October 30, 2014

Speak up, Hoofans...

...and be heard.

3 minutes, that's all I ask.

Click HERE to take the
UVA Football Coaching Search Questionnaire!

October 28, 2014

The List, Part III

It's inevitable, folks.  Mike London is going to piss away the 9-win talent we have on the team and finish 4-8 or 5-7... and finally, mercifully, FINALLY get shitcanned.

Say what you will about the Virginia job.  I happen to be very bullish about the fact that it's a good job in the world of college football.  We're in a Power 5 conference.  We have good facilities and a sound infrastructure.  Our fans have - at times in the past - filled a 60,000+ seat stadium.  We're located in fertile recruiting territory, with close proximity to Northern Virginia and the DC Metro area, Richmond, and Hampton Roads.  The ACC presents a fairly easy path to winning seasons and bowl appearances.  After a decade-plus of losing, the fanbase is ready to back even a modest winner; our expectations are through-the-floor low, and easy to meet (and exceed).  Recent performance on the field will tell you that we're on par with the Kansases, Colorados, and Indianas of the world... but the Virginia job is much better than any of those.  Still, we won't be able to compete against Florida or Michigan for the big-name coaching talent.  We have to find a guy who believes in the upside present at Virginia; who can hear the Sleeping Giant snoring.

Is Virginia a so-called "destination job?"  Maybe, maybe not.  But I hold out hope that we'll find our next George Welsh with this upcoming search, not just a guy who'll come in and win, and then use that success as a stepping stone to a bigger / better opportunity.  I want us to find our version of Gary Patterson.  (And no, Gary Patterson isn't leaving TCU to come be our Gary Patterson.)

This post is my attempt to present to Wahooze Nation the first, best, and most comprehensive list of candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant head coaching position at the University of Virginia.  

You won't see mention of any totally unrealistic candidates.  (For example, the name Mike Tomlin has appeared on at least one reputed message board, and that's just nuts.  Tomlin isn't going to leave the Steelers to come coach at UVA.  Jeez.  Mike Tomlin's not on The List.  Gary Patterson's not on The List.)  

You also won't see mention of any candidates who are well below the standard we should be setting.  (For example, as much as I love the offense Bob Stitt has built at the Colorado School of Mines, he's still too small-time for our coaching search.  Stitt's not on The List.)  

I'm trying to make The List complete, but I don't want it to be exhaustive.  That's not the goal!  The goal is to present a list of candidates, any of whom I think have a realistic chance to be the next head football coach at the University of Virginia.

Bob Stitt, genius architect of the fly-sweep,
is NOT a viable candidate for the UVA head coaching vacancy.

I wrote Part I and Part II a year ago.  A lot of things have changed, but a lot of things remain the same.  I still have the following preferences...

1) The candidate should possess a specific D-1A / FBS background. I don't want NFL guys, and I don't want D-1AA (or lower) guys. Not that the NFLers and AAers don't have their merits, but Al Groh (NFL background) and Mike London (1AA background) haunt my dreams. I just want a coach who is familiar with this specific level of football, and is comfortable trying to build a winner from the back end of a BCS conference.
No more Mike Londons.
2) I want a coach who comes from a successful program and/or from a successful coaching tree. I want the coach to be very familiar with winning, to know what it takes to win, to know what winning tastes like, and to understand the inner workings of a winning program.  He needs to bring a strong blueprint to the drafting table.

3) He needs to be young. Not old. Despite London's failings, I'm okay with getting another guy who can grow along with the program, because that would go on to promote loyalty when the coach ascends to notoriety. But also - call me an ageist, that's fine - I just like young and energetic guys more than I like old fuddy-duddies. Personal preference.

Sorry, June Jones.  You're too old.
And too grouchy.

4) My preference, and this is a strong preference, is that the coach has an extensive background coaching on the offensive side of the ball. I'm open to current/former offensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, wide receiver coaches, etc. I just want an offensive-minded head coach, and break away from the Groh and London rut of always putting the defense first and only giving us splattered dogshit to look at on O.

5) Most importantly, I think we need a coach who will install and run a specific offensive system at UVA. I'm talking a comprehensive system that transcends plays and formations and Xs and Os, and gives us an tangible offensive identity to build up and then build around. Once you have that, you can recruit specific pieces and parts to fit that system. My personal preference is for high-octane passing offenses, hurry-up spreads and whatnot, and specifically the Air Raid. (And look, part of the reason I want the Air Raid is because it's a brand of football that would be a blast to watch. Sometimes the plight of the fan doesn't need to be so complicated. Bring in a guy who runs a fun system, and the fans will be happy and excited to come and watch it, and the recruits will flock to it. Air Raid fueled by 757 talent... it could be tremendous.)

And I have a few *NEW* preferences...

6) I see Virginia as a southern school when it comes to football.  Therefore, I want a new coach to bring a little bit of that southern football attitude.  Not a win-at-all-costs mentality like you'll see in the SEC... but maybe a win-at-many-costs mentality.  And I want to see our team go out and hit some people, and play with some real passion.  I want to see us play southern football.

7) The new coach has to be a good "sell" to the fanbase.  As in, he either needs to be a hot name, or have a system to get excited about, or have a gaudy winning record behind him.  We've got to get into the business of wooing back our fans, and the most important part of that is hiring a buzz-worthy new head coach.

8) No soft touch.  No mickeymouse bullshit.  And please, no crying.  I want a taskmaster, not a players' coach.  Mike London is supposedly beloved by his players, but what has that gotten us?  (The answer to the rhetorical question: a 1-13 record against our biggest rivals.)  Instead, I'd like to see the next coach be the sort of dude who'll put his foot up someone's ass and then break it off.  Muff a punt?  Fuck you, go grab some bench.  Miss a block?  Fuck you, hit the pine.  Miss a tackle?  Welcome to the third team, asshole.  I guess what I'm saying is that on the Al Groh to Mike London scale, I want a guy somewhere in the middle, with maybe a slight shade to the Groh side.

Okay, enough preamble.  You want The List, I want to give you The List.  Let's do it.

Guys from the first two Lists I still like:

Mark Hudspeth, HC, Louisiana-Lafayette -- He'll be one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel when it starts spinning in late November / early December.  He checks all eight of the boxes for the preferences I listed above.  The problem - and it's a BIG problem - is that the Virginia job might now be too small-time for Huddy.  It's pretty much common knowledge that he'll get an SEC offer before too long, and now that he's making north of $1 million per season at ULL, he can afford to be patient.  He might even be the guy in the crosshairs for the Florida opening.  A good article if you want to learn more about Hudspeth: UL-Lafayette football coach Mark Hudspeth's vision becomes reality as 2014 season nears  NFL executives have said: "He really seems to have the pulse of his team, but he doesn't micromanage. He's a creative offensive guy and he can recruit. That's not an easy place to win and he's done just that." "The guy at Louisiana-Lafayette would be my choice. He's turned that place around. He's found a way to win nine games each of the three years he's been there. He did a nice job at North Alabama earlier in his career, too. He's a winner."  (Source: Ask 5: Top up-and-coming coaches outside 'Power 5' leagues)

If we want Huddy, we have to pounce quickly and decisively.

Pat Narduzzi, DC, Michigan State -- He was a atop UConn's wish list a year ago, but withdrew from the search.  He's on the radar at Kansas, but seems to be keeping it at arm's length.  I think, ultimately, Narduzzi is a guy whose star is so big right now, he'll be able to hand-pick his head coaching opportunity.  I actually think that the Virginia job might offer the best of what Narduzzi is looking for --- it's not Florida or Michigan, but offers a [far] better crack at big-time success than UConn or Kansas.  Anyway, I think this is a guy we'll really need to keep tabs on once our search starts heating up.  If you want to gain a better understanding of Narduzzi the candidate and what he'd bring to the table at UVA, HERE's a good read.  (Warning, prepare to get excited.)

Chad Morris, OC, Clemson -- The shine is coming off a little bit, now that Tajh Boyd, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Dwayne Allen, and Andre Ellington are all in the NFL.  Still, Morris is a phenomenal offensive mind, and the "Smashmouth Spread" is a sight to behold.  He's a Texas guy, and is probably holding out for a P5 job in the state of Texas.  But with A&M, UT, and Texas Tech nowhere close to replacing their coaches, why couldn't Virginia be a possible destination?  One thing is certain -- we'd need to top Morris' annual salary of $1.3 million.  Yikes.  I don't think Chad Morris-to-UVA is the pipe dream it once was; his profile has shrunk and his options have thinned out.  But it's still a very expensive option for such a relatively unknown head coaching commodity.

Mike Bobo, OC, Georgia -- He just hit the big four-oh (so he's the right age), comes equipped with the Mark Richt blueprint, and is ready to take over his own program.  He's never been outside the Bulldawgs cocoon, which is a concern.  Still, since 2001, Bobo has served an integral role in helping Georgia win close to 70% of its games against SEC opponents.  Seven times, the Bulldogs have finished in the Top 10 of the final rankings.  His name is one that is gaining traction very quickly, and knowing how much Hoofans coveted Richt once upon a time (prior to hiring Al Groh in 2000)... why not now invest in Richt Junior?  (To learn a bit more about the offense Mike Bobo runs at Georgia, click HERE.)

Philip Montgomery, OC, Baylor -- I hear Montgomery is "notoriously private," and maybe he doesn't aspire to a head coaching job away from Art Briles' loving bosom.  But hey, anyone with the keys to the Baylor Offensive Machine, and who studied under The Architect, should be strongly considered for any P5 opening in 2014.  That includes Virginia.

Scott Frost, OC, Oregon -- Detecting a theme here yet?  Young offensive coordinator, juggernaut modern offense.  Scott Frost knows the Blur, and he probably has an idea on how to build it from scratch.  Being a midwestern kid who played his college ball at Nebraska, Frost is already in the center of the radar for the Kansas opening... but if that doesn't pan out, I think he definitely merits at least an interview at UVA.

Ruffin McNeill, HC, ECU -- He's coaching at his alma mater, so I highly doubt he'd leave.  That said, Virginia could more than triple his $400K yearly salary.  Landing McNeill might mean also landing Lincoln Riley as our new offensive coordinator, which would mean the Air Raid would be arriving at UVA.  Amen and Hallelujah.

Greg Schiano, currently unemployed -- Okay, yes, he's a dick.  He's a dick, and he was a flop in Tampa Bay.  But you have to remember 2001 thru 2011, when Schiano won at Rutgers - AT RUTGERS!!! - and took the Scarlet Knights to six bowl games in seven years.  At one point, Schiano was a legit head coaching candidate at Miami.  Anyway, he's a dick, but he's a damn good football coach who knows how to build a successful college program from the ground up.  HERE's a fun read about Schiano's defensive philosophy (his background is on the defensive side of the ball).

Willie Fritz, HC, Georgia Southern -- Georgia Southern is 6-2 in its first season in the FBS, and the man leading the charge is Willie Fritz.  He's not young, but he's good, sporting a zesty .691 record through stops at Central Missouri and Sam Houston State prior to arriving at Georgia Southern.  Make no mistake, this is not a sexy option for UVA... but it might be a smart option.  Fritz could step in and lead us to a decade of relative success before retiring and passing the program along to the next coach, in a much better state than it's in today.

Troy Calhoun, HC, Air Force -- I think this ship probably sailed in 2009.  HOWEVER, a poster on Wahoos247 presented a compelling argument. "My choice is Troy Calhoun. I think he can be pulled from the Air Force Academy even though he is an alum. He has pro experience at Houston and ACC experience at Wake. He may enjoy a nice change of scenery. He runs a disciplined program with tough academic requirements."  I still buy Calhoun as a candidate for the UVA job.  It's an underwhelming option, but it checks a lot of the boxes the UVA administration will be interested in checking.

New names -- poach-a-coach options from other colleges:

Matt Wells, HC, Utah State -- NFL executives have said: "He's a sharp, focused guy. I like his demeanor and presence. He'll get a big job soon." "He inherited a good program, but he's done a nice job."  (Source: Ask 5: Top up-and-coming coaches outside 'Power 5' leagues)  Matt Wells is a Utah State alum, but his star is on the rise in a very big way.  I'm not sure exactly why, but Matt Wells feels like a fit for UVA.  He's certainly well-respected in the coaching community, and if our search began in the back channels a year ago, Wells might be a guy whose name has continued to bubble up.

Justin Fuente, HC, Memphis -- Yeahbuddy.  Even fucking Memphis has been able to find a quality coach while we've been pulling our pud with Mike London.  The good news is that it's Memphis, and we can poach this guy pretty easily if we wanted to.  Fuente saw first-hand how Gary Patterson built the TCU program, and is in year three of doing the same good work for the Tigers.  His overall losing record would be a tough sell to Hoofans, but I think we'll see Memphis in a bowl game at the end of this season.

Matt Campbell, HC, Toledo -- Young dude, bright mind, winning at Toledo.  I include his name on The List because I feel like I'm obligated, because he gets mentioned for every mid-level P5 opening that materializes.  But speaking honestly, I would be incredibly underwhelmed if Matt Campbell were Virginia's next head coach.

Tony Levine, HC, Houston -- "Given all the big-name coordinators who passed through Houston under Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin, it seemed like a stretch when athletics director Mack Rhoades gave the job to a relatively unknown career special teams coach. But Levine has proved to be a smart, efficient recruiter and promising CEO. After going 8-5 last season, the Cougars are primed to take the next step and could very well win the American Athletic Conference and the major bowl bid that goes to the highest-ranked 'Group of Five' team."  (Source: 10 college football coaches poised to emerge as hot hires)  Smart, efficient, promising CEO... that sounds like exactly the kind of dude I want running Virginia Football.  This would not be an easy sell to Hoofans, but I think Levine is engaging enough to win fans over quickly.

Doc Holliday, HC, Marshall -- His name is popular on the message boards because OH MY GOD MARSHALL IS EIGHT AND OH!  But look, Holliday is an older dude (he's 57) who's in just his fifth season as a head coach.  He's built something with the Thundering Herd, no doubt... but I think that story is theirs, not ours.  He ain't our huckleberry.  But if you insist, HERE's a really good Q&A with the Good Doctor.

"I have not yet begun to defile myself."

Joey Jones, HC, South Alabama -- "Only the hardest of hardcore fans would know about the job Jones has done in building South Alabama's program from scratch. But last season, just the Jaguars' second in FBS, they beat Tulane, Western Kentucky, Kent State and Louisiana-Lafayette and nearly knocked off Tennessee in Knoxville. Another good year and he won't be a secret much longer."  (Source: 10 college football coaches poised to emerge as hot hires)  South Alabama is 5-2, but with no marquee wins in 2014.  Joey Jones is a name that might pop soon, but it's not popping yet.

Kyle Flood, HC, Rutgers -- Meh.  I'd rather have Greg Schiano than a Greg Schiano disciple.

New names -- college coordinators throbbing for a promotion:

Rhett Lashlee, OC, Auburn -- He's only 31 years old, but has been coaching under Gus Malzahn for a decade.  Lashlee would be a huge risk, but it would be the kind of bold choice that could lead to the rare proverbial 'home run hire.'  I will say this, we could do much worse than to pick a guy who comes equipped with the Malzahn Blueprint.  (THIS OFFENSE would be my dream come true for UVA.)  Plus, it is said that Lashlee is much more at home and comfortable in the spotlight than is his boss... so... Young guy with charisma, building the Malzahn offense at Virginia?  Sign me up.

Tom Herman, OC, Ohio State -- The talking heads are saying all colleges with openings should be taking a long look at this dude.  He's 39, and it seems like the timing is right for him to get a head coaching job like the one that will be available at Virginia.  Herman is a Texan, so - like Chad Morris - his attention might be fixed on openings in the Longhorn state.  The intriguing thing here is the Urban Meyer coaching tree.

Brent Venables, DC, Clemson -- Things I like about Venables: He's young, knows the ACC, comes equipped with the Stoops Blueprint.  Things I don't like about Venables: He seems like a douche, he's a defense guy and not an offense guy, and probably covets a Big XII job over ours.

Kirby Smart, DC, Alabama -- Nick Saban, bros.  THIS GUY KNOWS HOW TO COACH LIKE NICK SABAN.  Smart has shot down other suitors in the past, and there's no reason to think Virginia is special... other than the fact that Virginia is special.  People in the know will tell you that Kirby Smart is a pipe dream for UVA, but I figure we can pay up to $3.5 million / year for the right guy, and Kirbs might just be the right guy.  Nick Saban, bros.

Mike Norvell, OC, Arizona State -- "Another young guy (he's 32) who is widely recognized as a terrific play-caller and has had a big hand in building one of the nation's top offenses. Todd Graham trusted Norvell enough to give him the title of deputy head coach, but keeping him much longer could be a challenge if the Sun Devils are as productive as they were last season when they averaged 39.7 points."  (Source: 10 college football coaches poised to emerge as hot hires)

Kurt Roper, OC, Florida -- Yeah, I know, Florida sucks, especially on offense.  But this is Roper's first year in Gainesville.  Prior to 2014, he coached under David Cutcliffe for 17 years.  So if you're jealous of what is brewing at Duke, Roper is our chance to emulate it.

Jeremy Pruitt, DC, Georgia -- Alabama under Nick Saban, FSU under Jimbo Fisher, and now Georgia under Mark Richt.  Pruitt has seen it done, and seen it done well.  He's won national championships.  Plural.  Championships.  You don't hear his name as much as you hear Narduzzi or Morris or Smart... but I have a hard time understanding why he's not on the same tier as those guys.  He's 40 years old and ready for this opportunity.  Read up: Jeremy Pruitt brings 'business-like' approach, successful background to Georgia

Brian VanGorder, DC, Notre Dame -- Mike V, now married to a lifelong Fighting Irish fan, says: "VanGorder is currently in his first season as the DC at Notre Dame. Previous to this season he has served as the DC for the Auburn Tigers (2012) and Georgia Bulldogs (2001-2004). VanGorder has bounced between the NFL and college the past few seasons, including a three year stint as DC of the Falcons from 2008-2011. The big knock on him would be a lack of HC experience, with only one season as HC of Georiga Southern where he went 3-8 (fartsound). Not sure he's really a realistic candidate, but worth mentioning I think."  Yeah Mike, not sure he's really a realistic candidate.  He looks like a freaking Batman villain.


Eddie Gran, OC, Cincinnati -- Great recruiter with extensive experience at FSU.  He knows the ACC, he knows the east coast, and he's been around the block, biding his time.  I know, a 'meh' option, but worthy of mention in this space.

New names -- zany outside-the-box ideas:

Al Golden, HC, Miami -- The Canes are now 5-3 and playing pretty well, so the talk of Golden getting the axe has probably died down.  That said, if Golden does get fired... bet your ass he'd be a viable candidate at Virginia.  Heck, we might even be sniffing around already, given his hotseat status.  Maybe Golden Al would like the chance to start fresh at a school that doesn't do a bunch of illegal shit that makes the head coach's job more difficult?  He knows the Virginia job pretty well from his time under Al Groh and is a big enough name to provide a "splashy" hire for UVA.

Lincoln Riley, OC, ECU -- Two words: Air Raid.  AIR RAID, YOU FRESHMAN BITCHES!  Want a young Mike Leach without all of the bullshit that comes along with Mike Leach?  Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?  Well, to make it happen, UVA would have to roll the dice on this 31-year old kid.  Read... Inside the game: Why East Carolina's offense is clicking

Lance Leipold, HC, Wisconsin-Whitewater -- He's a Division III head coach, but he has a 100-6 record.  That's a .943 winning percentage.  Holy Jesus.  But anyway, not a realistic candidate for UVA, but worth mentioning since he's BY FAR the fastest coach to 100 victories.  I do think it would be cool for us to give a guy like this a chance at our BCS conference school.

Guys who didn't make The List:

Pete Lembo, HC, Ball State -- I hate the timing.  I HATE the timing.  I continue to believe that Pete Lembo is a perfect fit for the Virginia job.  It just so happens that his Ball State team is 3-5, and Lembo is looking at his first losing season since his first season at Elon, in 2006.  He built/rebuilt the Lehigh, Elon, and Ball State programs, and has 13.5 seasons as a head coach with a stellar .665 winning percentage.  But Hoofans and boosters wouldn't be on board with Virginia bringing in a coach who just posted a losing season in the MAC, so Lembo is sadly a non-starter for our 2014 coaching search.  HOWEVER, if you hear anyone say "I want the football version of Tony Bennett," it's Pete Lembo.  (Remember, Bennett went 17-16 and missed the NCAAs during his last season at Wazzu.)

Tim DeRuyter, HC, Fresno State -- Fresno is currently 3-5, and DeRuyter is making $1.6 million a season.  He'd be too expensive and also (like Lembo) too tough of a sell with a current losing record in a lesser conference.

Jim McElwain, HC, Colorado State -- He's a scorching-hot name in the coaching search circles, but he's not coming to UVA.  I'll just let this article do my talking: CSU Rams' Jim McElwain hot commodity among coaching ranks  The $1.5 million salary and $7.5 million buyout takes McElwain off the table for Virginia.

Craig Bohl, HC, Wyoming -- I have no doubt that Bohl is a very good coach; he went 104-32 with three national championships at North Dakota State.  But he's already 56 years old and has spent his whole career in the Badlands.  It's just too much --- moving to an area he's not familiar with, trying to start from scratch developing contacts in the regional coaching community.  I just see too many potential hurdles for Bohl at UVA, but I'm sure he'll do fantastic things at Wyoming (it was a really smart hire for them this past offseason).

Brady Hoke, HC, Michigan -- His résumé is underwhelming, and he's being run out of the Michigan job on a rail.  He'll resurface somewhere eventually... likely the MAC.  He's too radioactive to be considered for the Virginia job.

Jim Grobe, currently unemployed -- He's a Hoo, and won an ACC championship at Wake Freaking Forest.  But at this point, he's just too old (62) and not buzzy enough.  If we hired him, you'd be able to hear an audible groan emitted from the fanbase.  Won't happen.

Ed Orgeron, currently unemployed -- Ah, man.  I love this dude.  But he's got too much spotty off-the-field stuff to be a realistic option for UVA.  I bet he lands a head coaching job this offseason, though... it just won't be in Charlottesville.

Ken Niumatalolo, HC, Navy -- Thanks to Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech, I think a coach devoted to running the triple option just isn't a viable option for Virginia.

Pep Hamilton, OC, Indianapolis Colts -- Virginia Tech fans are going apeshit over this guy, hoping he'll replace Beamer.  The reality is that Pep won't leave Indy for anything less than a marquee head coaching job (or an NFL job), and Tech ain't it... nor is UVA.

Jim Tressel, currently unemployed -- Sweatervest knows how to build a program and is a winner, but there is no way UVA touches a guy with so much off-field stink on him.  Plus, he's already 61... too old to be "starting over" at a place like Virginia.

Skip Holtz, HC, Louisiana Tech -- Just... no.

Bud Foster, DC, Virginia Tech -- Nope.  No way in hell.  The dude's a shithead who won't / doesn't recruit.  I include him here so that nobody bothers putting his name in the comments section when I ask for additional ideas for names to add to The List.  Show a little pride, Hoofans.

There you go.  29 names to consider, 12 names to rule out.

I'll help you out a little bit more.  Below is a list of current FBS head coaches who are either absolutely out of our league, or otherwise not realistic options for Virginia (listed in alphabetical order by last name).  Don't let anyone try to talk about our need to go after one of these dudes, because it just ain't happening:

  • Art Briles, Baylor
  • Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
  • Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
  • Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
  • Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
  • Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
  • Butch Jones, Tennessee
  • Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
  • Mike Leach, Washington State (but oh man, do I wish...)
  • Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  • Bronco Mendenhall, BYU
  • Urban Meyer, Ohio State
  • Les Miles, LSU
  • Jim Mora Jr., UCLA
  • Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
  • Gary Patterson, TCU
  • Chris Petersen, Washington
  • Bobby Petrino, Louisville
  • Gary Pinkel, Missouri
  • Mark Richt, Georgia (no, he is not going to get fired)
  • Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
  • Nick Saban, Alabama
  • David Shaw, Stanford
  • Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
  • Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
  • Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Newsflash: Not happening.

Futhermore, Mike Tomlin, Jim Harbaugh, nor any other current NFL head coach is going to come to Virginia.  Just stop.

I have no idea who the next football head coach at the University of Virginia is going to be, but I feel pretty damn good about my chances of having named the guy among the 29 coaches I outlined, earlier in the post.  My best guess at the top five candidates: Hudspeth, Narduzzi, Matt Wells, Pruitt... and Lembo.

Stay tuned, Hoofans.  Could be a wild ride.

Oh, and if you have any ideas on coaches that I missed or overlooked, please, PLEASE deposit your coaching candidates in the comments.  Thanks!  Thanks for reading!!

October 25, 2014

Fucking Awesome.

That, my friends, was a coaching breakdown of colossal proportions.  Just a total fucking shit show.  Just a total fucking embarrassment.

I want my Saturday afternoon back.

Bench Lambert.

Kick Phelps off the team.

Most importantly, fire Mike London.

Fuck this shit.

Almost basketball season...

October 24, 2014

Cut Check

As in, cut the check for the buyout if we lose this fucking game.

Go Hoos.  Beat the Tarholes.

Kendall's Prediction:

North Carolina 35, Virginia 17

We can't stop that Carolina offense, so don't bother thinking we might.  Can we keep up in a bit of a shootout?  I say no.

If I'm right, get ready for The List, Part III, coming next week.  Because London's days at UVA will be numbered.

October 21, 2014

Fire London Bandwagon?

Got a gchat from a good friend of mine today...

so are you officially back to being all in on the fire mike london bandwagon? or do you just have one leg in ready to get back on?

My answer is this:  I never really left the Fire London Bandwagon (caps, cause proper noun).  The 2013 loss to Ball State convinced me that we had to make a change; that we'd never really be worth a damn until there was a change.  2-10 hammered it home.  Virginia Football isn't good, but we should NEVER go 2-10.  Ever.


Beating Louisville, beating Pitt, starting 4-2 this season... had me walking down the aisle where the kool-aid is located (credit to my friend Joe for this analogy).  But I hadn't bought the kool-aid, not completely (despite writing THIS during one day of perfect optimistic clarity), and I certainly hadn't begun drinking the kool-aid.

In general, I'm a positive-minded, optimistic person when it comes to sports.  Hell, I'm still a huge Cincinnati Bengals fan, having survived the '90s as a fan of that sad sack team.  As a sports fan, I work to keep expectations in line with reality, but I also allow that hope balloon to float into the sky.  In my old age, I've gotten better at telling the difference between money walking and bullshit talking.  And I just think, ultimately, that Mike London is bullshit talking, not money walking.  A good coach would have weaponized the 4-2 start and the bye week, gone down to Durham, and fucking vaporized that modestly-talented Blue Devils team.

Anyway, to be fair to the school I love and the process and whatnot, I'm willing to keep the jury at recess and take a "wait and see" approach down the stretch.  4-3 today.  Gotta find two more wins to get to 6-6 and a bowl game.  Gotta find another two wins after that for me to feel like I've been wrong for the last 13 months, and that Mike London might actually be the man for this job.

I'm not holding my breath.

Look, I know it's not easy to win at UVA.  I know it takes time to build a winner at a school like this.  I know there are hurdles - high hurdles - that need to be jumped.

I'll give you a list of just-built power programs we could emulate, even WITH whatever restrictions Virginia Football has placed on her:





Ole Miss

Mississippi State

Oklahoma State


Suddenly, college football is parity-driven and completely wide open. Yet here we are, scratching like hens for a lowly sixth win.

It's Tuesday morning, and here's a quick list of teams with a better record than UVA that Hoofans should look at and say, "holy crap, what we're getting is just not good enough."

Air Force... 5-2
Arizona... 5-1
Colorado State... 6-1
ECU... 5-1
*Kentucky... 5-2
Marshall... 7-0
*Maryland... 5-2
Minnesota... 6-1
Mississippi State... 6-0
MTSU... 5-3
Ole Miss... 7-0
*Rutgers... 5-2
Temple... 4-2
UCF... 4-2
Utah... 5-1

*particularly painful

We see improvement on the field, sure. But "improvement on the field" is relative, and it's specifically relative to a gawd-awful, never-should-have-happened 2-10 season.

I'm tired of Virginia Football being stuck in this Sarlacc Pit. There are coaches out there in the world who can win at UVA, and win quickly with the talent we have on hand.

Time to think big. And Mike London, good dude that he is, is decidedly small-time.

Did I answer the question, anonymous gchat friend?

Let me try again.  I'm officially back to being all-in on the fire London bandwagon, but I reserve the right to change my mind.  

He has five more games this season (maybe more) to potentially earn the 2015 season at the helm, and earn another season's chance to save / solidify his job and cool down his hotseat.  6-6 and a crappy bowl game doesn't move the needle for me personally, but I'm willing to give the dude another season beyond this one to see if the 6-6 season was a stepping stone or a ceiling.

Gotta beat UNC this weekend.  A loss in that game, and even a mediocre 6-6 season becomes a longshot.

October 20, 2014

Look Toward Kansas...

Maybe this ends up being totally irrelevant.

Or maybe it doesn't.

You might have heard that a few weeks ago, Kansas fired Charlie Weis, creating the first Power-5 opening in the 2014 coaching carousel.

Here are a few articles to review, so you're aware of some of the names floating around out there.  Call it homework.  Because if the Hoos lose to UNC on Saturday, next week I will uncork my long-awaited post, "The List, Part III."  And it will be a real humdinger.

Names that stand out to me, the woeful Hoofan...

  • Mark Hudspeth
  • Scott Frost
  • Pete Lembo
  • Chad Morris
  • Pat Narduzzi
  • Phillip Montgomery
  • Jake Spavital

October 17, 2014

Nut Check

The Pitt game two weeks ago was the gut check... and the Hoos passed the test (barely).

This Duke game, well.  It's not a gut check so much as it is a nut check.  As in, what's the size of Virginia Football's meaty clackers?

Coming off the bye week at 4-2 (2-0 ACC) and with a real watershed victory in our sights, how will the Hoos play in Durham?

Yeah, I know, it's Duke.  It's hard to wrap one's mind around the fact that Duke Football is anything more than a guaranteed dubya on Virginia's schedule.  But, y'know, a funny thing happened during the last six years.  WE HAVE LOST FIVE OF OUR LAST SIX GAMES AGAINST THE DUKE BLUE DEVILS.  They pretty much own us.  Uggghhhhhh, they pretty much own us.

1995 thru 2007 -- Virginia: 12 wins, Duke: 1 win (24-17 in 1999, in overtime).

2008 thru 2013 -- Duke: 5 wins, Virginia: 1 win (31-21 in 2011).

2008 -- Duke 31, Virginia 3
2009 -- Duke 28, Virginia 17
2010 -- Duke 55, Virginia 48
2011 -- Virginia 31, Duke 21
2012 -- Duke 42, Virginia 17
2013 -- Duke 35, Virginia 22

The all-time series stands at 33-32, in favor of the Hoos.

Furthermore, with Maryland off to rot along with the rust belt in the Big Ten, I'd say Duke has climbed to the #3 spot on our annual rivalries list.  Virginia Tech #1, North Carolina #2, Duke #3.

So yeah, this game is a gut nut check for the Hoos.  Just exactly how big are our balls?  Are they big enough to swing around and knock that David Cutcliffe-sized monkey off our backs?  Or are they still so small that we get swamped and overrun buy the fucking Duke Blow Devils?

What a win would mean for the Hoos:
We climb to 5-2 (3-0 ACC), a virtual lock for a bowl game, and riding a wave of momentum down the stretch in what could quickly turn into a truly special season.  We'd be bonafide Coastal Division contenders.  Mike London's job, for all intents and purposes, would be safe.  The already-cooled hotseat would drop another 10 degrees or so.  We'd be ranked in the top 25.

What a loss would mean for the Hoos:
4-3 (2-1 ACC) looks and feels a lot different than 5-2, doesn't it?  The remaining schedule stacks up in a way that would make 6-6 and a bowl appearance feel like a real challenge.  It'd be a slog to the end of the season.  Mike London's job would once again be in great jeopardy, and recruiting would be back to being a real uphill struggle.  We'd no longer be receiving votes in the AP or USA Today Coaches' Poll.  "Same ol' Virginia," they'd say.  And they'd be right.  But maybe worst of all, once and for all, with no further shadow of a doubt, it would mean that Duke officially owns UVA in football.  I need IT help!  I just threw up on my keyboard.

So please, for the love of all things good and holy, let's go down to Durham and beat the Blow Devils tomorrow, m'kay?

Nut check time, Hoos.


After a week of betting, the line for the game is: Duke (-2.5), over/under 51.  So Vegas and the bettors are predicting a 27-24 Duke win.

I'm not predicting that.  My pick is...

Virginia 27, Duke 19

Our defense.  That's it, just... our defense.


October 5, 2014

Virginia 24, Pitt 19

A few things...

1) I was happy to remove the Countdown Clock (To the Firing of Mike London) and the Hire this Man (Pete Lembo) pic from the menu at the right.

2) Important to note: Lembo's Ball State team sits at 1-4 this morning, after losing to Army yesterday.  The Cardinals have also lost to Iowa, Toledo, and... Indiana State (ouch).  Their lone win is against Colgate.  This doesn't mean that I think Lembo is any less of a stellar coach, it just tells me that maybe I've been underestimating the power of on-field personnel, especially at the quarterback position.

3) I think those new helmets looked great under the lights last night.  Happy to eat crow on my "meh" from when they were unveiled.  It was a truly bad ass look for the Hoos.

4) Also bad ass: That Kevin Parks out-rushed James Conner.

5) More bad ass: Our pass rush, and the game that Jon Tenuta called.

6) I didn't like the scoreless second half -- damn near lost us the game.  But that second quarter was the best quarter of football I can remember a Virginia team ever playing. 50-yard touchdown run, beautiful 9-play drive, pick six from our stud DE/OLB hybrid, and great defense from the Orange Crush whenever the Panthers touched the ball.  It was fantastic.

7) Big win for London.  Huge.  4-2 (2-0 ACC), with the remaining schedule looking softer by the day.  I think we beat Duke, UNC, and at least one of GT/Miami/VT to get to 7+ wins and a bowl game.

8) Go Hoos!

October 3, 2014

Practice Begins

I know we have a huge night game against Pitt coming up tomorrow, but I just thought I'd leave this picture from VASports.com and Matt Riley from the first day of basketball practice to get you even more excited.

To quote one of my favorite sports casters Tony Kornheiser, "Welcome to the era of unbridled optimism."

More basketball coverage coming soon. Hoos open at JMU on November 14th.

October 2, 2014

New Helmet

A few quick things before I post the pics.

1) As a uniform geek, I celebrate newness of any sort.  So, hooray.

2) I think this helmet looks okay overall, but basically draws a "meh" from me.

3) It'll look pretty good over the all-white uni, which is what we're wearing Saturday night.

4) I would have preferred matte navy, white, or pure shiny chrome.

5) I also would have preferred a modestly-different new uniform to go along with the new helmet.

6) Make sure you wear white if you're going to the game Saturday night!

October 1, 2014

If you wanna talk/think/read about Scott Stadium attendance...

I have three links for your clickeration.


[Note before we begin: Don't miss this week's podcast!]

Yep, the Hoos now have a fingerprint.

A funny thing happened through the first five games of this season.  While Mike London hasn't saved his job [yet], his team is doing something I've been waiting five long years to see -- it is forging an identity.  And really, that's all I've ever wanted.  A team that wins more than it loses, a team that puts forth a solid effort every game, a clean program, and a program that appears to be methodically building an identity and then building upon established strengths in an effort to improve its win-loss fortunes.

Here are five fragile, presently-forming components of the identity of Virginia Football, as I see it...

A Tenuta defense is going to blitz.  It is going to blitz, and put pressure on the quarterback.  It's going to blitz, pressure the passer, and generate turnovers.  That's the whole premise of the defensive system -- forcing the issue, pushing the envelope.  The blitz is a big part of that.

Why It's Good: It generates turnovers and eats inexperienced and skittish quarterbacks alive.  (And you might note that inexperienced, skittish quarterbacks are the norm in college football.)  Look at the star turn currently being enjoyed by Eli Harold and Max Valles.  Thank Tenuta and his blitz-friendly defense!

Tenuta gon' blitz.

Why It Sucks: If you blitz a lot, you leave big portions of the field exposed.  Good quarterbacks (or average QBs enjoying really good pass protection) can attack this type of defense to great effect.  You'll hear the word "gash" used a lot when you see it happen.  A blitz-happy defense is a risk-taking defense, and the inherent danger of taking risks is leaving yourself exposed against teams less talented than you.  FOR EXAMPLE, look at what Ball State's Keith Wenning did to Tenuta's defense last season.  Look at what Richmond's Michael Strauss was doing to our defense before he started throwing INTs.  Anyway, there's an easy counter to this style of defense --- quick passing, and/or slamming the ball right at these pass rushers with a powerful running game.

In the Pipeline: Jon Tenuta is really good at identifying the kind of raw, under-recruited kids that he can mold into master blitz artists and edge rushers.  Max Valles is the perfect example, and he's only a sophomore.  Currently in the hopper, we also have blitzy talents hand-picked by Tenuta in [redshirting freshmen] Caanan Brown, Chris Peace, J.J. Jackson, Darrious Carter, and Cory Jones, and incoming recruits Rasool Clemons, Gladimir Paul, Christopher Sharp, and Kareem McDonald.  If you follow UVA football recruiting at all, you've no doubt noticed that any 6-4, 220-pound, 3-star athlete who plays basketball and also shows some pass rush instincts on the football field has been recruited hard by the Hoos.  Tenuta mines these raw talents, then refines them into pass rush / edgebending blitzmonsters.  It's a lot easier to beat out schools like UConn or Temple for a talent like Gladimir Paul than it is to combat Florida State and Alabama for more traditional pass rush defensive ends.  I like this system because it is easy to sustain thanks to the talent acquisition economy.

Long, lean, lanky Cory Jones is the prototype
of the new breed of Virginia pass rush specialists.

The Verdict: My main thing with the Tenuta blitzkrieg defense is that IT IS FUN TO WATCH.  Football is entertainment.  Sometimes it doesn't have to be any more complicated or cerebral than that.  Sacks are fun, turnovers and big plays are fun.  So what if the defense leaves us exposed and we end up laying a big, stinky turd on occasion?  The other times, when it's working, it's a blast.  And when you blitz all the time, I think it becomes easier to recruit the pass rushers you need to blitz more.  It's an easily sustainable model.  The system snowballs to success.  Everywhere he's been, Tenuta's next defense always was better than his previous one.  There's a reason for that.  So the verdict is... I love it!  When teams face Virginia, they know they're going to be attacked by a blistering blitz.  This is an identity Hoofans can really sink their teeth into.  BRING ON THE BLITZKRIEG!

Generating turnovers is the lifeblood of a blitz-happy defense.  It changes momentum in our favor, and it sets up a short field for an ultra-conservative offense.  Want to know why we're having some success this season?  We've forced 18 turnovers across five games (3.6/game), and are +5 in turnover differential on the season.  We're 5th nationally in forcing turnovers.

See also: Mo Canady's pick six against Kent State.

Why It's Good: This is not rocket science.  You stop the opposing offense, halt their momentum, and give yourself possession of the football.  We've scored 65 points off of turnovers this season, which is 13 points per game... basically two touchdowns.

Why It Sucks: It doesn't suck.  Nothing about generating turnovers is bad.  Well, maybe the risks you take in attempting to produce those takeaways... but even that's a stretch.

The Verdict: I absolutely love the idea of Virginia being known as a team that will come at you with a hyper-aggressive pass rush, and take the ball away.  {Back in the '90s, we had an absurdly long streak of consecutive games with an interception, and that was great.  I'd love to see us get back to something like that.  BYU didn't turn the ball over against us, but Kent State did (5 times).  So our current streak is ONE game forcing a turnover... and counting...}

Roll the Nickels
Not sure if you've noticed, but we've been running the nickel defense (4 down linemen, 2 linebackers, 2 safeties, 3 cornerbacks) a lot this season.  In fact, I'd dare say the nickel has become our de facto base defense.

Tra Nicholson's path to the NFL is to succeed as a nickelback, covering the slot.
He'll get a chance to showcase that specific skillset down the stretch this season.

Why It's Good: Better at stopping the pass, more coverage players on the field, more speed, more exciting and unpredictable blitz opportunities.

Why It Sucks: Easier to run against, specifically susceptible to power-based running games.

In the Pipeline: It's long been a beef of mine that Mike London has over-recruited defensive backs (while woefully under-recruiting the offensive line), but now we know what that leads/led to --- running a shitload of nickel!  Currently, we have 14 defensive backs on the roster, which is a lot.  At least four more will join the program as part of the 2015 recruiting class.  The cupboard is stocked.

The Verdict: The nickel carries inherent strengths and weaknesses, but with the proliferation of spread offenses in today's college game, it makes a lot of sense to build and maintain a formidable nickel defense.  As long as we continue to recruit guys who can run and cover, guys who can edge rush and blitz, and (maybe most importantly) safeties who can come up and hit, it'll work.  Someday soon, the nickel could be the Orange Crush's calling card.  It's a modern defense to combat modern offenses.

Power Wides
We haven't recruited tight ends, we haven't recruited speedy sideline-scorching wideouts... but we've recruited plenty of big bodies at the wide receiver position.  These guys aren't fast, but they are athletic leapers who are big enough and strong enough to help block for the running game while offering good possession-passing targets and working as red zone warriors.  I'd say Canaan Severin, Andre Levrone, and Kyle Dockins -- all 6-2 or 6-3 and 210 pounds -- are UVA's new prototype at the wide receiver position.

Why It's Good: I mentioned it all, above.  They're big and can challenge smaller (read: faster) defensive backs with sheer size and strength.  They can also do some positive things when blocking those DBs... and also the occasional linebacker... in the running game.  In a way, power wides can eliminate the need for a traditional in-line tight end while at the same time spreading the field with more pure passing game firepower.  (Think Jake McGee's hybrid role before he ditched out for Florida.  It's the wave of the future in football - Brandon Marshall / Alshon Jeffery, Vincent Jackson / Mike Evans - and we're kind of ahead of that curve here at Virginia.)

Kyle Dockins and Co. trade off speed for size...
and it seems to be working!

Why It Sucks: A lack of downfield speed.  So with power wides, we might be able to stretch defenses horizontally, but rarely vertically.  Also, big plays in the passing game will simply be fewer and further between.  Power wides sets up a ball control, possession-style passing game, and doesn't allow for any deviation.  If we ever need to complete a few long bombs in order to play catch up, we're sunk.

In the Pipeline: Severin (Jr.), Levrone (RS Fr.), Dockins (So.), and [6-3, 210] Keeon Johnson (So.) still have a few years at UVA. [6-1, 215] Doni Dowling is getting playing time as a true freshman.  [6-2, 210] Jamil Kamara is also playing as a frosh.  Our one incoming WR recruit, David Eldridge, is a 6-1 possession receiver with the frame to add more muscle mass.  I'd say power wides is here to stay.

The Verdict: Ball control offense is not *MY* personal preference, feeling that it's next to impossible for a school like Virginia (way down the elite recruit foodchain) to perform talent acquisition at the level needed to find and sustain success.  I think UVA would be better served by employing an offense with vertical spread fundamentals, which can more easily elevate 3-star recruits into 4-star caliber players.  But hey, power wides... at least it's an ethos.  And being able to block for running plays and post up smaller defenders in the red zone are very useful qualities to put on the field.  The fact that the NFL is migrating toward bigger / badder wideouts is reason to smile about this particular identity taking root at Virginia.

My fellow fantasy football nerds will recognize the acronym for "Running Back By Committee."  Consider this: 167 carries for 673 yards and 6 touchdowns thru five games; if you combined our four running backs (KP, Smoke, Khalek Shepherd, and Daniel Hamm) into one player, he'd be the #5 rusher in the country right now (despite our iffy o-line).  I think RBBC is how the Virginia backfield will be configured for the forseeable future, and thus, I think it's a safe bet that this identity is here to stay.

You could even see the RBBC taking shape in prior seasons...

Why It's Good: Keeps legs fresh, keeps defenses off-balance by throwing changeups and curveballs, and allows the flexibility to "ride the hot hand."  As long as the backs are mostly complementary in nature (i.e. a grinder, a true hammer of a power back, a speed merchant, a wiggly east-west runner, a sure-handed receiving back, etc., all working in concert) it can really lead to a lot of success.  Five cellos is a honky, sqwonky mess... but a cello, a violin, a clarinet, a tuba, and a flute, well, that's a fucking orchestra making beautiful music!

Why It Sucks: RBBC makes it harder for any single runner to really get in a groove, and it necessitates the use of more scholarships at the position.

In the Pipeline: KP and Shep graduate after this season, but power back LaChaston Smith should be ready for some carries in 2015.  Plus, current redshirt Jordan Ellis has bellcow potential, and incoming recruit Olamide Zaccheaus is an explosive scatback prospect.  Look for a Smoke / Hamm / Smith / Ellis backfield in 2015, and add O-Zac into the mix for 2016.  COMMITTEE-BOOM!

The Verdict: RBBC is a cool identity, because it allows a run-first team to really do a lot of different things with a stable of different, complementary workhorses.  I don't have much faith in a lot of what Steve Fairchild does, but history shows that he's really good at managing a committee backfield.

I can't wait to see the dynamic, explosive O-Zac added to our RBBC orchestra.

So yeah, I see some identity taking shape, and I like it.  Where Mike London's system and scheme was once a sloppy, shapeless gelatinous blob, with no sense of conviction or direction, it is now clear that the London-led Hoos will blitz, will live or die by generating takeaways, will use a lot of nickel, will employ power wideouts, and roll with a running back by committee.  It's an ethos!

Beat Pitt, get to 4-2... and the Countdown Clock comes down, as does the "Hire This Man" pic.


WahoozeCast - September, 30th

Hello again, Wahooze faithful. Mike and I are back this week to fill your craniums with sonic goodness. There is much to discuss this week, including weeks of football, our terrible NFL predictions, how my fantasy team is doing, and the MLB playoffs. Mainly, we talk about UVA football, though. I promise.


Enjoy. Leave comments. Go see the Hoos Saturday night.