October 23, 2015

Is the Cupboard Bare for 2016 and Beyond?

It's sad. I wrote it in 2009, and now I'm writing it again in 2015.

We're in the very weird, uncomfortable spot of needing to pull for our team to lose games.  That just leaves a terrible taste in my mouth, and makes me feel depressed and a little bit dirty.  Of course, in the heat of the moment logic takes a backseat to emotion, and I pull for the Hoos on gameday... but the best thing for the program is continued losing and Mike London's swift exit stage left.

I've been doing a lot of dwelling on the negatives and wallowing in misery over these last couple of years.  That has to stop. I love football too much to live like this, and I love Virginia Football too much to completely turn my back on it.

Assuming we get a new coaching staff this offseason (maybe a big assumption), and assuming zero attrition from the roster and 2016 recruiting class (a huge, and a hugely incorrect assumption, but a necessary one for this exercise), what does the team look like for 2016?  How about beyond?

Is the cupboard bare at UVA?  Does a new coaching staff have hope for a quick turnaround given the personnel on hand?

Let's take a look...


Eligibility Exhausted: none

Returning Starter(s): Matt Johns (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Connor Brewer (Sr.), Corwin Cutler (So.), Nick Johns (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: Sonny Abramson (3☆)

Hope for the Future: If you like Matt Johns - as I like Matt Johns - then you have to like the 2016 forecast; Johns is back with a lot of experience under his belt.  The succession plan is also pretty strong: Johns (2016) to Cutler (2017-18) to [Nick] Johns / Abramson.  I assume the new coaching staff will want to hand-pick their own QB recruit(s)/transfers for the 2017 class and beyond, so guys like Cutler and Abramson face uncertain futures at UVA.  That shouldn't blunt any optimism over those two guys, however.

Reasons for Pessimism: Nobody knows anything about how good or bad the young guys are.  Three-star quarterbacks are impossible to project.  Some end up being Russell Wilson or Colt McCoy.  Others end up being... Mike Rocco.  Many, many others end up never seeing the field.  The fact of the matter is that we have no idea what we have waiting in the wings behind Matt Johns until we see it on the field.

Position Grade: Matt Johns is back, I like the talent of the young guys, their recruiting pedigree, etc.  Plus, there's a full stable and a cohesive succession plan.  For those reasons, this position is a solid B+.

He's good, y'all.  Trust.

Running Back

Eligibility Exhausted: Vincent Croce - fullback

Returning Starter(s): Taquan Mizzell (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Olamide Zaccheaus (So.) - I'm counting him as a tailback instead of as a wide receiver, Albert Reid (Sr.), Jordan Ellis (So.), Daniel Hamm (Jr.), Chris Sharp (RS Fr.), LaChaston Smith (Sr.), Connor Wingo-Reeves (Sr.) - fullback

Incoming Recruits: Tre Harbison (3☆), Laderrien Wilson (3☆)

Hope for the Future: Smoke (he's earned the nickname now, imho) and Oz give us a potentially potent and dynamic pair of satellite {only work in space} backs.  Between Reid, Hamm, and Ellis, I feel like we have some competent grinders.  The guys to really get excited about, however, are the young guys -- if Harbison makes it to UVA, he's got Thomas Jones level versatility both between the tackles and around the edge.  He's the top recruit in our 2016 class, but is getting a ton of attention from Wisconsin right now.  Laderrien Wilson, meanwhile, is a Florida kid who had offers from FSU and Miami... and chose Virginia.  Currently redshirting Chris Sharp is said to be a real thumper.  Those three plus Oz give reason to believe the longer-term future is bright at the running back position.

Reasons for Pessimism: Harbison/Wilson could attrite, Zaccheaus could end up at receiver, and the other guys could fail to develop beyond what they already are --- which is a collection of ordinary, one-dimensional running back talents.  A golf bag with five 7-irons and a pitching wedge (Mizzell).

Position Grade: The short-term future looks pretty good, and the long-term future - if Harbison and Wilson both stick through the coaching change - is even better.  To me, the real x-factor is Oz, who has limitless upside if he winds up playing in an up-tempo spread-style offense under the new staff.  In any case, the roster is pretty stacked at this position.  B+.  (I'm not rating it higher than that due to the lack of 4☆ or 5☆ talent other than Mizzell.)

Smoke piles up the all-purpose yards, even if he is a bit lacking as a grinder.

Wide Receiver

Eligibility Exhausted: Canaan Severin (why oh why wasn't he redshirted as a freshman???), T.J. Thorpe

Returning Starter(s): Keeon Johnson (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Andre Levrone (So.) - I am assuming a medical redshirt for his lost 2015 season, Doni Dowling (Jr.), David Eldridge (So.), Kyle Dockins (Sr.), Umar Muhammad-Wyatt (So.), Ryan Santoro (Sr.), Warren Craft (RS Fr.), Jamall Brown (Sr.)

Incoming Recruits: Hasise Dubois (3☆), Joseph Reed (3☆), Cole Blackman (3☆), Aidan Howard (3☆), Neru N'Shaka (3☆)

Hope for the Future: Well, if there's not quality, at least there quantity.  Numbers.  Lots and lots of numbers.  OL and DL be damned, we'll have 12+ wide receivers on scholarship next season!  Keeon Johnson and Andre Levrone have flashed playmaking skills in the past, while Eldridge, Dowling, and Muhammad-Wyatt have been buzzy practice / training camp players.  Of the incoming frosh, Dubois probably has the most upside, but he might end up at defensive back.  Reed, Blackman, and Howard are tall possession-types, while N'Shaka is a speed guy from Florida.  Despite the absence of a true, go-to, #1 type of receiver, I do think we have a pretty good roster composition if the new coach wanted to run some spread... or maybe even (my lips to God's ears) the Air Raid.

Reasons for Pessimism: Yeah, none of these dudes have really done a damn thing on a college football field.  Johnson's best line was a 20-282-1 true freshman season.  Levrone had some highlight plays in 2014, but 15-248-2 is no great shakes.  For all of their practice kudos, we haven't seen much of the Eldridge/Dowling/Muhammad-Wyatt trio in the box scores.

Position Grade: I do think we have a potential star in David Eldridge, but this group features an awful lot of scholarships invested into what feels like a roster glut of mediocre complementary receivers.  Sorry, but I have to grade this unit a C-, which really should be more of a D+ when you consider the robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul aspect of sinking 12+ scholies into the WR position and denying the OL and DL numbers we really need.  Mike London's fucked-up roster planning is going to be biting us on the nuts for seasons to come.  You'll see what I mean in a few minutes...

I do think Levrone has a chance to shine given more playing time
and/or a better offensive system.

Tight End

Eligibility Exhausted: Rob Burns, Charlie Hopkins

Returning Starter(s): Evan Butts (So.)

Other Returnees: Brendan Marshall (Jr.), Tanner Cowley (RS Fr.), Richard Burney (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: Andrew Trainer (3☆), Christian Baumgardner (3☆)

Hope for the Future: Well, thanks to a 2015-16 recruiting surge, this position is back to being fully-stocked.  How good any of these dudes are, however, is anyone's guess.  I do think Evan Butts has flashed some potential in this, his redshirt freshman season.  So assuming we get three more seasons of Butts, I think that buys the new staff enough time to figure out what the rest of the guys can do, and what they need to recruit... or if they want to spread things out and marginalize the tight end position altogether.

Reasons for Pessimism: Kinda like at receiver, most of these tight ends are simply unknowns.  None of them were especially highly-rated as recruits.  So maybe one or two bubble up into solid starters, but who knows?

Position Grade: I'm just going to give it a C, buoyed by the warm bodies at the position and enough demonstrated performance from Evan Butts for me to feel fairly comfortable.  I will say that I would like the next staff to shit or get off the pot at tight end.  Either get us back to being Tight End U, or stop screwing around with the tight end position completely.

Butts looks like a keeper at tight end.

Offensive Line

Eligibility Exhausted: Jay Whitmire, Ross Burbank, John Pond

Returning Starter(s): Eric Smith (Sr.), Jackson Matteo (Sr.), Jack English (Jr.), Michael Mooney (Sr.), Ryan Doull (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Jake Fieler (So.), Sadiq Olanrewaju (Jr.)  - I am assuming a medical redshirt for his lost 2015 season, Eric Tetlow (So.) - I am assuming a medical redshirt for his lost 2015 season, Jack McDonald (Jr.), Sean Karl (Sr.), Steven Moss (So.), Grant Polk (RS Fr.), Ryan Bischoff (RS Fr.), R.J. Proctor (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: Stephen Spanellis (3☆), Ben Knutson (3☆), Dillon Reinkensmeyer (2☆)

Hope for the Future: Lots of guys have played, so the 2016 line should feature a lot of experience.  Some of the young guys (English, Fieler, Polk, a few others) carry promising upside.

Reasons for Pessimism: Oh man, where to begin.  Okay, first, the 2016 line will only feature 15 guys who were recruited and offered a scholarship to play OL.  (Most college programs shoot for 17, I'm more comfortable at 20, given that it's a position rife with injuries and attrition.)  In 2017... here's where it gets scary... the 15 dips to 10.  And that's just the numbers, I haven't gotten started on talking about how bad the o-line has been these last two (three? four? five?) seasons.  If there is one thing Mike London can point to as the primary reason he has sucked at Virginia, it's not the boneheaded gameday decisions, the shitty quarterback play, or the awful special teams, it's his inability to effectively roster plan and recruit the offensive line while trying to run a power-based offense.

Position Grade: D.  The talent of a few individuals save this group from a failing grade.  But - holy jeezus - we are going to be very, very THIN on the o-line for the next few seasons.  It's terrifying.  The new staff is going to need to recruit OL fast and furious.

Sadiq Olanrewaju is a guy I like to come from out of nowhere
and emerge as a pretty good player on the line.

Defensive Tackle

Eligibility Exhausted: David Dean

Returning Starter(s): Andrew Brown (Jr.)

Other Returnees: Donte Wilkins (Sr.), Andre Miles-Redmond (Sr.), James Trucilla (RS Fr.), Eli Hanback (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: none (so far)

Hope for the Future: If the o-line situation is terrifying, then defensive tackle is like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Damien the Omen, and Pennywise the Clown hunting you down in the Overlook Hotel.  But this is the 'hope for the future' section, so I'll say: Wilkins and Miles-Redmond might be able to hold down the fort while the new coaching staff hopefully coaxes some production out of Andrew Brown and attracts some instant-impact talent to Charlottesville.

Reasons for Pessimism: Oh man, 2017 and beyond?  Yikes.  Brown could be back as a senior, but who knows how good he'll be.  James Trucilla looked like a decent recruit (3☆ out of Pennsylvania), but his other offers were from the FCS and the MAC.  Eli Hanback was a 2☆ offensive lineman whose other offers were from JMU, ODU, and W&M.  London recruited him and then moved him to DT.  And that's it.  That's all of the defensive tackles.  Horrifying, right?  What makes it even worse is that London's [surprisingly decent] lame duck / swan song 2016 recruiting class doesn't have any DT recruits, unless linebacker Kenneth Ruff bulks up and moves to tackle, which is an ambitious projection.  None of the ends have DT potential, either.  Granted, a new staff will have a chance to rally for some DT recruits at the end of the 2016 recruiting cycle, and 2017 recruits might be able to play as true freshmen in the fall of 2017, but this is still a terrible spot on the roster.

Position Grade: F

We're just absolutely fucked if Andrew Brown doesn't end up being
worth a damn as an upperclassman.

Defensive End / Pass Rush

Eligibility Exhausted: Mike Moore, Kwontie Moore, Trent Corney

Returning Starter(s): none

Other Returnees: Darrious Carter (So.), Chris Peace (So.), Cory Jones (So.), Steven Wright (RS Fr.), Gladimir Paul (RS Fr.), Naji Abdullah (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: none (so far)

Hope for the Future: Thankfully, Jon Tenuta has recruited lots of positionless pass rushers over the last few seasons.  2016 is when the rubber hits the road with these guys.  There are six candidates for playing time, and we'll need at least four of them to prove worthy.  The pure, raw, stupid pass rush talent is in place, now we just need a competent staff to "coach 'em up."

Reasons for Pessimism: Carter and Peace have played some in 2015, but neither has been good enough to force an absolutely awful Trent Corney to the bench.  That is not a good sign.  Weight, meanwhile, is light on the six young guys -- Carter 235, Peace 240, Jones 215 (!?!), Wright 235, Paul 210 (?!?), Abdullah 215 (!!!).  Steak sandwiches, y'all.  Steak sandwiches and french fries.  Lots and lots of french fries.  With bacon and cheese.  Cheddar cheese fries, dudes.  Wash it down with a milkshake.  [Oh, and Cory Jones and Gladimir Paul are currently listed as outside linebackers.  Knowing what I know, both are one-dimensional pass rushers, which is fine... but they should be considered ends for the purposes of this exercise.]

Position Grade: I'm leaning somewhere between a D+ and a C-.  I like the six young guys.  I like Jon Tenuta's track record of unearthing underrated pass rush gems out there in the high school ranks, and these six represent his best efforts to stock the cupboard here at UVA.  Odds are good that at least one of them ends up being legit.  Remember Max Valles.

Wright might just be a four-year starter at LDE for the Hoos.


Eligibility Exhausted: none

Returning Starter(s): Micah Kiser (Jr.), Zach Bradshaw (Sr.)

Other Returnees: C.J. Stalker (So.), Eric Gallon (So.), Mark Hall (Sr.), Jahvoni Simmons (RS Fr.), Dominic Sheppard (RS Fr.), Malcolm Cook (Jr.)

Incoming Recruits: Kenneth Ruff (3☆), Stephen Moye (3☆), Landan Word (3☆), Matt Terrell (2☆), Robert Snyder (2☆)

Hope for the Future: Thanks to the linebacker recruiting boom in the 2015 and 2016 classes, this position is well-stocked with warm bodies.  Micah Kiser certainly looks like the real deal, even if he's struggling to shed blocks this season.  I'm banking on Kiser as the star of the defense in future seasons.  I also think it's safe to assume that at least a couple of Stalker, Gallon, Simmons, Sheppard, Ruff, and Word will bubble up into solid impact-making starters.  The depth chart should be in good shape for the foreseeable future.

Reasons for Pessimism: We know the potential, but we haven't seen the production.  (That's college football in a nutshell, I guess.)

Position Grade: I liked them when we were recruiting them, and I have no reason to dislike them now -- Stalker, Gallon, Simmons, Sheppard, Ruff, and Word should yield a very solid position unit given proper development and experience.  Here's a tasty B for the report card.

Micah Kiser is the key to everything on defense.

Safety / Big Corner

Eligibility Exhausted: Maurice Canady, Mason Thomas

Returning Starter(s): Quin Blanding (Jr.), Kelvin Rainey (Sr.)

Other Returnees: Wilfred Wahee (Sr.), Juan Thornhill (So.)

Incoming Recruits: Jordan Mack (3☆), Nick Grant (3☆), Chris Moore (2☆), Bryce Hall (2☆)

Hope for the Future: Well, Quin Blanding is back for at least one more season (2016) before he is draft-eligible, so he'll join Micah Kiser as a headliner on D.  Kelvin Rainey provides a very solid running mate and Wil Wahee provides good depth and special teams acumen.  2017 and beyond should be served well by Juan Thornhill, who is already pushing for playing time as a true freshman.  The 2016 recruits each feature tantalizing upside, so this position group looks like it's in pretty good shape overall.

Reasons for Pessimism: None, really.  Losing Canady after this season will hurt, but the rest of these guys are ready to step up, I think.  I'll be interested to see how the quartet of Mack, Grant, Moore, and Hall shakes out.  One or two of those guys will probably be asked to play instead of redshirting in 2016.

Position Grade: I'd say this grades out about the same as the quarterback position.  B+.

Sophomore slump for Blanding, but he's still a star.

Coverage Cornerback

Eligibility Exhausted: Demetrious 'Tra' Nicholson

Returning Starter(s): none

Other Returnees: Tim Harris (Sr.), Divante Walker (Sr.), Kirk Garner (Jr.), Darious Latimore (So.), Kareem Gibson (RS Fr.), Myles Robinson (RS Fr.)

Incoming Recruits: Deedrick Daniels (3☆), Darrius Bratton (2☆)

Hope for the Future: Oh man.  Here's where three seasons of Jon Tenuta coordinating your defense comes to haunt you.  Tenuta likes his corners BIG, so therefore you end up running a bit short of small/quick guys who are generally better players in coverage.  I don't believe in Tim Harris, but he'll be our top cornerback in 2016.  At least he'll be buoyed by a fair amount of playing experience.  I'm guessing that Divante Walker will play a lot as a senior, too... but he's sight unseen at this point in his career.  Kirk Garner must not be very good, because he doesn't play at all, can't get on the field.  Latimore, Gibson, Robinson, who knows?  Hope for the future?  I suppose it's Tim Harris and the fair chance that one of the unknowns might bubble up.

Reasons for Pessimism: There are many.  This area has been under-recruited and underdeveloped by the outgoing staff.  It joins the OL, DT, and DE positions as areas upon which the new staff will need to focus.

Position Grade: D.  I don't like what's happening here, at all.  And that's seriously fucked-up, given the huge number of positionless WR/DB athlete-types Mike London has recruited during his time here.  No go-to WRs and no shutdown corners.  What the fuck?

I sincerely hope I'm wrong about Tim Harris...
but I just don't think he's a very good player.

Special Teams

Eligibility Exhausted: Ian Frye

Returning Starter(s): Nicholas Conte (Sr.) - punter, Dylan Sims (Sr.) - kickoffs, Tyler Shirley (Jr.) - longsnapper, Andrew Mackay (Jr.) - holder

Other Returnees: James Coleman (Sr.) - punter, a bunch of other walk-on specialists

Incoming Recruits: Holland Corbett (2☆) - kicker

Hope for the Future: Conte is averaging a robust 46.4 yards per punt as a first-time starter.  The snapping and holding operation seems stable, and the components return in 2016.  Holland Corbett is a standout kicking talent who should be able to step in as a true freshman (and January enrollee!) and receive the baton from Ian Frye.  Moving on from Larry Lewis will be addition by subtraction.

Reasons for Pessimism: Who returns kicks and punts?  Is that Olamide Zaccheaus?  If so, I am excited about those units.  What about coverage?  That's the big question mark... but given our roster composition (heavy with receivers, running backs, linebackers, and defensive backs), plenty of capable candidates should emerge.

Position Grade: B

So... Is the Cupboard Bare?

Uh, well, look.  The trenches, man.  The trenches.  Things are not in great shape in the trenches.

THAT BEING SAID, I think there is talent in place that could be effective (to the tune of 6 or 7 wins in 2016) if it's deployed in the right kind of system.  Specifically, if it's deployed in a guile-based, spread-to-pass system; the Air Raid or an Air Raid offshoot, if you will.

If we try to line up and pound the rock with power, ala Stanford, this roster tops out at about 3 or 4 wins.  Power football is not the path forward for Virginia, at least not in the near future, at least not given the current construction of the roster.

Another thing you really have to consider is the 2016 schedule.

  • ACC Home Games: Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Louisville
  • ACC Away Games: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
  • OOC: Richmond, Central Michigan, @ UConn, @ Oregon (ugh)


And just because I can, here's the 2017 schedule.

  • ACC Home Games: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Boston College
  • ACC Away Games: Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Louisville
  • OOC: William & Mary, UConn, Indiana, @ Boise State (arrgghh)

That's a pretty favorable 24-game slate, frankly.  Only two boneheaded OOC games, and no Florida State or Clemson in conference.

Our new coach is going to have some holes to fill, but it's not an impossible task.  The cupboard is far from fully stocked, but it also isn't completely bare.

Maybe something like this.

So, yeah, it's a rebuild job.  Let's not get it twisted.  But that's exciting in many ways -- being able to watch a new coaching staff build a roster.  That's what college football is all about!

[Whispered aside: This is also why I favor a young coach over an older one - like, for example, Matt Campbell over Mack Brown.  We need a young guy who will carry some real nitroglycerin on the recruiting trail.  We need someone with the youthful energy and single-minded obsessive stupidity to pull those 100-hour weeks it's going to take to get Virginia Football headed back in the right direction.  Long days and nights on the road, recruiting.  Mickey D's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Hotels, motels, airports, rental cars.  It's going to be a grind.]

The Shopping List:

-- A hand-picked QB for the new system
-- A go-to wide receiver
-- Field-stretching speedster WR(s)
-- A 4☆ or better tight end
-- Ten OL over the next two recruiting classes
-- DT, DT, DT, DT, a total top-to-bottom rebuild of that position
-- A defensive end (or two) with some size
-- A fast, sideline-to-sideline, playmaking weakside linebacker
-- At least one and preferably two instant-impact cover corners

What say you?  Do you agree or disagree with my synopsis?  Is the cupboard bare for 2016 and beyond?

Ah, October 2015.

ESPN College Gameday is at JMU, UVA football fans are jealous of what is happening at Duke, and Temple is ranked in the top-25.

Good lord.

October 19, 2015

Virginia 44, Syracuse 38 (3OT)

Some thoughts...

1) It shouldn't be such an epic fucking struggle to win a home game over Syracuse.

2) Hey, it's a win.  I'm happy for the guys.  The players deserve a little bit of a chance to smile.

3) If they were free from the yoke of horrendous coaching and playcalling and were blessed with anything better than egregious blocking from their offensive line, Matt Johns, Canaan Severin, T.J. Thorpe, Taquan Mizzell, and Olamide Zaccheaus might coalesce into a pretty decent little offense in the second half of the season.

4) Speaking of Oz, he needs more touches.  Like, immediately.

5) This win doesn't change a damn thing.  Instead of 1-11, we'll finish 2-10 now.  Maybe 3-9.  @ UNC, GT, @ Miami, @ Louisville, Duke, VT --- How many wins do you count on that list?  I count zero.

October 16, 2015

Rubbernecking Maryland, USC, South Carolina, and North Texas

If we lose to Syracuse, I will try my damnedest to put The List, Part IV out next week.

If we beat Syracuse, it'll wait until after we lose to North Carolina.

Either way, the time is always right to be reading about / learning about / researching potential new head coaches.

There is a lot to be gleaned from the narrative surrounding each of the now-started searches at Maryland, USC, South Carolina, and even North Texas.

But first:

Does the Edsall and Sarkisian firings and Spurrier retirement put Virginia behind the coaching 8-ball?

With the context set, time for some weekend reading...

Every single coach Maryland could hire to replace Randy Edsall

USC Trojans Coaching Search: Five Coaches The Trojans Should Pursue

Who will be the next head coach of South Carolina football? Where Ray Tanner should look for Steve Spurrier's replacement

Who Should Be The Next North Texas Head Coach?

October 14, 2015

October 9, 2015

Tony Bennett for Football (TBFF)

"We need to find the Tony Bennett for football."

You'll hear that phrase a lot from Virginia fans these days.

Before you join the hive mind on that buzz, consider:

1) Tony Bennett was a head coach at a Power Conference school when Virginia came calling.

2) He had a winning career record (63-33) as a head coach at said P5 school (Washington State).

3) He was 40 years old when he left Wazzu for UVA.  Young by college coaching standards.

4) UVA was able to offer him a raise from his current salary.

5) He viewed Virginia as a so-called "destination job;" as a place he could go and build a program that would be uniquely his; a place where he could coach for 30 years and then retire.

I'm here today to tell you that I'm not sure if a Tony Bennett for Football (TBFF) exists as a realistic potential hire for Virginia in December 2015.  I have my doubts.

Let's take a quick look at each of the P5 conferences, to see if we can find a truly viable TBFF...


We aren't getting Nick Saban, Les Miles, Kevin Sumlin, Dan Mullen, or Hugh Freeze.  Steve Spurrier is too old (70), and wouldn't be interested in this start-from-scratch rebuilding job.  Gary Pinkel is 63, and a Mizzou lifer.  Jim McElwain was just hired by Florida, and wouldn't move again so quickly after being hired.  Plus, it's Florida --- we aren't hiring anyone away from UF.  In fact, I seriously doubt we could draw ANY of these SEC coaches.  However, for purposes of this exercise, we should consider:

Bret Bielema, Arkansas - Maybe they're getting tired of him at Arkansas, because he has a losing record there: 12-18 in 2.5 seasons.  But when you add in his seven seasons at Wisconsin, he's 80-42 overall at the P5 level.  He's 45, so I'm willing to say that's fairly TBFF-ian.  Would he view Virginia as a destination?  I dunno, he could be an extreme longshot of an outside possibility for UVA.  He's worth a phone call from the search committee, I'd say.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn - He's 49, so on the "not really all that young" side of young, but he has a 23-9 record at Auburn, including an appearance in the 2013 national championship game.  Auburn fans seem to be pissy about the 8-5 (4-4 SEC) record in 2014 and the slow start (3-2, 0-2 SEC) to this season.  Can he be had?  UVA would need to pitch something in the Saban/Harbaugh realm of $7mil per season to make it happen, and I think that's probably an impossibility.  Not a TBFF.

Mark Richt, Georgia - He's 55, and if Georgia fires him, he'll just retire to work in his ministry.  Or so I've heard.  Not a TBFF.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky - Now this one might have some legs.  He's 48, being paid $3.3mil by Kentucky (we can match/beat that), but has an 11-18 record at UK.  However, and it's a big however, Wildcat boosters seem to be really happy with the way he's building that program.  So we'll see.  I won't completely rule him out of TBFF consideration.

Butch Jones, Tennessee - Tennessee is a totally unrealistic fanbase, and thus, is unhappy with Butch Jones' 14-16 (5-13 SEC) rebuilding job to date.  He's 47, and won at Central Michigan and Cincinnati before landing at UT... but could UVA compete with the $3.6mil the Vols are paying?  My gut says no, but I am willing to marinate a little bit on Butch Jones as a potential TBFF.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt - Said simply, he's sucking at Vanderbilt (5-12, 0-10 SEC in his first year and a half).  No thanks.

Big Ten

Harbaugh, Dantonio, Urban Meyer - nope.  Bill Cubit is interim at Illinois.  Mike Riley is in his first season at Nebraska.  Kyle Flood, Darrell Hazell, and Randy Edsall are each about to get shitcanned themselves.  That leaves us with...

Kevin Wilson, Indiana - He has the Hoosiers playing well in 2015 after a rough first four years (14-34, 6-26 B1G).  I just don't see enough historical winning to justify TBFF status!

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa - At 60 years old, this is his 17th season at Iowa.  His 120-85 (69-60 B1G) record looks pretty good, but he's gotten a bit stale.  At one point around 2004 he was pretty hot shit... but that was a decade ago.  Not a TBFF.

Jerry Kill, Minnesota - He's been a head coach since 1994, and he's only 54 years old.  That means he's been at it for a solid 20 years, posting a very solid 151-98 record.  The problem is that he's only 28-28 (13-20 B1G) at Minnesota.  A .500 coach at the P5 level is not TBFF material.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - If you believe UVA can compete against a school from the almighty (sarcasm) Big Ten, then you should look closely at Pat Fitzgerald.  His solid 65-53 record at an elite academic institution screams "UVA fit."  He's 40 years old, and checks all the boxes.  Northwestern pays him $2.5mil per season, and I think Virginia would need to dangle $4+mil to even begin its pursuit.  That being said, if you really want a TBFF, here's your guy.

James Franklin, Penn State - Yuck.  I just hate this guy; I feel like he's a total slimeball.  However, he's young (43) and wins (35-22 at the P5 level -- 24-15 at Vandy and 11-7 at State Penn), so there's that.  Two more things: Franklin already makes $4.4mil, so he's out of our price range, and... c'mon!  We aren't honestly going to try to talk about attracting a coach away from Penn State to come coach at UVA, are we?  This is a total non-starter.

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin - He was very much 'meh' at Pitt for three seasons (19-19, 10-13 Big East/ACC) and he's been 'meh' at Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1 B1G), plus he's already 49.  No thanks.


I'd venture that Art Briles and Bob Stoops are completely out of our range.  Mike Gundy is too.  Gary Patterson is too (but I'll still talk a little about him, because his name slips through Hoofans' lips enough to warrant a closer look).  Bill Snyder is way too old, and a K-State lifer.  David Beaty is in his first season at Kansas.  Meanwhile, Paul Rhoads and Charlie Strong are about to be fired.  So here are the Big XII coaches we should look at:

Gary Patterson, TCU - I won't waste my time talking about his age (55) or salary ($3.9mil).  Instead, I'll merely point to the fact that he MADE the Texas Christian program.  In 15 seasons there, he got them into a power conference, went to 13 bowl games, and transformed a middling mid-major program into a program that dwarfs Virginia's in just about every way.  He'd be a slam dunk hire, but he's well out of reach for UVA.  He might have been TBFF in 2005, but in 2015 the ship has sailed.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech - He's young (36), handsome (see below), and... kinda-sorta winning (15-15 in 2.5 seasons, 6-14 Big XII).  He's a Texas Tech alum who makes $3.1mil, so that's a tough pry for Virginia.  Given the current climate in Lubbock (fans are turning on him, it seems), he might be happy to find an escape...?  Who knows?  I'd say he's a darkhorse TBFF.

Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia - 44, makes $2.9mil, and runs a unique system.  There are Tony Bennett parallels to be drawn here.  He also is on a bit of a hot seat at West Virginia, despite a solid-enough 31-24 record with the Mountaineers.  His problem is that he hasn't been able to win in the Big XII, posting just an 11-17 record in conference.  He can be had, I think... but would Virginia want him?  More specifically, would Virginia want to pay him $3+mil per season?  Not really a TBFF, in my eyes.


We aren't pulling Mark Helfrich, David Shaw, Jim Mora Jr., or Chris Petersen.  Mike Leach - as much as I absolutely love the dude - isn't a cultural fit at UVA (which kinda makes me hate UVA a little bit).  Steve Sarkisian has too many off-field issues swirling around him right now; he's radioactive.  Gary Andersen is in his first season at Oregon State.  Mike MacIntyre has sucked at Colorado (9-20, 1-18 Pac-12).  Therefore, we consider:

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona - I honestly think he's out of our (and Poly's) wheelhouse.  52 years old, $3.2mil per season, 29-16 (15-14 Pac-12) at 'Zona.  He's a good coach, I just don't see it as a fit for UVA to pursue.  In my opinion, he is not a TBFF.

Todd Graham, Arizona State - I love his system, but I hate the guy.  His pedestrian 6-6 (4-3 Big East) mark at Pitt kind of tells the story of what he could accomplish at UVA.  At 50, he's a little bit older than you'd like, and his $3mil/season salary puts him nearly out of our price range.  31-14 (20-9 Pac-12) makes him a sexy name, but I think he might be destined for one of the elite jobs in college football before too long.  It doesn't feel right for UVA, any of it.

Sonny Dykes, California - He's 45 and makes on $2mil per season at Cal, but - to this point! - he hasn't been winning.  He's just 11-18 (5-15 Pac-12), but things are looking up.  You guys already know that I lust after the Air Raid at UVA, so I'm a little bit biased on this one.  Personally, I'd love to see Sonny Dykes as a real candidate at UVA.  I'll go ahead and say that if he's not considered a TBFF, then he should be.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah - Surprisingly old at 55, but his $2.6mil salaray can be topped and his 89-43 overall record at Utah is impeccable.  However, his 15-22 mark in four seasons of Pac-12 play leaves something to be desired, plus it is said that he is deeply rooted in his Mormon faith and the Salt Lake area.  He's been at odds with the Utah AD, but I doubt this is a nut for Virginia to crack.


I can't really imagine UVA poaching a coach from a fellow conference school.  It's just not our style.  But it could happen, so I guess we should take a look in the name of thoroughness.  Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher - well out of our depth.  Frank Beamer - no fucking thanks.  Bobby Petrino has too much off-field baggage for UVA.  David Cutcliffe is a very good coach, but he's too old (61) to start fresh again.  Paul Johnson (58) is also too old, plus he's a prick.  Scott Shafer is likely to get canned at Syracuse.  Pat Narduzzi won't leave Pitt after just one season, much to my chagrin.  Larry Fedora... I suspect... is simply a non-starter for us.  That leaves...

Steve Addazio, Boston College - It's not unprecedented for BC to lose a coach to another ACC school, and 'Daz is doing good things in Chestnut Hill.  It doesn't feel like he'd be interested in leaving anytime soon, and although UVA's athletic department is superior, it probably couldn't offer a big raise from Addazio's $2.6mil/season salary.  As much as I like the 'Daz, this just isn't TBFF territory.

Al Golden, Miami - Once the offseason dominoes begin to fall, Al Golden will no longer be employed at Miami.  The question is, would Virginia want to jump back into bed with a Groh affiliate?  Miami is paying $2.5mil, and that's a figure Virginia could easily match.  Golden's 31-23 (16-16 ACC) record sounds pretty good to long-suffering Hoofans, I'd imagine.  Can he win without the 4- and 5-star athletes he was reeling in at Miami?  I dunno.  His Hurricane teams don't look particularly well-coached, either.  Golden is 46... and I'm willing to put him in the TBFF ballpark, but probably up near the concession stand, buying a hot dog.

Dave Doeren, NC State - He's just starting to get some traction in Raleigh, and I don't think he'd want to make the lateral move to Virginia.  HOWEVER, we can top that $2.2mil salary.  He's got a losing ACC record (3-14) at State, and that doesn't move the needle in any direction other than down for me.  Pass.

Dave Clawson, Wake Forest - If we had done a coaching search following the 2013 season like we should have, I'm convinced that Clawson would have been our guy.  In a year and a half at Wake, he's 5-12 overall, 1-9 in the ACC.  So, not good.  But the arrow is pointing up.  He's still pretty young (48) and a proven program builder with ties to the state of Virginia.  If we want to try to poach an ACC coach, I think he'd be our target.

In Summary...

Definitely Tony Bennett for Football material:
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Sonny Dykes, California
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Big, fat maybes:
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Al Golden, Miami

Coaching Salaries

My research has shifted into hyperdrive. The List, Part IV is coming soon, but in the meantime... Time for you to get caught up!

HERE is the ever-valuable USA Today report on coaching salaries.

KNOW that UVA's salary wheelhouse is going to be somewhere in the $1.5 to $2.5mil range, maybe going as high as $3.5mil for the right slam dunk / home run type of hire.

Here are some thoughts generated by a quick perusal of the USA Today report...

-- Harbaugh and Saban above $7mil. Sheesh, this is going to get crazy really quickly. Makes the ~$3mil UVA can afford seem like really small potatoes.

-- I wonder if Tejas is regretting the Charlie Strong contract right now?

-- Ditto State Penn and Franklin's $4.4mil.

-- One of our dream scenarios is Georgia firing Mark Richt and him being a candidate at UVA. But can we afford to match Georgia's $4.1mil?

-- Many VT fans believe they can lure Dan Mullen from Mississippi State. $4mil is out of their price range, I suspect. RichRod's $3.2mil at Arizona might be, as well.

-- Jim Mora Jr. ($3.3mil) is a bargain for UCLA.

-- Ugh, $3.2mil for Mike London. Craig Littlepage should be fired over that contract alone.

-- Cutcliffe for $2mil. What a steal for Duke, wow.

-- Sonny Dykes' $2mil at Cal is looking pretty good today.  (Read: Are the Golden Bears About to Break Through?)

-- Ken Niumatalolo at Navy: $1.6mil. More than I thought they'd be paying, and probably enough to prevent him being poached at this point.

-- Tom Herman's $1.5 at Houston isn't going to be enough to retain him. A P5 school is going to offer him twice that salary, maybe as early as this offseason.

-- Ditto Justin Fuente and his $1.4mil at Memphis.

-- In my humble opinion, Notre Dame's got a big bargain in Brian Kelly for $1.2mil.

-- Bryan Harsin ($1.1mil) is due a raise at Boise State.

-- Mark Hudspeth's $1.1mil at Louisiana-Lafayette makes him infinitely poachable.

-- Air Force's Troy Calhoun: $919K.

-- $802K at Western Michigan makes P.J. Fleck the MAC's highest-paid coach, but his 1-3 record is pretty glaring right now.

-- Utah State's Matt Wells (one of my tippy-top favorite candidates for UVA): $753K.

-- Temple's Matt Rhule: $649K.

-- WKU's Jeff Brohm: $614K.

-- ODU's Bobby Wilder: $565K.

-- Tony Sanchez was a high school coach at this time last year. Now he's making $560K at UNLV. Nuts.

-- Ball State's Pete Lembo: $518K, #103 among 128 FBS coaches.

-- Toledo's Matt Campbell: $496K

October 7, 2015

By the way...

The List, Part IV

is coming soon...

Names Being Brought Up by Hokies

I just spent some time lurking Virginia Tech message boards, and here are some names that came up as potential replacements for Frank Beamer.  I'll just list them in alphabetical order by last name, and then let them sit there and marinate for a while.

Blake Anderson
Beau Baldwin
Jeff Brohm
Matt Campbell
Rod Carey
Bill Cowher
Tony Dungy
P.J. Fleck
Bud Foster
Willie Fritz
Scott Frost
Justin Fuente
Torrian Gray
Jon Gruden
Pep Hamilton
Bryan Harsin
Tom Herman
Doc Holliday
Mark Hudspeth
Chip Kelly
Rhett Lashlee
Lance Leipold
Pete Lembo
Sean McVay
Urban Meyer
Philip Montgomery
Chad Morris
Dan Mullen
Matt Rhule
Mark Richt
Rich Rodriguez
Tony Sanchez
Mike Sanford Jr.
Scott Satterfield
Kirby Smart
Charlie Strong
Mike Tomlin
Matt Wells
Bobby Wilder
Kyle Whittingham