Wednesday, July 27, 2011

questions at camp for the offense

I'm back! Football's back! You're back! For my part I'm certainly still enjoying the MLB pennant races (go Tigers) but we're barely a month away from kickoff, and with so much to do between now and then it's time to get this thing in gear.  Before you know it, it'll be all Blogpoll and game previews and anguishing about the quarterbacks.

(In case you were wondering, the boat race went great and we took second out of 17 boats in our class, which merits a podium finish.  A blast and a half.  Now, to football!)

This is what to expect in the leadup to football season:

- Continuing recruit profiles and board updates, naturally.
- Current events, as ever.
- Previews of all 11 other ACC teams.  FOV readers will be better informed about the competition than any other UVA fans.
- Short previews of UVA's nonconference opponents.
- Eventually, a preseason Blogpoll.

And as for UVA itself, we start off by taking a look at the pre-fall-camp questions facing the offense and defense that we hope will be answered with some definition by September 3.  (They never are, not all of them.  But we hope.)  Offense today and defense later this week.  Once camp has run its course, and we've dealt with the competition, then I'll take my best guess at how to expect everyone and everything to perform as the season trundles along.  It's great timing to start this up because the roster on the official site is fully updated with the freshmen, open practices are scheduled, and everything is in place.

So, here goes nothing.  Here's what the offense needs to try and figure out during fall camp:

1. What's the quarterback depth chart?

Duh, you saw that one coming.  The quarterback question has allowed the vast majority of pundits - ESPN's Heather Dinich for one glaring example - to slough off analyzing or covering any of the situation on the rest of the field in favor of "they're going to suck because I don't know who their quarterback will be."  Basically the only thing the slightly-above-average fan will know about UVA going into the season will be that Chase Minnifield is pretty good and the center may as well be snapping to a vacuum.

The general feeling among UVA fans has been "well, it'll probably be Mike Rocco but I won't be surprised if it isn't."  And about the only thing I'd be willing to stake any amount of my reputation on is that David Watford, regardless of mobility and athleticism, is probably going to run the scout team this year.  I'm generally of the opinion that Mike London is largely paying lip service to the notion of a four-way competition and further suspect that he basically has the 1A and 1B he wanted coming out of spring and hasn't been anxious to tell anyone.

The hope is that someone - ANYONE - will seize the job with authority.  The fear is that the named starter for William & Mary will be looking over his shoulder all season.  I'm sure I don't want to have to deal with this QB controversy crap all year.  Unfortunately, I rather expect to because we have no real idea who's better than who in game situations.  Cameos by Metheny and Rocco last year didn't offer any separation, and neither did the spring game.  I sort of doubt fall camp will, either, but one can hope.

2. How much time will Clifton Richardson see in the backfield?

We know that Perry Jones is one likely starter at tailback.  And I think that Kevin Parks still has the jump on Khalek Shepherd despite Shepherd's very respectable performance in the spring game.  But Richardson is possibly the most gifted of any of UVA's tailbacks and a real wild card.  Running back is the place where a true freshman has the best shot at making major contributions, and Richardson has a real chance to do it.  My hunch is that he'll at least be third in the rotation behind Jones and Parks, and could start to usurp carries from them as the season goes on.  He's one I'll be eagerly awaiting updates about from camp, because running back is my favorite position on the field and there's nothing quite so much fun as having a really dominant one.

3. Who plays where on the line?

Specifically, where does Morgan Moses end up?  Other than Landon Bradley's lingering medical issues, we pretty much know who will comprise the starting five.  If there's no Bradley, it'll be Moses and Oday Aboushi at tackle and Austin Pasztor and probably Luke Bowanko on the interior.  (Anthony Mihota is the center no matter what and should be kept in bubble wrap when not playing due to extreme lack of depth.)  With Bradley in the lineup, Moses would shift to guard and bump Bowanko.  I think he'd be a better guard than tackle and would prefer to see him there, but I also think that putting the best five linemen on the field means having a healthy Bowanko instead of a semi-healthy Bradley.  We know the whos on the depth chart - at least on the first level - we just don't know the wheres quite yet.

4. Who's going to develop as the second string on the line?

There's a depth chart for now, sure, but it's got its holes.  Sean Cascarano is the backup at both tackle positions, Matt Mihalik isn't really a long-term option if someone goes down for the season, and center is a mess with nothing but walk-ons after Mihota.  It's rare to see true freshmen get playing time on the offensive line, but it may be that one of them steps up to the two-deep, because the competition isn't exactly fierce.  Cody Wallace was generally thought to be the center-in-waiting, but he's listed at guard - and that could still change.  We need to see more definition behind the starting five.

5. Who's going to step up and get Kris Burd some help?

Burd is prepared to have an excellent senior season, but his style of play is based on absolute precision in his route-running.  He's a lot like Michael McGrew was in that respect.  Burd is a weapon but UVA's offense is going to work best if Burd is the #2 option and opponents are forced to use their best cornerback on a dangerous, big-play guy.

So who's that guy going to be?  Tim Smith, coming off of ankle surgery?  Maybe one of the super frosh, Dominique Terrell or Darius Jennings?  It's likely going to have to be one of those three if anyone.  The offense won't exactly be impotent without that kind of threat, but it won't take the fabled "next step," either.


Tomorrow I have to update the recruiting board yet again, and at the same time I'll get to profiling one of UVA's true prizes of the recruiting class: Michael Moore.  Then on Friday, the defense.


Anonymous said...

The kid Matt Mihalik, I believe he is number 70 or 71, dominated against TCU's All American Defensive End two years ago when he got reps on the field. I remember ESPN zooming in on Mihalik and followed him off the field after he pancaked the All American DE. All of a sudden, last year under London, this Mihalik kid barely sees the field.

What's up with that, and why is Mihalik not a great long term option? The way the Moses kid played last year, I believe we would be better off with the 6'7" 300 something Mihalik kid who has shown the ability to be dominant along the O Line.

Chis Appleton
Atlanta, GA

Anonymous said...

What do you have against the Mihalik guy from Pennsylvania or Ohio? Every time I have seen him play, he has done well. He has very good feet with good lateral movement. From what I have seen in the games he has played in, he seems to be on the agressive side. Unless you are seeing something else in practice, I say we try get this kid onto the football field because of his past performances.

GO UVA!!!!!!

Trey Robinson
Roanoke, VA

Anonymous said...

First, go Matt Snyder!!! This guy is going to play in he NFL because he has the size and the work effort! After reading the post on this site about the Mihalik guy from Pennsylvania, I focused on Mihalik in both the William & Mary and Indiana games. Not only should Mihalik be starting, but they need to remove both #70 and #69 as there are better offensive lineman sitting on the bench. You would think the UVA coaches would be grading these films!!!

Mark Roberts
Waynesboro, VA