August 31, 2016

Okay, Brass Tacks...

Who has and who has not read the effing book?

There is no other collegiate football program in the world like the one found at Brigham Young University. None. Certainly that has much to do with the fact that the school is the largest religious university in the United States, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But perhaps there is an even more unique differentiator - a head football coach who is unwavering in his unorthodox style of mentoring, strengthening, teaching, and even recuiting his players. Bronco Mendenhall's coaching style is considered jaw-dropping by many and ludicrous to some. However, no one can overlook the success the Cougars have had. How does his team consistently win ten or more games year after year? What philosophy and practices did Bronco implement to create this sustained success? One thing we know is that Bronco's system goes against the grain. He believes that running into the wind is an opportunity and is key to ultimately creating a sustained competitive advantage. The first section, On the Field, discusses the challenges Bronco has faced as the head coach, the principles and practices he learned to face those challenges, and the on-field applications and results. The second section, In the Football Offices, looks deeper into Broncos system and the business principles and tools of the five smooth stones that Bronco was taught by Paul Gustavson. Whether you are a coach or a leader, the organization strategies and models that Paul taught Bronco can be applied to any business or team. Simple, this section is where the coach of the coach will coach you, too.

BYU's records...

2002 - 5-7
2003 - 4-8
2004 - 5-6


2005 - 6-6 (notable wins: none) (bad losses: San Diego State)

2006 - 11-2 (notable wins: #15 TCU, Utah, Oregon) (bad losses: none) 

2007 - 11-2 (notable wins: Arizona, TCU, Utah, UCLA) (bad losses: Tulsa) 

2008 - 10-3 (notable wins: Washington, UCLA {59-0!!!}) (bad losses: none) 

2009 - 11-2 (notable wins: #3 Oklahoma, #21 Utah, #18 Oregon St.) (bad losses: none) 

2010 - 7-6 (notable wins: Washington, UTEP in bowl game) (bad losses: Air Force, Nevada) 

2011 - 10-3 (notable wins: Ole Miss, UCF, Oregon St., Tulsa in bowl game) (bad losses: none) 

2012 - 8-5 (notable wins: Washington St., Georgia Tech {41-17}, San Diego St. in bowl game) (bad losses: San Jose State) 

2013 - 8-5 (notable wins: #15 Texas, Georgia Tech, Houston, Boise State) (bad losses: Virginia) 

2014 - 8-5 (notable wins: UConn, #25 Texas {41-7}, Houston, Virginia, California) (bad losses: Nevada, Memphis) 

2015 - 9-4 (notable wins: Nebraska, #20 Boise State, UConn, ECU, Cincinnati) (bad losses: none)

August 30, 2016

Meanwhile, Know Our History

Entering the 2016 season, Virginia Football is...

-- 75th among the 129 FBS teams in overall win percentage, .522 all-time

-- 102nd in number of conference championships, 3 chips

-- 58th in number of bowl game appearances, 18 bowls

-- 38th in all-time number of wins, 643 wins

-- 77th in bowl record, 7-11 overall, .389

-- 50th in number of consensus All-Americans, 11

-- 56th in NFL draft picks, 156 picks

-- 52nd in number of weeks ranked in the AP poll, 167

-- We have an overall losing record against every ACC team not named Wake Forest, Duke, Syracuse, or Louisville

-- Our all-time win percentage against teams currently in the ACC is .425 (224-291-12 overall)

George Welsh's run from 1987 thru 1999 was the absolute high point of our program during the modern era. During that time, we went:


TOTAL: 103-51-1

I do not believe that 13-year run represents the absolute ceiling of this program. That said, it's the best that we can realistically and reasonably hope for.  That's what success looks like at UVA -- an average of 8 wins against 4 losses; a .655 win percentage.

I believe that on Saturday, against Richmond, we embark upon a 15-year run similar to Welsh's 15 years from 1985 thru 1999. Welsh went 6-5 in 1985 and then 3-8 in 1986 before blasting off on those impressive 13 seasons of success.

Welsh found a way to coax a winning program out of the primordial ooze, and I truly, sincerely believe that Bronco Mendenhall is about to do the same thing here at Virginia.

August 29, 2016

Uni Changes, Numbers Earned, Depth Chart, and Diamond Endzones

Let me vomit out some thoughts on all this stuff from the weekend...


I love the helmet stripes.  All of 'em.  Love 'em.  The meaning behind it, everything.  LOVE THEM.

I also love the gray facemasks.  (What I hate is when people spell gray with an E.  "Grey."  Give me a fucking break.)  Bronco's reasoning for the gray facemask was also kinda cool.  I dig it.  I'm buying in.

I love the choice of the orange-in-blue V-sabres for the white helmet and the white-in-blue V-sabres for the orange helmet.  Very sharp.

The sleeve stripes on the blue unis are fantastic.

The big, thick, bold pants stripes are all good.

White pants for everything, fantastic.  Classic.  (I'm a person who tends to like monochrome unis, but I also understand the need to be traditional and classic with the white pants.)

The all-white away uniforms, top to bottom, are probably my favorite UVA uniforms ever.  No hyperbole.  They're just friggin awesome.

Things I don't love as much:

Reversing the colors of the V-sabres on the blue helmet.  Someone on the 247 message board said the orange-in-white V-sabres looked very "Wal-Mart" to them.  Like a cheap knock-off of the original white-in-orange jam.  I disagreed at the time, but the more I look at these, the more I can kind of agree.  I give zero fucks about Matt Welsh's original design and what that means, and I do think the orange-in-white pops a bit more against the navy blue background, but... yeah... it's going to take some getting used to.  The white-in-orange against a blue background is the logo we have seen the most, by far, so it's jarring to see it reversed like this.

Speaking of reversed, I'm not sure why the helmet number has a reversed number-outline as the logo on the other side of the helmet.  That seems kind of weird to me.  Not sure if I like it, but I think I like it.  Yeah, I think I'm convincing myself that I like it, right now, while you're reading this.

Numbers on the helmets, in general.  It's Alabama derivative.  It's also unique without being gaudy, which is something new for college football helmets in 2016.  So while the jury's out, I don't think it will be long before I decide that I do, in fact, like the numbers on the helmets.

The sleeve stripes on the blue unis are fantastic, but where are the sleeve stripes on the orange and white unis?  Jeez, man.

No outlines for the white numbers on the blue unis.  Makes 'em look kinda cheap to me.  Maybe a little bit too throwbacky.

Part of me wishes we'd just punt the orange unis altogether.  They're already very Clemson-ish.  We don't need alternates, anyway.  [Based on what Bronco said] I assume we'll wear those once a year, for the 'Paint the Town Orange' game.  Okay, fine, whatever.  I just wish we'd wear blue at home and white away.  Or better yet, white all the time.  (I really do love the whites.)

No word on socks.  Assuming white socks, but we'll see.  I hate not knowing!

My overall new uni grade: B.  Falls just short of a B+.  I like 'em... a lot.  There are just too many little issues that I can't say that I totally love them.


You can see them HERE.

Guys I'm expecting we'll see earn a number this week:
  • Jordan Mack
  • Bryce Hall
  • Joe Reed
  • Hasise Dubois
  • Naji Abdullah
  • Trenton Jenkins
  • Ben Knutson
  • Dillon Reinkensmeyer
  • Dominic Sheppard


It can be found HERE!

Some quick notes...
  • WR Andre Levrone is still hurt, and not listed on the depth chart for the U of R game.
  • Ditto, sadly, OLB Malcolm Cook, who's out with a 'medical condition' that we hope is not serious.  Cook was a popular pick for breakout player of the year.
  • With Levrone out, I was expecting Dowling, Zaccheaus, Eldridge, and Craft to be the starting wideouts.  Keeon Johnson bumped Eldridge to the second line, which was a mild surprise.
  • Also a surprise is walk-ons Ben Hogg and Ryan Santoro along with TE-convert Tanner Cowley on the depth chart, but no Joe Reed or Hasise Dubois.  I know the true freshmen still have to earn their numbers, but I was certain that Reed and Dubois were safely going to be listed today.
  • I like the specific SB (speed back) and BB (big back) designations, though I think Jordan Ellis is badly miscast as a speed back.  Dude's a grinder!
  • No Sean Karl on the two-deep!  Is he hurt, off the team, what?  In any case, I'm elated to see Jake Fieler starting at LG.  I honestly think we'll be putting our best five OL on the field in our first drive against Richmond.
  • 13 starting spots listed on offense, so it remains to be seen what kind of formation(s) we'll be using.  I think it's safe to say we'll flex between 1-0 (one back, zero tight ends, four wide), 2-0 (two backs, zero tights, three wide), and 1-1 (one back, one tight, three wide) to keep defenses on their toes while spreading the field.

  • I'm excited about Warren Craft earning a starting spot, by the way.  This guy has some real physical talent... and four seasons to play!
  • Ditto Steven Wright at defensive end!  Although, I fully expected to see [fellow RS-Fr.] Eli Hanback starting at that spot.
  • [Freshman safety] Jordan Mack seems to have transitioned to outside linebacker.  Cool.  He still needs to earn his number, though... like the rest of the true freshmen.
  • I already mentioned Malcolm Cook, above, but I'll mention him again.  If he's out for any amount of time, it's a big, big loss for this defense.  I have faith in Cory Jones and Chris Peace, but a guy with the speed and explosiveness of Cook could really help this D play at another level.
  • Middle linebacker is our best position, top to bottom.  Even better than running back.
  • Say hello to the 'Sabre' position!  It's the same thing as BYU's 'KAT' position, which is to say... glorified strong safety but with more in-the-box responsibility when the defense flexes to a 3-3-5 look.  (Kelvin Rainey, by the way, is perfect for that in-the-box role.  I'm really excited about him this season.)
  • Juan Thornhill starting at field corner is not a surprise, but Myles Robinson at boundary corner IS a surprise.  Looks like Tim Harris' shoulder injury isn't quite healed.  Meanwhile, I was under the impression that Darious Latimore, Kareem Gibson, and Bryce Hall were all working ahead of Robinson...  Either way, I think we'll see what this quintet of youngsters (Thornhill / Robinson / Lat / Gibson / Hall) can do at corner, which is exciting!
  • Given all of the specific positions named on offense, I'm surprised 'NB' [nickelback] doesn't make an appearance on the defensive depth chart.  As such, Kirk Garner doesn't see his name on there, though I think we know he's going to play and play a lot.
  • Looks like Dylan Sims won the kicking competition.  Yawn.  I was hoping that [true freshman] Nash Griffin would take that job and give us the possibility of a four-year kicker.
  • Matt Johns is the holder!  Holding out hope that he throws at least one touchdown this season on a trick play.
  • Bradshaw is pulling duty at the Buck (weakside inside linebacker) and... LONG-SNAPPER?  Wow.  (Incumbent LS Tyler Shirley failed to meet academic requirements to play this season.)
  • Daniel Hamm returning punts.  Me likey.  Wish we could see who the kick returners are.  My guess is Hamm/Mizzell.
  • Oh, hey, in case you need help with any of the new abbreviations used on this depth chart, here you go...
    • WR(X) = "The X receiver is the split end. He is the widest receiver away from the tight end. What's unique about him, -- as opposed to the Z receiver, who is the flanker, and the other wide receiver -- is that the X receiver, in most formations, and of course, there are a lot of exceptions, but in most formations, the X receiver, the split end -- and those expressions are used synonymously -- he is tethered to the line of scrimmage."

      "He's on the line of scrimmage, he cannot go in motion, and so, when he's facing a cornerback, as he almost always is, the cornerback can jam him at the line. So, your X receiver, he better have the profile of a guy that has the speed to get down the sideline, he better have the quickness to get away from the corner, and he better be good coming off a press."

      "In almost all routes, that corner has him in man-to-man. Now, if he runs a shallow cross and it's zone, then the corner will let him go, but most routes up the field, that corner's going to be covering the wide receiver, man-to-man. Now, who is a corner? In the NFL, the corner is the guy on the playground, when you play tag, that always won. He's got that great agility. He is the cheetah running down the gazelle on the Serengeti. The corner is the best athlete on the football field, and I'll even include receivers and running backs, in that group, because think about the skillset for a cornerback. He doesn't have to have great hand-eye coordination. He just has to be able to follow you. And, so those guys are hard to beat, and particularly for an X receiver, if he's getting a jam on you, you gotta have that ability to get off the line of scrimmage."

      This is why the question exists as to whether or not a receiver that has had success on the inside, in the slot, can easily move to the outside. It's not just a matter of running different routes.
~Hugh Millen
    • WR(Y) = The wide receiver who lines up, in-line, where a tight end would go in a more traditional set.  Think of it in terms of being a bigger slot receiver.  This player lines up on what is the strong side of the offense, generally beside the right tackle.
    • WR(H) = Pure slot, baby.
    • WR(Z) = "Now, the Z receiver, the 'flanker,' who is on the opposite side of the split end, he, in most formations, is going to be off the line of scrimmage a few yards. That enables the tight end to be eligible, because if the Z receiver were on the line, it would make the tight end ineligible. That flanker, that Z receiver -- and again, those terms are synonymous --that is still a wide receiver. He's going against cornerbacks, he has to be able to have the speed and the acceleration to beat cornerbacks, but, from time-to-time, you can run him in motion because he's off the line of scrimmage, you can get him down in the slot and run for passes over the middle, so, there's a little bit of the characteristics of a slot receiver inherent in the Z receiver. But, by and large, those guys are much different than the slot receiver."
    • SB = Speed back.
    • BB = Big back.
    • NT = Nose tackle.  (In a 3-4 defense, otherwise known as an "odd front," there is one defensive tackle.  That player is known as the nose tackle.)
    • SLB = Strongside, or "Sam," outside linebacker.  That's the side with a tight end.
    • MLB = Strongside, or "Mike," inside linebacker.
    • BLB = Weakside, or "Buck," inside linebacker.  That's the side without a tight end.
    • WLB = Weakside, or "Will," outside linebacker.  This is where Malcolm Cook would be starting if he were available.
    • FC = Field corner.  This is the corner who plays the wider side of the field, with more ground to cover.
    • SABRE = Strong safety, basically.  There's some special amount of honor to playing this position in Bronco's defense.  (Be excited about the future of the position, with sparkly RS-Fr. Chris Sharp in reserve.)
    • BC = Boundary corner.  This is the corner who plays the narrow side of the field.


Say goodbye to:

And say hello (again) to:

My take is pretty simple: Ugggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  I hate those fucking diamond endzones.  Hate!  Reminds me of the suckitude of the second half of the Al Groh era, like homefield losses to Western Michigan and William & Mary.

I wish we could just go really old school with the endzones, and do this:

Just a big-ass, blue VIRGINIA.  Fuck it.

But whatever, if Bronco wants it, Bronco gets it.


Say goodbye to:
  • The Wahoo Walk -- Did anyone ever go to that, anyway?  Not gonna miss it.
  • Adventures of CavMan -- GOOD FUCKING RIDDANCE.  And this coming from a father of an 8-year old and a 5-year old.  Turns out, kids don't like dumb 1996-style computer animation, either.
  • $5 Programs -- As in, the programs are free again.  Hallelujah.
  • New Concessions Offerings -- Fine, yeah, whatever.  Is the water still going to cost me $3.50?

Bring on the new season, baby.


August 26, 2016

New Uni Delay

Not sure what the delay is, but there is a delay.  You can see a sneak peak on Streaking the Lawn, HERE.

I'm about to push away from the computer for the weekend, so assuming they do an official release this weekend, I'll give you my full thoughts at the beginning of next week!

But to tide you over, a quick tickler...

-- The white helmet is bad ass. I love it.

-- I also love the helmet stripes. Love.

-- Orange V, white outline on the blue helmet, I actually like better than the other way around. I think we're just used to the other look, and that's why it's so jarring.

-- Jury's out, for me, on the numbers on the helmets. I want to like it, but I'm not sure that I do. Gotta stew on that one.

-- Love, love, love the all-white away uni. It's incredible.

-- I like the new home jerseys. Nothing ground-breaking, but the retro-made-new look works well.

Overall, I'm giving it a solid B+.


Talent Level vs. 2016 Opponents

Happy New Uniform Unveiling Day, Hoofans!  I'll have pics of the new unis here on the blog ASAP.

Meanwhile, some food for thought as we consider the 2016 season...

Talent Level vs. 2016 Opponents

It's an inexact science, ya dig? But what I did is took HALF of the 2012 recruiting ranking (to account for 5th year seniors) and HALF of the 2016 recruiting ranking (to account for the true freshmen) and then averaged them with the rankings for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 classes... to come up with a somewhat objective, 247's rankings-based average, to sorta kinda illustrate our talent level compared to our 12 opponents during the 2016 season. Hoping that this will maybe point us to an educated guess on our 2016 record, based on talent level. Ya dig?

Miami 16.85
Oregon 19.125
Virginia Tech 26.875
North Carolina 31.625
Virginia 38.625
Louisville 38.875
Pittsburgh 39.75
Duke 57.125
Georgia Tech 57.875
Wake Forest 62
UConn 90.125
Central Michigan 106.75
Richmond 168.125

Ignoring all of the various attrition and transfer additions to the programs, and assuming Bronco can get this team to play to its talent level (actually, science says he gets his teams to play well ABOVE their talent level, see THIS LINK), then we should go 8-4 this season. Okay, okay, the Louisville and Pitt games are toss-ups in terms of talent... So call it a range of 6-6 to 8-4 for the 2016 Hoos.

If you want to split hairs on home vs. away...

Richmond at home -- We have them outclassed in every possible way. WIN. (1-0)

@ Oregon -- LOSS. (1-1)

@ UConn -- The home field advantage is a big deal, but is it enough to overcome a talent ranking of 50+ spots? I think not. WIN. (2-1)

Central Michigan -- WIN. (3-1)

@ Duke -- Is Duke's home field worth ~19 talent spots? Toss up. Call it a LOSS. (3-2)

Pitt -- We have the slightest of slight talent edges. Can't see us going oh-fer during the October three-game homestand, so split a win between this game and the Louisville game. WIN. (4-2)

UNC -- If we give Virginia the same credit on its home field that we're giving Duke, then we gotta say we split the two games against UNC/Duke, right? I understand the Duke game is the more likely of the two games, but... WIN. (5-2)

Louisville -- This is the losing side of the Pitt/Louisville split. LOSS. (5-3) {I do totally think we leave October at 5-3, by the way.}

@ Wake -- Wake Forest's home field advantage is not worth 23 talent spots. It's just not. WIN. (6-3)

Miami -- LOSS. (6-4)

@ GT -- This one is tricky, because GT's recruiting looks bad, but they recruit to that system really well and tend to way overplay their talent level (see also: BYU from 2005-2015, Virginia from 2017-onward.) LOSS. (6-5)

@ VT -- Sorry guys, they have us outclassed and are playing at home. LOSS. (6-6)

By the way, better on the field or better at recruiting?

(If they're better at recruiting, expect them to underplay their talent level!)
Richmond -- ???
Oregon -- better on the field, overplay their recruiting ranking
UConn -- better on the field
Central Michigan -- better on the field
Duke -- better at recruiting (surprising), underplay their talent level
Pitt -- better at recruiting
UNC -- better at recruiting
Louisville -- better on the field
Wake -- better at recruiting
Miami -- better at recruiting
GT -- better on the field
VT -- better at recruiting

Bowl game in 2016.  Book it.

August 18, 2016

Bronco Mendenhall and the Illusion of Security

One way to win games is to constantly put the opposing team’s quarterback on the ground. Sean Cottrell breaks down how new University of Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall specializes in designing plays to sack the quarterback and take away his illusion of security.

August 17, 2016

Bold Predictions for Football Season

1) Kurt Benkert is our starting quarterback... and in Anae's up-tempo spread offense, he tops Matt Johns' 2015 season, which was the 3rd-best passing season in UVA history (2810 passing yards).

2) Smoke Mizzell has a good season, but not as good as last season, statistically speaking.  Topping 1444 total yards (723 rushing, 721 receiving) is a lofty goal.  I'm guessing it's somewhere closer to 1200 this season, with Albert Reid (375 / 47), Olamide Zaccheaus (275 / 216), Daniel Hamm (254 / 174), and Jordan Ellis (84 / 0) each improving on their yardage totals.

3) Speaking of Jordan Ellis, he's my pick for biggest leap forward among the running backs.  He's my pick for short yardage / goal line specialist.  If we end up needing or wanting a true hammer, Jellis is going to be the guy.

4) But yeah, those five (four and a half?) backs are all going to play a lot.  Fresh legs, baby.

5) We'll leave the 2016 season feeling better about our receiving weapons than we have at any point in the last decade.  Yeahbuddy.  I am BULLISH on these guys.  Dowling, Oz, Eldridge, Levrone, Craft, and the truefrosh trio of Reed, Dubois, and Blackman... man... man oh man...  All eight (plus Cowley and the tight ends / h-backs) offer intriguing upside as pass catchers, and all return for the 2017 season after dipping wicks in 2016.  Let's not think about the o-line right now, and instead focus on what 2017 might look like, with these guys spreading the field for an established QB (Benkert) to enjoy.  I do, by the way, fully subscribe to the Colin Cowherdism that QB + weapons = wins, and that formula could be in place for this season.

6) Dowling paces the receiving corps with over 750 yards and 6 TDs.  He's ready to be our #1.

7) But David Eldridge is the breakout star.  He'll match Doni's stat line, tit for tat, and he'll do it with much bigger, more explosive, and more glamorous plays down the field.

8) Denying all odds, our o-line holds up.  Simple, dumb probability suggests that we'll have to deal with a couple of injuries along the way, but I have faith that Tujague can hold together a thin unit and pull it through the season.

9) Unfortunately, turnovers plague the offense in 2016.  We'll produce yardage and big plays, and we'll often score enough points to win games, but losing the turnover battle will happen more often than not.

10) Donte Wilkins is our defensive MVP.  Quin Blanding and Micah Kiser say 'what's up?'  But truly, MOST VALUABLE PLAYER should really be MOST INDISPENSABLE PLAYER, meaning the player you can least afford to lose.  With Wilkins, our defense is pretty good.  Without him, disaster of biblical proportions.

11) Andrew Brown continues his invisibility act.  Just a hunch here, sorry guys.  I'm looking for Jack Powers to take the starting role by midseason, in an attempt to improve the run-stopping ability of the front three.  Just a hunch!

12) Micah Kiser is first team All-ACC, but the linebacker everyone ends up talking about is Malcolm Cook.  Like any good chess player, Bronco Mendenhall excels at doing damage with his rook.  In Cook, Bronco has his do-everything playmaking OLB/SS hybrid.

13) Our pass rush, or lack thereof, is the weakness of the defense.  Bronco has ways to scheme it up, and that will work to some extent... but when we lose, it'll be because of our inability to pressure the opposing QB.

14) Our safeties are exploited in coverage.  As good as Blanding and Rainey are - and they are VERY good - attacking the middle of the field via intermediate and deep throws is going to be the book on how to beat the Virginia defense in 2016.

15) Meanwhile, a star is born in Juan Thornhill at corner.  Major good vibes surrounding that kid right now.

16) We struggle with the kicking operation.  None of Dylan Sims, Nash Griffin, or Alex Furbank emerge as reliable placekicking options, and Bronco (and special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga) rotate through the three of them, trying to find the answer.

17) The rest of the special teams, however, are light years better than what we saw under Mike London.  Nicholas Conte is a great punter, the coverage units will be above-average to quite good, and even the return game shows some spark.  Hoofans will begin to see the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel of special teams suckitude,

18) Here's how the season plays out...

  • Virginia 30, Richmond 13
  • Oregon 42, Virginia 20
  • Virginia 19, UConn 17
  • Virginia 27, Central Michigan 14
  • Virginia 30, Duke 20
  • Pittsburgh 26, Virginia 17
  • North Carolina 33, Virginia 10
  • Virginia 38, Louisville 31
  • Virginia 44, Wake Forest 14
  • Miami 28, Virginia 14
  • Virginia 38, Georgia Tech 20
  • Virginia Tech 25, Virginia 22

Holy shit, I just predicted a 7-5 season.

Yep, must be mid August.


August 10, 2016

Football: Quick Position-by-Position Breakdown

I've had a chance to consume and digest all of the awesome reports from the three camp sessions open to the media, dumped the info into the Wahooze smoothie machine, puréed gently, and poured them into this glass for you to chug.  Down the hatch!


Officially, it's still a race between Matt Johns (Sr.), Connor Brewer (Sr.), and ECU transfer Kurt Benkert (Jr.).  Officially, it's a race.  But I'm not buying that shit, not for a second.  Benkert trumps all of the physical attributes of Johns and Brewer; size, arm strength, mobility, all of it.  Plus his release is more quick and compact.  PLUS, he has another season of eligibility after this one.  I just have a hard time seeing anyone other than Benkert trot out there to begin the game against Richmond, no matter what intangibles Johns/Brewer can bring to the table.

Benkert's my guy.

Or, as I said on the message board...

I absolutely LOVE Matt Johns' determination and grit. I love that he out-dueled that 6-foot tube of cookie dough, Greyson Lambert. I love that he survived the shit show of the Mike London coaching regime, and helped guide the team through the transition. I think Johns is a fine leader, and I'm proud to say that he's going to be graduating from my alma mater after representing my football team for five seasons. I'll always think of him fondly (just like I think about Marc Verica).

That said, Johns' physical limitations are such that approximately HALF of the offensive playbook has to be thrown out if he ends up being the starting QB over Benkert in 2016. Johns can get the ball deep, but it looks like he has to reach back and summon all of his strength to get it downfield. Benkert? A mere flick of the wrist and the ball is 35 yards downfield. Benkert can throw deeper on the move than Johns can throw after dropping back and setting his feet, this is no exaggeration. Benkert opens up a realistic chance for Virginia to have a deep passing game in 2016, to attack defenses downfield and open up the running game and underneath stuff. Meanwhile, while Johns is an underrated runner who can make it happen with his feet from time to time, Benkert has legitimate speed (and the requisite ball skills, to boot). So all of the read option stuff that has already been said to be a huge component of the new offense is present in spades with Benkert, but probably not with Johns.

If we were trying to run a pro-style offense, or even a West Coast style passing attack (though Benkert's release seems much quicker and more compact than Johns', as well), then Johns might be a legit candidate who might be able to out-duel Benkert with pure moxie, want-to, and chutzpah. But we're trying to run an up-tempo spread offense with a deep passing game and heavy read-option elements. I just don't see how Johns can possibly beat out Benkert to be the quarterback in that system, even if he does bring more rah-rah to the table.

I'm not the one making the decision (thank god for that, right?), but if I were, Benkert would ALREADY be getting the lion's share of first team reps. Johns has proven again and again that he will be ready whenever he's called upon, which is the perfect quality for a #2 QB to possess. There is nobility in being the best damn backup you can possibly be. I want Johns on the sideline, in the headset, with the clipboard, helping keep guys together and on the same page, helping to keep Benkert focused and organized and well-informed and ready. I want Benkert on the field, which allows for Virginia to run the entire offense Anae wants to install.

Bottom line: If Johns is the QB in 2016, we won't see Anae's offense until 2017, and I don't want to delay that transition any longer after having to wait through TWO agonizing lame duck seasons of Steve Fairchild.

I'm ready for Benkert.


It's the Smoke Mizzell (Sr.) show in 2016, but with a liberal peppering of open field dynamism from Olamide Zaccheaus (So.) and between-the-tackles power from Albert Reid (Sr.).  Smoke's not a grinder, so expect to see him working mostly as a satellite back (best in space), where he'll have a chance to repeat his record-setting receiving performance (75-721-4) from a year ago while building on his so-so rushing performance (163-723-4).  {4.1 yards per carry isn't terrible, but for a back like this, it should be closer to 5-plus ypc, assuming appropriate usage.}  Meanwhile, if you want a darkhorse in the backfield, Jordan Ellis (So.) is your guy.  He's been shining in camp in the "big back" role.  Oh, and former walk-on  Daniel Hamm (Jr.) is still around to capture hearts and minds.  Add it up, and RB is probably the best position group on the team.  (The coaching staff has already said as much.)  My expectation is that this group of backs sets the tone for the offense, and delivers Mizzell to the NFL as a late round prospect.


Who else is ready to see lots and lots of 3- and 4-wide?

The fun thing is, I think we're kinda sorta secretly loaded at the wide receiver position.  Light on experience and demonstrated performance (can't seem to shake some of these Al Groh-isms), but heavy on upside and ability... especially in an up-tempo offense that endeavors to spread the field horizontally wile stretching the field vertically.

The receivers you need to know about:

  • Doni Dowling (Jr.) -- He's fought injury in the past and enters camp banged up, but if he can stay healthy he's our #1, go-to, do-it-all wideout.  Expect big things in 2016.  If he can stay healthy.  (Did I mention that he needs to stay healthy?)
  • David Eldridge (So.) -- He's been the star of early camp, making tough downfield catches and making the cubes look good when they chuck it deep.  I don't really know what "it" is, but whatever "it" is, Eldridge has got "it."
  • Olamide Zaccheaus (So.) -- Listed his with the backs, but I also have to list him with the receivers, because that's where he'll line up most often.  Oz is what he is --- an explosive, dynamic playmaker in the slot.
  • Andre Levrone (Jr.) -- Taller dude (6-3), long strider, big catch radius, fantastic hands.  He flashed some ability two years ago, but has been hampered by injuries ever since.  Sure enough, he rolled his ankle on day three of camp and is missing some time.  I think Levrone has pretty good potential in the short-to-intermediate passing game, working the middle of the field.  And in the red zone?  Fuggetabout it.
  • Warren Craft (RS Fr.) -- He's still too new to football to be called anything but raw, but he brings an incredibly intriguing size/speed ratio to the table, at 6-2 with sub-4.5 wheels.  He's also athletic, a good leaper, and has been consistently high-pointing balls early in camp.  There are a lot of mouths to feed in front of him, but there's good reason I'm projecting him to be our go-to guy in 2018 and 2019.  Getting a taste of action this season will only help serve to dump gasoline on that lit candle.
  • Keeon Johnson (Sr.) -- Literally zero buzz on Keeon from the spring or early in camp, so I'm connecting the dots to declare him as "just a guy."  Hope I'm wrong and he's able to step up this season, especially if Dowling and Levrone continue being fragile.
  • Tanner Cowley (RS Fr.) -- One of the pleasant surprises of camp so far.  He's a converted tight end who is big but has soft hands.  I like the idea of him in the slot, blowing up linebackers while blocking for the read-option.
Meanwhile, the true freshmen who could play:
  • Hasise Dubois -- Big body, athletic.
  • Cole Blackman -- Great hands, big catch radius, should be a slot specialist.
  • Aidan Howard -- Tall!
  • Joe Reed -- Deep speed.


Probably not a big part of the offense, but we know we've got a talent in Evan Butts (So.), while there's considerable camp buzz on Richard Burney (RS Fr.), a grizzly bear with soft hands.


Starters, from left to right:
  • LT) Jack English (Jr.) -- I was impressed with him when he played in '15.  So, so, soooo glad he seems to be beating out Mike Mooney at left tackle.
  • LG) Sean Karl (Sr.) -- Here's a big fat 'meh.'  I've never been impressed.
  • C) Jackson Matteo (Sr.) -- He's gone from walk-on to one of the ACC's best.
  • RG) Jack McDonald (Jr.) -- It sucks that we only have three guards on the roster, but I actually think JMD might actually be pretty good.
  • RT) Eric Smith (Sr.) -- He's always been good, and now it's his time to really shine as a senior.  Go out there and earn NFL consideration, young man!
After the starters, we have two leading "swing guys" who'll rotate into games:
  • OT Michael Mooney (Sr.) -- I'm not a fan.
  • T/G Jake Fieler (So.) -- I am a fan.  In fact, I think he'd start over Karl if we didn't need a guy who could come off the bench and spell anyone on the line.  Fieler's a starter in 2017, though.
And then, some enigmas.  Injuries on the OL are inevitable, but it'd probably be a bad thing if any of these guys have to play:
  • R.J. Proctor (RS Fr.) -- He's developing, but still needs another year in order to be ready for action.
  • OG Steven Moss (So.) -- He's still got three seasons ahead of him, but at this point the former 4-star recruit has to be considered a bust.
  • OT Ryan Bischoff (RS Fr.) -- You never hear about this dude, good or bad.

In toto, the o-line scares the shit out of me.  Pray for the good health of our five starters and Fieler, because if anything can threaten to completely short-circuit Bronco's first season, it's the offensive line.  (And things get even worse next season.  Fuck you, Mike London.)


This story has a beginning, a middle, and an end: Donte Wilkins, Donte Wilkins, and Donte Wilkins (Sr.).  He's going to be a beast in this new system.  Behind him, however, is nothing but sketch.  Andre Miles-Redmond (Sr.) and James Trucilla (RS Fr.) appear to be battling for second team reps.  I selfishly hope Trucilla wins that war, because I do care about the 2017 season.


Andrew Brown (Jr.) and Eli Hanback (RS Fr.) are running with the 1s, and playing very well.  Brown seems to be close to finally making good on his immense potential as a backfield disruptor, while Hanback is impressing the coaching staff with his old school battler type of skillset.  Behind those two are a bunch of guys trying to bubble up... Mark Hall (Sr.), Steven Wright (RS Fr.), Naji Abdullah (RS Fr.), and Arizona State transfer Jack Powers (Jr.) all bring good traits - and a crippling lack of experience - to the table.  Hanback is going to be learning on the job in 2016, but I'm excited about the prospect of him being a four-year starter for us.


You already know about Micah Kiser (Jr.), as he's one of the best players on the team, and one of the best in the ACC at his position.  Zach Bradshaw (Sr.) is Kiser's fellow starter inside, and should be a nice fit there.  Youngsters C.J. Stalker (So.) and Jahvoni Simmons (RS Fr.) "pass the eyeball test" in reserve.  I look at ILB in the same light as RB; that being, a team strength.


Interesting race here, Cory Jones (So.) vs. Chris Peace (So.) for the starting nod as pass rush specialist.  Jones might have the edge... as a pass rusher.  Peace would have the edge when it comes to everything else required of the position.  Meanwhile, the buzziest player in camp is Malcolm Cook (Jr.).  Expect a breakout campaign from the converted safety, who just happens to be a perfect fit in Bronco's system.


Another team strength.  Quin Blanding (Jr.) is a warrior poet who is probably looking to go pro early.  Kelvin Rainey (Sr.) doesn't have the skillset in coverage to be a great complement to Blanding, so he might end up being the 'designated hitter' who comes off the bench.  That leaves a spot for converted cornerback Kirk Garner (Jr.) or try-hard worker Wil Wahee (Sr.).  Youngster Chris Sharp (RS Fr.) lurks in the shadows, with 'futureman' buzz.


Expect good things from Tim Harris (Sr.) and very good things from Juan Thornhill (So.).  Darious Latimore (So.) had to shake off a brief suspension to return to his likely spot as the third corner.  Meanwhile, Myles Jack (So.) and Kareem Gibson (RS Fr.) showed well in his absence.  We might have more functional depth here than previously anticipated.

I'm out of time!

August 5, 2016

Fall Camp...

...starts tonight!

I'll have some info, a position-by-position breakdown, and some bold predictions for the 2016 season at the beginning part of next week!