Sunday, August 22, 2010

season previews: Richmond and VMI

No need for the full treatment for the teams UVA isn't in direct, season-long competition with, so we'll take care of the synopses on the OOC opponents two at a time, and not really go all-out either to be honest. But it's something, and here's betting nobody else is doing this. You're still the most educated UVA fans when it comes to the opposition. First up, the I-AA schools.

Richmond Spiders

Projected starters:

QB: Aaron Corp (rJr.)
RB: Garrett Wilkins (Jr.)
FB: Kendall Gaskins (So.)
WR: Kevin Grayson (5Sr.)
WR: Tre Gray (rJr.)
TE: Kevin Finney (rSo.)
LT: Kevin Westervelt (rJr.)
LG: Ryan Goss (rJr.)
C: Drew Lachenmeyer (5Sr.)
RG: Jason Sakoian (rJr.)
RT: Mark Speir (rFr.)

DE: Casey Cooley (5Sr.)
DT: Corey Jackson (rJr.)
DT: Martin Parker (5Sr.)
DE: Kerry Wynn (rFr.)
SLB: Patrick Weldon (5Sr.)
MLB: Darrius McMillan (rSo.)
WLB: Eric McBride (5Sr.)
CB: Tremayne Graham (rJr.)
CB: Justin Rogers (5Sr.)
S: Colin Pehanick (rJr.)
S: Darryl Hamilton (rSo.)

K: Wil Kamin (So.)
P: Casey Dobyns (Jr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Latrell Scott (1st season)

Media prediction: 6th place, CAA


2009 1st team: OL Matt McCracken, OL Michael Silva, PR Derek Hatcher, LB Eric McBride, LB Colin McConaghy
2009 2nd team: WR Kevin Grayson, DL Martin Parker
2009 3rd team: QB Eric Ward, RB Justin Forte, FB Kendall Gaskins, WR Tre Gray, OL Drew Lachenmeyer, DL Parker Miles, LB Patrick Weldon, S Michael Ireland
2010 preseason: FB Kendall Gaskins, WR Kevin Grayson, WR Tre Gray, OL Drew Lachenmeyer, DL Martin Parker, LB Eric McBride, CB Justin Rogers

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Not unlike North Carolina, the voters stuffed the conference preseason team with Spiders and then smacked them down to middling status when it came time for the standings. That may be an indictment of first-year coach Latrell Scott, who has never been a coordinator let alone a head coach, but it's more likely indicative of the fact that just about every Richmond starter not named to the preseason team is a fresh face with little field experience.


Richmond has to replace tremendously successful quarterback Eric Ward, and they thought they were getting their guy for 2010 and 2011 when Aaron Corp transferred from USC after failing to hold onto the job there. That kind of talent doesn't show up in I-AA ball every day, but he hasn't made the Richmond job his yet either, as last year's backup John Laub is giving him a serious run.

Whoever's at quarterback on September 4 will have some serious talent helping him out at receiver, the brightest spot on the offense. Kevin Grayson and Tre Gray return as starters, and third option Donte Boston will also be available. But the running game is as much to be determined as the quarterbacks. Garrett Wilkins is the top returning rusher, but Ward and departed workhorse Justin Forte carried the load for Richmond. Nothing is settled here and carries will likely be split as the season begins. All-conference fullback Kendall Gaskins was strictly a blocker last year, but the uncertainty could boost his carries, as well as shedding his freshman status.

The offensive line is probably going to be a trouble spot. Drew Lachenmeyer is solid in the middle, but the rest of the line sees all-new starters, and the right side in particular is woefully lacking in game experience.


The defensive line has the same issues as the offensive line, with just one returning starter in Martin Parker. Parker is a real playmaker who probably has I-A talent, but the rest of the line saw precious little playing time in 2009.

Richmond is in much better shape at linebacker, where outside 'backers Patrick Weldon and Eric McBride return for their fifth seasons. Each topped 90 tackles last season and Weldon chipped in a pair of interceptions.

CB Justin Rogers will be depended on to cover opponents' top receivers, and his counterpart on the other side, Tremayne Graham, wasn't a 2009 starter but was a big contributor and should be able to play at a level close to Rogers. But Richmond has to break in two new starters at safety.


Both kicking specialists are new to the starting job, though punter Casey Dobyns started for Georgetown in 2008 before transferring. His stats are emblematic of the talent difference between I-A and I-AA: Dobyns averaged a mere 35 yards per punt. Wil Kamin handled kickoffs last year and moves on up to placekicking this year.


UVA fans are sweating the opener, as Richmond tends to be a playoff team in I-AA ball and isn't far removed from a national championship. With a revamped offense and a reasonably strong defense, a repeat of the last two matchups against Richmond seems in the cards; both were low-scoring, grindingly boring affairs and the 2001 game was won only on the margin of a missed Richmond PAT.

VMI Keydets

Projected starters:

QB: Cameron Jones (rJr.)
RB: Julian Bowers (rJr.)
FB: Hardy Temoney (So.)
WR: Stefawn Ross (So.)
WR: Mario Scott (Sr.)
TE: Josh Favaro (rJr.)
LT: Rob Bailey (Jr.)
LG: Bo Wren (Sr.)
C: D'Angelo Smith (Jr.)
RG: James Boatright (rJr.)
RT: Aaron Blue (rJr.)

DE: Ben Brandt (5Sr.)
NT: Josh Wine (Sr.)
DE: Damiso Alexander (5Sr.)
OLB: Emilio Calvin (rJr.)
ILB: Eric Church (rJr.)
ILB: A.J. Gross (rJr.)
OLB: Kris Ware (5Sr.)
CB: Greg Walker (Jr.)
CB: Michael Rainey-Wiles (Sr.)
FS: Trae Watkins (Jr.)
SS: Byron Allen (rJr.)

K: Jeff Sexton (So.)
P: Marc Ray (Sr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Sparky Woods (3rd season)

Media prediction: 6th place, Big South Conference

All-Big South:

2009 1st team: OL George Handler, P Marc Ray, PR Tim Maypray
2009 2nd team: RB Howard Abegesah, DL Josh Wine, LB Emilio Calvin, DB Byron Allen
2010 preseason: DL Josh Wine, LB Emilio Calvin, P Marc Ray

(Italics indicate departed player.)

VMI is one of those schools that can be definitively said not to exist for the sake of the football team, and it shows on the field. The last winning record there: 1981, though they did scrape a couple .500 seasons this decade.


There's quite an upheaval happening on this side of the ball. New starters abound, some of them brought over from the defense - notably, running back Julian Bowers, an RB-turned-LB-turned-RB, and Stefawn Ross, who made the curious switch from linebacker to wide receiver. VMI is also switching from a run-heavy spread with play selection reminiscent of Georgia Tech's to something more conventional. Leading receiver Mario Scott returns, having caught just 11 balls for 237 yards; VMI attempted only nine passes a game in 2009.

The line has experience, though, especially on the left side. And right guard James Boatright was a starter early in his career, even as a true freshman, but missed most of 2009 with a shoulder injury. Left guard Bo Wren has been an every-game starter since his freshman year as well, and can move up and down the line as needed.


Whatever hope VMI has in pulling off a good season and/or a stunning upset of UVA rests here. This is an extremely experienced squad, and it placed several players on the preseason all-conference team. VMI runs a 3-4, but nose tackle Josh Wine is much more than just a line anchor; he ranked fourth on the team in tackles in 2009. But big linebacker Emilio Calvin fits the Al Groh mold of the rush OLB, leading the team in TFL with nine, including three sacks.

There's an old saw in football that says if your secondary is leading the team in tackles, you're in trouble - the opposition shouldn't be back there that often. What if your safety leads the conference in tackles? Is that bad? Byron Allen nearly did just that, ranking second in the Big South in tackles per game and racking up 93 total, 17 more than the next player on the team. Allen is a heck of a run-stopper, but the secondary overall will need to step it up in pass defense. None of the projected starters had an interception in 2009, though in fairness to Michael Rainey-Wiles, he was a wide receiver last year. That probably speaks to the depth of the secondary, which only managed four INTs last year, half as many as the opposition despite VMI's propensity to never pass the ball on offense.


When you're terrible, you better have a good punter, and Marc Ray is that, earning first-team all-conference honors despite having just walked on the season before. Jeff Sexton only had six opportunities to kick a field goal last year, converted three, and also missed three extra points.


VMI is terrible. That said, please let's just win this one by a lot so I don't look really dumb for saying that.

No comments: