, I won. Everything is as it should be.


Pierce: 93
Mike: 88
Guests: 85
Kendall: 83

The foregone conclusions that was my victory is complete. Chest bumps all around.

 Ladies and Gentlemen, I am now scientifically proven to be better at this than Mike and Kendall (last year's dreadful chokejob aside). Special shout out to Big K for losing to the Guests. Here's looking to my new retirement plan in 2013 - who's got the hookup with a good sports betting site?

Thanks for reading, Wahooze nation. Now back to your regularly scheduled basketball updates and football coaching staff changes.

January 7, 2013

Coaches vs. Recruiters

UVA won it's 11th game of the season last night in a 61-52 defensive spectacle. Questionable prior to the game with an ankle injury, Akil Mitchell turned in an energetic performance in which he and Darion Atkins completely dominated the paint against what was clearly a disjointed and inexperienced Tar Heel attack, and held potential lottery pick James Michael McAdoo to a meager 10 points and 4 turnovers. The Hoos put on a clinic, and one that clearly brought to light just what Hoofans can expect from this program during the Bennett era.

The main focus of hiring Tony Bennett was bringing in a coach who was capable of competing in the ACC, knowing full well the recruiting disadvantages of any school in the ACC not named Duke or North Carolina. Tony was hired because he had a scheme that he knew worked, and that could maximize what he could get out of his talent, instead of maximizing the talent he could get. A common theme among ACC teams is to out recruit the rest of the country. While it is effective due to the ACC's national prominence, there is no way to assume a level of sustained success at any program without also possessing a top notch coach who can develop the star power he brings in, and can continue to bring in top notch talent. If you need an example of this you can look at Dave Leitao's last ditch effort to save his job, Sylven Landesberg. That's a prime example of a kid coming in to be the star of the team, and then jump straight to the NBA. That's what the typical ACC coach sells. Playing time, national exposure, and in turn a ticket to the NBA. It's an effective strategy, for a year or two. It will be interesting to see how the Terps or the NC State Wolfpack recruiting classes look over the next few seasons, as players will see that they are not walking into a big role, and it will come down to what these coaches can do when their classes return to only above average, and not otherworldly. At some point, unless you are a blueblood program, it is all going to catch up with you. And as we saw last night, sometimes it will catch up to a blueblood as well.

Let's compare the recruiting rankings of the starting 5's from last night. 

James Michael McAdoo  (*****) Ranked 8th Nationally for Class of 2011
Dexter Strickland (****) Ranked 34th Nationally for Class of 2009
Reggie Bullock (*****) Ranked 10th Nationally for Class of 2010
Marcus Paige (****) Ranked 38th Nationally for Class of 2012
Desmond Hubert (***) Ranked 140th Nationally for Class of 2011

Darion Atkins (***) Not Ranked Nationally
Paul Jesperson (***) Ranked 136th Nationally for Class of 2011
Akil Mitchell (***) Not Ranked Nationally
Joe Harris (***) Ranked 119th Nationally for Class of 2010
Teven Jones (***) Not Ranked Nationally

Clearly, and I do mean clearly, UVA was the better team last night. Smothering defense, timely shooting, and a willingness to play together to frustrate and confuse the opponent cause the Wahoos to pick up a big win to start ACC play. This win demonstrates the difference between a great coach and a great recruiter and should be the game that everyone points to whenever someone brings up our lack of talent or criticizes our style of play. This is what Virginia basketball is, and will be. A system that will work, that is built on defense, and does not require elite level talent to succeed. This is coupled with the tremendous coaching staff that knows the system, and can develop players into stars. Akil Mitchell was considered a throw-in at the end of the 2010 class, and look at him now. We have a staff and system in place that can build a consistent and sustained winner, and most importantly, one that is not built on flash-in-the-pan incredible recruiting hauls. Last night's game was more than a great win. It was a statement about UVA basketball and where it is heading. And that direction is very clearly up.

January 5, 2013

New Year's Resolution

I have a pretty fun one this year.  It's not to be less fat or watch less TV.  It's not to stay away from trash like MTV's Buckwild.  It's not to be nicer to the kids or swear off swearing.  It's send out more Wahooze tweets!

So follow me, HERE.  I'll do my best to hammer you with tweets while we're in Florida.

Sipping Kool-Aid!

Okay, so I'm geared up to watch the Bengals tonight (WHO DEY!), then waking up at the crack tomorrow morning to get on a plane to take the family to see my grandparents in Florida, so I'll be away from the blog for at least a week.

Big basketball game against UNC tomorrow night, and it sounds like Jontel Evans will be back at something close to 100%, so that's good.  It's a huge game for us, as we really need the W to buoy our flagging RPI and make amends for the ODU debacle.  I'm not sure if we're a Tournament team this year, but a home loss to Carolina kind of seals our fate.  But this post is not about basketball!

This post is about football.  Specifically, all of the little nuts and bolts of the operation that I think will be better under the new and improved coaching staff.  Let's take a quick look.

Offense, In General
Let's play a quick numbers game --- Count the names I'm about to list.  Lazor, Wachenheim, Faragalli, Moore.  How many is that?  Four?  Now count the names: Lazor, Wachenheim, Hagans, Banks, O'Brien.  How many is that?  Five?  Good, good.  You're good at this.  Now do this math: 2+17+9+0.  28, right?  That's 28 years of combined prior D-1A/FBS-level experience among our former offensive staff.  Now this: 2+17+0+9+34.  That's 62 years of combined prior D-1A/FBS-level experience among our new offensive staff.  That's over twice as much experience.  Think our offense, in general, might be improved via this level of experience?  Competency, here we come!

The Offensive Line, in Particular
Tom O'Brien spent 21 years coaching the offensive line at Navy and at Virginia.  His role as the Tight Ends coach and Assistant Head Coach for Offense allows him ample freedom to pitch in with the o-line.  In fact, I bet he and Wach kind of double-team the OL/TE coaching.  If there's one area of the team that I think will be markedly improved because of these coaching changes, it is the OL.

Special Teams
In Jeff Banks, we have our first dedicated special teams mastermind since I've been following Virginia Football.  I said it a while ago -- make the ST a coaching priority, make it a priority for the team, and it'll become a strength and quickly ingrained in the fabric of the program's identity.  That's what happened at Tech when Frankie took the reins of the ST units.  That'll happen here under Banks, just like it happened at UTEP... under Banks.

Punting and Kicking, Specifically
Jeff Banks is a former punter.  There are not many former kickers in the football coaching profession, but we have one on our staff now.  This guy knows how to pick and choose kicking talent, and he knows how to develop those legs.  That's a fairly big deal for a program that figures to play a style that leads directly to close games.

Ending the QB Carousel
TOB is interested in quality control on the offensive side of the ball, and that means ending the maddening and messy QB carousel and choosing a starter, and then sticking with that starter through thick and thin.  How many QBs with 5-star tools did TOB have to work with at BC and NC State?  True or false: he sent (or is sending) those guys to the NFL after stellar college careers?  You know what?  Phillip Sims was a 5-star QB coming out of high school, and Greyson Lambert displayed 5-star goods.  Corwin "Turtle" Cutler did as well.  Time to sit back and reap these rewards under center...

Stop this ride! I'm getting sick!
The Defensive Line
This has kind of been swept under the carpet a little bit in the shuffle of the big-news coaching hires, but Mike London will personally take over coaching the defensive line.  This is similar to Beamer coaching ST.  So our version of "Beamerball" figures to become d-line play!  At the very least, it communicates to all DL recruits that UVA views its tackles and ends as being the "sexy" positions to come play for this team.  I like that we're sending that message, and I am beyond confident in London's ability to coach 'em up on the DL.

Jon Tenuta blitzes.  Early, and often.  Actually, he blitzes on pretty much every play.  Amen and Hallelujah.

Generating Turnovers and Game-Changing Defensive Plays
See also: Blitzing, and Tenuta, Jon.

Giving the Offense a Short Field
See also: Blitzing, and Tenuta, Jon, and Generating Turnovers and Game-Changing Defensive Plays.

The Tight Ends
Our new Tight Ends coach is one of the best coaches we've ever had patrolling the sidelines at Virginia, and he's a guy who has gone 8-2 in bowl games as a head coach.  Yeah, the guy can coach.  Our tights ends will benefit.

Big Corners in Press Coverage
It's part of the Tenuta scheme.  He likes his corners big and mean, and he likes them jamming receivers.  I am half-erect just thinking about the merciful end to 8-10 yard cushions.

A Commitment to the Run
Have you ever seen an O'Brien-coached team play?  They don't get away from the running game unless absolutely, positively necessary.  God bless you, Baby Jesus.  I think TOB and Lazor jive with the dink and dunk stuff, but TOB will help keep Lazor dialed in on running the football.  Kevin Parks, Clifton Richardson, Smoke Mizzell, Kye Morgan, and Khalek Shepherd say hello.

So here's what a Virginia football team looks like under this new coaching staff:
Ball control offense, very run-heavy, doesn't make mistakes, errs on the side of being conservative; solid quarterbacking, lots of screens to the backs, lots of short/quick passes to the flat, lots of looks for the tight ends, the occasional play action bomb.  Relentless, "push the envelope," attacking-style defense; blitzes on every play, overload blitzes that are difficult to prepare for and difficult to stop without very experienced QBs and RBs; press coverage, regularly burned by big plays deep, regularly gashed by runs/passes away from the overloaded side, lots of turnovers generated, more than a few penalties of aggression (late hits, personal fouls, roughing the passers), game-changing plays generated by the D; absolutely crushing less-talented teams and/or teams with shaky QB play.  Competent special teams, ST swagger, starters playing on ST, confidence in the kicking game as earned through demonstrated performance.  A team that wins the games it's supposed to win and who poses a "tough out" for elite-level opposition.  A team that exploits the opposition's weaknesses.  A team that may occasionally beat itself, but only by way of being "too aggressive" defensively.

I'll take it.

Hell yes, I'll take it.


Have a great week, everyone.


January 4, 2013

Hidden Benefits

Yesterday's hiring announcements marked a turning point for the Mike London era at UVA. It signalled, among many things, that we are all-in when it comes to winning. Our staff underwent a transition from a focus on recruiting and stockpiling talent, to a focus on taking the talent, and maximizing its development and success on the field. It was a move that was necessary, and one that can do nothing but improve the program as a whole.

However, for all the benefits that we hope to see in the players and results, the biggest benefit could be felt in the coaching staff itself. And it could solve one of the biggest problems we have had. That is the perceived disconnect between Mike London and Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor, especially at the QB position.

Say what you will about the Mike Rocco comments following his transfer, but they do clearly highlight at least a disagreement between the coaches over who should be starting. While I don't think there is a problem and a lack of respect between the two men, I do think that Coach Lazor perceived a greater ability to express his opinions, and challenge Coach London. This, in my opinion, would be due to Coach London's relative inexperience as a head coach. This is all speculative of course, but I think the QB carousel is a good demonstration of the lack of an authoritative voice on the subject. To me it screamed that each man thought they could make the decision better than the other. 

Regardless of the validity of that last paragraph, that all ended yesterday with the hiring of Tom O'Brien. TOB comes in as the voice for the offense, and a coach of his experience and proven track record should be the definitive and final decision maker for that side of the ball. This highlights the importance of the relationship between Mike London and Tom O'Brien, which from all indications is very, very strong. London now has someone that he trusts to run that side of the ball, which allows him to focus on the defense, and specifically the defensive line. While this sounds like he is seceding control that should ultimately be his, that is the incorrect way of looking at things. The point of the head coach is to put the team in a position to ultimately be successful. Part of that is having a staff you trust to take some of the burden off of you.

This is a huge hire. with OB in charge of the offense there will no longer be uncertainty. Expect Phillip Sims to progress nicely, and be firm in his hold of the starting job. Any QB rotations are a thing of the past now. Continuity has come to Hooville, and man does it feel good.

January 3, 2013

Wizard Staff

Not this, asshole.  You take me too literally.

In case you haven't heard, news broke today that UVA has hired Jon Tenuta as its new Defensive Coordinator, Jeff Banks as its Special Teams Cooardinator and Running Backs Coach, Marques "Biscuit" Hagans as its Wide Receivers Coach, and the coup de grĂ¢ce (to our enemies), Tom O'Brien (aka "TOB") as its Associate Head Coach [for Offense] and Tight Ends Coach.

Hoofans have been waiting for a home run hire to replace Jim Reid, and Tenuta is certainly a bomb over the left field bleachers.  Meanwhile, adding TOB to the staff in any capacity is a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series.

I can't do these hires justice like Jamie Oakes from Wahoos247 can, so please just read his story, HERE.  Come on back when you're done, I still have a few things to say.

Okay, you're back?  Good.  I also want to show you THIS.  It's important to set a tone and get the goosebumps raised.  Let me know when you're done watching.

All set?  Okay, here are a few of my quick-fire thoughts on these hires, which compose the "wizard staff" I mentioned earlier.

Tom O'Brien
Maybe TOB is a coach to coach our coach, and maybe his addition to the staff adds up to too many cooks in the kitchen, but I'm just going to put it as simply as I can: Everything Mike London is bad at doing, TOB is good at doing.  London and O'Brien have a history together, working harmoniously at Boston College.  So if a true collaboration is achieved within our coaching staff, it can only mean good things for UVA.  TOB is one helluva good coach.  He knows the state of Virginia, he has gobs of experience, he knows the ACC inside and out, and he excels at elevating 2- and 3-star talent into 4-star players.  I wonder what he'll be able to do with the 4- and 5-star kids London, Chip West, and Anthony Poindexter recruit?  Adding a guy like O'Brien to your staff is like a tide that raises all boats.  I overuse that saying, but it absolutely applies here.  I literally cannot gush enough about Tom O'Brien.

Jon Tenuta
Tenuta is like a mad scientist of blitzes. He believes in pressure as a philosophy. What, exactly, does that mean?

Tenuta sees pressure as not something to change the pace of the game or to keep opposing offenses from getting into a rhythm.  He doesn't see it as a situational component of defense.  He believes in playing on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage at all times, in order to rattle quarterbacks and dictate the action to the offense, not react to what the offense dictates to the D.  Tenuta has an aggressive personality and emphasizes physical play, and is a superb defensive play-caller because he is fearless with applying pressure... because he always applies pressure.  Obviously, this means blitzing.  Constant blitzing.

Blitzing can effectively be broken down into two categories: equal and overload.  An equal blitz is when the defense rushes with a number of players equal to - or less than - the number of offensive players in pass protection.  Overload blitzing is when the defense rushes the quarterback with more defenders than the offense uses to protect the passer.  The latter aims at applying pressure quickly with an unblocked defender, but can lead to uncovered receivers and/or holes in zone coverage.  There are variations to both approaches, but most are focused on disguise and execution.  Rolling coverages, dropping defensive linemen into coverage, etc. are mostly window dressing for these two blitz types.  One of Tenuta’s specialties is a hybrid of the two -- rather than rush more defenders than offensive players in pass protection, Tenuta focuses on overloading an area of the field. This overload area blitz attempts to turn a defender loose but doesn’t sacrifice bodies in pass coverage like a traditional overload blitz.  It's a beautiful thing to behold, as it can achieve the benefit of an overload blitz without the inherent risk of dropping too few players into coverage.  But make absolutely no mistake: Jon Tenuta's defense is risky.  It will generate sacks and turnovers, and force opposing offenses into making mistakes.  But it will also yield a lot of "too easy" passing plays, and will lead to the roof being blown off of coverage far too often.

NC State fans will tell you that Tenuta's style is essentially this: Blitz one!  Didn't work?  Blitz two!  Didn't work?  Blitz three!  Didn't work?  Blitz four!  Didn't work?  Blitz 'em all!

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, would you rather be attacking, or would you rather be attacked?  It's an entertaining style of defense, and I'm excited to see us play it.  Anything is better than bend-don't-break until you're broken.

Jeff Banks
Here's all you need to know about Jeff Banks: he specializes in coaching special teams, and is a true Special Teams Coordinator.  He's not just a regular position coach with the speacial teams tacked on to his list of responsibilities.  His units were rock-solid at UTEP, and as a former punter himself, he really knows and understands the kicking side of the equation.  I view this as a massive upgrade in our coaching staff, sorry Dex.

He's breaking through as a paid assistant coach, but here's what he brings to the table: 757 connections, youthful energy, experience at both wide receiver and quarterback, close personal affection for the University of Virginia, and a "will-do" enthusiasm for everything he does.  I think he projects as a very good recruiter, and a good-enough receivers coach while he cuts his teeth in the profession.

Add it all up, y'all.  This is indeed a Wizard Staff.  So frickin' excited right now!



Sorry for the malware, guys.  That pic has been removed.  Carry on...

January 2, 2013

Could This Man Save Virginia Football?

Consensus in the message board community is that Jon Tenuta will be the next defensive coordinator for the Virginia Cavaliers. Tenuta played defensive back at Virginia from 1979 to 1982 and has orchestrated some of the more aggressive and blitz-happy schemes seen in college football. Currently Tenuta serves as the Linebackers Coach and Associate Head Coach of the NC State Wolfpack, but with the dismissal of Tom O'Brien, he has become a free agent, and expect the news of his hiring at UVA to come down soon (NC State lost its bowl game yesterday).

Think of Tenuta's system and scheme as the exact polar opposite of Jim Reid's. Reid was conservative and focused on not having his players out of position to make plays, and relied heavily on the individual playmaking abilities of his players to generate turnovers. Conversely Tenuta's hyper-aggressive blitzing style forces quarterbacks into making rushed decisions. It's a style I didn't necessarily agree with, until Sunday that is.

Watching my beloved Redskins blitz and confuse Tony Romo on Sunday night made me realize what this scheme creates, and convinced me unequivocally that it will work here. And it's for the same reason that Coach Bennett succeeds on the basketball court. Tenuta brings a scheme that maximizes the abilities of the talent Virginia can be expected to get, and more importantly can raise the level of play. As Kendall loves to say, Coach Bennett's greatest skill is turning five fingers into a fist. Well Tenuta brings the sort of scheme that can do the same on the football field, and produce a defense greater than the sum of its parts.  Kendall Sez: Can it turn 11 fingers into two fists and a thumb?

A lot of the focus for defensive coordinators is to design confusing looks pre-snap in order to make the QB change to a specific play that the defense is designed to exploit. This relies heavily on having an entire roster of smart and talented players that can execute this complex scheme. Tenuta's defense is not that at all. This defense puts pressure on the QB to make decisions AFTER the snap, which is something I think 99% of college quarterbacks cannot consistently succeed at doing. The thought process is simple: bring more guys than the protection can block, and force the quarterback to think fast on his feet (or preferably, on his back). While we could get burned by quick hitters, or screen passes, the majority of the time we will see poor decisions made by the opposing QB. And those mistake will turn into TURNOVERS, something this defense has sorely lacked.

Another benefit of this scheme is the simplicity of it from a coaching and exectuion standpoint. For years, Virginia struggled to recruit for and execute the 3-4 defense. Finding and landing a nose tackle and outside linebackers that fit that scheme is next to impossible, especially at a non-marquee school like Virginia. Tenuta's defense is the exact opposite. Flashy, blitz-heavy, and fast this is the kind of defense kids want to play. Defensive ends can pin their ears back and go get the quarterback. Linebackers are given opportunities to have clean shots in the backfield to make huge plays. And defensive backs are given the opportunity to demonstrate their coverage prowess and ball hawk as the pressure gets to the opposing QB. It's a stat-padders dream. This is a scheme that players like Eli Harold will excel in, because pass rushing is his best attribute. It takes relieves the pressure of trying to not make mistakes because he has one job -- go get the QB.

This is the scheme that will work here. We have the depth on the defensive line to make it work, and the experience and talent in the secondary to make it great. Look for the big corner to be a mainstay of the Virginia secondary. Players like Maurice Canady and Tim Harris (both 6-2) will become the norm as jamming receivers at the line, and being able to bring the lumber, will be necessary for corners, while having safeties that can run down errant throws will lead to the tremendous success of players like Malcolm Cook and (hopefully) Quin Blanding. This is the defense that makes Virginia scary, and one we should all be excited about.

Now we just need to sit back and wait for the announcement of Tenuta being hired as our next defensive coordinator...

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

It's now 2013.  I already feel better.

Just watched the ball drop after watching Clemson beat LSU.  Good stuff, ACC.  Here's the bowl game tally for the conference so far, by the way:

Cincinnati 48, Duke 34
Virginia Tech 13, Rutgers 10
Syracuse 38, West Virginia 14
Vanderbilt 38, NC State 24
Georgia Tech 21, USC 7
Clemson 25, LSU 24

I'm cheating to take that big Cuse win over WV, but screw it, the Orange is more ACC than Big East at this point.  Wins over USC and LSU?  Hell yes we'll take that.  Losses to Vandy and Cincy?  Ugly, but not totally shameful.  I'll take 4-2 at this point, hell yes I will.

Here are the remaining games:

Florida State / Northern Illinois
Louisville / Florida
Pitt / Ole Miss
Notre Dame / Alabama

Anyway, have a happy New Year, Wahooze Nation.