Monday, December 8, 2008


We got what we asked for. It's common knowledge by now: Mike Groh is out as offensive coordinator, and DL coach Levern Belin and secondary coach Steve Bernstein are following him out the door.

So is this such a good thing? Well, yes. By all accounts, of course, Mike Groh is a good man, hard worker, great with the players, etc. etc. etc. Most coaches are, and I'm not here to impugn the man's character. But there was a direct correlation between Mike's hiring as OC and the sudden plop sound of our offense hitting the water in the porcelain bowl. The playcalling was a particular point of complaint; I maintain that the playcalling was the one single factor more than any other that cost us a bowl trip. So Mike had to go. Mike's been a loyal Wahoo since 1991 and hasn't held a job at any other college; it can't be fun, firing your son, which is why you don't hire him in the first place. 99% of coaching hires end badly, or at least with some degree of animosity, and it only gets worse and more awkward and more uncomfortable and more acrimonious and really adjectivey when flesh and blood is involved.

So what does it all mean?


According to Al Groh's statement, most of the defensive shuffling has already been done. Your new defensive coordinator is linebackers/special teams coach Bob Diaco, as Bob Pruett moves to something of an associate head coach position. He'll likely focus very heavily on recruiting. I see no reason why Diaco wouldn't continue to coach the linebackers, something he does rather well; a new special teams coach seems likely though. This is Diaco's first gig as a primary assistant, and no, special teams coordinator doesn't count.

Anthony Poindexter finally gets to coach the secondary, and I don't doubt he'll do fine. Running backs coach? Seems like a fish out of water thing. He's back in his element. He also seems a distinct possibility to take over as special teams coordinator from Diaco - this would be as simple as taking "assistant" off his title.

The firing of Levern Belin is what puzzles me. Bernstein was probably pretty much ready to retire anyway, but letting Belin go seems strange. I don't think you can point to the defensive line as a unit that doesn't play up to its potential - in fact, you'd figure the guy who coached up Chris Long to be a second overall draft pick can't be half bad a coach. I dunno, there's probably a reason - maybe Belin kicked Littlepage's cat or something - but to me it's the strangest of the three departures. Assuming Diaco retains his linebacker duties, DL coach is now the only defensive position that we're in the market for.


Couple of holes here, the most glaringly and stupidly obvious being that we need a new offensive coordinator. The only offensive coach on the staff with any previous experience as an OC is WR coach Wayne Lineburg, who was the Richmond OC from 2004-06. OL coach Dave Borbely is also the "running game coordinator" but the man's done nothing but coach offensive lines since 1986 so he's probably not a candidate. Besides, I don't think "coordinator of the 111th best running game in the nation" is a real resume builder for the spot. Lineburg seems like the only candidate to be promoted from within, but an offense as stagnant as ours desperately needs some fresh blood and outside opinions. We would be best served hiring outside the program.

We also need a running backs coach, now that Poindexter has been shuffled over to the defense.


Ay, there's the rub. When coaches depart, the effect on the incoming recruiting class is always a concern. When it comes to the corps of already-committed players, I think we're fine. The bigger question comes from those who've yet to decide.

Bernstein was only the recruiter for two verbals: OT Sean Cascarano and FB Dominique Wallace. Wallace is a helluva runner, but Bernstein doesn't coach either of these positions anyway. I wouldn't worry. Mike Groh was recruiting quite a few players; perhaps the most concerning is WR Tyree Watkins, who's already been sending out maybe a mixed signal or two.

It's the not-yet-committed players where our recruiting may take a hit. The player that probably has (or maybe had) the best combination of talent and likelihood to commit to UVA is OL/DL Brennan Williams - we just fired both his recruiters. Al is going to have to do a lot of talking about the right things in order to keep him interested, because you bet your ass Butch Davis and Jeff Jagodzinski are telling Williams, "This year Mike, next year Al." DE Pat Muldoon was a Bernstein target; this is worrisome not just because of Muldoon, but his teammate Luke Kuechly is considering UVA as well. Mike Groh was also recruiting WR Justin Brown, but he was almost entirely out of the picture anyway, and this will probably cause me to just drop him off the board next update. Dude's going to Penn State anyway.

Looks like we're in for a plenty interesting offseason. But not as interesting as next year's offseason is going to be, if the 2009 season isn't up to snuff.

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