April 6, 2013

Spring Game Blitz

Yep, Mike Papi hit a grand salami in the top of the 9th with two outs to bring us back from a 6-3 deficit to a 7-6 lead, then Kyle Crockett (say hello to your Wahoo lockdown closer) struck out the Wake Forest side to slam the door shut.  That was pretty awesome.

But football pays the bills around here, so I will now empty my Spring Game notebook for your perusal.

See that?  That's a plate of sweet and sour chicken.  And that's the same flavor I had in my mouth-hole as I walked back to my car after watching today's Spring Game.

Sweet -- It was a beautiful day for spring football.  We've been lucky with the weather for a couple of years in a row now, ever since that weird hailstorm hit the stadium and lacrosse game in 2011.


If Tom O'Brien and Steve Fairchild can't save him from himself, Mike London's failure to find a legit quarterback and field a competent offensive line will cost him his dream job.

(I made that really big because it's the single most important point I'll make in this long, winding narrative.)

Sweet -- Defensive front seven.  Specifically, depth along the defensive front seven.  Specifically, the quality of depth along the defensive front seven, and the linebacker blitzes Jon Tenuta dials up in order to supercharge the front seven's effectiveness.  By all accounts, this was a vanilla gameplan today, yet the overload blitzes were flowing, and they were successfully overloading the blocking unit.

-- Wake up at 12:45 PM on a Saturday, get out of bed, and walk across the street to watch some football.  Is that too much to ask?  For current UVA students, apparently it is.  I hope you fail your History of Jazz midterm, you fucking eggheads.

-- Offensive pacing seems to be pretty good under Fairchild.  Remember Lazor's pacing?  Get to the line, watch numerous receivers go in motion pointlessly, watch the play clock grind along lazily, then eventually the snap comes?  Maybe?  Well in the Fairchild system, it seems a bit more streamlined and straightforward.  Get to the line and run the fucking play, with no bullshit.  When it's pro-form and nothing fancy, I like the elimination of meaningless frills.  (I'd still prefer an honest-to-God high octane college spread offense, but that's neither here nor there.)

Sour -- Can we please recruit some receivers who are BOTH fast AND can catch?  It seems like we have a lot of agonizing either/or in those two departments.

Sweet -- I've always liked how the London Regime wasn't bashful about moving players around from position to position until they found something that sticks.  Rob Burns at tight end and Vincent Croce at fullback look like winning moves.  Pawns from e2 to e4.  (That was a chess reference, dumbass.)


Sweet -- We threw a lot of slants today.  God bless America.  As Pierce said, that's how you win video game football.

Sour -- The defenses clearly outplayed the offenses today.

Sweet -- The defenses clearly outplayed the offenses today.  (Confounded you vs. yourself scrimmage format!)

Sour -- We're facing our toughest schedule in a long , long time, maybe ever, and I'm tasting sweet and sour after the Spring Game.  Not good.

Enough of this.  Here are my player-specific notes from the scrimmage, and the real reason you tune in to this bad channel.  I'll present them in numerical order of jersey number, just because.

#2, WR Dominique Terrell -- He played today, but I never really noticed him.  He was summarily outshined by other, less-talented, less-hyped players.  I'm getting toward the end of my rope with him and Jennings, two so-called playmakers who struggle to make plays.

#5, QB David Watford -- He was the buzzy quarterback from the early spring practices that were open to the media, but  after this game I think the buzz has more or less fizzled.  He can run a little bit, and he looked really good on the scripted QB keepers - a nice read option, a fun rollout pass, and a tidy little bootleg.  This running ability is a dimension you cannot overlook.  But passing the ball was a different story.  He ranged from woeful to mediocre on his accuracy, and that's not good.  He's got the arm strength and he's cleaned up a lot of his wasted motion in the pocket, but I just think his throws are way too chancy to have him working as our QB1.  It's impossible to have confidence in Watford throwing the football.  He's very Jameel Sewell-esque.

#6, WR Darius Jennings -- I'm not going to say much, other than to acknowledge his obviously immense physical gifts while simultaneously suggesting that he should ride the fucking pine until he learns how to catch the fucking football.  Way too many egregious drops in the scrimmage today.  Way, way, way too many.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

#7, DE Eli Harold -- He's still too small, and had a quiet day.  But he'll be fine, no worries.

#8, S Anthony Harris -- He's getting better and better out there.  He made a really nice play to break up a pass in the end zone at the end of the game.

#10, RB Clifton Richardson -- You get the sense that this guy can get hurt getting out of bed in the morning.  Today, he ripped off two stellar, rumbling, Marshawn Lynchian runs, but got up gimpy after his second carry.  Is bubble wrap legal football padding?  All joking aside, Richardson looked like a star on most of his touches today.  Some things I wrote about him:

  • "Beast.  Fucking beast."
  • "He's a GD load."
  • "Fucking beast."  (I seriously wrote this twice.)
  • "Makes your balls ache when he runs."  (Use your imagination for that one.)
  • "People are going to love this guy if he can stay on the field."

#11, QB Greyson Lambert -- Today, he looked tall and strong-armed, decisive with the football, put nice zip on his intermediate throws, spun a beautiful spiral, and looked every bit the part of a future star QB.  The problem is, it's not the future, not yet.  It's the present.  And the present Lambert (at least what I saw today) was prone to overthrowing his receivers and was guilty of locking on to his first read.  Aka, shit that will lead to backbreaking interceptions in a baptism-by-fire season if he's the pick for QB1.  Still, in the battle to be the lesser of three evils, I think I champion the idea of rolling the dice on Lambert's upside over the x-factor of Watford's legs and Phillip Sims' howitzer arm.

#13, LB Daquan Romero -- He's clearly one of our three best linebackers, and looked totally competent and fluid dropping back into coverage today.

#14, QB Phillip Sims -- He has a potbelly and looked about the same as you remember him: huge arm, nothing else of note.  He hasn't progressed since the end of last season.  It's clear to me that he's not a very good option to be our starting quarterback.  He made some impressive throws today (he can still flick it a country mile), but the energy level just seemed to be down and suppressed whenever he was in the game.  Can't have a QB1 with a black cloud floating over his head.  Looks like he's third in the pecking order for a reason.

#17, WR Miles Gooch -- Gotta love the Gooch.  Problem is, it looks like he might have bulked up too much at this point.  He still runs like a broken robot, but now his body looks like a tight end's (or H-back's) body.  He's a plus-plus blocker, and he's sure-handed, but his movement skills are simply lacking.

#19, WR E.J. Scott -- He's not big, he's not really fast, but dammit he's one of our best wide receivers.  He gets open and he catches the ball.  Don't get cute, coaching staff.  Don't overthink it.  Just play the guys who actually make plays.  E.J. Scott is one of those guys, and true to form, he made plays today.  (I especially like E.J. in the slot, where he saw a lot of action today. Screw Dom Terrell.)

#20, WR Tim Smith -- Smitty looked really, really good today.  Like he's poised for a huge senior season.  Fingers crossed that he can stay healthy for a change.

#23, RB Khalek Shepherd -- I've always liked Khalek as a runner, and today he was quick and squirted nimbly through holes.  I think he's a really good #2 running back, and it blows my mind that he might be our #4 or #5 guy in the backfield.  Wow.  Now why in the hell was he working behind Kye Morgan in the pecking order today?

#25, RB Kevin Parks -- KP is about to be thrown under the wheel by everyone jumping over each other to climb aboard the Ricahrdson bandwagon.  But for my money, I like Parks running behind a shaky o-line, as his cutback ability and knack for getting low and running behind his pads will more often yield positive yards over Richardson's bulldozing style.  In the Spring Game, KP looked really decisive in his cutbacks and lane selection, no dancing whatsoever, and I liked what I saw.  Low to the ground, surprising power.  He is - and should be - our starter at running back.

#28, S Wil Wahee -- He might be a career backup and special teams maven, but I thought he looked quick and active playing safety in today's scrimmage.  I liked what I saw.

#30, CB C.J. Moore -- He looked pretty good in coverage today.  Fluid.  Natural.

#30, P Alec Vozenilek -- I'm not going to say something stupid like "a punter is our best player," but Voz looks like the kind of punter who can give us a real edge in football games.  He was crushing his punts today, and made a wonderfully athletic play in squeezing off a punt after a bad snap into the end zone.  He had a great day, and could be a real weapon for us, coupled with what looks like a pretty good defense.

#34, LB Kwontie Moore -- He's big and can really hit.  He was involved in an encouraging number of positive plays this afternoon, though I still think he trails Coley by a large margin in the race to be the starter at MLB.

#36, RB Kye Morgan -- For some reason, he got totes ahead of Khalek Shepherd.  Sadly, I wasn't impressed with Morgan.  At all.  He looked like "just a guy."

#42, LB Demeitre Brim -- Did you know it's pronounced "breem?"  Yeah, it blew my mind, too.  Tenuta blitzed him a lot, and he looked good in that role.  In fact, he looked good in general.  Zero worries about this new starter at OLB.

#43, DE Trent Corney -- We've found ourselves a dandy little edge rusher here, folks.  You can tell he's still really raw, but you can also tell that he's a physical marvel and a nightmare for slow-footed or weak-armed blockers.  I think he'll be a pleasant surprise this season as a wave player at end.  The guy is explosive.

#44, LB Henry Coley -- I'm a fan.  Today, he looked really big, and really ready to be our guy at mike... though Kwontie Moore also had a nice day with the 2s.

#59, LB Mark Hall -- He's on the second team defense, but he looked big and active to me today.  I was impressed.

#64, DT David Dean -- Another guy with whom I came away impressed.  He's short, stocky, squat, stumpy, however you want to call it.  But he's also clearly quite powerful, and did a lot of good work by simply gaining favorable leverage today.

#78, OT Morgan Moses -- Big Mo wasn't perfect today, but he was better than I expected as an unconventionally enormous left tackle.  He was lively all afternoon, and seemed dialed in.  It looks like he is accepting a leadership role with this team.  I hope for the best here, but still fear the worst.  Today did nothing to make the situation seem less murky.  It could be pretty good, it could be okay, it could be really bad.  The good news is that Mo generally got the best of Eli Harold today.  (Or maybe that's just bad news for Eli?  Damn the befuddling nature of an us vs. ourselves Spring Game!)

#80, WR Adrian Gamble -- He's going to be a good one, I think.  Today he flashed a great size/speed target, and showed off some decent hands.  He made a nice adjustment on a severely underthrown Lambert bomb, and that impressed me.  We need receivers who can get the ball, and Gamble might be that type of guy at some point down the line.  We took a lot of deep shots today, and at least half were directed at #80, so the staff must be drinking the Gamble kool-aid.

#83, TE Jake McGee -- He was quiet until late in the game, but I saw nothing to dispel the notion that he's our best receiving option.  I just love the guy.

#86, WR Jamall Brown -- I don't think he'll play this season, but he did make a really nice diving catch late in the game, wearing a defender like a cape.

#87, WR Kyle Dockins -- I thought he'd look like a small tight end miscast as a wide receiver, but he didn't.  They split him out wide at flanker, and I thought he looked really good.  He's a possession guy, big, rangy, great hands.  But maybe big dudes with good hands are what we need.  He moved around like a wide receiver, not like a tight end.  Another season of polish and he could be a real player.  We might see him in spurts this fall, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him show some flashes of brilliance on the field... especially if he works his way into the red zone offense.  I really like what's coming into focus with this kid.

#92, TE Rob Burns -- He's huge, tough, rugged, and looks like a thumper at the tight end position.  A throwback type.  He struggled a little bit with the in-line blocking today (timing and footwork issues, I think), but was a shockingly great receiver.  His run after catch was captivating, as he was a terror for the defenders trying to bring him down on two separate occasions.  He's clearly developed quickly after the position switch from defensive end, and if he can keep this pace of improvement up, he'll be a really pleasant surprise this fall.  Seriously, the play of #92 was one of the biggest reasons to smile after the Spring Game.

#99, DT Brent Urban -- Stud.  Seriously.  Mark my words, we'll all recognize him as a stud at the end of the 2013 season.  Today, he was simply fantastic in all phases of the game.  That might have been because of shoddy blocking up front, but I don't buy that.  Urban looked legit, like a bigger, stronger, more confident Matt Conrath.

There you go.  Sorry I didn't have more notes on the o-line, but I spent most of my time watching the quarterbacks.  Anyway, there's more football stuff coming here on Wahooze, so stay tuned.

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