Sometime in April, 2004...
Paul: "So K-Man, how good is UVA football going to be this season?"
Kendall: "I don't know man, pretty good. Right? Preseason top 25, we should be a contender in the ACC. New Year's type bowl game. Darkhorse top-5 team? Dare I dream national championship? Lundy and Pearman in the backfield. Biscuit at QB, and he can run, so it adds an extra dimension that Schaub never had. Of course, Big Money at tight end. Maybe a bit thin at receiver, but I like Mike McGrew playing his senior season. The o-line should be good. Big Elton Brown and D'Brickashaw Ferguson. D will always be good under Al Groh... Ahmad Brooks, man! Blackstock! And don't forget a senior-season Chris Canty, he'll be a beast. Paulie, I think we are going to be really good!"
Paul: "Sounds good! How many future NFL players are on this team? That's what I try to look at."
Kendall: "Well, let's see. Guys who'll go in the next two NFL drafts... Heath Miller, Darryl Blackstock, Chris Canty, Elton Brown. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, whenever he goes pro. I think Marques Hagans might have a chance as a wide receiver, not as a QB. Lundy and Pearman in the late rounds. That's probably about it."
Paul: "We'll go 9-3 or 8-4, tops. Gotta have NFL talent to win in college football, I think. If you're not filling the next two drafts with players, then you aren't going to win big. I'll say 8-4 for this season."
Kendall: "You're crazy. This is our best chance to get 10+ wins since 1995."
Paul: "I hope you're right, K."
Turns out, I was not right. Paul took me to school. We went 8-4 in 2004.
Ever since that hard lesson, I've tried to use the Paul System for setting my preseason expectations. So let's apply it to the upcoming 2015 squad. How much immediate pro potential is present on this season's team?
Not unless Smoke Mizzell pulls his shit together in a very real, comprehensive way. I think it's an extremely safe bet that we don't have a 2016/2017 NFL draft pick in our offensive backfield.
I could honestly see Canaan Severin making it into the NFL, given his size and work ethic. I'm not sure about T.J. Thorpe... seems like he would have made the jump if he were an NFL prospect, instead of coming to UVA to play his 5th year season. Andre Levrone, Keeon Johnson, and Jamil Kamara have a lot of football in front of them, but none of them are on a certain NFL track. At the end of the day, I'd say we have zero (or maybe one very marginal) NFL prospect at WR.
Nope. I guess we'll see about Evan Butts, but he's not a 2016 or 2017 draftee.
This one is interesting. I think we're about to see a gradual re-emergence of the blocking fullback in the NFL, and that coincides with two development and excellent spring practice of two UVA fullbacks -- converted defensive lineman Vincent Croce and true fullback Connor Wingo-Reeves. Croce is a senior and CWR is a junior. I think either/both might be on the trajectory to be NFL camp invites. It would be a miracle if either were draft picks, but you never know.
I don't think Jay Whitmire is an NFL draft prospect, especially when you consider his injury history. He's a 2016 camp invite (if he's healthy). Beyond Whitmire, I don't think there is an NFL player among the upperclassmen on our OL. Sadiq Olanrewaju and Eric Smith have a chance to play their way onto NFL radars... but they aren't anywhere close to being there yet. They still have two full seasons to emerge.
I'm bullish on David Dean as a middle rounder in the 2016 NFL Draft. I also think Andrew Brown is going to play his way into a position where he has the option to go pro early after his junior season, in the 2017 draft. Meanwhile, Donte Wilkins has a similar chance to make a name for himself during the next two seasons. We have some pro potential at the DT position.
Mike Moore... maybe?
Given the youth prevalent at these positions, none of these dudes are earmarked for the 2016/2017 NFL Drafts.
I like the idea of Tra Nicholson covering the slot at the next level, but NFL teams don't usually use draft picks on 5-foot-9 cornerbacks. So I'm not counting him as a certain pro. Maurice Canady seems like a camp body at the NFL level, ditto Tim Harris.
Paul said the 2004 team (with 8 future pros) would go 8-4. What would he say about the 2015 team, with three, maybe four or five, future pros? How good can David Dean, Andrew Brown, and Quin Blanding be? Can Severin, Nicholson, Whitmire, and Canady fight their way into the 2016 NFL draft discussion?
The point is, we are lacking top-end talent. Like, severely lacking.
Is there any reason to be anything but pessimistic about 2015 Virginia Football?