September 29, 2016

REALIGNMAGEDDON: Death of the Big XII, Dawn of the Superconferences?

In light of THIS WELL-INFORMED ARTICLE from SI's Campus Rush writer extraordinaire Pete Thamel, my guess is that the Big XII is headed for a future where Texas and Oklahoma bolt (to the ACC and the SEC, respectively) and the conference loses its 'Power-5' status, triggering the dawning of four 16-team superconferences and the 64 schools seceding from the NCAA to form their own semi-pro college sports league.

Sounds far-fetched, right?  Well, don't bet against it.

I'm a bit of long-time student of REALIGNMAGEDDON, and I think it's going to come to this:

ACCB16SECPac-16
Boston CollegeIllinoisAlabamaArizona
ClemsonIndianaArkansasArizona State
DukeIowaAuburnBYU
Florida StateKansasFloridaCalifornia
Georgia TechMarylandGeorgiaColorado
LouisvilleMichiganKentuckyColorado State
MiamiMichigan StateLSUHouston
NC StateMinnesotaMississippi StOregon
North CarolinaNebraskaMissouriOregon State
Notre DameNorthwesternOklahomaStanford
PittsburghOhio StateOklahoma StateTCU
SyracusePenn StateOle MissUCLA
TexasPurdueSouth CarolinaUSC
VirginiaRutgersTennesseeUtah
Virginia TechWest VirginiaTexas A&MWashington
Wake ForestWisconsinVanderbiltWashington St

Reasoning...

Notre Dame to the ACC -- They're left out in the cold unless they join a conference, and the only conference they'll join is the ACC.

Texas to the ACC -- Thamel puts it best: "Texas has all the cards here and would be courted by any league. Institutionally, the school has shown little desire to go to the SEC. (Why join Texas A&M?) The Big Ten could be a fit, as would the ACC and Pac-12. The ACC would likely offer the smoothest transition for the Longhorn Network, as ESPN owns all of the ACC's content and the easiest solution for everyone would be to fold LHN, a partnership between ESPN and Texas, into the ACC Network."

Kansas to the Big Ten -- AAU membership has its privileges, plus KU is a geographic fit (for all that matters, which isn't much) and an inventory generator for the BTN thanks to Jayhawks hoops.  This isn't a slam dunk, but I think Kansas is more attractive than the alternatives (Cincy, UConn, Iowa State, Kansas State, etc.)

West Virginia to the Big Ten -- Just a shot in the dark here.  Feels like it could be an okay fit.

Oklahoma and OK State to the SEC -- Big brother and little brother won't/can't be separated, and T. Boone Pickens' money helps grease the gears.  A very tidy acquisition for the SEC.

BYU to the Pac-16 -- They rejected BYU once before, but I can't resist the though that the Cougars deserve a seat at the big boys' table, just on the sheer strength of the size of their fanbase.

Colorado State to the Pac-16 -- This is probably my biggest reach of all, but I really do believe this is an up-and-coming athletic department, worthy of eventual "power" status.

Houston to the Pac-16 -- They have leapfrogged UConn and Cincinnati atop the G5 pecking order at just exactly the right time.

TCU to the Pac-16 -- Thamel: "It has arguably positioned itself as the third-most attractive program in the Big 12 in a short period of time."

Left Out in the Cold
Air Force
Army
Baylor
Boise State
Cincinnati
ECU
Iowa State
Kansas State
Memphis
Navy
New Mexico
San Diego State
Temple
Texas Tech
Tulane
UCF
UConn
UNLV
USF


September 27, 2016

Two things not being discussed enough: Coaching and Benkert

A fantastic take from one of my absolute favorite posters on Wahoos247, Hoos Inc:


The job our coaches have done since Richmond is pretty damn spectacular. Now, I understand that it was their responsibility to have us prepared for week one... so they have a stake in the way things looked that game, and the historically poor performance. So this isn't to completely absolve them from that or from the debacle at UConn. 
BUT....that said, the turnaround has been undeniable on defense. Completely night-and-day performance by our front seven, especially. Despite the injuries at corner, poor depth overall, youth and inexperience in many positions, and athletes who weren't exactly superstars out of high school getting significant reps, the team has improved on that side of the ball each week. 
That is a testimony to the work of the coaches, especially with the linebackers and the defensive line, and they deserve an immense amount of credit for the improved execution on that side of the ball. There are those who said we need to drop the Bennett comparisons with Bronco. But there's at least one line of comparison I've seen validated through week four: consistent improvement of fundamentals and execution over the course of a season. That seems to be there, a third of the way through our year. And that's a welcome change from what we're used to. 
On offense, I will generally hold my tongue until I see more than one good week, but the CMU game was everything I imagined our offense being during my August Kool-Aid consumption. If we can execute at anywhere close to that level going forward, we'll be very competitive. 
But damn it, I won't hold my tongue on Kurt Benkert. The dude's the best looking QB I've seen at UVa in a LONG time. He's got a cannon. He throws balls that make the UVa fan in me that's watched a solid decade of mediocre QB play cringe in horror on release... and then he puts it on a rope and makes me feel like a fool. I feel like the enthusiasm and optimism about him has been muted because, frankly, we're not used to having good QB play. And we don't want to get snookered into believing there's something good there that isn't. But I see quality decision making, the physical ability and skill to make any throw, and improving efficiency in running the offense. I see downright good QB play. And it's in a guy who gives every impression of having the intelligence and maturity to get the most out of his opportunity, rather than squandering it being a bum and eating McDonald's like... *cough*... other players. I am incredibly excited that - assuming he stays healthy - we've got at least 20 more games with him at the helm.
But overall, the gist of what I want to say in this post is: I'm really pleased with the improvement we've seen. From where we were in week one, with an FCS team manhandling us in the trenches and totally exposing our defenders on the edge, I think we've made some really phenomenal progress. Heck, even down to the creativity on special teams in response to our insecurity on PAT's. Every week I've seen some form of adaptive response to the previous week. That's really, really encouraging. The attitude of the players, moreover, has been incredible. The demeanor on the sideline is tangibly different. That reflects on the staff as well. If wins come and that enthusiasm is maintained, it will eventually permeate our program and our fanbase. 
I like the way things are looking. The end of the UConn game was still unacceptable, and I'm skeptical of Anae... the fact that Bronco and he parted ways once before troubles me. I like the idea of his offense, but I'm not 100% sold on his ability to manifest it on the field or manage it. Time will tell. OC's are admittedly the easiest people to dislike or question on the staff... and it's that way for every fanbase of every team in the country. Every one of us thinks we could be an OC and do a better job. Just the way it is, and I'm as guilty of it as anybody... it's easy to retrospectively criticize the calls of a coach. So I want to give slack and time. I think Benkert's talent and continued development is going to give this offense as good a chance to shine as we could hope for.
UVa football became fun again, for me, this week. Looking forward to continued progress and markers of sustainable success.


September 26, 2016

Turning Point

Midway through the 4th quarter, score tied at 28 apiece, momentum pretty clearly on the side of the Chippewas... facing a 2nd and 6 from his own 18 yard line...

Kurt Benkert drops back, then does one of his patented quickspins to his left, rolls out, launches the ball down the sideline, and finds a streaking Olamide Zaccheaus, who burned his defender with a nasty double move.  82 yards and a high step later, and the Hoos were up 34-28, and Uncle Mo was back on the side of the Hoos.

This was the turning point of the game, and I contend that it will be the turning point of the Virginia Football rebuilding effort under Bronco Mendenhall.





September 23, 2016

Virginia vs. Central Michigan

Vegas sez we're a 3.5-point home underdog to the Chippewas, with an over/under of 49.5, therefore the sharks are predicting something like Central Michigan 26, Virginia 23.  I say nope.  Feeling like it's all about to come together and finally click, I'm sensing a much-needed Wahoo victory.

Wahooze Pick: Virginia 28, Central Michigan 24

More shots deep, better work in the red zone, grittier play in general, and a little bit of swagger on our home field.  Fuck yeah!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Light reading...

It's Academic, but Football Recruits for Virginia Too (blast from the past, from 1990)

Darden Workshop Offers Coaches Fresh Perspective


September 15, 2016

Virginia @ UConn

In Vegas, we're 4-point underdogs, with an over/under of 48½ points scored in the game. Vegas is essentially saying: UConn 26, Virginia 22.

I'm here to say, if we hold them to less than 30, we need to win this game.  If we want this season to be considered a success by the casual onlooker, we need to win this game.  If we hope to generate some positive forward momentum, we need to win this game.

It's a big, big game, make no mistake.

ESPN3, here we come!

Wahooze pick: Virginia 30, UConn 20

They're coming off of a tough loss to Navy, and the cut blocks from a week ago will help us tremendously, as will continued improvement from our guys.  I think Benkert has a nice game, and the D actually produces some good moments... including the season's first takeaway!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meanwhile, some light reading...







September 9, 2016

10 Minutes to Kill...

...and I want to respond to dnice's comments from my Darkest Before Dawn post.

dnice's comment is in blue.

Say what you will about mike london and what he did to the program, There is no excuse, for us to get spanked by any fcs team.

True.  Don't disagree with you there!

This was the worst game that i can remember as a uva fan. Richmond ran over us like they were florida state.

Fair enough.  Yeah, it was definitely bad.

I know that this is Bronco's first year, but i don't want to hear that rome wasn't built in a day crap. Tom Herman improved Houston in 1 year. Jim Harbaugh did the same for michigan.

Herman and Harbaugh both inherited much better situations than Mendenhall did.  But point taken.  Meanwhile, do keep in mind it was one game, and there are 11 more this season.

Im not saying that i expect our team to win the acc or anything like that, but for heaven's sake, you cannot lose to richmond in a blowout.

I hear you, dnice!  But but but but but but but... This is a very good Richmond team.  VERY good.  It's not your standard crap-ass FCS outfit.

When Bronco was hired I was probably the only uva fan that wasn't very excited. I was about 50/50 on him. I think he is a good coach that will improve us from a discipline standpoint, but i feared that he couldn't recruit well.

You're not alone in consternation over the recruiting.  I'm not there, especially in light of what he said at his coach's show this week, but I understand and respect worry about the recruiting.

But more than anything, I hate, hate, hate, the spread/air raid offense. For the life of me i cannot understand why people overhype this offense. Don't get me wrong, this offense can score points and it can be exciting to watch, but there is a residual effect that people don't consider. Most teams that run this style of offense usually have average to horrible defenses (ex: the entire big 12 conference). The defense becomes soft when it has to practice everyday against a spread offense.

Great point.  This is the part I really wanted to be sure Wahooze Nation could see.  I'll admit, it's an angle I haven't considered... 'til now.

Also, it is difficult to run the football with power in this offense. There's nothing that i hate more than these teams running the ball out the shotgun over and over again. We wasted Kevin parks career by running out of the shotgun the majority of the time. 

I would contend that we ruined KP's career by insisting on having a crummy o-line, but, yeah.

Bronco use to run a pro style for a time at byu, i wish he would go back to it. 

He's fired Anae before, he could do it again.  If, after a few years, the spread isn't helping us win, I'm sure Bronco will make a change.

The last thing i want is for our team to become another texas tech, score 45 points in a game and still lose. 

Okay, but those Mike Leach TT teams did a lot of WINNING.

Leach's records at Texas Tech:

7-6
7-5
9-5
8-5
8-4
9-3
8-5
9-4
11-2
8-4

TOTAL: 84-43

I'd be pretty happy with a 10-year run like that at Virginia.

When i look at what we are doing in recruiting, i can't help but to shake my head. It is clear to me that bronco believes that this program can be consistently good but not great. He believes that he can take 2 star players who give great effort and make them good enough for us to perhaps become a 7 to 8 win team. 

Truth.  But, look, you have to start somewhere... and the fish are not exactly jumping into the boat.

This scares the hell out of me because if bronco consistently wins 7 games a season, he will be here forever.

Yes, he will.  And maybe I'm aiming too low, but I'd take 7-5 in perpetuity, and I'd take it in a heartbeat.

You have to be able to recruit talent if you are going to compete for championships, and that should be the goal. 

I agree.

Why is he sending scholarship offers to guys in hawaii and utah. There's talent right here in virginia, ask florida state. You also have the dc/maryland area. The carolinas, georgia, florida. I just don't understand his recruiting philosophy. 

Note: We currently have 9 recruits from Virginia, more than each of Mike London's last three classes.  Bronco is recruiting the state... he's just also casting a nation-wide net.

Im a uva fan for life, so im going to support the program, but i don't have a good feeling about this working out.

I think you're wrong, but one way or the other, we're going to find out!

GO HOOS!




Virginia @ Oregon

First of all: Fuck you, Jon Oliver.

There is no reason we should be playing this game.  Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In Vegas, we are now 25-point underdogs, with an over/under of 71 points scored in the game.  Vegas is saying: Oregon 48, Virginia 23.

I think we play a little bit better than that, and actually start showing some signs of progress under Bronco Mendenhall.  (It doesn't hurt that the guys are free of the pressure of playing at home against a team they should beat; they're free to just let it rip against the Ducks.)

Wahooze pick: Oregon 45, Virginia 28.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The untold story of how Bronco Mendenhall helped the Oregon Ducks 'Win The Day' and turn around the program

Short of a win over Oregon, what would give Virginia fans hope?



September 8, 2016

Let's Talk O-Line...

OL recruiting under Mike London...

2011
Jay Whitmire
Ross Burbank
Tim Cwalina
Kelby Johnson
(John Pond was a recruited walk-on)

2012
Mike Mooney
Sean Karl
Ryan Doull
(Jackson Matteo was a recruited walk-on)

2013 (featuring the late rally spurred by Tom O'Brien)
Sadiq Olanrewaju
George Adeosun
Jack McDonald
Eric Tetlow
Eric Smith
Jack English (DE moved to OT)

I do believe that if he had been able to stay healthy, big George would
have been a really good one for us.


2014
Steven Moss
Jacob Fieler

2015
Grant Polk
Ryan Bischoff
R.J. Proctor

2016
Ben Knutson
Dillon Reinkensmeyer

To me, the big problem was that after the attrition of Cwalina, Johnson, and Adeosun, little was done in 2014-16 to try to backfill the OL. What we're left with is a unit with 12 scholarship OL in 2016 (one of which was a former walk-on who earned a scholie), and on a trajectory to feature eight non-true-freshman linemen in 2017 following the departures of Matteo, Smith, Mooney, and Karl.

2017 Offensive Line:
Jack English, Sr.
Jack McDonald, Sr.
Jake Fieler, Jr.
Steven Moss, Jr.
R.J. Proctor, RS So.
Ryan Bischoff, RS So.
Ben Knutson, So. / RS Fr.
Dillon Reinkensmeyer, So. / RS Fr.
~~~ walk-ons ~~~
Patrick Kidd, Jr.
Trenton Jenkins, RS So.
Ben Trent, So.
~~~ 2017 recruits / true freshmen ~~~
Tyler Fannin
Chris Glaser
Bryson Speas?
Mekhi Becton?
Ryan Nelson?
Other?
Zac Darwiche? (recruited walk-on)

It's pretty scary, but the situation could stabilize relatively quickly, given the following:
-- One or more of the walk-ons developing into a serviceable OL
-- One or more of the true freshmen coming in ready to play from day one
-- Incoming transfers

Who's our "star" on the OL in 2017?  Jack McDonald?
It's hard to see how the 2017 unit has the potential to be anything better than average.


I'm telling you --- Virginia needs to be landing AT LEAST four OL recruits in every recruiting class. I understand that adds up to 20 if you assume redshirts, but here's the thing: Attrition occurs on the offensive line. It just does. I think that to accelerate our rebuild, the o-line has to be the top priority... and it doesn't even matter what star rating the incoming recruits feature. (Look at Richmond's starting o-line, which manhandled us this past Saturday and would do more than hold its own facing an ACC schedule -- two 2☆ guys and three 0☆ guys.)


September 7, 2016

Great Message Board Post...

...from an anonymous poster with the handle "HooDat06."

I understand everyone's frustration, and losing like that to Richmond is inexcusable. But man it's tough to see so many turn on Bronco so quickly. Bronco has never guided these specific guys into battle, never seen live fire with them. He developed a perception based on spring and fall camps, but until the lights went on, there was no telling how each individual or the team as a whole would react to adversity. And unfortunately, bad habits and body language instilled over YEARS kicked in when things went south on Saturday. 
Sure, he was caught off guard, but I'm not sure how he was supposed to predict the team would go into their shells. From what has been reported, he's done everything he could in the offseason to instill toughness and confidence. Now he has a game and the associated game film to judge and react to. 
To me, the next few weeks are where the rubber meets the road. This staff is filled with proven winners with multiple years of proven performance - they didn't forget how to coach because they're in Charlottesville now. I feel good because Bronco took ownership of what happened and has identified areas to make improvements. If you don't think that you can give a defense too much to chew on to their detriment, talk to me or any other Saints fan. Rob Ryan tried to install so much crap, that on game day, guys had no idea where to line up and assignments were blown left and right. I think we'll see fewer packages on Saturday but much better assignment football and (hopefully) run fits. 
Based on his history, I expect better play in Eugene. Not likely to result in a victory, but hopefully it'll be the first tangible building block. If we can snag that UConn game, the season will be back on track for me. Just need to be 2-2 with some momentum heading into Durham. I also think that bye week will be huge. We'll have five games under our belt and can make adjustments heading into the meat of the conference season, with three home games on deck. 
I know we all wanted Bronco to wash away the frustration of a decade-plus in one game, but unfortunately, we didn't get our wish and were smacked in the face with some harsh realities about where our program is. IMHO, he, the staff and team deserve a lot more time to try to turn things around. He's recovered from slow starts before, and to me, the most important thing is that we're playing our best football at the end of the year as a launching pad into the coming years.

September 6, 2016

Darkest Before Dawn

I'm not a good enough writer to organize these thoughts any better than just rattling off random shit as it comes to mind.  So bear with me on the formatting or whatever.  Here we go...

This was the first game of a multi-year rebuild.  It hits home just how far this program has fallen, how deep the crater that Al Groh / Mike London / Jon Oliver / Craig Littlepage blasted us into.  So mind your idioms and platitudes; Rome wasn't built in a day / It's always darkest before the dawn / Good things come to those who wait / What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger / The sun will rise tomorrow / We'll all be laughing about this soon / Tomorrow is another day / et cetera.



A week ago, I was 100% certain that Bronco Mendenhall was the right man for the job.  Now I'm somewhere around 85%.  Many diehard Hoofans on the message boards have already completely turned on Mendenhall, which is crazy to me.  He needs at least three years, at a bare minimum, to do what he needs to do to get this team to start playing well on a consistent, sustainable basis.

I went a little overboard thinking that Bronco could take chicken feathers and chicken poop and whip it up into chicken salad.  Instead, when I tried to eat it, I got a fucking feather stuck in my teeth and the chicken salad tasted like shit with some mayo mixed in.  If you got lost by my metaphor, here's what I was trying to say: Bronco failed to magically spin a shitty team into a good one, but it's hardly his fault that we have a shitty team.

However, Bronco made his job much harder by failing to woo back the fence-sitting fans and the casual followers in his first game.  Everything was a shit show, from the underwhelming hype videos to the disjointed team entrance to the shitty service at concessions to the woeful and embarrassing play on the field.  Shit show.  Shit.  Show.  Virginia is a world-class university, but when it comes to college football, it's a fucking clown college.



At some point, Virginia Football has to be fun.  If it wants fans, if it wants to be a profitable enterprise, it has to be fun.  Saturday was the complete fucking opposite of fun.  It was like a trip to the dentist.  (No, that's not exactly right... when you go to the dentist, you know you're going to the dentist; you know it's gonna suck.  Saturday was like expecting to go to Dave & Busters, but when you get there, instead of video games and a beer tower, you get a fucking root canal, a lecture from a hygienist, and a free toothbrush.)

We got our asses kicked by a FCS team.  No way to sugarcoat that fact.  Asses.  Kicked.  By an FCS team.  Jesus Christ.

I will say that Richmond is a really good FCS team.  Like, I'm fully expecting them to win the national championship this season, as long as Lauletta stays healthy.

Doesn't matter, though.  Virginia should never lose to an FCS school.  Never, ever, ever.  Never, not ever.

Here's my take on how the game went, drive-by-drive:
  • Richmond takes the opening kickoff and drives 64 yards on our surprisingly shitty defense.  We somehow luck out and hold them to a field goal.  3-0, Spiders.
  • Virginia fumbles the ensuing kickoff return.  NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
  • Richmond fucks around for 18 yards, but the D somehow again holds them to a field goal.  6-0, Spiders.  Holy shit, we got lucky!  Let's go score and turn this into a rip-roaring shootout that maybe our superior athletes can win!
  • Methodical, 11 play, 52 yard drive deep into Richmond territory.  Into the red zone.  Inside the 10.  We're gonna score!  Nope.  Taquan Mizzell fumbles on the 5, Richmond takes possession.
  • 10 plays, 95 yards later, and it's 13-0, Spiders.  ***And Virginia's glass jaw shatters.***
  • Except on the ensuing possession, we drive 63 yards for a touchdown, to pull the score to 13-7.  We would have been back in the game if our team weren't full of fucking sad sack headcases.  Like the badly beaten dogs we are, half the team had already laid down, accepting of the smackdown.
  • Richmond tacks on another FG to lead 16-7.
  • We piss down our leg on our next possession.  Punt.
  • Richmond drives 68 yards, deep into the red zone, but due to some shitty clock management, fails to score any points.  16-7 is the score at halftime.  Zero fun.  But hey, we get the ball to start the 3rd quarter.  We can get right back into this game, lickety-split!
  • Nope.  Three plays, nine yards, punt.
  • But the defense improved at halftime, seems like!  Richmond three and out.
  • Virginia on offense: five plays, 23 yards, turnover on downs.
  • U of R then rips off 11 plays for 70 yards and a game-deciding touchdown.  Spiders lead, 23-7.
  • But maybe we'll respond!  There's still 20 minutes left in this game!  We can come back!  Benkert throws an interception on one of his two bad passes of the game.
  • Richmond punts.
  • Mizzell's second fumble of the day leads us into the 4th quarter.
  • U of R touchdown.  30-7, Spiders.  We are really going to lose this game.  The fans leave the stadium en masse.  The diehards and the masochists stick around for garbage time, embracing the chance to launch some bronx cheers for the two meaningless touchdowns that come later in the game.



We scored a couple of TDs in garbage time, but Richmond scored one of their own, and we're left with the 37-20 final score.

At this point, I have to confess that I'm at least somewhat embarrassed about how excited I was for Bronco Mendenhall.  7-5 in 2016, are you fucking kidding me?  Ridiculous.

Which brings me to my next point, and a very sad realization: There is no magic pill.  There is no quick fix.  Bronco has to turn over this roster, all while playing as much the role of sports psychologist as head football coach.  He has to find a way to firm up that glass jaw for which Virginia Football has become [in]famous.

Bronco's got to turn over this roster, but his recruiting - at least so far in the 2017 cycle - isn't turning any heads or capturing any imaginations.  It's a reasonable assertion that he's got the most naturally gifted roster he'll have during his time at Virginia this season, and it's only going to sink from here unless he can find a way to recruit at a top-35 level, which he has not done so far.

I still have 85% faith in Bronco Mendenhall.  I think he'll find a way.  But I also think Hoofans have to be patient.  Which really really really fucking sucks since we had to be patient waiting out the end of the London era.  Now we're being asked for more patience?  It's hard.  And by the time Bronco is ready to start winning at UVA, there might not be any fans left.



Me?  I'll admit it --- I've considered bailing out on this shit, shutting Wahooze down and declaring my UVA football fandom dead, because it's simply not a source of happiness.  It's a source of consternation and depression, and that's not what you want from your "entertainment."

Dammit, I'm stuck.  A Hoofan for life.  Bleeding orange and blue.  Doomed to stupidly care about Virginia Football 'til the day I die.  Fuck my life.

I'll hold back on bashing the players right now, other than to say this: Daaaaaaaamn, Taquan Mizzell.  7 carries for 10 yards and two fumbles.  Good lord, man.  That's almost impressively bad.

I think it probably goes without saying that we also need a bit more from Andrew Brown and Quin Blanding.  Marquee recruits, supposedly cultivated into difference-making players, doing nothing to help the team win.  For Christ's sake guys, make some fucking plays.  Playmakers gotta make some plays.

It wasn't all bad, though.  I liked at least some of what I saw from:

  • Kurt Benkert -- He's legit.  Best Virginia quarterback since Marques Hagans.  And no, it's not too early for me to be declaring this.
  • All of the receivers -- We've got some weapons for this spread.  (Now send them a little bit deeper, Robert Anae.)
  • Olamide Zaccheaus -- I know he did something bad to get suspended for the first half, but... he's our best player.  I know that now, and so should you.
  • Jack Powers -- On a day when our d-line really sucked ass, Powers came in and provided a badly-needed physical presence.  I'm ready to see Andrew Brown benched in favor of this guy.
  • Donte Wilkins -- He was trying, really really hard.  Maybe he wasn't that effective, but he was trying.
  • Jordan Mack -- Young fella looks small, but he's fast and hits.
  • Micah Kiser -- He's a machine in the middle of the defense.  The one guy from whom opposing offenses try to steer away.
  • The young corners -- They did not have a good day, but all of them passed the eyeball test, which is a start.

The answer.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One last point I'd like to make: Richmond's o-line is legit.  So I did a little digging.

  • LT Alex Light -- Junior // 0☆ recruit in 2014 // Salem, VA // Light interest from Virginia, no offer.  Also recruited by NC State and Virginia Tech, no offers.
  • LG Marius Young -- Junior // 2☆ recruit in 2014 // Richmond, VA (Hermitage) // No interest from Virginia.
  • C Nicholas Vergos -- RS Senior // 0☆ recruit in 2012 // Memphis, TN
  • RG Thomas Evans -- RS Senior // 0☆ recruit in 2012 // Franklin, NC
  • RT Patrick Kliebert -- RS Junior // 2☆ recruit in 2013 // New Orleans, LA
This offensive line is big (average weight: 301), tough, and effective.  Certainly much better than our shaky, piecemeal offensive line.

USUALLY, when a FBS school struggles early against an FCS school, they'll try to put the game in their offensive line's hands, to calm things down and exert their will via power running.  Let the bigger, stronger, better athletes of the FBS line bury the smaller, slower, less athletic defense of the FCS team.  We couldn't do that, because our o-line is garbage.  Richmond, however, could do that to us... because they had a good o-line, and our d-line ain't great.  On Saturday, Richmond had the FBS o-line, and we had the FCS o-line.  Ballgame.

I wanted to illustrate this above, because I want all Hoofans to understand how easy it is to build a good offensive line, especially when you have 85 scholarships to toss around instead of just 63 (FCS programs get 63 scholarships to use, FYI).  Devote 18-20 scholarships to the o-line, and let the best players bubble up and form the starting unit.  Bring in at least four OL recruits every season, without fail.  Do this, and you come away with a good offense, despite whatever else you might have or not have at quarterback, running back, and the receiving positions.  You become bulletproof to the type of upset we saw on Saturday.

Mike London made a lot of mistakes, and suffered from a lot of sputtering incompetence as the head coach at Virginia, but his negligent handling of our offensive line was by far his biggest crime.

It's also the unit that faces the steepest uphill climb in terms of being rebuilt.  How Bronco Mendenhall handles this o-line rebuilding is, to me, the thing that will ultimately determine his success or failure at Virginia.  I believe he'll get the defense fixed.  I believe his offense will take advantage of its weapons.  I think he'll get the team's psyche corrected.  But if he doesn't fix the offensive line, we won't win.

Fuck you, Mike London.



September 2, 2016

Season Prediction

I'm waffling a lot on some of the specific games, but here's where I am right now:

Richmond - W 

I actually think we have a puncher's chance at Oregon, who'll be looking ahead to their game @ Nebraska.  Their D isn't good, and they're breaking in a new QB of their own.

Oregon - L 

The UConn game is probably the early key to the season -- a win, and we're looking good for bowl eligibility.  A loss, and, well...  Let's not worry about that right now, kay?

@UConn - W 

C Mich - W 

No Thomas Sirk, we have a golden opportunity to go to Duke and pop the Blue Devils.

@ Duke - W 

I personally guarantee that we will not go 0-3 during the three-game October homestand.  We're winning at least one of these next three games, dammit.

Pitt - W 

UNC - L 

Louisville - L 

The game @ Wake is a key one this season.  We have to go there and notch the dubya.

@Wake - W 

Miami - L 

Bronco's defense is a fantastic matchup against the triple option.

@GT - W 

@VT - L

7-5

Bowl game, baby.





Wahooze Pick: Virginia vs. Richmond

The Spiders are a very, very good FCS team.  A national title contender, no doubt.  Their passing game is explosive, and their defense is fast and experienced.  But I don't think they have the athletes to contend with our spread offense, and I think we'll wear them down physically as the game moves along.  Richmond keeps it close for a while, but the Hoos pull away in the second half.

Virginia 34, Richmond 21


Football Scheduling

I did a little research. Here's the (complete?) list of FBS teams Virginia has never played (Power 5 teams in bold):

Air Force 

Alabama 

Appalachian State 

Arizona 
Arizona State 
Arkansas 

Arkansas State 

Baylor 

Bowling Green 

California 

Charlotte 

Cincinnati 
Colorado 

FAU 
FIU 
Georgia Southern 
Georgia State 
Hawaii 
Houston 

Iowa 
Iowa State 
Kansas State 

Louisiana Lafayette 
Louisiana Monroe 

LSU 

Marshall 
Memphis 

Michigan State 
Mississippi State 
Nebraska 

Nevada 
New Mexico 
New Mexico State 
Northern Illinois 
North Texas 

Northwestern 

ODU (but it's coming in 2018 and 2020!

Oklahoma State 
Ole Miss 
Oregon State 

Rice 
San Diego State 
SMU 
South Alabama 

Stanford 
Texas A&M 

Texas San Antonio 
Texas State 
Toledo 
Tulsa 
UCF 
UMass 
UNLV 
USF 

Utah 

Utah State 
UTEP 

Washington State 

Western Kentucky



OOC games I am now totally convinced we should seek out:

California -- I would like to establish an annual rivalry here.  #1 public university vs. #1a public university.  East Coast vs. West Coast.  ACC vs. Pac-12.

Charlotte -- Proximity, Charlotte's a cool town to visit, and we could totally kick their ass.

Cincinnati -- I kinda wanna take them for a spin as a potential ACC school.

@ Hawaii (but only after another few years of Broncoball, and the associated winning) -- Give the guys a little reward for a job well done.

Iowa State -- Competitively, our equal.  Plus I have a good friend who is an ISU guy, so it'd be fun on a personal level.

Northwestern -- Count me among those who believe we should try to play against good academic schools.

Ole Miss -- I've always wanted to play them.  Just feel a general affinity for that school, for some reason.  Plus, I'd love the chance to visit the Grove.

Rice -- Another elite academic institution with an FBS football program.

Stanford -- It's a little bit scary, as Stanford now has a great program.  But once Virginia is built back up, this could be awesome.

UMass  -- It just feels like a fit.

@ UNLV (my lips to God's ears) -- I wanna go to Vegas for UVA football, baby!



OOC games we've already played at least once, that I'd like to see again:

Army -- Winnable, honorable, and gives us some exposure in NY.

Navy -- Instead of a Maryland rivalry with the Terps, let's forge one with the Midshipmen.

Kansas -- There are precious few P5 teams that we know we could crush.

Kentucky -- I want some SEC pelts.

Penn State -- This is a series that should occur about once every decade.  Make them a regular OOC opponent.

Rutgers -- New Jersey is prime recruiting territory for us, and it's two evenly-matched opponents, Virginia/Rutgers.

Texas -- I just really love our games against the Longhorns.

Tulane -- Good school, and if we play them at their place, New Orleans!

UCLA -- Very, very similar to Cal, and the reasons for desiring this game are the same.

UConn -- I like this series.  2016 will be the third time we've played them, and we get 'em at home in 2017.  I'd be cool to see a home & home with them pop up every decade, and/or just go ahead and add them to the ACC.

Vanderbilt -- I've always been jealous of Wake Forest for beating us to the punch on this regular opponent.  Maybe we could swoop in for the steal?  I want an excuse to regularly visit Nash Vegas.

West Virginia -- I know many Hoofans wouldn't want this game, but they are our neighbors and it makes sense to play them.  (Really, Virginia Tech should be playing them annually.)



Via Jamie Oakes at Wahoos247:

Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall was asked at the final VAF Function of the spring about his involvement in the out of conference scheduling process. 
Yes, I am involved,” said Mendenhall. “So, how our process works, Gerry Capone, our Football Operations Director, is always on the hunt for who needs games. A lot of times, this is five years out, which you try to project what kind of team you’ll have then, what kind of team they’ll have then, where you’ll be playing, how does that fit, and then you try to adjust as best you can, and then you have how much they want to be paid with you budget, etc.
So with no ninth ACC contest and keeping an FCS opponent on the schedule, Mendenhall outlined the perfect three remaining games on the out of conference schedule. 
With the three games remaining, I’d love to have an intriguing Power 5 matchup, maybe a mid-level intriguing, and someone we could just destroy (laughter)."



Future Schedules (filled in to look the way I want them to look).  The games we're actually scheduled for are in bold:

2017
William & Mary
Indiana
UConn
@ Boise State

2018
Richmond
@ Indiana
Ohio
ODU

2019
@ Notre Dame
VMI
Rice (home & home for 2019/2020)
@ Tulane (home & home for 2019/2023)

2020
@ ODU
@ Rice
Liberty
California (we agree to play them every even-numbered year)

2021
Illinois
@ BYU
Notre Dame
JMU

2022
@ Illinois
ODU
William & Mary
@ California

2023
BYU
Tulane
Richmond
@ Hawaii

2024
@ Notre Dame
VMI
California
@ UNLV

2025
@ BYU
Liberty
Navy (home & home for 2025/2026)
@ Northwestern (hone & home for 2025/2027)

2026
@ California
JMU
@ Navy
Kentucky (home & home for 2026/2027)

2027
William & Mary
Northwestern
@ Kentucky
@ Rutgers (home & home beginning 2027)



Thoughts?  Which OOC games would you like to see Virginia try to tackle?




September 1, 2016

Okay, what's it REALLY gonna look like?

OFFENSE

Up-tempo.  I'm talking less than 20 seconds between snaps...

...which means the band and the home PA is going to struggle with timing on the "THAT'S ANOTHER CAVALIER... FIRST DOWN!"  It's going to seem like a shit show until they get used to the speed at which we're ripping off plays.

Of course, that assumes we're picking up first downs.  Not a totally safe assumption.  Often, especially early in the season, the offense is going to sputter.

I think the thing that's going to be striking to a majority of casual fans is just how SPREAD-OUT this spread is going to be.  We're going to flood the field with receivers, and they're going to be running everywhere, on and off the field, it's going to seem really chaotic.

The offense could be a bit weird, as its strength (running backs) is directly undermined by its weakness (offensive line depth).  I don't yet have a really good grasp on what that means... other than to think we'll probably try to keep the power running to minimum.

Given a potentially shaky o-line, expect to see Benkert on the move a lot.  I think we'll feature a good amount of designed roll-outs, bootlegs, that kind of thing.  And short stuff like screens to the backs, quick slants, square-ins, comebacks, and curls.  The key is going to be getting the ball out of Benkert's hands quickly and/or moving the pocket to buy extra time.  Again, this is not going to be a power running offense.



I do think we'll be attacking the flat as a matter of priority.  It's a high-percentage area of attack, and that's where our two best weapons - Smoke and Oz - are most easily able to make plays.  It's where we can find the most synergy between our semi-mobile quarterback and our best receiving weapons.

That's not to say that we won't stretch the field vertically, because I think we WILL go deep on a fairly regular basis.  David Eldridge is the kind of savvy, natural-born deep threat that Virginia has lacked in recent years.  Along with Eldridge, guys like Doni Dowling, Andre Levrone, and Warren Craft could make some hay in the intermediate to deep passing game.  True frosh Joe Reed is another gifted burner who is poised to get some playing time early in the season.

My main concern is protection --- can the line keep Benkert clean long enough for these guys to get deep?  Can Benkert buy enough of his own time in (and out) of the pocket?  Will the run game be productive enough to set up play action?  Questions that will need to be answered within the flow of each game.

The run game... Hm...  Well, we'll have the four backs (Mizzell, Hamm, Reid, Ellis) rotating liberally.  We'll attack defenses up the middle, but not until after they've been spread sideline to sideline by the short passing game.  So I think the pass will be used to set up the run.  We've got to connect on some productive dink-and-dunk plays early in games in order to be able to get the running game on track.

Read Option
And then there's the read option / zone read.  We know that's a big part of the offense's DNA, and we know Benkert has some mobility, so it's a fit.  The thing that makes me nervous is that option pitches are a recipe for turnovers in bunches when you're first installing the system in live action.  So for that reason, and knowing that ball control is going to be so important for this team, I kind of hope we pussyfoot into the option stuff.  Just tiptoe into it, slowly.  Baby steps.  We really don't need Benkert taking hits, nor do we need to see the ball on the ground.



One of the big talking points in the ramp-up to the season opener has been the '70-70' goal.  As in, 70% completion rate for the quarterbacks, and 70 total receptions for each position group -- 70 total catches for the backs, 70 total catches for the X, 70 total catches for the Y, 70 for the Z, and 70 for the H.  That's... 70 x 5... 350 total receptions spread out across the five skill positions on offense.  350 receptions divided by 12 is 29.167 receptions per game.  350 receptions at a 70% completion clip is 500 attempts.  That's 41.666 attempts per game.  So, yeah, this is a passing offense, people.

We're going to be passing, and passing a lot.  It's an up-tempo pass-happy spread.  America, fuck yeah.



DEFENSE

There's already a ton of stuff out there you can read on this, most recently this magnificent piece from Inside the Pylon.  Therefore, I won't spend a ton of time on discussing defensive strategy.  Instead, I'll try to tell you what I think I know about our personnel, and how it fits together and will (should?) function in Bronco's system.



(Go ahead and pop open the depth chart for the Richmond game.)

With Donte Wilkins at nose, Micah Kiser and Zach Bradshaw at mike and buck, Quin Blanding at free and Kelvin Rainey at sabre, the absolute strength of our defense is right up the middle of the field.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that the weakness of the defense is on the perimeter, outside the hash marks.  Reason being, we have inexperience by the truckload at the defensive end, outside linebacker, and cornerback positions.  Across the six starting spots - LE, RE, SLB, WLB, FC, and BC - zero are returning starters.  Zero have even really seen any meaningful snaps, unless you count Andrew Brown's cup of coffee as a misfit in Jon Tenuta's 4-3 scheme and/or the chance that Tim Harris has to get healthy and play most of the snaps at boundary corner.  Otherwise, we're looking at a pure baptism by fire for these young guys.


  • RE Steven Wright and Eli Hanback, both redshirt freshmen
  • OLBs Cory Jones and Chris Peace, both sophomores (Malcolm Cook should return soon, hopefully, and he'll provide a major boost)
  • Field corner Juan Thornhill is a soph
  • Thornhill's backup, Bryce Hall, is a true freshman
  • Boundary corner Myles Robinson is a soph

It's a lot of inexperience.

That said, I don't think it's crippling.  Brown should really emerge this season, and begin realizing some of his immense potential.  He's a perfect fit at 3-4 DE.  Malcolm Cook had a ton of preseason buzz as the breakout player of the year.  Tim Harris should be back to 100% soon enough, and is a good fit in the boundary role.

Meanwhile, the young guys listed in the bullet points above have bubbled up into key roles for a reason.  It's fair to expect good play out of at least some of them!

To attack us, teams are going to go at these young guys on the perimeter.  They're going to run wide and throw it deep, to test our outside linebackers and cornerbacks.  In a way, this plays right into the teeth of Bronco's "illusion of security" scheme.  So we'll really see if Xs and Os can trump Jimmys and Joes.

My hunch is that Bronco's mad genius on the defensive side is going to buoy this unit at somewhere around "average" all season.  We have some difference-making playmakers in Wilkins, Kiser, Blanding, and Cook... and we just need those dudes to make plays.