You know that guy in your section that is talking about motioning receivers and under-utilization of pulling guards? Do you want to BE that guy this season? We've compiled some talking points that can give you some insights into the intricacies of Virginia football and what they mean for the program or player as a whole. Wielding your awesome new powers you can go pwn n00bs in whatever section you sit in, unless it's section 515.
Topic 1: Jake McGee and Running Plays
McGee is clearly one of our biggest offensive weapons heading into this season. But he can't take the next step toward becoming an elite tight end until he learns how to block. [New tight ends coach and sage coaching veteran] Tom O'Brien said going into this offseason that the biggest thing he would work with McGee on is gaining weight and developing his blocking. The weight part has been taken care of, McGee is now tipping the scales at 250 pounds. The blocking part remains to be seen. McGee played virtually exclusively on passing plays last season due to his blocking deficiencies, so it will be interesting to see if his blocking has improved enough to let him play every down. If not he remains a huge tell for the opposing defense when he comes on the field, which will end up being a huge detriment to his stats. Trust me if three drunk idiots in section 515 can figure out he only plays on passing plays, any defensive coordinator can as well.
Topic 2: Morgan Moses in Pass Protection
I am very bullish on Big Mo for the upcoming season, but there is no hiding his past performance. Last year on the right side it became painful to watch Moses get run past by smaller and faster defensive ends and linebackers. From all indications Moses has been putting in some serious work in the offseason, which includes getting a ton of reps against our very own speed-rush specialist Eli Harold. There will be an easy tell to see how confident the staff is in his ability to handle a rush end, and that is the placement of Kevin Parks in pass protection. If he is constantly occupied helping Moses keep the QB clean, it could severely handcuff Steve Fairchild and his ability to exploit the offensive weapons we have. However if Big Mo can hold his own, you could see Fairchild get more creative on passing downs, including calling more screens and swings out of the backfield.
Topic 3: Utilization of Unique Talents
The first two have been depressing topics, so let's get to a fun one. It is my view that this team has two very unique talents on this team in Eli Harold and Smoke Mizzell. It's going to be very interesting to see how Coach Tenuta and Fairchild scheme to create huge matchup problems. Ideas include motioning Smoke out of the backfield into the slot receiver position where he will hopefully get matched up with a linebacker, and having Eli stand up in a 3-4 scheme and get matched up with a tight end or running back. There is a reason these kids were rated so high coming out of high school, and it is their unique ability to play in multiple spots. Keep an eye on them as they move around the field to see how creative the staff can be.
Topic 4: Run Play Selection
The interior offensive line play we absolutely horrendous last season. Couldn't hold a block on a run, and couldn't stand ground on a pass. Dreadful. And it really derailed a lot of what we wanted to do on offense. Word out of camp is that Coach Fairchild is very good at calling plays that exploit a team's strength, and ignoring those that can expose weaknesses. Nowhere will this be more apparent than run play selection. IF you see a lot of power off-tackle runs and misdirections, and not a whole lot of straight up the gut man football, you know the interior line is struggling to hold up in run. Which actually brings us to our next point.
Topic 5: WR Routes
This team has a plethora of burners on the outside. Coupled with a potential dynamic receiving threat form the backfield in Smoke and a suspect interior line it will be interesting to see how Coach Fairchild approaches the passing game. Kendall has been pining for years now to incorporate more spread elements into our offense, and we may finally have the perfect mix of ingredients to do just that. Jennings and Terrell are players that excel when given the ball in space, while Smith and Scott are precise route runners that have speed to burn after the catch. Couple that with a mobile QB and a RB that can catch and you have a lot of weapons to be accounted for. There is actually nowhere this is going to be more beneficial then the red zone. Just as Tenuta's defense will bring more guys than you can block, Fairchild's offense could bring more guys than you can stop.
Topic 6: Tra Island (and DreQuan and Reese Island as well)
As mentioned above Tenuta brings a TON of pressure. And the key to that is the play of the corners. If we can consistently count on Nicholson, Hoskey, and Canady to lock up their assignment in press coverage, there will be enough time to get to the QB and force bad throws and interceptions. The way to tell this is watching Anthony Harris and Brandon Phelps. If they are coming on blitzes and playing center field instead of rolling to one side or another to help out a corner, you will know that Tenuta has faith in the corners' ability to handle themselves.
There you go! There are 6 topics to let you be that guy in your section. I'll throw in a few yelling tidbits here at the end.
- First of all, don't boo! This is a pet peeve of mine. Nice move tough guy, go play a D1 sport.
- Back to relevance. This is NOT the season to blame the secondary. They're going to get beat, and there are going to be big passing plays. That's a fact of life with this defense. If they get beat, it will most likely be because the pass rush isn't getting there in the time the corners need for this style to be effective. So when someone in your section is yelling at a DB, you can turn and destroy them with knowledge of jam coverage and overload blitzing. (Unless the DB gets smoked at the line, then it's their fault.)
- You need to live with the short plays and interior runs. This team has had the most success running and using short passing plays to help set up play action and draw the defense in to tear the roof off on deeper plays. Be okay with a screen pass on 2nd and 8. Be okay with a 3 yard gain into the pile. It's all working toward something. We hope.
It should, hopefully at least, be a far less frustrating year this season. Coach London will be naming a starting QB early in camp and that person will be the starter for the foreseeable future. David Watford looks to be in the driver's seat moving forward, which could ultimately cause us to lose uber-QB Grayson Lambert to transfer. But if Lambert does transfer, it means Watford has really taken the job over, which is what we should all desperately hope for someone to do.
37 days till Kickoff!!!!!