Tuesday, January 19, 2010

not what i wanted to see

We got two things in that category today. One, I didn't want to see our basketball team down by four with three minutes to play against UNC-Wilmington. Could definitely have done without that. Fortunately, it ended up in the win column after all, and that's really what this team needs. Never mind what it does or doesn't do to our tournament chances, when you're recovering from a 10-18 season you need wins dammit.

What else didn't I want to see? Al Groh at Georgia Tech, that's what. I'm happy enough to see Al land on his feet, but I was sorta hoping it'd be in the pros or something, not in our very own division where we get to go up against him every year.

GT will see an improvement on defense, no question. They had the playmakers to have a good pass defense and a decent defense overall, and it didn't happen; under Dave Wommack this year, they gave up 6.1 yards per play. The run defense was particularly heinous. The plus-up in linebacker play that Groh will bring to Atlanta, that alone will be worth half a yard of improvement, even if his 3-4 is a better pass defense than run defense.

But this is a Virginia blog, so the question isn't what will happen to Georgia Tech's defense. We'll let someone else figure that out, and anyway, the answer is "improve" in no uncertain terms. Groh might have had his ups and downs as a head coach but damn if he didn't know how to coach a defense. The question really is, who's going to have the advantage when we meet up in 2010? Us or them?

Actually, the way the coaching carousel shook out gives UVA the upper hand here. Groh's going to run that 3-4 no matter what. But when he left, the 3-4 left with him. Groh might be able to give Paul Johnson all kinds of great tips on how to attack the 3-4** but we're not using it any more. The downside is that Paul Johnson really prefers to run his offense against a 4-3 because a 3-4 is much better suited to stop that triple-option thing they do, so we've gone from uniquely suited to match up well against it to just being like every other team. But there's no inside intelligence that Groh can bring to GT about UVA because the defense will be different, and so will the offense, as soon as we can find a coordinator for it. Whatever offense we run, Groh will have to attack it the same way he attacks everyone else's, without any special foreknowledge of our tendencies.

On the flip side, you might recall who used to be Groh's defensive coordinator and who had to run that 3-4 defense for a few years. Mike London knows a little something about its strengths and weaknesses, one might safely presume. You and I both know Groh is stubborn enough that he's not going to make any drastic changes to it. He'll coach what he knows.

Whatever intel Groh brings Paul Johnson about UVA is probably limited to the tendencies of our players. Things like, "It's stupid to throw the ball at Ras-I Dowling," or, "Marc Verica occasionally likes to mix things up and throw the ball at someone in the other color jersey," only less obvious and more coachy. London and Groh have coached with and against each other, so if there's anything to be learned from each other's coaching tendencies, it's a two-way street and cancels each other out.

I don't like the idea of going up against Groh's defenses for the next five years, but the reality of the situation is it probably doesn't matter a whole lot. GT really only had a crappy defense for one year, and it's not like our crap offense actually took advantage of it. The advantages GT will gain on us are slim and way overshadowed by the talent gap between our teams anyway. Until our offense stops making every defense look like the Steel Curtain, we won't notice the difference.

By the way, Al isn't the only Groh with a new gig: Mike's been hired to coach quarterbacks at Louisville. Another good hire - anyone who can take a short, unpolished athlete without much of a position and turn him into a better-than-competent quarterback is a worthy coach. Mike Groh rose to his level of incompetence as an OC but I'd have him back coaching QBs in a heartbeat.

**You have to figure this is a huge reason why Johnson would be interested in Groh as a DC. The 3-4 gave him fits. Yes, we got blown out this year but that's because the offense managed to possess the ball for all of 17 minutes out of 60. The defense kept us in it for three quarters. And it won the game for us last year when it held GT's offense to a measly 259 yards, one lousy field goal after the first quarter, and actually managed to handily win the time of possession battle against a team that's designed to never lose that statistic. The 3-4 matches up nicely against that offense because more linebackers = more playmakers to defend the option. Having Groh on staff lets Johnson pick his brain for ways to attack the one scheme that really slows him down.


Billy Bob said...

Hey man, GREAT BLOG.

Short Intro, I am a non alum UVA fan in NoVa (can you believe it??!). Navy dad told me about Welsh days and am proud of state university. (Plus I love it when brainy schools show they can play ball too).

First off, Tony Bennet seems like he has something going on at JPJ, getting some good press in the WaPo.

Was wondering a couple of things.

What do you think about the new coaching staff for the program thus far? Looks like London got a lot of guys that "fit". Yet they don't seem like program builders ala Bill Snyder at K-State or Gary Peterson of TCU. Shawn Moore is best example of this.

Beyond that, the lack of an Offensive Coordinator worries me and fear that it has an impact on recuiting.

Also besides winning more, do you think UVA could do more to endear itself to casual fans throughout the state?

It's near impossible to get any good coverage of you guys up here, and little merchandise outside of sports stores (but there's a TON of tech junk.)

Shawn Moore recruiting NoVa should help and mending broken ties across the state high school coaches would. Still you guys have a MAJOR PR problem (that stupid sign ban didn't help neither.)

Hopefully the new coaches should have us turned around in 4 years.

Anyways thanks for your time and keep up the good work.

Brendan said...

As always, thanks for reading. I'm waiting for the staff to come together with OC and everything named before I roll out my thoughts on the staff, but here are the Cliffnotes:

- Don't think Mike London was clearly the best coach available, but do think he was the "best fit"; the staff seems to be filling out the same way. Perception seems to be that UVA football needs to get "back to its roots" and this is an effort to do that.

- Very wary of the Shawn Moore hire. Can he coach? Would we have hired someone with that exact resume except that he was QB at a different school?

- Not minding the foot-dragging on OC hire. MUST get that one right. Recruiting class of 2010 going to be small anyway.

As for the lack of PR, the University could certainly do more advertising. I've never lived in NOVA but did live in Norfolk for a while and the lack of both UVA and VT presence there was astounding. Growing up in Michigan, there was never any forgetting about U-M or MSU. Should never have to look up what radio station the football game is on. Billboards, merch sales....whatever it takes to put the V-sabres into people's consciousness. The block M and block S are omnipresent in the Detroit are - the V-sabre should be the same way in NOVA, Richmond, and HR.

Billy Bob said...

Norfolk, reallY??!

What do they follow down there? In NoVa anything South of the Rappahanock or Fredricksburg is foreign territory (heh).

I would have thought Tech had a good bandwagon down there. I dunno if UVA has a bandwagon but it can't be too big given the recent troubles.