Friday, April 1, 2011

game preview: Virginia

Date/Time: April 2; 2:00ish

TV: ESPN3; UVA video

History against the Hoos: Undefeated. We beat ourselves all the time. Remember Duke?

Last matchup: Never.

Last week: More practice.

Line: uhhhhhhhh wut?

Opposing blogs: From Old Virginia

Injury report: Landon Bradley is out, along with every wide receiver ever.

Yes, it's Hit A Twerp With A Stick Week, and the big day is tomorrow. At 12 noon there will be a gladiator show in which captured Maryland Terrapins are set loose on the Scott Stadium turf and a few lucky students (selected via draw) are allowed to run around whacking them with huge sticks. Fans will be allowed to vote on how much Maryland sucks. Thumbs up for A Lot, thumbs down for A Little Less, But Still.

Following the entertainment is the football spring game. A real spring game, Orange vs. Blue style. Plus, it's a big recruiting weekend, the biggest of the year so far. A lot of prospects will be in town, and not just "oh we're still evaluating you" prospects. Some four-star types. If any one of them commits it would be huge, but even if not these are all guys who are seriously, seriously considering UVA. There's a real chance to make a big, big impression.

Though it'll be a real game with scoreboards and everything, nobody knows much about how the teams'll look except for one's orange and one's blue. Usually, coaches put the first-team offense and second-team defense on one team and fill out the other accordingly so that first-teamers can play against first-teamers and second-teamers against second. In all likelihood that'll be the way things go, and I hope it is because then the coaches' hand will be tipped a little bit regarding quarterbacks. Because of that, it very well might be different - captains choose up sides or something.

Position-by-position is the norm around here, so despite the date that's how we'll roll again. Here's what to be looking for:


My best guess for the format is that first and second teams will be split up as above, but quarterbacks will rotate. Think back to the playground when you had all-time QBs. The coaches said that they hoped to break out two from the pack by the end of spring, and have a 1, 1a, 3, and a scout-teamer. The scout-teamer is David Watford, we know that much. Way of things as a true freshman, even when your competition isn't that much older. But between Mike Rocco, Ross Metheny, and Michael Strauss, who knows? If the quarterbacks are included in the first/second team split, it'll tell us more than weeks of pestering by reporters could ever squeeze out of London. But I'm not optimistic they will.


There are no receivers. I mean damn. Kris Burd and Tim Smith sat out spring practice and Matt Snyder and Bobby Smith got hurt during. That leaves Ray Keys, Kevin Royal, Miles Gooch, and E.J. Scott. That's it. Obviously there won't be too many three-receiver sets, unless the WRs join the QBs as all-time rotators. If it's split into first and second teams, I'd guess Keys and Scott will be the first squad and Gooch and Royal the second, but none of them are likely to be regulars. You're looking for a breakout performance because no matter who's defending them they'll be higher on the depth chart. If anyone opens eyes at receiver it'll be a nice bonus for the fall when the competition heats up.

As for tight end, there's a bigger stable of those than receivers. The veterans are Colter Phillips and Paul Freedman. Those two are the clear 1 and 2 on the pecking order, and the second-team operation should give one of Jeremiah Mathis, Jake McGee, and Zach Swanson a terrific opportunity to separate themselves, because the third tight end will figure heavily in the fall too.


Perry Jones is the first-stringer, and after that: ??? This is a thin team at tailback, and it's waiting for someone to step up and seize the day. Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd will be in fierce competition here, because a lot of playing time is at stake. Jones is only half the equation. It's a pity Clifton Richardson wasn't an early enrollee because I'd love to see him on that field.

Fullback is pretty set with two seniors at the position, who'll probably be on different teams.


Ah, very interesting. Mike Price, the backup center, was one of the Harrisonburg fools, so he's not participating, meaning Cody Wallace will likely be introduced to fans as the backup center behind Anthony Mihota. Where Morgan Moses lines up will be a source of interest too - probably at first-string tackle opposite Oday Aboushi, with Landon Bradley still out. Things are a little thin on the line without Price or Aaron Van Kuiken, out with injury as well, so walk-ons will feature heavily - perhaps even Billy Cuffee, returning to the team after a year's absence. Reinforcements are on their way in the fall, but that's not going to help the depth for the spring where you'll need the equivalent of a full three-deep.


Cam Johnson is supposedly a terror, so this is a good time to show it. He's a guy I'm hoping will play a starring role. It'll be interesting to see who lines up opposite him. Might be Billy Schautz or even Brent Urban, but I'm betting on that being the second-team pairing and Jake Snyder getting the call for the starters.

There aren't many DT's listed on the roster, so it's probably safe to assume some so-listed DEs are set to shuffle inside. Matt Conrath, for example, is again listed as a DE after playing inside last year, and the same for Will Hill. One guy who's definitely a DT is big Chris Brathwaite, who I hope will play next to Nick Jenkins and have a huge day. He's probably not the biggest star of the defensive line but he's the one I'm most eager to see.


Look for a shuffled lineup here, especially with the second of the Harrisonburg crew, Ausar Walcott, also suspended. The starting three is likely Aaron Taliaferro on the strong side, Steve Greer in the middle, and Laroy Reynolds on the weak side. They could be pushed hard by the second three, though: respectively, Tucker Windle, Henry Coley, and Daquan Romero. Windle is a junior but hasn't got much use, and the spring game will be the debutante party for the other two.


We're definitely dipping into the walk-ons here. There's a full first and second team, but only just barely. Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley make up the starting safety tandem, and Chase Minnifield is one of the starting corners. Minus Dom Joseph, the other will probably be Devin Wallace, but it's not unthinkable that Rijo Walker might have passed up Wallace on the depth chart.

At second string, this is a great chance to see what walk-on speed burner Drequan Hoskey can do. Hoskey runs track and dressed for most of last year's games. As a redshirt freshman who is more of a track star than a football star, he's not going to bump any of the other leaders off the depth chart, but he's one to keep an eye on.

At safety, LoVante' Battle returns from being a linebacker, so the depth situation is helped somewhat. He and Pablo Alvarez - listed at safety, where I've always thought he was a better fit, after being a cornerback last year - are the clear second string.


Robert Randolph doesn't have the leg that Chris Hinkebein does, but he's clearly the more accurate kicker. Nobody's a threat to unseat Jimmy Howell as the punter because nobody else exists on the roster, but Hinkebein may end up punting once or twice just for giggles. Or he may not. Let's just hope Howell doesn't get hurt.

I'll be extremely interested to see who returns punts and kicks - probably Minnifield and Perry Jones, maybe E.J. Scott - but even so it'll probably be rendered moot since a lot of the best candidates to do so are arriving in the fall.


So there's a lot to watch, but I'd say nothing more important - besides the quarterbacks - than the recruiting ticker. Position battles aren't going to be decided much here because the incoming class is so huge that the players that are here are, by themselves, barely enough to make a full two-deep. And of course the usual caveat remains about someone playing great meaning someone else playing badly. Still, I'm excited just to see a proper game and not just a glorified walkthrough, and even more so that the admin is getting on the exposure train and putting it online.

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