Saturday, July 31, 2010

the recruit: Marco Jones

Name: Marco Jones
Position: DE
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
School: Boys' Latin
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 245

ESPN: 77; three stars; #60 DE
Rivals: 5.5; three stars; MD #11
Scout: three stars; #41 DE

Other offers: UConn, Duke, East Carolina, Kansas State, Louisville, Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers, Stanford, West Virginia

How committed to local recruiting is Mike London? Until this month's surprise commitment from Pittsburgh-area lineman Tim Cwalina, Marco Jones was the recruit that London had gone furthest afield to secure a commitment from; Jones comes to us from the distant outpost of Baltimore. (Two other recruits in the class, Adrian Gamble and Matt Bailey, committed to Al Groh.)

London apparently doesn't screw around much, either. Near the end of UVA's junior day on June 6th, London flat-out asked the assembled recruits who was ready to commit. Jones did, and a few minutes later, so did Vincent Croce, setting off the second wave of verbals to UVA.

At 245, maybe 250 pounds, Jones is probably the most field-ready of our many DE commits, the rest of whom check in at under 230. He's also one of the best-scouted. Jones went to a lot of camps, and for once, all three services are pretty much in agreeance with each other: they see a solid, well-built player who doesn't make your eyes go pop but has legitimate high-level talent. The colleges agree: Jones had a quality list of programs to choose from, including and especially Penn State.

So what's in it for us? A lot. UVA gets a known quantity at defensive end and a good one. He's not going to drop back to linebacker, not at that size and with his coach thinking he can reach 270 in a college weight program. Probably not destined for tackle, either, even with the glut of DEs coming into the program. Jones' highlights include a lot of plays where he separates from his blocker and tracks down a ballcarrier that gets too close; his ESPN evaluation backs that up by saying, "Flashes good speed and a solid closing burst to the ball." And there's a reason Jones is more field-ready and bigger than our other DE commits: he's a year older. He transferred schools after his sophomore year, sat out a year and repeated 10th grade, then played a year at Boys' Latin last year and will play his senior season this year.

Given that, you'd think he might be a good candidate for some freshman year PT, but DE is stacked. It still remains to be seen who might yet move inside (Justin Renfrow, maybe), since DT is like mega-thin, but even so DE won't be hurting for personnel unless the guys currently there flub out miserably. So Jones will probably redshirt. I don't think he's likely to turn into a holy pass-rushing terror, but physically he's ahead of the curve in his class and should be a very familiar presence on the field within a couple years. In short, the kind of the talent London needs to routinely be able to bring to UVA if we're going to have a good football team.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

following recruiting, part 1: the airing of grievances

It may not be Festivus yet, but recruiting season is all year, so there's never a bad time to talk about it. And today that means I gotta lot of problems with you people. See, you can hardly ever follow a recruiting discussion on a message board without running into one of these obnoxities. (I don't think that's a word, but whatever.) If you're someone who says things like this, please reinvent your outlook toward recruiting, because you're annoying me and everyone else:

- "This guy's only a two-star? We don't need him."

Ah yes, the quintessential recruitjerk. An anonymous scout somewhere looked at some film, or watched a guy do a drill or two at a camp, didn't like what he saw as much as he was hoping to, and you don't like the player because of it. The rating does not have a third star next to it; the player is a bum and not worthy of the uniform. This is a rare breed of recruitjerk, but just how rare is difficult to know because they're almost always shouted down the moment they prairie-dog their heads into the light. UVA fans are in general almost totally innocent of this crime; the opposite infraction is our usual transgression.

- "Pat White was a two-star."

The usual erroneous reply to the above jackass. Those applying this argument are guilty of probably about nine different fallacies of logic. Great, out of the eight hundred two-star recruits rated each year by the services, you found one (Pat White, the former quarterback extraordinaire at West Virginia is a common example) and it proves your point beyond reproach that the ratings services don't know what they're talking about at all.

- "This guy's a stud!!!"

If there's one thing that occasionally drives me crazy about UVA fans it is our habit of overrating the shit out of the talent we recruit and put on the field. (Besides that, "stud" is the #1 overused word in all of recruiting, just ahead of "academics.") The quintessential example is Keith Payne, who walked on water, apparently, until the minute he stepped on the field, where he proved to be pretty much exactly what he was rated as. There are several subcategories of This Guy's A Stud, including....

- "This guy's a stud....check out his highlights!!!"

Highlight films are called that for a reason. And everyone's got 'em. If the guy couldn't routinely run past high school opponents, outhit them, outthrow them, outblock them, whatever, he wouldn't even be a prospect. Everyone that colleges recruit, even D-III colleges, is a standout in high school. On rare occasions, the highlight film is useful. But when coaches evaluate film, there's a reason they look just as much at the bad as the good.

- "This guy's a stud....check out his 40 time!!!"

Which is almost always fake-ish. Especially if it was timed by his high school. Besides, how many times in football do you run in a straight line for 40 yards?

- "This guy's a stud....I saw him play once!!!"

OK, professional scout.

- "This guy's a stud....check out his stats!!!"

Like highlight films, yes, they're always impressive, or the kid wouldn't be a prospect. And like highlight films, they have varying degrees of usefulness, and usually aren't worth much. KP Parks would be an example of an exception, but that's just about the kind of eye-popping stat line it takes to really make an impression.

- "He's looking elsewhere? Good riddance."

This after we have sung his praises when he committed. Sometimes the mere hint that a guy might be having second thoughts about his commitment is enough for a few people to slam the door on his backside.

- "He hasn't committed already? What's his problem? Guess he doesn't want to be here. We should move on."

The most annoying of all possible reactions to a guy who's dragging his feet a little, after the recruiting gurus have assured us he's half in the door already. This happened with at least one of our recruits this year - and he committed in May. The irritating part is that the only reason we know - or think we do - that he's heavily favoring any school, is because of reports that speculate as such. Largely the opinion of the gurus, which is enough for the occasional impatient fan to go off the deep end and want to close the door on a guy who's on his own damn timetable, not ours.

- "He committed elsewhere? Well, I didn't think he was all that good anyway. Besides, we weren't recruiting him all that hard."

Aesop warned us about that one. This one falls a bit more into the territory of our country cousins from Blacksburg, but if you look long enough you'll find a UVA fan who delights in accusing Hokies of claiming sour grapes over recruits like Watford (and they do, too) and without a trace of intended irony, do the same a week later.

And finally....

- "I'd rather have a lower-rated player from Virginia than a higher-rated player from out of state."

Urm, what? I really saw this one time and it was at the end of a drawn-out argument that I didn't feel like extending, but it was flabbergasting. UVA fans always get really excited when UVA pulls a number of Virginia's top recruits, which is natural and correct because every one we get is one Tech doesn't. But this would be the illogical extreme. This is how you know you've lost sight of what matters: when you'd rather have a worse player that fewer programs want over a (theoretically) more talented player. The program exists to win football games, not play a game of who's more popular in the state.

Being that I do the lion's share of my message board yakking with fellow UVA fans on UVA sites, these observations tend to be gleaned from there too, but these are the more or less universal ones. They're like nails on a chalkboard, too. It's bad enough we're a world of grown-ass men hanging on the words and whims of seventeen-year-olds, but long ago I figured that's just the way it is. It's when the same supposedly grown-ass men start acting like twelve-year-olds over the whims of seventeen-year-olds that it gets to be too much. So since there's nothing I enjoy like getting preachy, part 2, when it comes, will be all about how you can attach a rational thought to this whole recruiting process without being a dweeb about it. Step one is don't write a blog.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

season preview: Boston College

Note: Today, we kick off the season previews throughout the ACC, in alphabetical order. As promised earlier, there will be one for each ACC team, plus one for each team on our non-conference schedule. Busy month, but by the end of it, FOV readers will be the most informed fans there are about the competition. Kick back and enjoy.

Boston College Eagles


9/4: Weber State
9/11: Kent State
9/18: BYE
9/25: Virginia Tech
10/2: Notre Dame
10/9: @ NC State
10/16: @ Florida State
10/23: Maryland
10/30: Clemson
11/6: @ Wake Forest
11/13: @ Duke
11/20: Virginia
11/27: Syracuse

Skip: Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina

Projected starters:

QB: Dave Shinskie (So.)
RB: Montel Harris (Jr.)
FB: James McCluskey (5Sr.)
WR: Colin Larmond (Jr.)
WR: Billy Flutie (5Sr.)
TE: Chris Pantale (rSo.)
LT: Anthony Castonzo (Sr.)
LG: Emmett Cleary (rSo.)
C: Nathan Richman (rJr.)
RG: Thomas Claiborne (5Sr.)
RT: Rich Lapham (5Sr.)

LDE: Alex Albright (5Sr.)
LDT: Damik Scaife (5Sr.)
RDT: Brad Newman (5Sr.)
RDE: Max Holloway (rSo.)
SLB: Mark Herzlich (5Sr.)
MLB: Luke Kuechly (So.)
WLB: Mike Morrissey (5Sr.)
CB: DeLeon Gause (Sr.)
CB: Isaac Johnson (Jr.)
SS: Dominick LeGrande (Jr.)
FS: Wes Davis (5Sr.)

K: Ryan Quigley (Jr.)
P: Ryan Quigley (Jr.)

Coach: Frank Spaziani (2nd year)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Media prediction: 3rd, Atlantic Division


2009 1st team: OT Anthony Castonzo, LB Luke Kuechly
2009 2nd team: RB Montel Harris, C Matt Tennant
2009 HM: WR Rich Gunnell, OG Thomas Claiborne, P Ryan Quigley
2010 preseason: OT Anthony Castonzo, OG Thomas Claiborne, RB Montel Harris, LB Luke Kuechly

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Last year at this time, things looked pretty bleak for the Eagles, and by bleak I mean "probably the worst team in the conference." New coach, god-knows-who at quarterback, and the star linebacker getting chemo treatments. This is the kind of adversity that dooms a season, so naturally Boston College went 8-4. This year they go into the season with much the opposite outlook: BC is now the picture of stability.


For Boston College, it starts on the offensive line. This is possibly the steadiest and most experienced bunch in the ACC with senior tackle Anthony Castonzo and massive guard Thomas Claiborne filling two of the five preseason all-ACC spots on the line. With Matt Tennant off to the NFL, BC moved starting guard Nathan Richman to the middle, ensuring that there'd be little transition anxiety.

Expect the Eagles to keep the ball on the ground a lot, as that solid line will be blocking for all-ACC workhorse Montel Harris. Only a junior, Harris is already 10th on BC's all-time rushing yards list, coming off a 1,450-yard season in 2009. Harris is an every-down type and accounted for 14 of BC's 17 rushing TD's last year. He'll need to be as good this year, because the passing game is the one question mark. No worries about the protection, but Dave Shinskie will probably need to improve his consistency to keep a hold on the quarterback job. His performances last year ranged from the brilliant (18/29, 229 yds, 3 TDs/1 INT against Wake Forest) to the hideous (12/28, 101 yds, 1 TD/4 INT against UNC) and everything in between. (And that's not to mention the disastrous VT game, where Shinskie compiled a QB rating of -22.) Now that BC has returned to the Land of Expectations, they'll need solid QB play to take the next step.

What kind of help Shinskie gets from his receivers remains to be seen. Colin Larmond looks like a capable replacement for the departed Rich Gunnell (who caught over a third of BC's completed passes in 2009) but beyond that the receivers are totally unproven. It's a pity Miami's not on the schedule, otherwise BC fans might get to dream of Billy Flutie following in dad's footsteps with a miracle Hail Mary, only on the other end of it. As it stands, Flutie is the leading candidate out of spring camp to sit atop the depth chart, but here may be a chance for top recruit Shakim Phillips, who turned down over 20 other offers to come to BC, to strut his stuff. Regardless, expect BC's offense to be heavily run-oriented as they lean on their best known quantities.


The story in fall camp for Boston College is going to be how well Mark Herzlich returns to form after missing the 2009 season undergoing treatment for bone cancer. The other story is one sure to sting UVA recruitniks just a little bit every time it's mentioned: Luke Kuechly was everyone's unanimous freshman of the year starting in place of Herzlich, registering 158 tackles, an average of over 12 per game. Kuechly (that's "KEEK-lee" if you're curious) let his recruitment go with UVA in the hunt all the way, until his selection of BC just a couple weeks before Signing Day. Herzlich, Kuechly (who moves to the middle so as to give Herzlich his spot back) and senior Mike Morrissey give the Eagles the likely best linebacking corps in the conference.

The line is as much a bastion of experience as their offensive counterparts, especially tackles Damik Scafe and Brad Newman. Newman is getting his first chance at his own full-time starting gig, but Scafe was BC's leading tackler on the line last season. Neither is a terror, but both should be solid, and they have the luxury of an all-star linebacking corps behind them.

The secondary has some position battles to shake out, the only place on the field where the dreaded "or" shows up on the spring depth chart. Free safety Wes Davis is the only real playmaking threat back there, the unfortunate truth being that about as many returning players with interceptions come from the front 7 as the secondary. The group has some experience, but senior starting CB DeLeon Gause, for example, didn't intercept a single pass last season, which is why as a senior he's still in a position battle. This is a group that has probably taken a step backwards, in losing Marcellus Bowman and Roderick Rollins and not yet finding a set replacement. BC doesn't have a terrorizing pass rush, either, so opponents may find it relatively easy to move the ball against the Eagles through the air.


Ryan Quigley is one of the top returning punters in the league, and this year he looks likely to take over kicking duties as well, as the only veteran kicker on the roster. BC will need to find a replacement returner for both kicks and punts, as those duties were handled by now-departed seniors Jeff Smith and Rich Gunnell.


Keep the game on the ground and you'll play right into Boston College's hands. This was one of the elite run defense squads last year, one of 11 teams in the country to hold opponents to less than three yards per rush. And Harris is a workhorse with explosive capabilities, the obvious focal point of the offense. But in order to seriously contend for the ACC title, they'll need better play from the quarterback position. Shinskie doesn't need to be an all-star, but he needs to improve his accuracy and his consistency. His performance was fine last year when BC just needed to get their feet under them to outperform the low expectations, but he must improve in his sophomore season for BC to take the next step. BC must also answer some questions about their pass defense, or there's likely to be another game this year like last year's VT game where they were out of it by the time 15 minutes had elapsed.

BC should be a team you mark down in permanent ink for a bowl season. They have too strong a foundation to have a losing season, and seven wins should be considered the bare minimum. The schedule is favorable, skipping three of the Coastal's stronger teams. Particularly place yourself on alert if they start off 4-0 after two tough games against renewed rival Notre Dame and the ACC opener against VT. But all eyes will be on the quarterback to see if this can be an Orange Bowl season for the Eagles (a longshot goal, but a makeable one, especially with that schedule) or if it will simply result in what BC fans are used to these days: a quality season followed by an insultingly low bowl invite.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the recruit: Kelby Johnson

Apologies: I was going to have the first of many season previews up, but they require one missing ingredient that hasn't been released yet from the ACC media extravaganza. So enjoy the flip-flop: Boston College tomorrow, Kelby Johnson today.

Name: Kelby Johnson
Position: OT
Hometown: DC area, MD
School: DeMatha
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 285

ESPN: none
Rivals: 5.4, two stars, MD #19
Scout: three stars, #79 OT

Other offers: New Mexico

Mike London's got the touch: another April commitment landed within a couple weeks of making the offer, and again from program extraordinaire DeMatha, just a few days after extending the DeMatha streak to four years with Jordan Lomax.

Recruitniks have heard the names Arie and Cyrus Kouandjio, who attracted scholarship offers from every D-I school ever. Arie was a senior last year and signed with Alabama in 2010; Cyrus will be a senior this upcoming season. Both are all-world offensive tackle recruits from DeMatha, and important because that's why Kelby Johnson didn't have a starting job last year. With Arie gone, Johnson will step into place, more than likely on the right side.

Unsurprisingly for someone who spent his junior year as a backup, the word "raw" is used pretty frequently in scouting reports on Johnson, these coming from his limited playing time last fall and the showcases he's attended. Obviously, the lack of PT also explains his general lack of offers, though Rutgers at least was recruiting him pretty hard before his commitment to UVA. They never got around to pulling the offer trigger, but Johnson was at their spring game the very weekend before he committed to UVA.

Johnson is really, really tall for a lineman - for leverage reasons, they don't come much taller than he does at 6'8". It's that height that will ensure he stays at offensive tackle, as it makes it a little harder to get the explosive forward drive an interior lineman needs to be a run-blocker. (Austin Pasztor is listed as 6'7" but he's also soared past 300 pounds and was a 310-pound freshman.) Johnson isn't likely to be that big come next fall, but he has put on weight nicely - the Rivals articles from December call him 265-270 pounds, a solid 20 pounds lighter than they list him today.

The base assumption for Johnson's projection is the same as 98% of all other offensive linemen: redshirt a year, then work his way into the starting lineup. But Johnson does have two aces up his sleeve. The first is DeMatha, the praises of which I've sung before. The second is that while his ratings and offers and recruitment and such would be thoroughly unimpressive for your regular prospect, they're pretty decent for a guy who's got more camp time than field time. Johnson's size is prototypical and more than just about anyone on the commit list, he stands to benefit from his senior season. The O-line is young and Johnson's likely to need two full seasons at UVA before he even sniffs the field, thanks to the number of people in front of him. But of the three linemen already onboard (Johnson, Ross Burbank, and the lately-committed Tim Cwalina), as it stands today, July 2010, Johnson is the one with the most upside.

Monday, July 26, 2010

monday linkpile: former hoos edition

Tomorrow we kick off the season previews, so today we'll catch up on some loose ends I've left hanging. Mostly to do with former UVA players, some of the news good and some not as good.

- Sylven Landesberg: Set to play in Israel, which comes as little surprise, as 1) he really isn't quite ready for the league yet and 2) he's half Jewish. The mistake people are making is equating "not ready for the NBA" with "shouldn't have left school." As much as anyone, I like for guys to stay four years and get their degree, and it's the decision I tend to respect the most. But I can't disrespect Sylven's choice to leave. If basketball is what you want to make a career out of, it's hard to fault the idea of making half a million or more a year playing in an exotic location like Israel. (Or Spain, or Greece, or Italy, as some of them end up doing.) C'mon, you'd do it right now if you could. Leaving early and getting some time in overseas worked for Roger Mason, it can certainly work for Landesberg.

- Tristan Spurlock: I wonder if the article-writer's choice of the words "taking his talents to Central Florida" was coincidence. Should have said Disney World or something if he really wanted to LBJ it up. Anyway, yeah, UCF is where Spurlock is gonna be, so, best of luck with that.

- Phil Gosselin: Tearing it up in Rome - that's Rome, GA, home of his mid-level A-ball minor league team. Another not-surprise for leaving early.

- Vic Hall: released by the Bears. Hall's route to the NFL is going to be a really, really difficult one, full of sign-and-releases and time spent on the practice squad.

- Corey Lillard: wait, what? Dammit. Lillard, one of the few remaining scholarship defensive backs on the team, is no longer one of that ever-thinning crowd. We now have ten defensive backs on scholarship - barely enough to make a nickel package two-deep. Mark my words, unless London thinks one of the walkons is playable, one of these guys that got moved to linebacker (LoVante' Battle, say) is gonna find themselves moved back out to the secondary by the time the season is over. This is the thinnest secondary in history.

And so as to prevent any heart attacks, here's where I specifically mention I'm not talking about former Cavaliers any more, because Marc Verica is the next topic of (very short) discussion. Really, it's just to point out that if for whatever reason you still had any doubts about who would be the starting quarterback, or who thinks he's the starting quarterback, you should put them to rest. Verica it is. And the way the schedule shakes out, I figure that's for a bare minimum of five games, and hopefully by then things are not going so badly that it's time for a switch.

Lastly, for you swimming enthusiasts, here is the incoming men's recruiting class, ranked fifth in the country. The only other ACC teams in the top 25 are UNC (8th) and Maryland (22nd.) And the women? Third. None too shabby at all, especially in pulling the 5th-ranked swimmer in Florida out of the state. Getting past the Stanfords and Arizonas and Floridas of the world is going to be a tall order, but Mark Bernardino just might have a national championship brewing in the next decade or so, if he can keep that up.

Friday, July 23, 2010

the recruit: Jordan Lomax

Name: Jordan Lomax
Position: DB
Hometown: Upper Marlboro, MD
School: DeMatha
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 185

ESPN: 78; #20 CB
Rivals: 5.5; three stars; MD #12
Scout: three stars; #63 S

Offers: Louisville, Maryland, New Mexico, Stanford

I love DeMatha. When Jordan Lomax committed back in April, it made four straight years that a DeMatha kid had signed up for UVA. In the fall of 2011 it'll be like a DeMatha reunion. Rodney McLeod should be a four-year starter by then. Jeremiah Mathis is a redshirt freshman making a position switch and still he's listed on the two-deep at DE. Lomax will enter UVA with two of his DeMatha teammates, one of whom committed four days after he did and the other being Kyrrel Latimer, after a year of prep school.

Lomax's recruitment didn't take long; he was onboard with UVA less than a week after getting his offer. And he must be a hell of a recruiter himself, because the very next commitment Mike London received was from his teammate Kelby Johnson. Lomax favored Pitt early but never got a formal offer from them.

It was an injury to Latimer, in fact, that launched Lomax into the spotlight for colleges to see. Lomax started DeMatha's third game of the season in Latimer's place, and shone. DeMatha being the factory that it is, juniors don't usually start, but Lomax played his way into a starting rotation that night. Al Groh and his "Next Man Up" philosophy would be proud. But it's London that impressed Lomax, who simply says the coaching staff "makes you want to go." Only two weeks after his visit to UVA, and one week after his offer, Lomax was ready for the blue and orange.

At DeMatha, he's a two-way player; common among WR/DB prospects but a little bit more impressive at a program like DeMatha's. At UVA, it'll be DB, but it's still a bit up in the air whether that'll be at safety or corner. His size says "cornerback" but at DeMatha, he's a safety, and his attributes as listed by his ESPN evaluation lead you to believe safety is his place. Me, I'm interested in seeing what happens in his senior season when the starting spot in the secondary is his and his alone. ESPN having him as a top-20 CB in the country is pretty high praise, but the other ratings are middling-ish.

Regardless of ratings, you wish all your players could be developed at a program like DeMatha. There's an automatic excitement level in getting a player out of there. They come ready to go, and judging from his showing in his first start (against a really good Friendship Collegiate squad) Lomax is no exception. Of all the DB prospects currently onboard, Lomax is one of the most versatile, and if he proves himself a quality cornerback he could find himself with very early playing time. We'll need a new starting CB in 2011, the position is currently the thinnest on the whole roster, and there is much playing time to be had. You need at least three good CBs, because the nickel package isn't exactly uncommon. Super-recruit Brandon Phelps is also likely to come in as a cornerback, but if there's playing time available, never bet against the DeMatha guy.

fov sheds its skin

A new era for Cavalier football means a change around these parts as well, which if you have functioning retinas it probably didn't take you too long to notice. A literature major could probably extract a lot of symbology if he or she wanted to; I just happen to like all the extra orange (you know, like how the football team has new orange jerseys [/lit major]) and think the inclusion of George Gelnovatch is a nice touch as he brought UVA the first national championship of FOV's lifespan.

The banner is designed by talented fellow Wahoo Ellen Falci, who graciously offered to put her creative skills to work and put up with my nitpickings to boot.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

the recruit: Paul Jesperson

Thought it was football season, didn't you? We interrupt all that football stuff to check out Tony Bennett's first 2011 commitment, who jumped onboard yesterday....

Name: Paul Jesperson
Position: SF
Hometown: Merrill, WI
School: Merrill
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 180

ESPN: 90; #41 SF
Rivals: three stars; #140 nationally
Scout: four stars; #17 SF

Offers: Arizona State, Arkansas, Boston College, Butler, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, whole slew of mid-majors

Tony Bennett goes back to even older stomping grounds than he did for Joe Harris out of Washington; UVA's first 2011 hoops commitment comes from Wisconsin. He also comes almost a month later than last year's opening salvo, Will Regan. The slower pace is to be expected, since obviously we're not getting six commits again.

As for Jesperson, his recruiting followed basically the path you'd expect for a talented guy stuck in the backwoods of a state not known for churning out hoopsters. Before his junior season he had a smattering of upper-Midwest mid-major offers (the Wisconsin schools, SDSU, that kind of thing) and was thinking hard about Colorado State. Yaaayy. Interest picked up after his junior year - Minnesota offered in the spring and was one of Jesperson's finalists - and then the camp and AAU circuit and suddenly it's Iowa, Arkansas, Vandy, Notre Dame.....and of course, Virginia. Similar to Regan, Jesperson hasn't garnered any really big-league offers but has a long list of solid high majors after him. His UVA offer came in June after Bennett got an up-close-and-personal look at camp. Great news, as he'd been wanting one since at least May. It came down to UVA, Minnesota, and Notre Dame, and how about that sports fans, Bennett just beat Tubby Smith (you remember him, the guy we spent a decade hankering for as our head coach) for a recruit.

Jesperson's skill set makes him a little bit of a tweener. The three position is where the services have him but really he's too damn skinny to be a pure three, probably always will be, and at UVA he should be considered something more like a two-and-a-half. Three-pointers are a specialty of his, and at 6'7" he'll be more than big enough to outreach most two-guards without being too slow to guard them. He'll snag his share of rebounds, but you won't see him venturing inside much and he doesn't wow you with ballhandling and playmaking skills. Minnesota was pointing at Blake Hoffarber when they were recruiting Jesperson.

The scouting service evaluations are pretty varied for someone who's been hitting the camps and the AAU tournaments. ESPN's kind of lukewarm and their 90 rating means "more or less ACC caliber," while Scout's pretty enthused - they don't hand out four stars lightly. ESPN's evaluation came before the AAU tournament where Minnesota offered, before UVA's camp where Bennett offered, and before the Milwaukee AAU tournament where Notre Dame offered - in other words, before he really got out and showed off against the high-level competition. So with ESPN at the low end of the expectations chart, that makes for good news.

Come 2011, where Jesperson (or pretty much any recruit we get under 6'10") fits in is anyone's guess until we see how the six freshmen turn out. Weird year that way. But there isn't exactly a logjam of his type on the roster - maybe Akil Mitchell, but he's the biggest unknown quantity of them all. Jesperson reminds me of Adrian Joseph: a long, sort of skinny guardish-forward type (or forwardish-guard type) that can be counted on for outside buckets but is kind of an end-state for the offense: you get him the ball when he's open and you want him to shoot it, not because you want him to find someone else. Scoring, yes. Rebounding yes, but not the kind of rebounds you bang for, more the kind of rebounds you outreach your matchup for. Assists, probably not so much. Jesperson can probably look for meaningful minutes right away as long as he adds about 15 useful pounds, and what we'll look for out of him isn't so much to be the star of the program, but the kind of player like Joseph or Mamadi Diane that forces you to respect him so the star (whoever that might be) can do his thing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

recruiting board machete

I welcome myself back from a short summer break, and yes I had a great time, with a quick recruiting board update. It's time for a brief commitment season, since the players are starting to look toward their senior seasons and many of them want to have recruiting done with. So it's also time to take a machete to the recruiting board. A lot of players there have recently committed elsewhere or dropped UVA, and it's time to wish them fair winds and following seas and move on.

- The following players dropped UVA but haven't yet committed somewhere: S Michael Cole, CB Dominique Noble, CB Tim Scott, WR Tacoi Sumler, WR Dominique Terrell. The latter probably actually dropped UVA in, like, April.

- The following players committed somewhere else: TE Eric Frohnapfel (West Virginia), OT Sam Marshall (Duke), LB Zeek Bigger (Duke).

- Added LB D.J. Hill to yellow.

- Added ATH Darius Jennings and LB Conner Crowell to red.

Enjoy the board. Tomorrow it's back in action, for real.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

thursday linkpile

First, programming note. Or programming essay, if you will. Your humble blogger goes on summer break starting tomorrow, which lasts until Wednesday-ish. There may be a little something in the interim, but we'll see. It depends. Once I get back, it'll just about be time to jump with both feet into football mode. Starting the last week of July and going til I'm done, we get to the season previews. There are 17 in all: 11 ACC teams, 4 non-conference games on our schedule, and lastly our offense and defense. Recruit profiles will be sprinkled in there too.

If you've followed football season on these pages before, you know there's a little bit of a weekly routine. If you haven't, then here it is:

Sunday: This blog participates in the Blogpoll, the more or less official blogger's version of the weekly coaches' and AP rankings. And much better, because we don't pawn off our ballots on whichever unlucky gofer walked past the office first, it's the very model of transparency, you the reader get a say, and besides we're just smarter, faster, and better looking than your average media dork. Anyway, Sunday is when the first draft of the ballot goes up, and generally you also get my reactions to whatever travesty just took place the day before, and if we won, I try to have highlights up too.

Monday: Update the recruiting board, check in on how our commits did that weekend, and catch up on non-football stuff.

Tuesday-Wednesday: Whatever is going on, plus usually there's some kind of roundtable going on between us bloggers. Those are fun because other bloggers put on their twisted-mind hats to ask stuff and I have to figure out how to answer questions like, "if your football team was a bird, what species would it be?" This is also soccer season, so I try and figure out how to react to the games without getting to see them, because the sport is totally ignored by the networks.

Thursday: Game preview day! Ohboyohboy it's almost Saturday....

Friday-Saturday: The blog's weekend. Nothing posted unless something big happens.

So. Stuff is going on, and as you're aware, I have opinions:

- Watford. This is a big deal, because while we go head-to-head all the time with VT for recruits, it doesn't actually happen that often in the quarterback realm. It hasn't turned out well when we do. VT's been on Watford all this time - don't you believe it for a minute when Hokies claim they didn't want him that badly - so getting him is a coup. However, don't for a minute read anything into it beyond Watford himself. If you think it's a foot in the door at Hampton, from which we haven't signed a recruit for almost ten years, ask yourself if that last recruit (Marques Hagans) was a foot in the door for a new coaching staff.

I don't think it'll happen, but you'll know something really special is going on if Lafonte Thourogood decides on UVA too. Watford dropped for us several days ago now; if it was as simple as Thourogood just wanting somewhere to play quarterback without competition, he'd have committed to Tech by now, or at least will do so in the next couple days.

- UNC. Uh-oh. The NCAA's puttin' on the investigating pants again. They weren't very nice to USC just now, and now they've decided to see what Butch Davis is up to.

- Soccer schedule. Came out during the World Cup, which is kind of a good way to make sure the attentions of your soccer fans are elsewhere. If you don't count exhibitions, and I don't, there isn't a single road game on there save a few ACC games. And all the really good teams - Maryland, Wake, UNC -are at home. Klockner will be a busy place this fall.

- Soccer recruiting. Now for the bad news: our top recruit won't be coming. Parker Walsh has decided to start his pro career overseas instead of going the college route. Walsh has some U-17 and U-20 national team experience under his belt, our only recruit to do so. Sort of thing you have to worry about in sports like baseball and soccer. Especially soccer: if you're going to make a serious career out of it, the NCAA doesn't make much sense if you can get a chance with the bigger guys in Europe.

- The First Four. Dippy name for a goofy concept. I hardly even need to say anything when Jay Bilas basically said everything for me. I haven't agreed that much with anything on ESPN since they called Michael Vick a felon. I get why the NCAA insists on not calling them "play-in games" - it's because of idiot senators and attorneys general with itchy lawsuit trigger fingers, ready to go to court on behalf of West Northsouthern State that won the Corn Valley Conference and still "didn't get to play in the tournament" because of the "oligarchy" the NCAA runs. They're still play-in games, especially with the at-larges involved, playing for a middle seed. They wouldn't have to be called The First Four (TM) if they hadn't caved to dumb sentiment and just made the would-be 16-seeds play each other. Correctly promoted, that would actually be a really interesting day of basketball.

Anyway, this is the very last time you'll ever see "The First Four" referred to on these pages. They're play-in games. Literally, that's what they are. That's what people wanted, that's what the NCAA gave them, and that's what they're all getting called.

- TV deal. As we all figured, the ACC will be able to hand out about $13 million to each of its schools. Lots of people have opinions on this; mine is that it's a conference-saving deal. I think this, plus the conference's academic reputation, is good enough to prevent poachers - the SEC, mainly - from grabbing a team. Remember two things: 1, it's not about the money, it's about the competition and how you're doing relative to them, and 2, the presidents, not the ADs, make the call.

We take a lot less of a summer break around here than school does, so don't get too comfy. Back sooner than you think with football, football, football.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

new video up

Instead of writing, today I got busy finishing some more highlights, which are now, and as ever, available on the videos page to the right. The newest one is your UVA Cavaliers against Wake Forest in 2007. This game, you may remember, set a possible record for the highest ratio of excitement level of the final five minutes to that of the extremely boring first fifty-five. Some really forgettable stuff happened for most of the game, mostly punts and 3-yard gains up the middle, but the finish was not to be missed. Such was 2007.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the recruit: Diamonte Bailey

Name: Diamonte Bailey
Position: DE
Hometown: Richmond
School: Hermitage
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220

ESPN: 77; three stars; #65 DE
Rivals: 5.4; two stars; VA #27
Scout: two stars

Other offers: Marshall

Easiest pickup the UVA coaching staff - new or old - has had in years. For Diamonte Bailey the only question in his recruitment was whether or not he'd get an offer from UVA; he did, and committed on the spot. If you were to stake your life on one recruit to not decommit this year, here's your guy. And frankly, it's always neat when a kid is a UVA fan and gets the letter he's been hoping for.

Bailey's offer list is pretty much commensurate with his ratings, which for the most part are weak, but at least some of that can be attributed to his committing early and then shutting it down. Coaches get the message when a guy commits the moment he's offered. It raised at least one eyebrow, though. To me, the unstated implication in that article was that the staff could have waited to see if they could land any of their top targets and still reeled in Bailey with a later offer if they missed out on, say, the Rob Burns's of the world.

But it's not like Bailey is some kind of reach. As with any legitimate D-I recruit, he's brought in his honors: in this case, second-team all-region, alongside the much higher-rated Corey Marshall. (All-region is a step above all-district, by the way, in case you were wondering.)

And if the lack of offers can be partly explained away by the early commitment, you can do likewise with the low ratings by looking at his size. At 220 pounds, Bailey is undersized for a linebacker let alone a lineman. College-sized, he is not. Nearly all our DE's are this way, it's a London thing. Groh would bring them in at 250, 260 pounds, easy. It's the difference in the defenses again.

In the ratings department, this time it's ESPN that decides to be different. Scout and Rivals have Bailey as a two-star; ESPN ranks him on the DE list higher than a few of our higher-profile targets, notably Burns and Daquan Romero. I enjoy using these profiles to highlight the occasional silliness of the whole recruiting business: this time it's in the scouting reports. The RTD says Bailey "moves well for his size" (as opposed to those 250-pounders?) and VirginiaPreps says he "probably hasn't reached his apex as a football player." God I hope not. If London ever recruits a player who's peaked as a junior in high school I will drive to Charlottesville and slap him in the face myself unless the guy's already 6'6", 300 and runs a 4.1 40. I don't expect it'll ever come to that.

Anyway, Bailey comes into a logjam in 2011. Groh might have unwisely used a few true freshmen in his time but one position where he did just about none of that is DE. (Except for Will Hill, who's a DT now.) Four DE's in this class and four more are true or redshirt freshmen this year. Expect redshirts for everyone here, Bailey included, and then a dogfight for playing time that has no clear favorite at all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

recruiting board update

Got our quarterback! A week in which I move just one name up to the orange section feels like a slow week these days, but if that name is a quarterback, you're talking. Especially when that quarterback was supposed to be a Hokie. Bummer weekend for our country cousins: two recruits that had maroon and orange all over them in April are now at UVA and UNC (the latter being Landon Turner.)

The recruiting board is thus in need of its weekly update:

- Moved QB David Watford to orange.

- Added OT Sam Marshall to blue.

- Moved CB Kyshoen Jarrett from red to yellow. I really wouldn't get your hopes up a great deal but even so he's got a top nine that includes UVA, so hey. Jarrett also gets bolded-in-orange status as a most-desired recruit.

- Removed OT Trip Thurman, who dropped us (this comes as no surprise) and QB Blake Frohnapfel. Why Frohnapfel? Because we have a quarterback now, and while Lafonte Thourogood remains on the list, Frohnapfel was always borderline, and we're almost full.

Friday, July 9, 2010

the recruit: Ross Burbank

Do you realize that in less than a month it'll be time to start churning out football season previews? Aiyyy. How crazy. With that in mind, if recruit profiles don't start getting done now they'll never get done, so I'll be ramping this up. I forgot that last year, by this time we had just gotten our fifth, sixth, and seventh commitments, and now we have 18 or 19.

Name: Ross Burbank
Position: OT
Hometown: Virginia Beach
School: Cox
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 285

ESPN: 76; three stars; #68 OT
Rivals: 5.5; three stars; VA #26
Scout: two stars

Other offers: ODU

I'm not a big believer in recruiting "momentum," except when the class starts to fill up and the coaches are telling kids it's now or never. I figure the momentum thing is for the fans to feel good about having something to feel good about in the offseason, especially after you went 3-9. This might be the year that puts a serious crimp in my skepticism. Mike London has racked up almost 20 commitments, and mostly they've come in big waves of three or more at a time.

Ross Burbank kicked off the first wave, back in April. Early in the month the class consisted of two guys who'd committed to Al Groh and two who committed at a junior day, and was it. Two weeks later the class had doubled in size. Burbank's recruitment itself wasn't even a story at all; his verbal came within a week of his offer, which was his first to the I-A ranks. Thusly, not a great deal about him was known by UVA fans.

The ratings, when they came out, turned out to be pretty consistent with his achievements as a second-team all-Beach guy and all-combine performer at the Best of the 757. (Not really the "best" - most of the actual best didn't show. Still.) In other words, solid and unspectacular.

Burbank has the size already; I say 285 up there because he's a big-time wrestler and had to be under that number or else, but with wrestling season over it's likely he's already above it. Nearly every scouting report on him says he's got work to do and needs a redshirt year, but a redshirt year is pretty much a gimme for all but the most spectacular OL prospects anyways.

As with the majority of lineman prospects, Burbank plays on both sides of the ball. DT, of course, with his size, and on offense, right tackle. That he plays right tackle instead of left is a function of his school's offense (heavy on the run) and suggests that his fastest learning curve in college will be one that doesn't include left tackle at all; that the offense gives him more experience as a run-blocker than a pass-blocker suggests an eventual move to guard. With linemen, they were almost always a tackle in high school, so it's tough to guess where they end up, but I'd lean toward slotting Burbank as a future guard.

Anyway, O-line recruiting is always about building depth, and that's what we have in Burbank. Burbank's pedigree is good, but doesn't stand out in the crowd among linemen in general. Standard O-line path to stardom here: disappear into redshirtland first year, followed by a methodical climb up the depth chart to settle in by junior year as a starter or backup, depending on how he develops. Guard may provide a little bit of a fast track; most linemen are converts to the position, so if he's a quick learner it'll provide a leg up, and with Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi onboard our long-term solutions at tackle are younger than our starting guards and there'll be spots open on the interior before at tackle.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the recruit: David Dean

Name: David Dean
Position: DT
Hometown: Virginia Beach
School: Green Run
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 285

ESPN: 79; four stars; #19 DT
Rivals: 5.7; three stars; #27 DT; VA #9
Scout: three stars; #63 DT

Offers: West Virginia, Boston College, Stanford, Louisville, Duke, Marshall

Ah, football recruiting, ever a source of entertainment. David Dean committed to Mike London - the first recruit to really do so, as Clifton Richardson is still only sort-of committed (but also apparently having no great desire to get up and visit many other schools) - back in March. This was reported just about everywhere, and Dean made no secret of it. That didn't stop Scout from announcing (in May) that "Dean Comes Clean - David Dean says he's been committed to Virginia since early March." Maybe he was mad at Scout for ranking him so low on the DT food chain.

They're the only ones, anyway. Other than from Scout, Dean comes with the rankings and pedigree of a real bedrock defensive tackle. ESPN has him in the top 20 in the nation at his position and Rivals says he's one of the top 10 players in the state. Dean's very well known in the 757; second-team all-district as a sophomore and first-team district and second-team all-regional as a junior. The all-region honor is Dean's versatility at work, as it's for offense, not defense. (That's not all - he's an all-region hitter on the diamond, too. Got that hand-eye coordination working for him.) Quality academics, with offers from Duke and Stanford to back that up as well. In short, the kind of recruit that is right in the middle of UVA's wheelhouse.

So I'm pretty excited about Dean. A little weak on offers, but the fact that a few of them came in even after Dean's commitment is a plus, and Scout's lukewarmness notwithstanding, the gurus are all pretty high on the guy. ESPN is concerned about his size, and who cares really because six of the eighteen guys ranked ahead of him are also 6'1". Nothing wrong with 6'1" - besides, too much height isn't a good thing in defensive tackles. I'm willing to ignore their worries about his size. He's definitely proven himself against VA competition.

And DT is a good place to be in UVA's recruiting class. This is a position, remember, where our needs doubled with the arrival of the new staff. Not only needs, but requirements too: the demands of playing nose tackle in the 3-4 are way different from DT in the 4-3. The roster contains exactly one true defensive tackle: Nick Jenkins. The rest (and there aren't many) are converted ends (Conrath, Hill, Urban) or linebackers (Dolce.) Dolce is the only conversion with college experience, either in practice or games, on the interior, and he departs after this year, leaving behind a really thin DT corps. Moreover, we really have absolutely no idea how the converted players will take to the new positional demands - even Jenkins. Dean and fellow incoming DT Vincent Croce are coming into a situation where there's a chance to help out immediately. Good thing Dean was one of the best DT's we could have gotten.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

2009-10 Cavalier of the Year: Diego Restrepo

The fans have spoken, and with a sizable number of the votes cast (we don't do runoffs) the FOV Cavalier of the Year for 2009-2010 is Diego Restrepo, goalkeeper for the national champion men's soccer team. Here he is, transformed through the magic of bad Photoshop into a stylish, dashing Cavalier.

Restrepo overcame a surge of votes for Danny Hultzen brought on by the baseball crowd following a Sabre messageboard link and emerged from what was a three-way dead heat between he, Hultzen, and Monica Wright, who finished 1-2-3 in the voting. Robby Andrews was fifth, Kenny Clausen sixth, and the tennis duo of Courtney and Shabaz seventh; Kalkstein and Selenski earned a vote each. Not one vote for either of the swimmers; as a former swimmer myself, this makes me a sad panda. For a few seconds at least.

But the winner is extremely deserving. Hultzen and Wright are a tough pair to beat out, but Restrepo is a national champion and earned himself some pretty significant records along the way. A two-month shutout streak was the individual highlight of his season, as well as a huge save to set the tone in the penalty kick shootout in the NCAA championship game. The voters have chosen wisely.


Restrepo: 36
Hultzen: 22
Wright: 20
Andrews: 10
Clausen: 7
Courtney/Shabaz: 5
Kalkstein, Selenski: 1
Henrich, Perdue, Robison, Tacke: 0

Monday, July 5, 2010

recruiting board update

Happy birthday, USA. I had an interesting Fourth that involved a tree branch coming way too close for comfort to my car (no, I wasn't in it), and I sincerely hope yours was not as exciting. Not much time left for you to vote for Cavalier of the Year, if you haven't already done so, and tomorrow we'll crown the winner. Today we'll just ease back into the week with a quick update to the recruiting board.

- Moved ATH Anthony Harris, DE Rob Burns, and LB Darius Lee to orange. Spots filling up fast. 19 commitments, 20 if you count halfway-there Clifton Richardson. That's more than last year already. Defense especially should be just about done; you'll notice that almost everyone left in blue is an offensive prospect.

- Removed OT Grant Jones, who committed to, uh, Liberty.

- Added S Michael Cole to blue.

- Moved WR Curt Evans, DE Zach Wood, and DE Stephon Sanders from yellow to red. The latter two are because of how many D-linemen are already in the class: six.

- Moved TE Ryan Malleck to blue.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


When people think of total, all-around excellence in athletics, certain schools come to mind. Stanford, of course, they win the Director's Cup every year. Texas. Michigan. UCLA. Might grind some gears to hear it said, but, North Carolina.

This year, with a third-place finish in the standings, the elite now includes Virginia.

One thing that really stuck out to me during the whole college application process was the notion that colleges aren't necessarily looking for a well-rounded student, they're looking for a well-rounded student body. It was one of those things that sort of hits you and makes perfect sense, and it really breaks the mold of what you're thinking as a high school junior. You know, the 4.0 student, class president, athlete, volunteer-everywhere type will have his or her pick of schools, right? The point was really driven home when that exact person in our high school class didn't get accepted at UVA. If you do something, and do it really, really well, and aren't a total fuck-up in the rest of your life, you probably stand a better chance at getting in where you really want to go.

Schools want that person because a world-class university excels at everything it does. Pointy-headed academics don't always want to believe it, but it's the well-rounded university - full of people that excel at what they do - that is really worth its salt, and that includes athletics. Where would Oxford and Cambridge be without their boat race?

So it's really a point of special pride that UVA has earned itself that third-place finish. It's not just what that Onion t-shirt says, about the team from my geographical area being superior to the team from yours. It's an affirmation, really: that UVA has made a concerted effort to be a world-class university, and that effort paying off, is really gratifying. It dovetails nicely with the alumni magazine article on President Casteen, who retires officially in a month. Casteen has his detractors, almost all of them football fans, but what the University has accomplished under his leadership is really astounding, and the sum of it all is this: since the University's founding, some 191 years ago, there may never have been a better time than right now to take pride in being an alum, and that is really saying something.

Certainly there's never been a better time to be a fan, unless you're just in it for the football. (In that case you've seen better days.) But the department as a whole just wrapped up its best year ever. Ever. Third in the standings puts us behind Stanford, who wins it every year, and a few woulda-coulda-shouldas behind Florida, and well over 100 points ahead of UCLA. Where are the points coming from?


Women's cross country: 45
Men's cross country: 45
Field hockey: 83
Women's soccer: 64
Men's soccer: 100


Women's basketball: 25
Women's swimming & diving: 69
Men's swimming & diving: 67.5
Men's indoor track & field: 52
Wrestling: 60


Baseball: 64
Women's golf: 63
Men's golf: 65.25
Women's lacrosse: 60
Men's lacrosse: 83
Rowing: 100
Softball: 25
Women's tennis: 50
Men's tennis 83
Men's outdoor track & field: 49.5

We're 57 points behind Florida; I'm sure you don't need much of an imagination to find ways we could have made those points up, but it matters not. You can count 10 men's sports and 10 women's sports in this competition; we have exactly that many scoring points for us, and none that we had to leave out. 10 teams in the top 10 nationwide, and 2 team national championships. And the gap between us and Stanford narrows a little bit - not a huge amount, but noticeable all the same - if you only count the sports we both participate in.

So there's much to be proud of here. And we're not done handing out awards: you'll notice the poll for Cavalier of the Year is still open, and will be through Monday evening. If you haven't done so already, vote for one of the athletes that helped make UVA athletics what it is today!