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.


  1. Good comment. I am also impressed with the weekly improvements. Seeing Andrew Brown starting to excel is a joy. However, I am a little concerned about the assistant coaching structure.

    Bronco has always come off (or tried to portray himself as) an analytical, result-based coach. Yet, in his assistant coaches, the number one qualification he looks for is "Do I like the guy, can he be my friend." This flies in the face of looking to constantly improve the results of the football program. This comment brings up the point with Anae, however it is even more concerning in our defensive staff (McNeil notwithstanding). Bronco has a staff made up entirely of his own current or former graduate assistants. Nick Howell was given the reins for one year as DC at BYU, with disastrous results for the defense. How can a coach who is so driven on metrics (and hopefully winning) prioritize his friendship over results? Will he be able to make a business decision if the defense needs fresh blood? Why do none of his defensive assistants ever get hired away and promoted by other programs?

    This may be as much of a result of his insular personality (or carryover from BYU all-Mormon coaching requirement) as anything else but I hope Bronco is able to make the tough calls on his staff when or if he needs to. Not calling for anything now, but I know even some BYU fans were weary of his hand-holding for defensive assistants. With bigger profile, salary, and no faith-based requirement at UVa, I hope that this does not remain an issue with Bronco.

    1. With all due respect, I think you're obsessing over nothing with respect to Bronco's approach to hiring his assistant coaches.

      There's nothing mutually exclusive about Bronco choosing someone he enjoys working with and someone who is also well qualified to do (and improve in) the job they're hired for. I suspect he looks for BOTH of those qualities in his assistant coaching hires.

      From everything I've heard or seen thus far, IMO Bronco's approach to coaching AND hiring will greatly enhance our chances of building a football program that consistently wins an "acceptable" number of games each season.

      Continuity and cohesiveness within the team's coaching staff can be a tangible PLUS in developing a solid football program, especially at a school like UVa (which doesn't admit any player with a pulse, makes the football players go to class AND "write their own papers/take their own tests" AND be perceived by the Admissions folks as being able to graduate in 4 years).

      Not attempting to be argumentative - just my two cents worth on the issue you raised.