February 19, 2016

Race for the ACC Regular Season Championship

It's too messy for me to try to tackle in this space, so I'm tossing it over to my man David Teel...


Cliffs Notes: Virginia is at Miami, home vs. North Carolina, at Clemson, home vs. Louisville.  Win out, and I think - THINK! - we'll win the regular season at 14-4.

@ Miami is a toughie, but we've had a week to prepare for that game.

Home against UNC is a lock.  That's a win for the Hoos on their home floor (unless the crooked ACC refs intervene in a major way).  As usual, Tony coaches circles around Roy.

Clemson is spiraling a bit after a heady start to the ACC season.  That's not an easy game by any stretch, but it's one we should take.

Home against Louisville on senior night for Brog, Gill, Tobey, and Nolte.  Please.  We win by 20.

Best case: 14-4, tiebreakers give us the regular season championship and put us in the hunt for a 1-seed in the Big Dance.

Wost case: 12-6, miss out on a top-four finish and a double bye in the ACCT, 3- or even a 4-seed in the NCAAT.

Most likely: We slip up on the road against either Miami or Clemson and finish 13-5, top-four finish and a double bye, but we miss out on our third consecutive ACC regular season championship.  2-seed (or maybe a 3) in the NCAA Tournament.

GO HOOS!



February 18, 2016

30-Second Baseball Preview!

We're the defending national champs, y'all.


You know you like it rough and fast, and that's the way I like to give it.  So on the eve of the season opener against Kent State in Myrtle Beach, let's take a quick 30-second look at the 2016 edition of Virginia Baseball, defending national champions style...

Catcher
Robbie Coman (Sr.) / Matt Thaiss (Jr.)
Thaiss is the elite-level offensive threat (and likely one of our best players) and Coman is the steady, experienced grinder who should excel at all of the defensive stuff and managing the staff.  I'm expecting these two to split time behind the plate to stay fresh, with first base duties and the DH allowing for both bats to be in the lineup on an everyday basis.  One key to the 2016 season will be Thaiss' ability to build on his .323 / 10 HR / 64 RBI season from 2015.  He's the team's best slugger, and we'll need him to produce big-time numbers batting in the heart of the order.  If he repeats his 2015 performance, great.  If he improves on it, even better (and it bodes very well for a potential return trip to Omaha).  If he regresses, it could spell trouble for the Hoos.  No doubt, Matt Thaiss is a key player for the 2016 Hoos.



First Base
Pavin Smith (So.) / Matt Thaiss (Jr.) / Robbie Coman (Sr.)
Pavin Smith, the Ginger Avenger, is back to build off of a phenomenal freshman season.  He had to battle through Tommy John surgery and the subsequent recovery this offseason, so we might see a bit of rust in the early season.  Still, he should be featured in the meat of the order, and raking at .300+ with plenty of extra base power.  Smith is probably our best slugger behind Thaiss.  Look for Thaiss and Coman to see occasional spot duty at 1st, but this position belongs to Smith, one of the bright young stars on our team... and in college baseball.



Second Base
Ernie Clement (So.)
Clement came from out of nowhere as a true freshman last season to provide great defense and clutch hitting to the title-winning effort.  Now he's back as a seasoned sophomore, ready to offer steady defense, slick fielding, and dynamic double-play mojo.  His .245 average from last season could stand to jump about 30-40 points, and if it does, look out.  Even if it doesn't, I like the threat he provides toward the bottom of the batting order.  Meanwhile, look for sophomore Jack Gerstenmaier to force his way onto the field a bit in 2016, which will likely eat into Clement's playing time.  Gerstenmaier was injured for much of 2015, but is healthy and swings a better bat than does Clement.

Shortstop
Daniel Pinero (Jr.)
A rare draft-eligible sophomore, Pinero ditched his 36th round draft slot in order to return to Virginia for his junior campaign.  That's absolutely huge for the Hoos, because this rangy, 6-5 condor gives us excellent defense and great production from the two-hole.  If you're looking for major reasons for optimism in 2016, start with Pinero at SS.



Third Base
Ryan Karstetter (Fr.)
Kenny Towns is leaving behind some enormous shoes (cleats?) that will be impossible to fill, but it looks like rookie Ryan Karstetter will be the guy to try it.  Karstetter is said to play good defense and should be able to give us some additional pop at the plate.  He is already garnering some serious preseason love, coming in at #22 on D1Baseball's list of Top Freshmen.  I'm guessing we'll see Karstetter batting 6th or 7th in the order, which should be a nice boon to the Wahoos' offense.  (It's also worth mentioning freshman Andy Weber, who might be a factor at 3rd if Karstetter struggles... but pedigree favors Karstetter and he's the one with the expectations thrust upon him.)

Centerfield
Adam Haseley (So.)
I fully expected Haseley to enter 2016 as our Saturday starter, leaving a hole in CF... but Brian O'Connor announced that it's Jones/Lynch/Doyle in the weekend rotation, which allows Haseley to focus on playing centerfield.  He's a real talent who is great in the field.  He swings a better bat than last season's .250 average lets on, and I'm expecting that part of his game to improve by leaps and bounds in 2016.  Look for Haseley to lead off and produce lots of runs for the Hoos in 2016.

Left Field / Right Field
Doak Dozier (Fr.), Jake McCarthy (Fr.), Kevin Doherty (Sr.), Pavin Smith (So.), Cameron Simmons (Fr.)
I lump these two positions together, because it'll probably be a true platoon in the corner outfield spots.  Doak Dozier is the blue-chip rookie (#26 on D1Baseball's list of Top Freshmen), with Jake McCarthy (Joe's little brother) not far behind on the hype train (#93).  I'm thinking that both guys will provide good hitting and competent defense while they dip their wicks into college baseball with regular playing time.  Meanwhile, Kevin Doherty was one of the heroes of last season's run to and through the CWS.  K-Do is back for his senior season in 2016, and should provide stability in the outfield and on the mound in a relief pitching role.  He's kind of the ultimate utility role player.  Pavin Smith might moonlight in the outfield a bit to open up 1st for Thaiss/Coman. Finally, true freshman Cameron Simmons was one of the stars of fall ball, and I want to be sure to list him here as a darkhorse candidate for playing time this spring.  (I also want to mention sophomore Charlie Cody, who swings a savvy bat and could quietly challenge the blue-chippers for playing time.)

Projected Batting Order:
1 - Haseley
2 - Pinero
3 - Thaiss
4 - Smith
5 - Dozier
6 - Karstetter
7 - Coman
8 - McCarthy
9 - Clement


Weekend Rotation
Friday - Connor Jones (Jr.)
Saturday - Daniel Lynch (Fr.)
Sunday - Tommy Doyle (So.)

READ: O'Connor announces Virginia's weekend pitching rotation

Okay, here's what I'm expecting out of this trio...  Jones is our ace, and compares favorably to Danny Hultzen and Nathan Kirby in their best seasons as Hoos.  He also ends up being a 1st round pick in the 2016 MLB draft.  Lynch gives us what Brandon Waddell gave us as a true freshman -- calm confidence, veteran savvy beyond his years, and an insatiable appetite for eating innings.  (Waddell went 6-3 with a 3.96 ERA as a true freshman in 2013.)  Doyle is the physically imposing (6-6, 215) fireballer who can provide a shock to the system for opponents expecting a typical lazy Sunday.

Break it down, and this rotation is still an exclamation point and two question marks, but I try to never doubt the decision making of O'Connor and Kuhn when it comes to the construction of their pitching staff.



Closer
Alec Bettinger (Jr.), Holden Grounds (Jr.), David Rosenberger (Sr.), Tyler Shambora (Jr.)
It's closer-by-committee to open the 2016 season, but look for Oak to settle on someone to own the job sooner rather than later.  My guess is Bettinger, but that's just a guess.  JUCO transfer Holden Grounds provides an interesting x-factor in this race, while Rosie can boast 18 appearances for the Hoos in 2015.  Shambora is the other JUCO kid added to the roster this offseason, but he seems to be behind fellow transfer Grounds in the bullpen scrum.

Bullpen
Bennett Sousa (So.), Derek Casey (So.), Jack Roberts (So.), Kevin Doherty (Sr.), Connor Eason (Fr.)
We have about a million freshman arms that could factor into this race, but I think Sousa, Roberts, and K-Do are in front of the youngsters in the pecking order.  Meanwhile, Casey will be working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and might emerge as the mid-week starter before too long.  Jack Roberts hasn't quite figured out this whole 'college pitching' thing quite yet, but leave the window open for him!  Throwing darts at the freshmen, I think Eason has the best chance to see time out of the 'pen in 2016, despite his recently broken toe.



Links!

In bid for title repeat, U.Va. needs Chesapeake trio's help

Plenty of questions, but considerable talent for U.Va. baseball

Coming off championship, O'Connor, U.Va. baseball still driven

UVa baseball turning the page on championship season

Defending champ Virginia not taking trips to CWS for granted



February 16, 2016

The fix was in...

Thank God we rebounded with a resounding 20-point dubya 'gainst the Pack.  I'm glad the team was able to move past the Duke loss.  I, however, am not going to have that luxury.

I just want all Hoofans to be completely aware:
THE FIX WAS IN AGAINST DUKE.


ESPN and the ACC had a lot to gain by:

a) Hyping Virginia non-stop prior to Saturday's game against Duke.

b) Ensuring that Duke beat Virginia.  See also: Grayson Allen's four steps before the shot, and landing before the ball leaves his hand... no call on any of it.

c) Seeing Duke get back into the top-25 on the back of a big win over a top-10 Virginia team.

d) Setting up a big, marquee Duke/Carolina game this week against two ranked and surging teams.


We got robbed, Virginia fans.  You have every right to be livid.  That loss to Duke probably took us out of the running for the ACC regular season championship.  It might cost us a double bye in the ACC Tournament.

Wanna get really fucking angry?  Watch this.






I'm probably still too mad to post without saying something like 'I hope so-and-so (K, Allen, Kersey, Vitale) dies in a fire' or 'all Duke basketball fans should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell,' so I will refrain.

However, I am summoning all of my voodoo powers to cast a pox upon:
-- K's gimpy back, evil rat-looking face, and his lasting legacy
-- Grayson Allen's smug, entitled, infinitely punchable face
-- Kersey's brain, eyes, ears, and whistle-blowing lips
-- Vitale's throat and anything else he could conceivably use to make noise of any kind

I seriously fucking hate all four of those dudes.

Fuck ESPN.

Fuck the ACC.

Most importantly, fuck Duke.



February 11, 2016

Talent on the Roster?



The question was posed on the Wahoos 247 message board, and with THIS POST from October a bit outdated, here was my reply...



QB - Average. Will immediately skyrocket to 'Good to Quite Good' with Taysom Hill on board.

RB - Above Average. Would be 'Good' if we had a true between-the-tackles grinder. If Jordan Ellis is that guy or if Albert Reid is that guy... remains to be seen. But I'm pretty bullish on the specific need for a power back.

WR - Below Average. I like the talent, but the experience is lacking. Also lacking is sideline-scorching deep speed. That said, Doni Dowling, Andre Levrone, and David Eldridge give me some hope. Keeon Johnson does too. We'll see. I bet some true freshmen play here. Let's hope Joe Reed's speed is a real thing.

TE - Average. Butts could be pretty good, but what else do we have? At least there are some bonafide candidates for playing time. Also, jury's out on how Anae will even use the tight ends in his offense.

OL - Below Average. I like Matteo, Jack English, and Eric Smith. I like the talent of some of the young guys (Polk, Fieler). I like Sadiq Olanrewaju. But there's an awful lot of spackle and duct tape required to cobble together a cohesive, effective line. This is one of two trouble spots where we reap the whirlwind of Mike London's tenure as UVA's head coach.

DE - Bad. Like... I don't even know where to begin. If Andrew Brown slides over in the 3-man front, that's a start, I guess. Chris Peace, Darrious Carter, and Steven Wright are three very important young players. Can any of them bulk up from the 235/240 range to 260+? That's key.

DT - Below Average. I like Donte Wilkins a lot as a potential nose tackle, and I like Andre Miles-Redmond as a rotational player. Neither are difference-makers, and the depth behind them is... lacking, and that's being nice. The d-line as a whole scares the crap out of me in 2016. (My lips to God's ears, James Trucilla is a friggin beast that just went under-recruited.) Trysten Hill is a candidate to play as a true frosh, I'm guessing.

OLB - Average. This is a spot where Bronco and Co. typically spin a lot of hay into gold, and we have a lot of hay to lay at their feet. Gallon, Paul, Cory Jones, Naji Abdullah, the reclamation projects of Mark Hall and Zach Bradshaw, the positionless enigma of Malcolm Cook (who might actually have a position in Bronco's D), a talented frosh in Juwan/Stephen Moye... there's a lot to work with here.

ILB - Quite Good. Probably the strength of the team (other than Hill at QB). I'm eager to see what Dominic Sheppard and Jahvoni Simmons can do.

S - Good. Blanding, Rainey, Wahee, Thornhill, Mack Truck. Stocked and stacked, locked and loaded.

CB - Below Average. Love, love, LOVE Darious Latimore. Feel pretty much the opposite about Tim Harris. Why haven't we seen anything out of Garner? What do we have in Walker, if anything? Who are Myles Robinson and Kareem Gibson? Might be a 50/50 bet that Deedrick Daniels forces his way onto the two-deep.

Specialists - Above Average. There are kicking candidates in Dylan Sims and Andrew King, but I'm expecting this to be Holland Corbett's job from jump street. At punter, Nick Conte is a stud, and the pipeline is really healthy with the Coleman bros, Halpern, and now Nash Griffin. Tyler Shirley is an experienced long-snapper. Returning kicks and punts? Oz, baby. I actually think we can steal some wins (wins, plural) with this phase of the game in 2016.

Add it up, and it's an average roster. Lean in the trenches, strong elsewhere, with intriguing potential dotting the roster. As always, player development and Xs and Os will provide the edge (for better or worse) in a lot of toss-up games (UConn, Duke, Pitt, L'Ville, Wake, Miami, GT, VT). I think it's a safe bet we take half of those, and with wins over Richmond and Central Michigan, it's a bowl game.

GO HOOS!




February 3, 2016

NSD '16: #HoosRising

This morning, #HoosRising was trending fourth on Twitter.

National Signing Day (NSD) is an exciting day.  Like David said, it's like Christmas morning for the college football fan.

But before we start digging into the recruits...  You'll never hear me say anything nice about Mike London after this moment, but he deserves some kudos for building a bulk of this class as a lame duck head coach in 2015.  He did a really good job putting together a way-better-than-it-ever-shoulda-been recruiting class on his way out the door.  If Bronco does what Bronco does, and spins hay into gold, I think we'll all be looking back at this 2016 class pretty fondly in a few years.  You have to give London and the old staff some credit - this recruiting class ain't bad!  Thanks guys!

Anyway, on to the recruits.  (And a special word of thanks to David for pitching in at the last second as johnny on the spot.  Thanks bro!)

QUARTERBACKS

Sonny Abramson -- 6-2, 208, Chester Rivals NJ

3☆ Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8494 rating)
A typical pro style cube with a strong arm and good instincts.  Might have been undercut by the late commitment of De'Vante Cross.  Abramson did yeoman's work in "recruiting the recruits" after the coaching change, displaying his leadership ability and team-first mentality.

De'Vante Cross -- 6-2, 180, Allentown PA
2☆ Rivals 3☆ 247 (.8048 rating)
Good vision and an elusive runner.  Very underrated recruit.  More of a runner than a thrower at this point; will need to be developed.  Perfect fit for the read option / zone read spread-to-run offense Mendenhall and Anae would like to install at Virginia.



RUNNING BACKS

Tre Harbison -- 5-10, 218, Shelby NC

3 Rivals 3☆ 247 (.8650 rating)
Good vision and instincts.  Bellcow type, do-everything back.  Many feel as if Harbison is the star of Virginia's 2016 recruiting class.

Wayne Taulapapa -- 5-11, 200, Honolulu HI
2 Rivals 3☆ 247 (.8115 rating)
Good speed and an explosive first step.  Runs hard.  Runs tough.  Considered a BYU-style 'grinder' ala Harvey Unga.  Underrated due to early commitment to BYU and a general lack of exposure.  Projects as an every-down type of workhorse at the college level.



WIDE RECEIVERS

Cole Blackman -- 6-1, 193, Glen Allen VA

3 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8529 rating)
Good hands and takes good angles.  Many rave about his natural receiving ability and catch radius.  Might be a darkhorse type of recruit, cut in the Danny Coale mold.  I expect to see him in the slot / inside receivers group come fall.

Hasise Dubois -- 6-3, 195, Irvington NJ
3 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8550 rating)
He has very good size and is elusive in the open field.  Explosive.  Not necessarily a speed guy, but has enough of a 'next gear' that he projects to outside receiver in UVA's new scheme.  I feel like Dubois is similar to Canaan Severin in terms of upside.



Aidan Howard -- 6-4, 180, Monroeville PA
3 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8357 rating)
He has great size and has a big catching radius.  Tall, rangy.  Will definitely need to bulk up.  Projects as an inside receiver / slot receiver in Virginia's new offensive system.

Joe Reed -- 6-1, 198, Charlotte Court House VA
3 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8575 rating)
Another enticing size/speed combo WR for the 2016 recruiting class.  Reed was UVA's first commit in the 2016 cycle, and might be one of the best players.  More of a multipurpose weapon than the other three receivers in this class; expect Reed to initially slot with the outside receivers at Virginia.

TIGHT END

Christian Baumgardner -- 6-4, 230, Longport NJ

2☆  Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8073 rating)
He has good hands but is also very physical blocker.  Not sure to what extent the tight end position is marginalized in Anae's scheme, but Baumgardner's multi-faceted skillset should hold value however he is eventually deployed.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Ben Knutson -- 6-8, 280, Granger IN

3 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8401 rating)
Good size and a physical blocker.  Still needs to add about 20-30 pounds to his frame, but has the athleticism to play tackle.

Dillon Reinkensmeyer -- 6-5, 255, Highlands Ranch CO
2 Rivals 3☆ 247 (.8195 rating)
Naturally athletic and is a physical blocker.  The new staff loves this guy as a diamond in the rough who happens to be a perfect fit in a spread-to-run scheme.

Kendall's thoughts on the o-line,, in general...
I like these two guys, but this group is about three recruits shy of what we really needed to land in this class.  We're dangerously thin on the OL.  Expect o-line recruiting to be a major focus for Bronco in the 2017 cycle, and look for more than a few recruited walk-ons and maybe some senior transfers along the line.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Trysten Hill -- 6-2, 308, Live Oak FL
2☆ Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.7998 rating)
NSD drama!  As of this writing, he still hadn't decided... but it was down to between Virginia and [hometown] UCF.  I'm listing him here as wishful thinking, because the scary alternative is a big fat goose egg on interior d-line talent --- a major, MAJOR position of need in the 2016 class.  Meanwhile, Hill is a big kid with a bright future at nose tackle in a collegiate 3-man front, like Bronco will be using at UVA.  Let's hope we land him!  (4:15 PM update: We got him!  GO HOOS!)

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Christian Brooks -- 6-5, 240, Centreville VA

2 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8114 rating)
Good size and takes good angles.  He's a pure, prototypical defensive end.  He'll need to add size and strength to play end in the 3-man front, but he's got really good natural pass rush talent.

Osiris Crutchfield -- 6-3, 227, Crozet VA
2 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.7989 rating)
Good instincts and good pass rush ability.  Local recruit Osiris Crutchfield is raw, but the raw tools are off the charts.  If he develops, he could be a good one... but he's still at least two years away.  He might also end up at outside linebacker.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Juwan Moye -- 6-3, 235, Lilburn GA

3 Rivals 3☆ 247 (.8392 rating)
Good pass rusher.  To me, he's a Max Valles type, pass rush specialist.

Matt Terrell -- 6-4, 227, Lynchburg VA
2 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8017 rating)
Has good speed and instincts.  He'll need to make a dent through sheer work ethic and want-to.  Kinda like the Rudy of this year's recruiting class.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Robert Snyder -- 6-3, 225, Lawrenceville GA

3 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8150 rating)
Good size and instincts.  Good tackler.  A blue collar type of worker at the linebacker position.

Landan Word -- 6-3, 245, Vienna VA
2 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8306 rating)
Good tackler and instincts.  UVA legacy recruit.  I think his upside is way higher than the recruiting services portrayed.  I really like the fit with Bronco's scheme.



SAFETIES

Bryce Hall -- 6-2, 195, Harrisburg PA

2 Rivals / 2☆ 247 (.7908 rating)
Good size and takes good angles.  The most lightly-regarded recruit in the class.  His path to playing time might be exclusively on special teams... but defensive backs are often very difficult to project.

Jordan Mack -- 6-3, 205, Lithonia GA
3 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8537 rating)
Good speed and a big hitter.  MACK TRUCK!  Folks rave about his physical style of play.  Could be a candidate to fill a safety/linebacker hybrid role at UVA.



CORNERBACKS

Deedrick Daniels -- 6-0, 168, Tampa FL

2 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8219 rating)
Good speed and hands.  A playmaker.  A ballhawk.  Gurus think he's the steal of this recruiting class, one of those Florida recruits who is overlooked -- it happens every year, due to the flood of talent in that state.  I watch his highlights and see a starting cornerback and a shutdown type of guy at the ACC level.  I'm bullish on this kid.

Nick Grant -- 6-1, 170, Spotsylvania VA
3 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8200 rating)
Good instincts and hands.  Could slot at safety.  A talented kid who should see the field after some time spent developing.  I like his upside.

Chris Moore -- 6-2, 181, Ashburn VA
2 Rivals / 3☆ 247 (.8044 rating)
Good speed and instincts.  To me, he looks like a nickel specialist or a slot coverage ace, which is always useful in today's era of spread offenses.

KICKERS

Holland Corbett -- 6-0, 173, Charlottesville VA (FUMA), 3
 Rivals  He has a strong leg and is accurate.  I love the potential of Ian Frye handing the baton off to a kid who could be a four-year starter.



NSD

            Today is like Christmas for all of Hoo Nation.  As the NLI come in, who is the one guy that stands out to you?  I like Joseph Reed and Devante Cross.  Who should the wahoos be after, and in your opinion why?

February 2, 2016

Update

So life's been busy as hell, what's new?

I expected to have Examining Broncoball posted by the end of 2015, didn't happen.

By mid-January, didn't happen.

By National Signing Day at the absolute latest... isn't going to happen.  NSD is tomorrow (Wednesday, February 3).

What IS going to happen is a bit of NSD coverage here on Wahooze.  Stay tuned for that.  And in the meantime, rest assured -- I am working on Examining Broncoball, and it'll be posted as soon as humanly possible.

Thanks for your patience, Hoofans and Wahooze Nation!  I love you guys!