Friday, July 31, 2009

preseason balloting

Well, I'm not back from vacation, not exactly. But I promised I'd try and roll out a little somethin' somethin', so. As you're probably aware, the ACC had its media week this week, and I don't really find a lot of value in obsessing over every question-and-answer session, but the voting that results, you know, the projected standings and the preseason all-conference team, those things are worth a look. And the Real Serious Media guys aren't the only ones who get to have all the fun. Gobbler Country hosted a blogger vote as well, with everything the media does minus a full-out all-conference team. So: Media results are here, blogger results are here.

They're not surprising, really, as far as the UVa representation. Fifth in the division, ahead of Duke, both times. The writers tossed us a bone and named Ras-I Dowling to the preseason team. If Vic Hall were still a cornerback, we might have swept that position: UNC's Kendric Burney, the other CB, had the fewest votes of any selection. By the sounds of it, though, Hall is the likely starter at quarterback come September 4.

You're probably wondering what my own ballot looked like when Gobbler Country came calling for inputs. Even if you're not, here you go:


1. FSU
2. NC State
3. Clemson
4. Wake
5. Maryland
6. BC


1. GT
2. VT
3. UNC
4. UVA
5. Miami
6. Duke

Conference champ: Georgia Tech

Offensive POY: Jonathan Dwyer
Defensive POY: Dekoda Watson
ROY: Tajh Boyd

For whatever reason, I'm really bullish on Georgia Tech this year. I was actually about to vote for Morgan Burnett for DPOY, too, but I thought of those votes as a prediction, basically, and if there's a comparable front seven player in the running the media tends to go that route over selecting a safety. GT returns basically all their key players. VT seems to be the more or less consensus pick to win the conference no matter what subset of pundits you ask, but they have plenty of warts and question marks of their own and I think the reasoning tends to go "well I can't figure out how it could be anyone else." Fair enough, I suppose. Last year Clemson was supposed to have their year, and they didn't, and this year, what have you got? Same as last year, basically: eight or nine teams that would all be third or fourth best in any other major conference in the land. So you pick the team with a defense that probably won't fold too often and at least has a proven coach. Unless you're me, then you go with the team whose performance last year surprised everyone but you because you sort of predicted they'd do that.

Anyway, all this comes without having yet done any of my season previews, which are as much to educate me as they are you, so I reserve the right to change my mind.

A couple other tidbits:

Getting cautiously optimistic that Jeff White's move into the athletic department is going to work out nicely after all. His stories are good stuff. For example:

- Might have mentioned it already, but DE Kevin Crawford is off the team now as well as previously-noted TE Rod Wheeler. The scholarship crunch is coming to an end. My depth chart file isn't on this computer, so I'll count later, but I think that brings us to 86.

- The freshmen are way behind on their conditioning - that's to be expected, of course - but S&C coach Brandon Hourigan noted a few that are in good shape: Tim Smith, Perry Jones, Quintin Hunter, Javanti Sparrow. Those are the guys you'd want to watch out for in fall camp, especially Smith (obviously) and Sparrow, who play a position where suddenly we can't have enough depth. With the tremendous trop in DE depth we've taken this offseason, it's too bad a DE wasn't on that list somewhere.

Also, the 2011 recruiting class already has its first member: WR Adrian Gamble. No, I have no intention of starting the 2011 recruiting board. And no, I have no idea if this guy's any good. He's fast, they say. Great. Actually, what it tells me is that we're probably going to sign a full 25 in 2011, if Groh's already got that class cranking up. We didn't have our first '09 commitment til December '07 (that was Owah, who decommitted eventually) and we didn't have a '10 commit until February this year. Gamble's way ahead of the curve. Guys who do that usually fall into two categories: either they're committing to their dream school and getting it done early, or they have no idea of the attention they're going to get just for playing football, and decommit once they see some offer letters. It'll be interesting to see what kind of schools will try and pry Gamble out of our clutches.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

get the hell off my lawn

I belong to the first generation to really grab hold of the Internet and grow up with it, as well as one that thinks Motley Crue is classic rock (they basically are), but I still tend to be really crotchety about my college football. You've already seen me go all-out in my insistence that there should not be a playoff, and what's setting me off now is the emergence of the neutral-site game as a fixture in early-season scheduling.

Our rivals from up in the hills are embracing this neutral-site thing like few others. They have a game in Atlanta this year, and recently hooked up with Boise State to play at F***x Field for next year.** Army's got them beat, however - games at Yankee Stadium basically every year for the foreseeable future, including Notre Dame. And speaking of Notre Dame, they'll be taking on Washington State in - what the hell??? - San Antonio. San Antonio?

I mean, I get it, yeah? Money money money. The Alamodome is huge and the game would get way more exposure than in Pullman, Washington. The revenue for Notre Dame will be like an eighth home game. But still. Look. Let me make this clear for you kids who are running all over my lawn: College football should be played on college campuses, in college stadiums. OUTDOORS.

Some colleges, of course, fail to do these as a habit. Miami and Pitt borrow the nearby NFL stadium. UConn built their own stadium, but it's 25 miles away in Hartford. Syracuse commits the cardinal sin of having a dual-use basketball/football arena/stadium. It's a big reason I didn't apply to Syracuse. All of these are lousy, in my opinion, because they take away from the whole experience. And worst of all, the student body should not have to arrange caravans and drive across town or across the state or across the country to see what should ostensibly be a home game. Neutral-site games are the same thing. I'm glad UVA decided to schedule a home-and-home with USC; had we done it like Tech did with Alabama, the students are deprived the chance to see a marquee opponent in their backyard, and that ain't right.

Somebody somewhere, I totally forget where I read this otherwise I'd link, offered a list of neutral-site games and neutral-site opponents they wanted their team to play. I got such a list too, here's the neutral-site games I want to play: Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, Gator Bowl. Sound good? Sounds good. About as good as getting to see Penn State, USC, South Carolina - all excellent games we have played/will play - right where they belong in Scott Stadium.

Three other items for your rumination:

One, congrats to the boys at TheLegacyx4, who are now the boys at From the Rumble Seat. Got their own URL and their own SB Nation blog. Golf clap and a round of whiskey, clear.

Two: Heather, Heather, Heather. She was doing pretty well as far as UVA went in her preseason unit rankings - at least, I found I couldn't put up an argument with them that didn't involve my orange and blue glasses - but the preseason predictions are just .... ugh. Prediction #3 is sound enough, but Heather - when you say Al Groh will not lose his job (prediction #1), you don't sound as if you mean to add "if he does well this season." Heather is now on record as basically the only person to write a word about UVA and suggest Groh will stay coach even with a lousy year, and that's quite a position to be in. Bully for her if she turns out right, but as she points out, this is a transition year and we lost a lot of talent - but you know, it's not like we did real well last year, either. Making a transition from bad to worse, which she clearly thinks we're set up for, does not typically save coaches' jobs. Prediction #2 suggests we don't have the playmakers to execute the new offense, which uh I don't know what that makes Vic Hall then.

Oh, and sixth-best secondary in the conference? No, no, no. The aforementioned glasses turn it into the best in the league, but it's still top three without them.

Three: remember to read and heed the programming notes in yesterdays post below. No content for the next few days and not much for the next week, but if you're not back and ready to roll with the rest of us on August 3 I'm afraid you'll be missing out.

**Tech gets a little bit of a pass for the Boise State neutral-site game. Can you imagine them going there, with those hideous colors, and playing a game on that violent blue field? It might not be so bad if you still have rabbit ears on your TV, but HD viewers would get a full blast of visual assault and battery and would risk total blindness.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

recruiting board update

It's that time again, time to update the ol' board o' recruiting, but before we get there, a word about next week, please. I'll be going on a nice little summer vacation starting Friday and lasting a week. Yes, a whole week. Don't look at me like that, I've spent this whole offseason putting forth content when there's no games to be watching. It's break time. Now: a post tomorrow is probable but not guaranteed, I need to pack and stuff too. I can basically guarantee you no content at all from Friday to Wednesday. Thursday through Sunday, maybe a post or two, maybe.

The next Monday, however, is go time. We'll be in full-on preseason mode. Play time is over. Through August, you can expect, just like last year, a season preview of all 11 other ACC teams, plus our four non-conference opponents (William & Mary, TCU, Southern Miss, and Indiana for the forgetful) and of course, a post each devoted to our own offense and defense. I've just promised you seventeen posts over about thirty days in addition, obviously, to recruiting board updates, potential August commitments, and whatever else might happen. Plus, some high school seasons begin in August, plus the Blogpoll is gearing back up, so I will have ballots and roundtable entries. It will truly be full-out football time. I hope you're ready.

Now, you may have your update:

- Removed elsewhere commits LB Brian Laiti (VT), WR Tyrek Cheeseboro (Maryland), DE James Kittredge (Vandy.) Laiti never actually had an offer, I just kept him on there because I figured the coaches might get around to sending one if everything else failed. I'm glad he committed somewhere finally, now I don't have to weakly justify his presence to myself.

- Moved all the safeties to red and dropped a few off the list. As well, those who once were corners are now safeties. We're still out recruiting actual cornerbacks and not safeties.

- Speaking of corners, CB Rijo Walker moves up to blue, and CB James Scales is added to yellow.

- Moved DT Harold Legania up to yellow.

- For the second time this year, removed TE Josh Lovell. I decided I can't see us recruiting any tight ends.

- Rivals just did a big shakeup of their star ratings, so that column is updated some.

As you can see, the list is getting way slim. Used to be half again as big as it is now, but for about two months now, names have been coming off faster than new ones have been added. We have, I think, 5-7 more spots open. Recruits now are split up basically into two camps: those that want to get their decision out of the way before their season begins and not have to worry about recruiting, and those that want to use their official visits and take their time. By September 5 I expect it to be quite a bit slimmer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The incoming freshmen were added to the official roster today, and I like to think you can learn stuff by looking at the numbers they were assigned. Let's take a look, shall we? Here are the numbers:

Oday Aboushi - 72
Lovante' Battle - 37
Luke Bowanko - 74
Sean Cascarano - 79
Paul Freedman - 88
Will Hill - 93 (he was already there as an early enrollee)
Quintin Hunter - 15
Perry Jones - 33
Corey Lillard - 29
Jeremiah Mathis - 58
Connor McCartin - 51
Ross Metheny - 13
Justin Renfrow - 54
Laroy Reynolds - 26
Kevin Royal - 82
Bobby Smith - 85
Tim Smith - 14
Jake Snyder - 90
Javanti Sparrow - 16
Hunter Steward - 76
Brent Urban - 99
Cody Wallace - 78
Dominique Wallace - 21
Tucker Windle - 39

Observations, speculations, etc.:

- Conspicuously absent is Morgan Moses. Prep school now seems a near certainty. No truth to any rumors that Moses is so dominantly massive that the delay is due to the school petitioning to allow him to wear #100.

- Dominique Wallace has been given a running back's number. Some say he would make an excellent linebacker and might eventually be slotted there, but guys with #21 don't practice with the linebackers. This pleases me. Dominant linebackers are fun, and there's a school of thought that says Wallace would make a terrific linebacker, but personally, running back is my favorite position. There's no substitute for an unstoppable force at running back behind a line that's at least respectable. It's how you control the game on offense, and it's spectacular to watch. And Wallace has a chance to be an unstoppable force at running back. I can't wait.

- Either Luke Bowanko is a guaran-damn-teed redshirt, or the presence of Patrick Slebonick is a mistake. Slebonick, as you might recall, was not asked back for a fifth year, or that was the report in January. But there he is. Slebonick, were he to play this year, would exist on the fringes of the depth chart, but he would be on the depth chart nonetheless, and the two have the same number (74.) You can give two guys the same number, they just can't be on the field at the same time.

- The other same-number clash on the O-line between two scholarship players involves #78, shared by Cody Wallace and Isaac Cain. Wallace is listed as "Unk" instead of "Fr." - either he should be worried, or he should kick the ass of the intern assigned to fat-finger the roster in. Wallace is also a guaranteed redshirt, though you don't need the number on the jersey to tell you that, just look at the number in the weight column.

- Speaking of weight, look at Sean Cascarano. 255?? Is that for real? His recruiting profiles all listed him as 270.

- Nobody gets #7. Interesting. I thought Metheny might get it, but he's #13.

- #39 is a really weird number for a linebacker, but that's what Tucker Windle got. There's just no room in the 40's and 50's.

- Tim Smith with #14. I know WR's often get numbers in the teens, but that sticks out a little bit. Looking forward to seeing that kind of impact on the field.

- Laroy Reynolds and Javanti Sparrow still haven't been officially slotted on offense or defense. They both have WR/DB by their names. Sparrow has a number (#16) that's more a WR's number than a DB's (but there are exceptions) and Reynolds is the opposite at #26. Doesn't mean anything official, but I think it's at least a hint toward which way they're leaning.

- Observations on the pictures: Maybe it's the lighting, but Oday Aboushi looks a lot less chubby in the face than before. (Before, After.) Like he's lost some baby fat. Still listed as 300 pounds though. Dominique Wallace has some 300-pound dreads, which are excellent. Can't decide whether Metheny, Reynolds, or Bobby Smith is the goofiest-looking. Tim Smith and Brent Urban are going to be carded at establishments for the next twenty years, although Urban being 6'7 might eventually dissuade a few would-be bouncers. Sean Cascarano is the only one with hair to match the orange on his uniform, which makes it all the bigger shame that he has no profile linked. As a rule, the entire team seems to have been told to pose for the pictures as if they just buried their dog.

Anyway, I've updated the depth chart accordingly. Last year's senior class is now gone, and replaced with next year's recruiting class. The scholarship count, as best I can tell, stands at 87. I took Moses off and put him with next year's class, and I took out Kyle Long, too, the chances of him coming now look dim. Also gone: TE Rod Wheeler. Slebonick returns for now, and for whatever reason I didn't have Isaac Cain on there, my bad. So that's what brings us to 87. That means two more people have to leave the team, but the rumblings are there about who that might be (Jameel Sewell? Uh-oh?), and meeting the 85 limit doesn't look like it'll be so hard any more.

Last, but not least - in fact, probably "most": a new UVA blog has arrived on the scene. Go check it out, you must do this. It is called The Great Blog of Virginia, and if the scenery is any indication it looks promising indeed, though it breaks with not-long-at-all-established tradition of pulling the blog name from the Good Ol' Song. There are entirely too few Virginia blogs inhabiting the blogowebz at the moment, so go check it out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

from the emails

I'll call this my First Mailbag Post, although that's kind of cheating and you'll see why in a bit. But hey: mailbag, yo! Here we go.

I did get sent this, conveniently enough right around the time I was hunting around looking for something to write about. Stu from Danville** helpfully informed me of the existence of a blog dedicated to covering the Cape Cod League, inside which they have nice little scouting reports on some of our own UVA ballplayers like Tyler Wilson and Jarrett Parker. Also Dan Grovatt and Phil Gosselin.

Grovatt and John Barr were All-Stars, by the by.

The full list of Hoos in the Cape Cod League, by team:

Bourne - Robert Morey
Brewster - John Barr, Jarrett Parker
Harwich - Phil Gosselin, Dan Grovatt
Hyannis - Tyler Wilson
Orleans - Matt Packer

And while we're on the subject, the list of Hoos in the New England League, a slightly less well-known summer league:

Keene - Jared King
Newport - Will Roberts
Sanford - Chad O'Connor

If you're wondering how they're doing, I know of no blog that covers the NEBCL, but it's just as well. King is hitting .143, Roberts has pitched in all of three games, and O'Connor has gotten into just one.

The next mailbag item is sort of cheating because it came in the SabreMail. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mark Bradley decided to make the mistake of using a trivia question to turn over writing duties to a "guest blogger", who should probably stick to trivia night at the bar instead of writing. The topic? Why Tech Will Finally Win At UVA. (That's the Georgia variety, in case you missed the Atlanta thing.) This deserves deconstruction. Let's begin:

There are several reasons why Tech will beat Virginia:

• UVA will be running a new offense this year — a spread (I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) and Jameel Sewell, the projected starting quarterback, has not played in a year because he was not in school last season. He has to get back into playing shape while he learns a new system under a new offensive coordinator. So the area that is the one question mark for Tech — the defensive line — should see an offense that is a pale imitation of what it’s used to seeing in practice. That also means, hopefully, that Coach Paul Johnson and Coach Dave Wommack will be better equipped to defend against this offense.

Leaving aside the jealous little sneer about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I - no, wait. I'm not going to leave it aside, because any brickhead could watch the two offenses in action and realize there's absolutely nothing similar about the offenses, except for the use of the word "spread." I guess all spreads are alike to Guest Blogger. Never mind that we've already converted half our running backs to wide receiver because we don't have enough to properly fill out a depth chart that has to account for plays with five receivers on the field. Paul Johnson's offense uses three running backs at a time. We barely have three running backs on scholarship any more. Pale imitation my ass. It will look nothing like Paul Johnson's offense. If there's a single I-A offense less able than any other to prepare a defense for ours, it's probably Georgia Tech's.

Interestingly, Guest Blogger seems to think he knows something about who our starting quarterback will be. Perhaps he'll let Al Groh know too.

• Tech has had a year to grow with this offense and Paul Johnson has said that he will be throwing the ball more. Virginia’s secondary is young with one senior starter, so that will also be an advantage for the Yellow Jackets.

Senior starter? Vic Hall, right? The quarterback, right? If he meant Chris Cook (who at the moment, probably isn't a starter), he'd probably feel the need to bring up the lost year last year, like he did with Sewell, so I think he means the guy who spent all spring under center. As for the rest, well, he's right: Ras-I Dowling's inexperience means he only made second-team all-ACC last year, the big loser. He'll be a junior this year, but a way inexperienced junior unlike GT's Morgan Burnett, who is a very old, experienced, seasoned junior.

Interestingly also, GT's nominal secondary starters are Rashaad Reid (sophomore), Dominique Reese (junior), Burnett (junior), and Mario Butler (junior). All that senior experience ought to really help.

• The biggest reason is this: Coach Johnson plays to win, as opposed to Chan Gailey playing not to lose. I was at the game in 2007, and Tech had plenty of chances to win. After taking a three-point lead, it began to play conservative football and that ended up contributing to the loss. I am aware Tech lost to Virginia last year in Atlanta under Coach Johnson.
I am aware I just torpedoed an entire bullet point with one sentence.

Tech is a contender in the conference, while UVA will finish with five wins. Al Groh is on the hot seat while Tech has its coach for the future.
Every single one of these points was also precisely true last year. When we won. In Atlanta. But you were aware of that.

If we do lose to the Jackets this year, which I concede is not unlikely, it will be because of our young, inexperienced linebacking corps getting torn up by an offense unlike any other they've seen. Mr. Guest Blogger does in fact mention this, but loses half credit for making it a one-sentence bullet and glossing over it. Do you know what irony is, Guest Blogger? Irony is a Georgia Tech fan who can watch his team use a novel offense never before seen in a BCS conference to defy legions of naysayers and win nine games, and then claim another team (which he has not researched) will struggle because of a new offense.

**I made that up, it's more fun than not doing it and sounds better than just saying "Stu told me" as if I was trying to explain which of my drinking buddies told me the whopper you're about to hear.

Friday, July 17, 2009

the recruit: Christopher Brathwaite

Name: Christopher Brathwaite
Position: OLB
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
School: Holy Cross (Queens)
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 250

Rivals: NR
Scout: NR

There ain't much out there on Brathwaite, to be honest, which is a shame, because irregardless (THAT'S NOT A WORD) of his future football prospects at UVA, it's clear we're getting a solid person. He's already qualified, which should come as no surprise: Holy Cross is a distinctive private school, and you might have heard of some of their more well-known recent alums: Kevin Ogletree and some basketball player named Sylven Landesberg.

So those concerns aside, what are we getting on the football field? It'll all depend on how well Brathwaite makes the transition from the defensive line to linebacker. Brathwaite is a "classic tweener": short for a defensive end, and biggish for the standard 4-3 linebacker. Ah, but we play a 3-4, as you well know, and Al Groh sees Brathwaite in the Darryl Blackstock/Clint Sintim role: rush linebacker that often plays with a hand on the ground.

Trouble is, Brathwaite plays defensive tackle at Holy Cross. As defensive tackles are not called upon to do any pass coverage or any linebackery stuff, Brathwaite knows he has a learning curve ahead of him. 250 pounds, however, is not big enough to play DT at the college level, and if he were likely to get substantially bigger he'd have more I-A offers than the one he currently holds, so this was going to be the case no matter what.

As the above link will tell you, he's been tearing up the camp scene, and garnering words of praise from Mike Farrell, who has this to say:

On defense, Flushing (N.Y.) Holy Cross defensive end Christopher Brathwaite, coming off his MVP performance at the NIKE Camp in Virginia, dominated the one-on-ones. He has superior strength, a very quick first step and a tenacity and motor you can’t teach. Only Vardaro was a match for him on the day.
"Vardaro" is Boston College commit and offensive tackle Robert Vardaro, FWIW. The dude is also 6'5", 307. If it takes an extra 57 pounds to match up with our boy here, I think I like that.

Brathwaite's almost certainly looking at a redshirt year, so he can learn how to play linebacker. And it's probably fair to wonder what might become of him if Groh is let go after this year and a new regime installs a totally different defense. But I have to admit this: During the course of researching this post, Brathwaite quickly became a personal favorite. I'm on record as being mildly annoyed about all these guys who nobody but us recruited, and Rutgers really was the only other I-A team looking at Brathwaite and they hadn't offered. And sure, when it comes to covering recruiting, certain things are ubiquitous and unavoidable. Effusive quotes from the high school coach. "Academics are a priority." You see it so often, you stop noticing. For whatever reason - maybe it's the high school, maybe it's the camp performances or the really mean look on his face in all the pictures - I drank the Kool-Aid here, and I see Brathwaite as the Kevin Parks of the defense: a guy who'd be way up everyone's charts if he were differently sized. Brathwaite underscores how uniquely tough it can be to recruit at UVA: the school is one of a select few that actually does more than pay lip service to the notion of a student-athlete, to the extent of frustrating many fans. I think in Brathwaite, Al Groh has found precisely what he's looking for in all his recruits.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

my stance on Al Groh

I anticipate a lot of ups and downs this season. I think there will be games in which I'm cussing out at least half the coaching staff, and others that prove everyone involved with UVA football is a bloody genius. This is, I think, a Season of Truth, so to speak. With that in mind, I want to get this on the record so there will no confusion and no accusations of waffling. Going to put it out there for all to critique, how exactly I feel about our esteemed head coach and what the future should hold.

To sum up in one tidy sentence: I am absolutely not in the Groh Must Go camp, but I am getting there.

How is this? Let's bulletize:

- Groh is as loyal a Virginia Cavalier as you're ever likely to see. That's worth something in my book. This is a guy that had a taste of the biggest of the big-times. Of all the tiers of football coaching in the country, "head coach in the National Football League" is the rarest, and the pinnacle. And Groh wasn't coaching just anywhere, he was coaching in New York, the hand-picked successor of the most respected mind in professional football, Bill Parcells. The opinion of Parcells is pure, solid gold as far as football minds are concerned. Groh had it made. You just don't get a better deal than that.

And then he left. Gave it up to come to Charlottesville and coach his alma mater. Here's a guy whose dream job was not the New York Jets, or Dallas Cowboys, or Notre Dame or Alabama or USC. It was the University of Virginia. If that doesn't count for something, then you might as well pack up now and buy an ugly maroon sweatshirt. Groh busts his ass every day for this team, and his players notice it and support him. I've no doubt that whenever Groh's tenure is over, there will be much sentimentality and well-wishing because of this stuff; it would be nice to take a moment out of the Groh-bashing to recognize it before he moves on.

- That said, I also think it's clear we've seen what Groh's ceiling is. It should be noted that one thing Groh has never done is win less than five games in a season. It's nice that we've never been Duke-bad, but Groh has also shown he's capable of taking any recruiting class, be it all five-stars or all two-stars, and turning it into an 8-win team. That's the baseline. Anything more is rare and sometimes takes 14 games to achieve (see 2002); anything less tends to be considered a disappointment. Eight years of Al Groh has shown us that the Groh regime isn't cut out to turn this team into a perennial contender.

That's fine for now, if Groh can keep us expecting that level of success all the way until the end of his tenure. He's 65; he's not gonna be coaching ten more years. It's fine because it keeps expectations high enough that the admin won't have to settle for a retread or roll the dice on an unknown assistant.

But two of Groh's three 5-7 seasons have come in the past three years, right at a time when the ACC is ripe for the taking for anyone opportunistic enough. We can't be going 5-7 again. And I needn't remind you that Groh has beaten VPISU just once, five seasons ago.

- This season, then, needs to be make-or-break. People will set specific conditions on this season: have to go to a bowl, have to beat Tech, etc. etc. I won't. Say we do both, but it's a 6-7 season with ugly blowouts and a sorry-looking loss to some crummy MAC team in a bowl? Do you keep Groh then? I don't. We need a successful season, the exact definition of which will come sometime after November 1, but will probably include some combination of enough wins to keep us contending in the Coastal all year, a bowl game not played in Mobile, and yes, a win over Tech.

More important, though, is the desperate need for a sense of direction and purpose. We don't need a successful season for a successful season's sake. We need one because certain personnel decisions last year (Mike Groh, Peter Lalich) displayed loud and clear that Groh is hanging on a thread. Two years in a row of letting him dangle like that ain't fair to Groh and it ain't right for the program. I promise you every recruit we've ever been in touch with this year is being told Groh is a lame duck, and how can we refute that when that's how we feel ourselves? The worst thing that can happen is to have another weak-ass season floundering in the wilderness and for the admin to allow the lame duck to continue. It's not the right thing to do by the program, but not only that, it's not the right thing to do by Groh: making him coach with a sword of Damocles over his head, crippling him on the recruiting trail and taking decisions out of his hands that 119 other D-IA coaches have control over.

At some point this season, the decision needs to be made. And frankly, we should know the answer before Thanksgiving - before the Tech game. If the admin silently decides Groh should be fired but allows him to coach out the season, that's fine, but no one criterion should be the deciding factor here. Because it's not about this coming season, it's about this coming decade. I hope for the best here. I really do. I don't want to see Groh fired, I want him to come out blazing this year and set himself up to go out on his own terms, whenever that might be. But as my take on Dave Leitao might have tipped you off to, I tend to stick by a coach long after most everyone else has called for his head. If I start thinking it might be time to go, it probably is. And we're in real danger of getting there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

recruiting board update

I have to be at work again at 8:00 tonight and will probably be there til 9:30 or so. People in different time zones are Too Important to inconvenience themselves even a little bit, so I get uber-inconvenience out of the deal. So today's post is just a quick recruiting board update. Here's what we got for ya. It's not good news, really.

- Removed WR Alex Kenney (Penn State), LB Jamal Wallace (Duke), and CB Urell Johnson (Southern Miss.) Johnson would have been nice to have. Wallace I can live without; I'd rather have Attaochu and/or Rush. But, fark, man. I really wanted Kenney and thought we had a better-than-even shot of getting him.

- Moved S Detric Allen to red. His offer is verbal only, and we're getting equivalent interest back from him, and frankly there just ain't much to that whole relationship.

- Moved TE Josh Lovell to red as well. He's got Maryland written all over him.

- One thing I haven't done is move QB Stephen Morris up to blue. The rules I laid out for myself for updating this recruiting board would suggest he ought to be up there, but as it's my blog I reserve the right to break those at any time, and I'm just too pessimistic about Morris to move him up.

Commentary: That blue section got quite a bit smaller over the past couple weeks without increasing the orange ranks any. And about that blue list: the only player on there that I feel better than 50/50 about our chances with is Marcus Rush. Robbie Havenstein, I'd say about 50/50 even. If all of the players in blue committed, which they won't because it would overload us at certain positions and leave us thin elsewhere, that'd be 16 commits. I would guess that no more than three of those in blue will actually be Hoos. We'll probably pull one or two, maybe, from the yellow group eventually. The upshot is that probably half the rest of the class will be names that aren't even on there right now. I don't know why I'm saying that, because it certainly doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement that says, "Hey! Final authority, right here!" Perhaps to prep you for the idea that this class will almost assuredly end up 11th or 12th when the gurus rank the ACC. Whether that even matters or not, I have no idea.

Monday, July 13, 2009

the recruit: Conner Davis

Name: Conner Davis
Position: OT
Hometown: Glen Allen
School: Deep Run
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 270

ESPN: 75
Rivals: three stars, 5.7, #45 OT
Scout: three stars, #60 OT

Davis' recruitment is sort of the mirror image of Mark Shuman's. You'll recall, Shuman is a Tech fan indoctrinated by a Tech family, but Al Groh managed to intrigue him just enough to get him on Grounds for a return visit, making the journey a little more interesting than it was supposed to be. Davis is the opposite. He grew up in orange and blue, but VPI made it annoyingly close for a little while there.

Actually, Clemson could have made it tough too, if they'd offered. Davis visited Clemson, enjoyed it greatly (he's kinda liked Clemson for a long time) but he got no offer, and that's when his recruitment entered the homestretch. Even without a Clemson offer, he was getting attention all up and down the East Coast.

Davis is one of those guys that's listed at OT because that's where a high school's best lineman plays, but where he plays at UVA is going to depend a little bit on how he grows. He's got room for a few more pounds, although it's hard to say how many because the scouting services are apparently throwing darts and guessing at his weight. He's bigger than the 260 Scout gives him credit for, probably not quite 280 like Rivals says, but he's tall and he'll be there eventually so why not.

A redshirt year is about as close to a guarantee as you'll ever see. We only graduate one lineman this year (Will Barker) and last year's lineman class was enormous, even without Morgan Moses which is looking likelier and likelier. ESPN says he "should develop into a starter late in his career" which is as much because of the logjam a year ahead of him as anything else. Still, he's got talent and fits very, very nicely into the class we've got going so far on offense - one of everything at this point.

Friday, July 10, 2009

weekend mishmash

I was going to write up on Conner Davis, and don't get me wrong, I'm really looking forward to, but beer got in the way and now I don't want to spend the time and it's already almost 10 at night anyway. Damn beer.

So just a few quickish things, and really not exactly good news to be honest:

- First, dispensing with the bad news right away: you may have heard, but John Brandenburg will be transferring. Speculation seems to be in the direction of some personal or family stuff; that would be pretty much confirmed if Brandenburg ends up at a school much closer to his native Missouri. Lousy news, but we wish him all the best. It leaves five open scholarships for 2010, and if I had to predict now I'd say Bennett will probably leave one open and not burn them all up in this class. There's still time to scrounge up a juco transfer or something to sit at the end of the bench and give us a little depth; this would not really hurt us going forward except to take away a 2010 scholarship in case Bennett does want to use it on a recruit. But with one now open for '09 and '10, if it wouldn't carry forward to affect the 2011 recruiting class, it's a possibility. The other possibility is maybe to give it to Will Sherrill. It'd be a classy gesture even if Sherrill isn't going to sniff the court against any opponent tougher than UMES.

What really sucks is the depth at the 5 for this year. Brandenburg was basically penciled in for 10-15 minutes a game as the backup center. It's imperative now that one of the 2010 recruits be someone that can play there all the time, and no, that someone is not Will Regan. Assane Sene is going to have to pick up major minutes and be kept in a glass box at all times so as to avoid accidents. If Sene can be good for half a game (an extra three minutes above what he played last year), we can scrape through with a combination of Meyinsse and Scott for the other half, and call it "going small" and make everyone think it's a deliberate strategy. If Sene goes down? God help us.

- That leads us to what Bennett is actually doing on the recruiting trail, and for one day at least, he's hanging with the high school coaches. Hey, why not? Meet 'em all at once and be done with it. Getting Tony out there taking the Tony Is Awesome tour and impressing that upon the folks with influence is pretty crucial to the recruiting efforts. I fully expect we'll be kicking Tech's ugly-colored keister on the basketball recruiting trail in short order.

- TheLegacyx4's Bird did something pretty cool with the media predictions of the past four years. What's depressing is the downward trend of the media's perception of UVA. Sometimes they're wrong (2007), sometimes they're right as hell (2008), but they've steadily dropped us in the rankings. And that continues this year, I guarantee it; the media will have us 6th in the divison, you watch, and certainly anything higher than 5th would be a shocker. Not because I think we suck, but because I think the media thinks we suck.

- This is a little oldish, but it's worth a read if you didn't run across it already. The ACC Sports Journal sat down with former UVA AD/ACC commissioner/NCAA president Gene Corrigan for a three-part interview, the theme of which is pretty boilerplate: old guy reminisces on his day and riffs on how today is different. But that wouldn't be a boilerplate theme if it wasn't a good one. It's always good for behind-the-scenes stuff you don't get to hear about at the time - in this case, among other things, the ACC expansion to Tallahassee, which Corrigan oversaw. Here is Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

recruiting board update

Before I get to that, though, I have some lousy news for me. And you, really. RTD beat writer Jeff White is taking a position in the University's SID department. That sucks. White was pretty much the best MSM guy covering UVA, and now he's leaving a place where he was well-positioned to dig up a lot of interesting insider bits and new angles and bring them to the masses, and going somewhere where he has access to all the insider bits and new angles and will not be putting them out, ever. In other words, he's going from reporting what we want to know about the program to what they want us to know about the program. Well, it's probably a good deal for White, so yay for him, but boo for me, his blog is one less place for me to find stuff to run my mouth about.

Anyway, recruiting board. It's been a little while, actually, since the last one was early last week and here it is Thursday.

- Removed DE Henry Anderson (Stanford commit, dammit) and CB Karl Butler (Vandy commit.)

- Added LB Holmes Onwukaife to red. Lot of offers here. Onwukaife tried to commit to Michigan last month, but as Michigan had already taken its quota of commitments at his position, he was turned down. It was that situation that caused me to predict (which I still stand by) that Marcus Rush will be a Hoo.

- Added LB Dominique Guinn-Bailey and huge DT Bruce Gaston to yellow. Gaston is being recruited by most of the Big Ten and would be a nice pickup, as a massive, lineman-eating NT is a linchpin of the 3-4 defense.

- For reasons that irritate and mystify and are behind paywalls at the moment so not available here for now, S Ed Reynolds drops from blue to red.

Not a tremendous amount of movement, really. It's a little bit of a quieter period: a lot of guys are setting up and gathering info for a preseason commit so they don't have to deal with both next year's football and this year's football all at once. Come late July and August they'll start dropping like flies for a little while.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


In just a couple short weeks, it'll be time for another round of football season previews. Hard to believe. As with last year, I'll go around the ACC, throw in a preview for each of our non-conference opponents (William & Mary, TCU, Southern Miss, and Indiana, in case you forgot, which you probably didn't but anyway) and wrap up with one post each for our own offense and defense. This starts either during my upcoming vacation at the end of July (during which posting will be sporadic, obviously) or afterwards, depending on whether I feel like bothering while on vacation.

To lead into this, some self-accountability is in order. Last year I made some vaguish predictions in lieu of the specific and usually wrong ones made by preseason magazines, writers, hacks, and everyone else. I thought today I'd do a little self-critiquing. One by one, here's what I said about the teams previewed last year, and how they did, and whether I'm a genius or a dope.

Boston College

What I said:

The front seven alone should make BC a bowl team; the light and frosty nonconference schedule (Notre Dame notwithstanding) should put them halfway there. Three or four wins in eight ACC games is doable, but more than that may be asking a bit much unless Jags is as good a coach or better as 11 wins say he is.

How they did:

9-5, 5-3, lost to Vanderbilt in Music City Bowl

How I did:

BC did indeed blow through the nonconference portion of their schedule; in four games, UCF was the only team to score on them - one measly touchdown. Slightly underrated their ACC prowess - BC won a tiebreaker with TFSU for a trip to the ACC CG.


I give myself a B. They did go to the ACC CG, but five wins doesn't exactly blow the prediction away.


What I said:

It’s all very simple: If the offensive line can gel as a unit, open up holes for Davis and Spiller, and keep Harper’s nice orange uniform clean, Clemson will go to the Orange Bowl....If not? Then Clemson will go bowling in Florida, oh yes, but to Orlando instead of Miami, to play in the Rodney Dangerfield Bowl against the Big Ten; two conferences that don’t get no respect. Rejoicing will be replaced by wailing and gnashing of teeth. And it might be Tommy’s turn to swing from a tree in effigy.

How they did:

7-6, 4-4: lost to Nebraska in Gator Bowl

How I did:

Not to be a boast, but, uh.....nailed it. Clemson's offensive line was a complete and total disaster. They had the 10th best rushing attack in the ACC, better only than the two teams that didn't go bowling, and allowed more than two sacks a game, second-worst in the conference. Clemson went to the Gator Bowl and not the C****s S****s as I predicted, but TFSU, the team that did go to Orlando, probably belonged in the Gator. And Tommy Bowden was let go mid-season.


A, thank you very much. It's not my fault the Gator Bowl makes its selection based not on the actual third-best team in the conference, but on the one they think will bring the most fans.


What I said:

Duke cannot possibly be as bad as they were the last three seasons – period. Win two games, and they’ll match the win total over that time frame. They could very well start the season right off with those two wins – perhaps even three.... Potentially riding a three-game winning streak and a wave of newfound confidence could make them quite a dangerous opponent by the time the ‘Hoos roll into Durham for both teams’ first ACC clash. Duke has been an automatic ACC win these three years.... Nobody will mistake Duke for a bowl team this year, but that winless streak in the conference should end this year; most likely against either UVA, UNC, or NC State.

How they did:

4-8, 1-7; no bowl

How I did:

Unfortunately way more right than I wanted to be.


A-. Duke, as I figured, didn't go to a bowl, but I really would have liked to have been wrong about when they might win their first ACC game.

Florida State

What I said:

After the scandal, pile on the other various departures (some scandal-linked) and injuries, and you have a Florida State season teetering on the brink....Florida State should be a bowl team this year, but not to a really good bowl. And if the O-line can’t hold up, watch out.

How they did:

9-4, 5-3; beat Wisconsin in C****s S****s Bowl

How I did:

The Seminoles teetered, but didn't fall. They looked as if they might after an ugly early-season loss to Wake Forest, but recovered to go 5-3 in the conference. The C****s S****s Bowl is a better one than I thought they'd end up in, and they were close to a shot at the ACC championship.


C+. I didn't completely whiff, but points taken off for too much vagueness on the prediction and more taken for a general tone of pessimism that undersold their eventual achievements.

Georgia Tech

What I said:

Johnson will be running his offense against much more talented competition, but for the most part will also have more talented players. And he’s already had a measure of success against the ACC. Defenses will need time to adapt and probably will need more than a year. You don’t just stop the offense by shoving 9 men in the box; Johnson’s too smart for that. There will be growing pains with this offense, but more of them will be with defensive coordinators trying to figure this one out. Georgia Tech will outpace the media predictions and should end up in a pretty good bowl. It’s not yet their year to break UGA’s streak in the rivalry, but even the Gator Bowl is not out of reach for the Yellow Jackets.

How they did:

9-4, 5-3; lost to LSU in the ex-Peach Bowl

How I did:

Frankly, uh, nailed it again. At least in comparison to many of the national publications, most of which figured GT would have a hard time getting to a bowl, and most early bowl projections left them out. Paul Johnson's offense did indeed give ACC defensive coordinators conniptions; GT finished with the best total yards-per-game in the conference.


B+. I'm taking credit for giving GT more credit than most pundits; the problem is even I wasn't enthusiastic enough. The Jackets went to an even better bowl than the Gator, and even beat Georgia.


What I said:

The pieces are there for Friedgen to bring this team to a bowl, but the schedule is very unforgiving and it’s not hard to envision the Terps winning just one of their eight conference matchups. Worse, the large number of fifth-year seniors means Friedgen will have to scramble to replace them next year. The writing may not be on the wall, yet, but somebody’s picking up the pen.

How they did:

8-5, 4-4; beat Nevada in Humanitarian Bowl

How I did:

This was intended to be a pretty pessimistic review. One win in eight conference games? Actually, Maryland sometimes looked like the untalented bunch of hacks I described (against us and MTSU, say) and at other times, dominated. Which is weird for a team I also described as experienced - you would think "experienced" meant "consistent," which Maryland clearly was anything but.


C-. I was not pegging Maryland for a bowl. They didn't go to a good one, but their season was successful enough to make this prediction look kinda goofy.


What I said:

The large number of Hurricanes haters may want to enjoy this season. Miami has had some down years, culminating in an actual losing season last year – their second since 1980. That’s going to change. This year, there’ll be growing pains as Canes fans watch a freshman quarterback get all excited and overthrow a few receivers, and Miami may even have to settle for their second trip to Boise in three years.

How they did:

7-6, 4-4: lost E*****d Bowl to California

How I did:

Well, they did have to watch Robert Marve overthrow a bunch of receivers in Miami, but once they figured out that Jacory Harris was the better thrower, the Canes rescued their season and as late as November, were 7-3 until a couple losses finished it off. San Francisco isn't exactly much more of a prestigious bowl destination than Boise, though.


B+. Points again taken for vagueness, but the end result is more or less what I was getting at in the first place.

North Carolina

What I said:

This could be scary. ACC fans have gotten used to Tobacco Road being the football doormat. Duke is not ready to leave the ACC basement, but UNC is going to make waves. The Orange Bowl is not at all out of the question, and most of Carolina’s best players aren’t even seniors. Some aren’t even juniors. Butch Davis has put the ACC on notice in just one short season – look for 2008 to be the Heels’ coming-out party. UNC hasn’t gone bowling since 2004 and hasn’t left the state for a bowl game since 2001. That streak ends this year.

How they did:

8-5, 4-4; lost to West Virginia in M*****e C** C*** Bowl

How I did:

I called their bowl game, although they still didn't leave the state. But overall, I got a little overenthusiastic. They actually made me look pretty smart early on, finishing up the first half with a win over Notre Dame to go 5-1, but playmaker Brandon Tate suffered a season-ending injury in that game and they struggled in the second half.


B-. I really thought they could contend for the ACC title; they were never really in it, though they did break out of the funk their program had been in during most of the decade. I give myself a little bit of a break for the Tate injury; with him, they might have been closer to fulfilling my effusive prediction.

North Carolina State

What I said:

The Wolfpack aren’t quite sure who will be under center when they roadtrip to South Carolina to start the season, let alone at the end of it. The wide receivers are a mostly inexperienced bunch. There isn’t much depth on the offensive line and hardly any starting experience on most of the defense. Some help could be coming with the freshman class, but that doesn’t fix the experience issues. The ‘Pack are not going bowling this season, and the November 8 clash against Duke looks like the Pillow Fight of the Year in the ACC. Though both have enough talent to avoid this fate, it’s possible the loser of that game finds themselves winless in conference play.

How they did:

6-7, 4-4; lost to Rutgers in the p*******.com Bowl

How I did:

Oops. Very oops. I had NC State pegged as one of the absolute worst in the conference and a clearcut bowl non-participant; that, obviously, was not the case. NC State started off with a horrible, ugly loss to South Carolina and continued on to a 2-6 record, but recovered very nicely at the end to squeeze into a bowl. They weren't exactly great, but this is still a big fat swing and a miss.


D+. An A, if they'd continued like they had in the first eight games, but even those were close losses. They fixed it, and made me look a fool in the process.

Virginia Tech

What I said:

This is supposed to be Tech’s down year, but their defense and O-line are too good to let that happen. Watch for trouble if they slip up against UNC and Nebraska, but if not, don’t expect them to easily relinquish their hold on the Coastal Division.

How they did:

10-4, 5-3; beat Cincinnati in Orange Bowl

How I did:

Well, they didn't give up their hold on the Coastal, did they? No, dammit, and their defense was just as good as advertised.


B+. I figured they'd be the favorites in the division; I didn't figure 5-3 would be enough to do it. Points added for more or less calling them as the division winners, points taken away for overrating their actual wins total, because when you peg someone as the champions, you figure they won't lose that many games. It was a weird ACC.

Wake Forest

What I said:

Clemson is the anointed this-is-their-year team in the ACC, but Wake will be feeling like that title ought to belong to them, and the October 9 game between the two teams looks right now like the deciding factor in the Atlantic Division race. Both teams will almost certainly be undefeated going in, and Wake gets to play the game at home in Winston-Salem. Regardless of whether or not they upset Clemson and make it to the Orange Bowl, Wake is well-positioned to improve on their 9-4 record of last year, and end up in a better bowl than the MCC Bowl in Charlotte.

How they did:

8-5, 4-4; beat Navy in E*******k Bowl

How I did:

Overrated them pretty heftily, bottom line. Wake had a disappointing season given the expectations; I wasn't the only one thinking they'd have a shot at the Orange Bowl. Improve on 9-4? Apparently not.

Grade: C-. Going to a bowl game in DC is a far cry from contending for the ACC championship.

I didn't make any such predictions for our season, though I'd probably end up with a lousy grade for doing so if I had, because I thought we'd at least make a damn bowl. Obviously we didn't. Here's what I had to say about our offense and our defense if you like. I was more on point about the defense, I think, but not especially so.

Two final things: I have another Examiner article up, and also, for heaven's sake go vote for Mark Reynolds, you have until 4 PM tomorrow (Thursday, that is) and he's in third place.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the recruit: Henry Coley

Name: Henry Coley
Position: ILB
Hometown: Virginia Beach
School: Bayside
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 230

Rivals: NR
Scout: two stars

In yesterday's post I mentioned I was a little bit tired of looking at the group of defensive commitments we have and wondering what we see in them that nobody else does. That's basically Henry Coley, only with a little bit of a twist: here I have to find a reason why nobody else offered.

See, Coley's got all the looks and attributes of a perfectly solid mid-to-high three star talent that half the mid-Atlantic ought to be coming after. He's a two-going-on-three-year starter at a big high school in a football hotbed. (Bayside is actually pretty mediocre, but it's their offense that sucks, not their defense.) He's got quality measurables (40, shuttle time, etc.) He's got a college-ready body. He's got the stats to back it up (93 tackles and 9 sacks.) What he doesn't have is offers or stars.

I'm gonna take this opportunity to go off on a little tangent and riff on the inexplicability of star ratings. Here's Andre Whitmire. To Scout, he's the 35th best middle linebacker in the country. Take a look at his measurables from the Scout combine and compare to Coley's. Coley is bigger, stronger, and faster, the main difference between the two being that Coley registered forty fewer tackles. But Coley is a two-star and Whitmire earns three. If stats were all the difference, Kevin Parks would certainly have more than the measly two they threw his way. So either I'm missing something by not watching barrels of film on the guy (and admittedly I don't see things through the eyes of a coach or talent scout) or star ratings are random as hell. I'm going with both. Once you get past the top, oh, 25 or so players in the country at each position, there's a lot less space separating everyone else in the top 100.

It might not help his cause in the star-ratings department that he's an outside linebacker in most of his film but projects inside at UVA. That's good for us. As I mentioned, Coley is already a college-sized kid at 230 pounds. Darren Childs is a projected starter at ILB and he's listed as 6'1", 233.

So, again: why the collective overlooking of Henry Coley by schools and scouting services alike? Here's my SWAG: Coley isn't completely overlooked; we know this to be true. Tech, Maryland, UNC, the usual suspects, they've all been looking at film and whatnot. However, Coley's film is mostly at outside linebacker, and these schools took a look at how big he is now and figured there's no way he's gonna stay on the outside in college, he's too big for that, or he will be by the time he shows up on campus. So they wanted to wait and see how he does in the middle in actual game situations and offer after that. Temple and Navy and such can afford to go ahead, he's better than anyone they got anyway. Al Groh is a big linebacker guy, though, and he thinks he can mold everyone into Lawrence Taylor. And he's often right. So he pulled the trigger, and Coley duly committed.

Coley will be walking into a favorable situation, too. Not counting the true freshmen coming in, ILB's a little thin. Steve Greer looks ready to beat out all comers for one of the starting spots, and nothing against Steve Greer, he looks solid (if smallish), but he's a redshirt freshman, and if the sophomores and juniors in the battle can't beat out a freshman, then Coley, who doesn't need to bulk up much to play right away, should at least be poised to give them a run for their money.

Monday, July 6, 2009

my plans are ruined

For at least a month now, probably more, I've been kicking around a big-picture sort of look at football recruiting, and the plan as originally conceived was to celebrate the halfway mark in the 2010 class with a where-do-we-go-from-here sort of post. We lose 12 scholarship seniors next year, so I have the class size pegged at 14 (there's always more attrition than just the seniors), which means halfway would have been 7. So naturally, we blow past the 7 mark while I'm focused on my long weekend and catching up on the really important things in life like golf, beer, and cheering as Kyle Busch's stupid ass goes careening into the wall where every Toyota in NASCAR belongs.

So today we'll get down to just that. You can start with a little supplemental reading: my latest piece, a four-man wish list that wouldn't quite complete the class, but would make me pretty happy with it if they all signed up. The other beginning point is that perhaps 14 is too small a guess. That would be by far the smallest class in recent memory (and by recent I mean like within a generation or two); the '08 class was 18. I'm still mad uncomfortable with the scholarship situation; you might remember we still have 88 on the books, although that's assuming Kyle Long will still be in camp this August and that is looking a lot less likely than it was two months ago.

Anyway, let's split this up by offense and defense:


Where we stand: We've got a well-rounded class of one QB, one RB, one WR, and one lineman, and I really like the haul so far. I continue to be of the belief that Kevin Parks, were he three or four inches taller, would be a mid-level four-star recruit. And even without that, he'd have about ten or fifteen offers if he were still uncommitted at this point. The other three have loads of talent too, and not only that, are local-ish guys who had offers from exactly the schools we want to keep the talent away from. No complaints at all about our work here.

Where we're going: The class needs, at a bare minimum, another WR for the outside and two more linemen. It looks like we're in the hunt for another quarterback too, and I think we'll take three receivers - two wouldn't be enough for the receiver-happy offense Gregg Brandon runs.

As far as quarterback goes, Purdue just landed a commitment from Illinois quarterback Sean Robinson. Why does this matter? Purdue was the other front-runner (besides us) for Stephen Morris, who we have an offer out to. Morris would drop like a hot potato if Florida or Ole Miss offered him, but as yet they haven't, and Robinson's commitment to Purdue just put us in the drivers' seat for now. Florida's not likely to offer Morris, and Ole Miss might but they'll probably wait for Munchie Legaux (another of our targets) before they send out any more.

On the other end of the passing game, I really really really want Alex Kenney. If we get him, another receiver such as the 6'6" Brandon Coleman would be in order, because both Kenney and Scott are slot types. Then there's Robby Havenstein and Khamrone Kolb for the line, both of whom cause solar eclipses. Along with the equally massive Shane Johnson, those are the three linemen we're after the hardest, because Al Groh wants his offensive line to be able to run blocking drills on the Statue of Liberty.

We're probably looking at anywhere from four to six more commitments for the class on offense; I guess I could see us taking seven but that would really, really be pushing it. We're in fair-to-good shape for most of the above players but none of them are the foregone-conclusion sort where the question is when rather than if.


Where we stand: This is a lot less....exciting.....than offense. I try very hard, in the introductory posts when a recruit signs up, to accentuate the positives on everyone, but here's a moment of uncomfortable honesty: I'm getting really tired of looking for reasons why we were after someone that nobody else was. There are five recruits on board right now; outside of Pablo Alvarez, the other four have five non-UVA I-A offers between them: two Navy, one each from Louisville, Temple, and New Mexico. Alvarez's aren't mega-inspiring either. Individually, you can look at each one and see quite a few reasons why they'll be a contributor, and odds are at least one of them will cause us in three years to point and laugh at the silliness of all those schools that didn't bother. Taken as a whole, though, it's kind of less than inspiring; it's not considered a recruiting coup to beat Temple and Navy for someone's services.

Where we're going: There's still a lot to covet on the board. And we need linemen. Of the five recruits so far, three are linebackers (two inside, one outside) and two are generic sort of defensive-back types which appear to be cornerbacks for now but nothing is in stone. We took so many DE's last year that I can't see us snagging more than two at the most this year; if I had my druthers Henry Anderson would be one of them. One or two more linebackers are in order, you know Groh is going to pack in the linebackers. One more OLB for sure - Marcus Rush and Jeremiah Attaochu (gesundheit) look like the top two candidates - and then maybe one more grab-bag, whoever-commits-first kind of thing.

There's flexibility at defensive back; we still have offers out to corners and safeties alike. We definitely need at least one actual safety, where Ed Reynolds would fit the bill nicely. I suspect the staff will simply take what comes their way and then shuffle as needed, however.

Four or five more looks like the number here, but with the caveat that nine total is likely to be the absolute limit, so even though I said six max for offense, we're not taking six there and five on defense. What that would do to our scholarship numbers.

Oh, before I forget (and this is a totally unrelated tangent from recruiting) go vote for Mark Reynolds for the All-Star Game. Not only is he a UVA alum, he's pretty obviously the actual deserving National League candidate (dude, 24 home runs. 24!) and it's not even close. Cast your vote for Brandon Inge, a Virginian, VCU alum, and (very importantly) Detroit Tiger on the American League side of things. Inge is also the clear choice: he's hitting better than everyone on the ballot but Adam Lind, who doesn't field a position.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

new video

Go to the videos page, and you can now see the highlights from the second UC-Irvine game in the regionals. Three more to go. And by the time those are done, it'll be juuuust about football season again. Crazy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

happy 233rd birthday

Programming note: I have a four-day weekend, and am going to spend the vast majority of it not blogging. I will probably put together one, maybe two new videos if I get bored enough, and alerting you to their presence is more than likely the extent of posting you'll see here this coming weekend. That plus a special Fourth of July post. I do want to try and write one article; right now I'm on a schedule of once every three days and that seems to be working for me, which means you can expect a new one on Saturday.

The most important thing for today, then, is to wish a heartfelt happy 233rd birthday to the United States of America. We have our flaws, to be sure, but this is a weekend to celebrate all that's good about our great land - our prosperity, our freedom, and the courage of the Founding Fathers who brought it all to fruition. Iran has done a very timely job of reminding us of what we enjoy here - or rather, what we don't have to deal with.

The second most important thing would be the two verbal commitments that dropped our way today: LB Henry Coley and OT Conner Davis are now on board. Neither is a surprise, though Davis provided us with some sporadic tense moments by flirting with Tech. In the end, as with Mark Shuman going their way, fanhood and family ties won out. I could do a writeup on either one (Coley technically came first so it'd be him) but I was planning on not putting that much effort into today's post, so it'll have to wait til next week. Today is just a couple links that I liked.

- Vic Hall is playing offense now, did you know? You knew, right? All I ask of Jerry Ratcliffe right now is that he keeps the Harlequin-esque descriptions out of future articles.

- Pete Gillen does a very commendable thing. This is the sort of thing that comes naturally to him; Gillen was always one of the nicest people. He took a trip to visit the troops in the hospital in Maryland, then flew to Kuwait and afterwards to Afghanistan. No truth to the rumor that he called time-out twice in Maryland and three more times in Kuwait and didn't have any left for the guys at Bagram.

- A little bit of reportery stuff on the UA All-American lacrosse game and Dom Starsia's thoughts on the incoming freshmen who played therein. Here's my thought: Connor English is our biggest incoming recruit and I don't care what Starsia says about maybe being not ready, if "Connor English" doesn't sound like the name of a lacrosse megastar, then nothing ever will.

- Oh snap. Pat Forde knows something that we know too, but the thing is, you usually can't get ESPN types to actually say it:

The Terrapins have shocked the Tar Heels each of the past three seasons, and no fan base in the ACC is as irritating (and occasionally tasteless) as Maryland's.

- Our incoming soccer class, speaking of all-stars and whatnot, is ranked #1 in the ACC. As mentioned in the article, incoming freshman Will Bates has played for the national U-18 team, and he's done very well for himself. Bates was the star of a game against Australia that won us a U-18 tourney hosted by the Aussies. The soccer season is something I'm very much looking forward to. Add this class to a hopefully healthy bunch of scorers this year and we could do some major, major damage.

Right, that's all then. Enjoy your weekend. Please don't blow your hands off. And at some point while you're out enjoying a few well-earned cold ones, raise one to the fifty-six men (and one, obviously, in particular) who risked everything they had to give you what you now enjoy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

the recruit: Pablo Alvarez

First, some of that shameless self-promotion you've surely come to enjoy by now: my thoughts on the Director's Cup are up at Go have a look-see.

OK: Pablo. I'll tell you what the first thing that strikes me is: the weekend's basketball commitment, Will Regan, looks young enough to be Pablo's son; likewise, Pablo could pass for 38. Also, he will be to my knowledge the first football player at UVA named Pablo - this is a big plus.

Name: Pablo Alvarez, Jr.
Position: CB (for now, I guess)
Hometown: Miami, FL
School: Belen Jesuit Prep
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 190

Rivals: NR
Scout: NR

Out of the blue, this one. For one thing, we don't go into Florida much. Less than most ACC teams, anyway. One recruit last year, one in 2006, and one in 2003 has been the extent of our success in that state in the last howevermany years. Besides that, Alvarez has been flying far enough under the radar that I barely had even heard of him, let alone had him on the board, by the time he committed. Naturally therefore, he's got absolutely zero evaluation from anywhere, so there's very little to go on.

As usual then, we look at the offers, and to me they suggest a high two-star/very low three-star. Iowa, Northwestern, Duke, maybe Kansas State depending on whether you believe Scout or not, and I'm not sure I do.

What I really gather out of this is that Groh went after Pablo mainly for his athleticism, which is tough to match. Lot of football players are also track stars; much less common are hurdling stars, in which Pablo is nationally ranked. This is actually really interesting to me; hurdling requires more than raw speed, it requires technique and some actual leg strength. He's tall for a cornerback, if that's where he ends up, so leg strength is a must because tall, top-heavy cornerbacks don't do well. Did I mention he's really good at hurdles? He's got some times listed here; for comparison's sake, because I really wouldn't know what makes a good hurdles time and maybe you wouldn't either, here are the national best times.

I really don't know how much this'll translate to football though, in no small part because it's anyone's guess where he'll end up, even if it's cornerback to start. Pure athleticism seems to be the primary motivator here; his highlight film doesn't showcase much in the way of cover skills or route-running (he plays two ways, natch, most of the best athletes do) but there are quite a few clips of him coming from outside the play and chasing down a ballcarrier after a lengthy run. Pablo's going to have to scrap to make an early impact though. His tackling's a little rough, things like that. (Of course, you always hope your DB's don't have do any tackling.) It's all coachable stuff though. It's hard to beat the athleticism of a hurdler and even harder to coach that into someone. Given some development time, Pablo's got the makings of a matchup nightmare for smaller wide receivers.