Friday, July 29, 2011

questions at camp for the defense

Continuation of Wednesday's post in which we asked similar questions about the offense.  Here we'll look at the defense and what questions need to be answered in the coming weeks.

1. Can Rijo Walker seize the starting cornerback job opposite Chase Minnifield?

This is probably his big chance.  He's done some impressive work for the coaches in the past year, enough to be currently listed as the starter, but now he'll have to fend off two freshman phenoms, and compete with senior Dom Joseph besides.  Joseph is solid but limited, and freshmen, no matter how talented, end up torched by a wily senior receiver sooner or later.  Now that Walker's been around the block once, having him ready to get the bulk of the starters' minutes is probably the best-case scenario for the defense.  If he can't jump on the job this year, Demetrious Nicholson and Brandon Phelps may ensure he never gets another chance.

2. Is Cam Johnson a holy terror?

Every year with Johnson has been the same: we're pleased with what he's done this year and expect more next year.  Unless Jake Snyder has a few surprises in his hat, Johnson is the defense's only real shot at having a QB-terrorizing pass rusher on the end.  He's easily the best athlete on the line.  Chris Long almost singlehandedly dragged his 2007 team to a New Year's bowl game, so if Cam Johnson lives up to his best potential, he could be worth a win or two.  Truthfully, this question won't be properly answered until a few games into the season, but if Morgan Moses can't handle Johnson in camp, not many opposing tackles will, either.

3. Where will the freshmen get slotted?

There are a ton of DEs and DBs on the roster in the freshman section.  Camp will be the first step in figuring out where the best position for some of these guys are - guys like Kameron Mack, Anthony Harris, Marco Jones, and Rob Burns, among others.

4. Have we found a workable linebacker combo?

The switch to the 4-3 still hasn't seen much settling down in the middle, as the coaches have done some experimenting with the lineup over the past year.  Laroy Reynolds was switched to the weak side, Aaron Taliaferro moved to the outside from the middle, and Steve Greer still seems to be stuck in a platoon, the latter being much to the chagrin of many fans - including myself - who think Greer is good enough to be an every-down player.  Meanwhile, former starter Ausar Walcott is now a DE and LoVante' Battle was moved back to the secondary.  Certain other players are breathing down the necks of the nominal starters.  There's not a fluxier unit on the roster outside of the quarterbacks.

5. Can we run any semblance of a secondary at all if a ton of freshmen are involved?  Because it still looks awfully thin behind the starters.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

the recruit: Michael Moore

Name: Michael Moore
Position: DE
Hometown: Centreville, MD
School: DeMatha
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 255

24/7: 94; four stars; #7 SDE; MD #4; US #125
ESPN: 79; four stars; #32 DE
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #12 SDE; MD #5; US #176
Scout: four stars; #33 DE; US #282

Other offers: USC, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Auburn, Nebraska, Florida State, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, South Carolina, Miami, Clemson, Boston College, Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina, shall I go on?

It's almost like I don't even have to write this one; even those who only very casually follow UVA recruiting know Michael Moore.  And he's not even a fat obnoxious slob who makes low-budget, low-effort quasi-documentaries.  And even if you don't know Michael Moore you might've heard of his dad Shawn.  Y'know, the wide receivers coach and a guy who's done some other stuff at UVA too.

With a pedigree like that, and half the schools in the country after him (he'd gotten past 40 offers by the time he committed to UVA) Moore's name was out there for fan consumption much earlier than most high school juniors, similar to Curtis Grant last season.  Fortunately for everyone's blood pressure, Moore made the decision early, choosing UVA over Florida shortly after a trip to Gainesville.  This will make five years in a row that a DeMatha prospect has chosen UVA.

It's a good thing UVA had that "in" with Moore, because despite offering him even before his junior year, the competition was fierce.  Those 40+ offers came in from all corners of the country, making him the most highly recruited player on UVA's commitment list.  Kwontie Moore probably has slightly higher accolades from the recruiting gurus, but Michael has the best offer list.  (In no small part because of the size of the schools they go to, no doubt.)  Still, the sites are plenty big-talking about Michael.  Very consistent, too, as you'd expect about a player from DeMatha who's been as visible to colleges as Moore has.

Moore is a big strong kid, and even though all the sites rank him as a defensive end, I think defensive tackle is in his future.  Both Rivals ("Must add muscle tone to frame and work on creating separation") and ESPN ("he possesses a frame to be able to add more good bulk as he continues to physically develop") see room for adding muscle and size, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him get to 275 or 280 in short order.  He reminds me of Chris Brathwaite, who was recruited at 250 pounds and is up to 275 in less than two years in the program and now playing defensive tackle.  Moore could do the same thing.

Chances are that more defensive ends will end up at tackle by the time Moore is ready to step on the field, so the depth chart crystal ball is hazy at both positions.  This year's starting DTs are both seniors, with junior Will Hill rotating in; if Michael Moore is to make the jump to DT, the lineup won't likely feature any of those three when he's ready.  But if the Brathwaite comparison holds, Moore would be threatening to break into the lineup as a redshirt freshman, only with a better recruiting background than Brathwaite had and with not so many highly-established seniors in the way.  (And for the record, I remain awfully, awfully excited about what Brathwaite may eventually do for us.)  Moore is too big and strong not to eventually be a building block for the defense; the only question is when.


Was going to do a recruiting board thing but it's getting late.  Maybe tomorrow or Monday.

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.

Friday, July 22, 2011

sailing into break

Summer break begins today.  Weekend posting being already pretty much shut down for the season, it's only Monday, Tuesday, and possibly Wednesday that you'll miss out of me.  Here are a few toys and things to tide you over til then:

- I should've made note of this earlier, but the official Favorite Clemson Blog - Block-C - is packing its bags.  This is a bummer, but it is the way of blogdom.  The ACC Roundtable is sadly left without a Clemsonite.

- ESPN has updated its recruiting rankings, and in a bit of a surprise, UVA now checks in at #24.  I would've put the class in the 30s or 40s, but then I don't do exhaustive comparisons to all 119 other I-A teams.  (Also, ESPN is somewhat more enthusiastic about some of our recruits than other sites are.)  If and when Eli Harold commits - and that's a recruitment that'll wrap up pretty soon - things'll get even better.

- I promised new toys, and here you go: a depth chart for lacrosse, just like the one for football.  You can find it on the same page as the other ones.  I'd like to do a baseball one but positions are just awfully fluid, even more so than these other sports.  I mean, what do you do when your catcher goes out to center field?  And there's no such thing as a second-stringer for each of three outfield positions, for example.  So for now, enjoy the lacrosse one, and feel free to point out any errors you might notice.

- Last toy, and then I'm out for now.  If you want to follow, over the weekend, what I'm doing with my summer break, click here.  It is a boat race that you can track, which will start Saturday noonish and end Mondayish.  Directions to follow me and cheer for glorious victory: ensure you are looking at the Shore Course, and then find the boat named Spectre, which is in the Racing D class.  It'll be kind of gobbledegook until the race starts tomorrow, but Saturday afternoon, Sunday, and Monday, if you've got nothing better to do and curiosity gets the better of you, check in and see how we're doing.

See you next week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

recruiting board update


Thank ye gods for air conditioning.  Without it I think the entire South would probably still be mostly unpopulated farming country.  I live in Michigan because I don't mind the cold and can't imagine how people in Texas or wherever deal with this stuff for eight months of the year.  It's 97 outside - that's a body temperature, not an air temperature.  And if you think I sound silly griping about this stuff than you know what I think when I see southerners bundle up against the 55-degree chills.  Give me too cold over too hot any day.  Fortunately, the heat doesn't put a stop to recruiting, so here you go with this week's changes to the board (and map):

- Moved WR Anthony Cooper from blue to orange.  This happened just today.  Can I get a huzzah.  Cooper is a prize catch at receiver and one whose eventual commitment to UVA has been hoped for and anticipated since probably March.  A huge boost to the class.

- Moved CB Mike Tyson and LB Trey Edmunds from green to blue.  It is starting to seem like the coaching staff, now that the class is approaching full, is focusing its efforts on a few out-of-state prospects that it thinks are within reach, and otherwise keeping their attention within the borders.  The last four commits, and six of the last eight, have been in-staters.  And in keeping with the rule that there must be eight most-wanteds on the board, and since Cooper was one, Edmunds replaces him and is now highlighted in orange.

- Added CB C.J. Moore to green.  Article entitled "Moore hoping for UVA offer" plus appearing to have it equals board addition.  If that offer shows up in other databases as well he seems like a possible candidate for the blue section.

- Removed RB Alden Hill from yellow.  Committed to Tennessee.

- Moved ATH Cyrus Jones from red to yellow.  I forget why. I put it in my notes to do it because I read something and now I can't for the life of me remember what.  But there he is.  We'll see what comes of that.  Probably nothing but whatever.

Programming-wise, tomorrow I will probably take the day off because of real-life stuff that must be done, but I'll be getting a great deal of video work done, too, I think.  Then on Friday I'll leave you with some new toys as I sail into my vacation.  Afterwards, get ready for some football.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the recruit: Max Valles

Name: Max Valles
Position: DE
Hometown: Winslow Township, NJ
School: St. Joseph's
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220

24/7: Unrated
ESPN: 77; three stars; #85 DE
Rivals: 5.4; two stars
Scout: two stars

Other offers: Rutgers, Syracuse, Purdue, Buffalo

It's been a weird recruiting year.  There are the guys we know UVA is recruiting, and there are the guys we don't.  Quite a few of those guys have ended up in the "committed" column almost entirely to the surprise of the fans who follow recruiting, and Max Valles is one of those guys.

Even down to high school uniforms that look awfully similar, Valles reminds me a ton of Thompson Brown from last year's recruiting class.  He's a somewhat lightly-recruited defensive end from a private school who surprise-committed to UVA without anyone knowing his name yet, and could be slotted either on offense or defense, but will likely start out at defensive end.  That's both of them in a nutshell.  People have talked about Brown as a possible candidate for a shift to tight end; Valles also plays wide receiver (though a little bit sparingly and largely in a red-zone role) and I wouldn't be surprised if people talk about Valles as a possible future TE as well.

After all, DE has just been a totally jam-packed position in the last couple recruiting classes, such that by the time all's said and done, only half of the players initially labeled "DE" will end up there.  Valles's ESPN scouting report acknowledges his versatility and basically says that while he "does not always look totally comfortable on defense," he projects best as a hand-on-the-ground player.  Valles himself prefers defensive end, so in the long and short of it we might as well assume that's where he'll be.

Valles is a teammate of LB Kaiwan Lewis, whom the coaching staff is going hard after and who likes UVA at least a little bit.  I can't help myself, I have to borrow this quote from the Rivals article about Valles's commitment last month:  "Me and Kaiwan were talking about everything at school before we came down and he said, 'When you get there you're going to commit,'" Valles laughed. "He had been down a couple of months ago and he was right."  Apparently Lewis knows his friends.  Valles spoke highly of the "at-home feeling" of the UVA atmosphere.

A player with Valles's height needs more than 220 pounds to be an effective defensive end, though, so as with most of this stacked line we're bringing in, Valles will surely redshirt.  You know how it can sometimes be with ratings, but Valles's seem to match his offers; he's a high two-star who'd probably have been an early starter if he'd gone to Buffalo and the MAC.  In BCS conferences - of which there were three after him, so "lightly recruited" is a somewhat unfair label - he'll have some obstacles.  At UVA that obstacle will mainly be the aforementioned logjam at DE.  Even the most optimistic evaluator - ESPN - suggests that Valles has a ton of development to do, and unless his birthday was between early June and now, he's not yet 17, so I think our early expectations for him should be tempered.  We'll stash him in the developmental pipeline and see what we have in a few years.

Monday, July 18, 2011

paying players is mostly a stupid idea

The Worldwide Leader says it's time to "discuss" paying athletes (which largely means it's time for the columnists who work for the Worldwide Leader to write columns arguing in favor of it and also means it's time for Michael Wilbon to write something retarded) so like good sports junkies, we must follow along.

I guess I gave away the theme a little bit in the title, but yes, just to reiterate, by and large it's a stupid idea concocted with little thought toward implementation.  So it's basically the same as playoffs in football.  The thing is, of course and as you've surely heard before, college athletes - especially football players - are already compensated better than every other student at the school.  Who else on a college campus is given money for tuition, food, and room and board?  Not even ROTC students are compensated that well (there is no room and board money) and they owe a minimum four-year debt to the goverment when they leave.  College football players get everything taken care of for them and don't owe a dime back.

But you've heard all this before.  And you still have problems with the system.  But, you say, they make millions of dollars for their school.  Why can't they get a slice?

Well, they do get a slice, of course; the value of a full-tuition scholarship can be $200,000.  That's a big slice.  But things like being able to market one's own self and getting a cut of jersey sales always enter the discussion.  Wilbon argues that the money-makers (football and basketball players) should get paid; everyone else, because they don't make money, can get stuffed; that's capitalism, baby!  Aside from the fact that lacrosse, hockey, and baseball are also televised on ESPN and therefore deserve money under Wilbon's logic, if you're going to argue "capitalism baby!" then you have to apply it to the whole system.  If this is going to be a truly capitalistic enterprise, then dammit all the female athletes except maybe the basketball players should be paying through the nose just for the privilege of putting on a uniform.  Hell they should have to go to damn Dick's Sporting Goods and buy their own damn gear.  They don't add a dime to the system, why should they get any back in the form of scholarships?

Because that's really, really stupid, obviously, and even if that system was starting to appeal to you, you'd have to admit it would result in fifty thousand lawsuits as soon as it was implemented.  If pure capitalism ran the show here, there would never be any sports but football and basketball.  Which is very bad for society etc. etc.

I would have less of a problem with the idea that a player should be able to do things like make public appearances for money, or sell his championship rings for money, or whatever.  I have a little sympathy for that argument.  The problem is this: Wait'll T. Boone Pickens gets a load if it.  The guy has spent literally tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, trying to make Oklahoma State a better football team.  You think if it were legal, he would have a problem finding a way to pay a bunch of players several thousand each for "speaking engagements" or "memorabilia," even if that memorabilia was, say, a dirty sock?  "Oh, but that's capitalism!"  The hell it is, and even if it is I don't want to ever see a bidding war between the boosters of the various schools for recruits, because that's what's gonna happen.  The NCAA rules against taking benefits of most kinds aren't 100% effective, but they do keep quite a bit of money out of the system.  Open a tiny loophole and there will be unscrupulous (or even well-intentioned) people who can find legal ways to shove as much money as possible through it.  Why?  Because Roll Dayum Tahd**, that's why.  Y'awl just better beat Auburn, ah don't care what ah have to spend.  Having prospects choose between the various "memorabilia offers" presented by the various boosters at every school, and that being 100% cool by the NCAA, is not a world I want to live in.  We just watched Chip Kelly and Oregon pay $25,000 for a piece of shit scouting report because they were really paying for something else.  So if you think a booster won't pay $25,000 for used jockstrap, because he's really paying for something else, you're ignoring reality.

Neither, for that matter, is one in which we are divvying out money in the form of stipends based on who's making it for whom.  Does anyone think, for example, that paying a stipend to football players because they bring in bowl money, will solve anything?  If you pay the backup punter the same as you pay the star wide receiver, sooner or later a star wide receiver is gonna wonder how come he doesn't get any more money than everyone else (since it's "his" jersey they're selling, after all) and go seeking alternate forms of income anyway.  So maybe they can get a cut of those jersey sales or something.  Sure - UVA still offers a #19 jersey for sale in the Bookstore, that money can go to the freshman who's handed #19 in the fall, right?  That would piss nobody off, I bet.  They also sell a throwback #10, because everyone's clamoring for Michael Strauss jerseys.

What it comes down to is, every argument in favor of paying players holds up a few of the top players as an example.  Football and basketball players, always.  They're somehow getting screwed because they're making money for the school and not getting money.  Or, not getting more money than they already get.  (This is the same tactic used by people who argue that there should be no age limit to the NBA Draft.  Because Kevin Garnett and Kobe were ready.  Never mind Korleone Young or the numerous nameless players who declared but weren't ready and who knows what they're doing now.  And if you don't know who Korleone Young is, then you got my point.) 

Fine: let's pretend that those folks are 100% right and the Andrew Lucks and Cam Newtons of the world are in fact getting screwed by getting hundreds of thousands in tuition, free food, room and board, and health care, and otherwise having to live the life of the average college student by slumming it in a cheap apartment instead of a swanky penthouse like the pros do.  (Andrew Luck is a very ironic choice of photograph for Wilbon's article, because he was getting screwed so badly he decided to go back to Stanford for another year of getting screwed.)

Guess what: I'm OK with it.  I'm OK with what amounts to less than one-half of one percent of college athletes getting less than their "true worth," because if you take an objective look at the system, all the rest of them are getting more than their "true worth."  It's worth remembering that college athletic departments don't "make a profit" for the sake of lining their own pockets.  That TV money and bowl money and stuff subsidizes a lot of other opportunities.  (Wilbon points out that certain coaches are being huge amounts of money, but if Nick Saban's entire $5.9 million salary was distributed to all the I-A scholarship football players in the country, each would get $578. $5.9 million sounds like a lot of money but cutting his salary in half probably wouldn't even pay for the Alabama swim team.)  If one track team, one swimming team, one baseball team, one gymnastics team, anywhere, is cut, and a whole team worth of athletes has their opportunity reduced to zero, because a bunch of writers and administrators and such wanted to assuage their guilt over the "exploitation" of athletes, then it's not worth it.

**Roll Damn Tide, for those not fluent in Alabamian.


The title says "mostly a stupid idea," and I will toss one small bone to those who think it's not.  If there's one argument I do have some sympathy for it's that if a player has a championship ring, or a souvenir, an actual souvenir and not just a pair of socks, and wants to sell it, I feel like he probably should be able to.  I wouldn't sell something like that, but many would want to.  Now, there's the whole loophole deal in which someone would probably half a million bucks for that thing.  So just letting players go out and sell whatever they can sell is probably a bad idea.  However, if the NCAA were to open a clearinghouse of sorts, through which players can sell things at a price set by the NCAA, and then receive their money through the NCAA, I would not argue with this.  In this way a player can sell his gear (if in fact it's his and the school doesn't want it back and he doesn't still need it), or his rings, or autographed stuff, or what the hell ever, and there can be oversight into the process.  This is much better than "hey, I ganked these shoes from the equipment locker and signed 'em, tat me up and they're yours."

Friday, July 15, 2011

pre-weekend review

Time for a little housekeeping.....

- The baseball recruiting class is down by one player and then up by one.  Nolan Clark, the juco catcher with the bat (as opposed to the one with the glove, which would be Chace Mitchell) signed a contract with the Phillies, which terminates his college eligibility.  However, I did miss another juco player when I rolled through the baseball commits: Joel Effertz, a pitcher from the same Wisconsin juco that sent us Cody Winiarski.

Not having Clark means that Mitchell is probably the front-runner for catching duties but will (at least at first) split them with Ryan Levine and/or maybe incoming freshman Nate Irving.  Levine and Mitchell are the top two choices, though.  It also means that my musings on Clark taking over third base are moot.  So that will probably be Stephen Bruno.

Effertz posted a 3.03 ERA with 79 Ks and a 7-4 record at MATC this spring.  (For useless comparison's sake, Winiarski had an ERA of 2.39 the year before he came to UVA.)  He'll be an incoming sophomore.  Having another arm to throw at the weekend starter problem is a fantastic thing.  Candidates now include Branden Kline, Kyle Crockett (the two that probably have the biggest lead on the field) as well as Effertz, Scott Silverstein, and Whit Mayberry.  Somebody out of that group might well also be the closer, or, for that job, O'Connor may turn to Artie Lewicki.

- Georgia Tech got in some trouble the other day.  GT fans are pretty pissed about the whole thing, but if you ask me they got off easy.  At first glance, vacating the 2009 ACC championship over a couple of shirts seems harsh.  But the NCAA had a long list of nasty words to say about GT's apparent hindrance of the investigation.  So a couple hundred dollars' worth of apparel became a major violation that the NCAA takes very seriously.

The thing is, this gives them repeat-violator status: "If Tech commits another major infraction before Nov. 17, 2010, it will be subject to added penalties as a repeat violator."  And for supposedly being a huge hindrance to an investigation and being a repeat violator, GT football gets....four more years of probation.  It's pretty clear the NCAA thinks vacating games is a serious penalty just shy of chopping off a leg or two.

For anyone hoping to see any of the various programs currently under the NCAA microscope (Auburn, OSU, Oregon, UNC) hammered with the hammer of thunder and justice, this is a disappointing development.  Vacating games is nobody's idea of a deterrent.  Let me state that a little more clearly: Nobody gives a fuck.  Administrators and the NCAA act like the condemned on death row when they have to take down a banner, but they know it's a facade and we know they know.  Vacating games is, like, the absolute minimum that can possibly happen.  As a penalty for hindering and obstructing an investigation, GT got probation.  And since they did this while under the shadow of previous violations, becoming a repeat violator, I think we all know what probation is good for.  (I suggest wiping your ass with it.)

Bottom line: If you're hoping UNC is going to be slammed by the NCAA, your hopes just got a lot dimmer.  They were ever so angry at GT and gave them probation.  We're a few short steps away from being able to say that Mark Emmert's call for toughness is an empty shitpile.  We'll see how they deal with UNC.  If they can't be nuked to the Stone Age for allowing a coach to run an agency's branch office out of the football facilities - or if the NCAA thinks vacating games is the same thing - then we can officially call Emmert an empty, lying sack.

- The basketball penalties on GT are a little more along the lines of fitting the crime.  Those combined with Brian Oliver's transfer to Seton Hall (I read Rutgers at first but apparently, Seton Hall it is) are going to conspire to give GT a long climb back to basketball respectability.  GT will be an eminently beatable team this season without Oliver or Iman Shumpert (off to the draft) but even so, one less three-point shooter in the league is a good thing for UVA.

- Danny Hultzen continues to add things to his trophy pile: John Olerud Award for best two-way player in the country, and all-state baseball and academic teams as voted on by the SIDs of Virginia.  How he lost out on best baseball player in the state is beyond me being as he was a Golden Spikes finalist and the kid from JMU (Jake Lowery) is not.  One can be the best player in the nation but not the state; that is an interesting dynamic.

- Anthony Cooper will make his selection on Wednesday.  Or at least, make it public.  This is hopefully UVA's race to lose.

- Lastly, I spent yesterday smoothing out the video-production process, and I've got the Cornell game from the lax quarterfinals uploaded too.  So check that out on the videos page.  Things are a little streamlined now when it comes to making videos, and the quality is better too.  I hated all those little lines on the screen that were caused by converting to a different format.  Now I can use the format that comes from the special box.  I still want my Tivo back, and believe me by football season I'm getting it, but at least I can catch up a little now.

- Administratively, expect full posting and/or video production next week; after that, on Saturday, I go on my summer vacation.  That means hiatus the following week.  Two or three posting days will be missed, to return to regular programming on Wednesday or Thursday.  On the other side of vacation, we'll start to shift to full-time football coverage.  Don't you love how the offseason only lasts like a month or so?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the recruit: Ryan Doull

Name: Ryan Doull
Position: OG
Hometown: Kanata, ON
School: All Saints Catholic (FUMA)
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 305

24/7: NR
ESPN: 75; three stars; #66 OG
Rivals: 5.3; two stars
Scout: NR

Other offers: None

A huge but lightly regarded Canadian offensive lineman leaves Ontario for his senior year to play at Fork Union.  He visits UVA, earns an offer, and commits practically on the spot.  It's a formula that worked once before, why not again?

Big Canada is Austin Pasztor; the sequel is Ryan Doull.  Doull is in fact already enrolled at FUMA, and jumped in with both feet by joining the lacrosse team there this spring.  That kind of dual-sport (Doull-sport? please don't hit me) athleticism is the big story here, made even more significant because Doull tips the scales at over 300 pounds already.  And actually, the pun isn't even quite accurate, because as recently as 2008, Doull also played hockey.  I suspect Canada of having compulsory hockey service the way other countries have compulsory military service, but regardless, I'm glad I wasn't the one getting checked into the boards by a guy who must've been about 260 pounds at that age.

Doull was born in 1993, which makes him already 18; an unspecified illness in 2010 held him back a year.  Physically, therefore, he's a tad more mature than his competition would've been in high school, and the same age as his future FUMA teammate Adrian Gamble.  The thing you see repeated in any evaluation about Doull is his athleticism, yes, but specifically his "nimble footwork," which is pretty much believable given the lacrosse and hockey thing.  He seems to be projected for now as a guard by the services, but he'll play all over the line at FUMA as well as on the defensive side.  A guy that big with good quick feet would make a good defensive tackle.

So as with most offensive linemen, his position is somewhat in flux and will depend quite a bit on needs of the team and his own development.  Doull is very lightly thought of by the scouting services, so much so that Scout hasn't even put him in the database.  Scout is the laziest of the four, so it's unlikely they ever will.  Two stars is basically par for the course for any prospect out of Canada who has yet to play a season of football in the States, so there's practically nothing to go by there.  ESPN actually went through a full review, so they have the one review worth noting.

You can expect Doull to be raw, but a year of coaching at FUMA will go a long, long way.  It's too much to expect him to follow precisely in Pasztor's footsteps any more than he already has, because that would mean being a starter early in his first season.  For one thing, the line will be in better shape in 2012 than it was in 2008 when Pasztor stepped in.  (Pasztor replaced an injured Zak Stair, who was basically a second-string talent playing on the first string.)  For another, it's just a very rare thing to see a true freshman on the line in the first place.  I'd feel a little foolhardy predicting when Doull will see the field, at any rate, because he's a member of an offensive line class that seems to have very little separation between its members in the talent department.  The separation will start next fall. 

At a minimum, I'd guess Doull is someone who will be able to rotate in and out of the line at OG by his junior, maybe sophomore year, with little if any dropoff between him and whoever he platoons with.  That could be someone already on the team like Conner Davis, or it could be a fellow 2012 player.  At best, his footwork could give him a leg up on the competition, and/or allow him to be plugged in to start at whatever position needs him the most.  Keep in mind, this class is still in need of defensive tackles, and we're at the point where anyone in this class who plays DT (besides Tyrell Chavis) probably converted to the position.  Doull could do it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

scandals and sleaze and the best summer ever

In a year that's seen a veritable conga line of NCAA enforcement scandals, at schools previously believed to float innocently above the fray, I've managed to keep my soapbox shut well away in the closet.  It's not like I'm breaking the next big story, and you don't need any more harrumphing about what scurrilous bastards the rest of the world is.

But what the hell, I'm no better than anyone else.  Prepare to be harrumphed at.  With a twist.

The other day I read a column in my local paper here in Detroit, the gist of which was entirely predictable: "what a huge black eye for college football this offseason has been, we need to get to the games in the fall before anything else bad happens."  The media seems to think this way.

The truth, I think, is 100%, 180 degrees the opposite: this has been the best offseason college football has ever had.  Yes, there's the old marketer's saw that there's no such thing as bad publicity.  And no, my Michigan fandom + Ohio State's liberties with the rule book is not the equation that adds up to the Best Ever conclusion.  (It helps a little, though.)  That ain't it, though.

You would naturally think this is the worst offseason ever and a "growing image problem for the sport" if you were surprised by any of the numerous allegations.  But to be surprised by any of the allegations you'd have to have begun hibernating around 1970.  The list of alleged or suspected NCAA infractions against the various programs under the spotlight - and these are just the football ones and just the ones the NCAA has investigated or begun investigating - is more or less as follows:

- Players getting money from shady program hangers-on
- Players getting benefits from shady tutors
- Players getting money from agents
- Program paying shady "scouts" to steer recruits to their school
- Program paying a player's father to steer recruits to their school
- Coach lying to cover up eligibility issues
- Coach acting as a runner for agents

Does that sound to you like anything you didn't already suspect went on at dozens of schools?  Or haven't already actually seen happen?

Probably the only actual surprise on the list is that a coach would be so brazen as to openly, or nearly so, act as a middleman for an agent and steer players in his direction.  But even that doesn't shock if you find yourself reading up on the history of the coach in question (John Blake, formerly of UNC.)

So being that college football fans aren't surprised at all about this, the fact that it's all coming out somewhat in the open now is great news, not bad.  This is the stuff that's been going on for ten, fifteen, thirty years, and outside of a couple instances here and there, it goes almost completely unpunished.  College football already has its image problem.  Seeing a whole bunch of schools get whacked for their transgressions isn't what's causing it.  Instead it's a welcome development.  This isn't the summer that fans were dreading (except for those of the programs under scrutiny), it's the one that fans couldn't wait to see and probably don't want to end if it means more NOAs.  And college football badly needed it.

(Besides, it's hella good theater.  What would you rather watch: 56-3 curbstompings of Akron on opening weekend, or the squirming of lying administrators?)

Monday, July 11, 2011

recruiting board update

Now with moar oranj.  I was going to do this Tuesday like I normally do, but it was too eventful a weekend to hold off.  UVA picked up a big deal of a commitment in Courtnye Wynn, the last of the Norfolk Christian quartet to commit, and third to choose UVA.  Plus this comes with a bonus depth chart update at the end.

As ever, board here and map here.  Changes:

- Moved DE Courtnye Wynn from blue to orange.  Huzzah. Wynn had been a UVA lean for a while.  We're getting awfully stacked at DE especially considering how many were in the previous class, but this class has some big fellas that could easily become DTs.  Wynn is one.

- Added WRs Jamall Brown and Adrian Gamble to orange.  You remember Gamble.  The news has come officially out of Jeff White Land that Gamble will spend a year prepping at Fork Union, so that means he backs himself up a year and joins the class of 2012.  It's a strange story: Gamble committed in the fall of 2009, and what with prepping and then probably redshirting and whatever else, it'll probably be four years between committing and seeing the field.

As for Brown - surprise.  London has been doing some of that this year - offering guys he seems to think are way-overlooked.  Brown missed most of last year with a broken wrist and even when he did play, he was playing for an offense that threw the football less than Woody Hayes in a bad mood.  So nobody knows anything about him.

- Added TE Kyle Dockins to blue.

- Removed DT Nigel Williams and DE Eli Ankou from green.  Ankou to UCLA, Williams to VT.  Williams was largely a UVA-VT battle, which VT won.  Getting Wynn makes that not really a big deal.  It'd be nice to hog all the talent but there just isn't room to do that.

- Moved CB Mike Tyson from yellow to green.

- Removed WR Leonte Carroo, RB I'Tavius Mathers, and OLB Devin Vandyke from red.  Vandyke, unsurprisingly, committed to VT, and the other two aren't worth following any more, especially as the class tightens up.

- Moved LB Quanzell Lambert from yellow to red.  That means removing "most-wanted" status (as highlighted in orange) which now goes to WR Canaan Severin.

Believe it or not, space is getting tight.  With 16 in the class now - including Gamble - there's room now for maybe six or seven more players.  Because the latest round of attrition has dropped the scholarship number below 85, any more prepping players from the '11 class won't change the number of available spaces, fortunately.

How will the rest of the class fill out?  Best guess:

- Two spaces for Eli Harold and Anthony Cooper, who are halfway in the class anyway.
- A running back.  Please please please we need a running back.  Either one of Kye Morgan (who's probably going to Rutgers) or Chris Mangus would be just what we need.
- At least one more DB, or one more WR besides Cooper.  Another WR - Severin would be a great addition - would mean Maurice Canady could scoot to the defensive backfield.
- At least one more LB.  It's not crazy-talk to think of Demeitre Brim or maybe even Max Valles at linebacker, but if Brim moves up it only makes the DB situation worse.  VT has like a zillion linebacker commits, which could help push Trey Edmunds toward Charlottesville.  That would be great; even greater would be to see the staff put the full-court press on Kaiwan Lewis and/or Ken Ekanem.

That leaves a couple discretionary spots; one or two, mayyyybe three.  If it were up to me I wouldn't use them on sleeper types; either go big or bank a schollie or two for what looks like a stacked 2013 class in-state.

Of couse, this needs to go in tandem with the necessary depth chart update caused by Jeff White's attrition news.  Ausar Walcott has been reinstated for a little while now after the Harrisonburg brouhaha; the other two actors in the scene - Mike Price and Devin Wallace - are officially gone.  That means Anthony Mihota needs to be stored in bubble wrap and carefully unwrapped on Saturdays.  And the cornerback situation: oy.  It's Chase Minnifield and pray that the other guy doesn't get a weekly torching.

The other missing player is Hunter Steward, who London implies didn't have such good grades.  Steward was most recently listed at DT, but he hadn't really ever got onto the field and his ever-changing position means that losing him doesn't create any depth disasters.

Anyway, the new depth chart is here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

the recruit: Kwontie Moore

Name: Kwontie Moore
Position: MLB
Hometown: Norfolk
School: Norfolk Christian
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 243

24/7: 95; four stars; #3 ILB; VA #4; US #97
ESPN: 79; four stars; #10 ILB
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #1 ILB; US #116
Scout: three stars

Other offers: Virginia Tech, Oregon, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, NC State, Connecticut, assorted others

It only makes sense to follow Will Wahee with his teammate Kwontie Moore, because the latter committed to UVA less than 48 hours after the former.  And, with apologies to the previous three recruits, Moore is the guy who really got the class started; he was the first to commit to UVA who had offers elsewhere.

And those offers above are just the start; in other words, they're the ones that the services seem to be in agreement on.  Depending on who you ask, Moore might also have had offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Georgia, Stanford - this is the annoying thing about the NCAA's asinine rule about no written offers til August 1 of a player's senior year.  At any rate there's one indisputable thing: Kwontie Moore is a national recruit from UVA's own backyard.  He's a consensus top-five guy in the state, and has been since just after his junior year.  And as I type this, Moore is in Oregon attending the (probably over-hyped, in my opinion) Nike event that they've dubbed "The Opening" for the best recruits in the country.

Moore's name has been out there for a while, in fact, making the all-conference team as a sophomore.  On both offense and defense.  He's too big a guy to play receiver like most two-way players, so he totes the rock as a running back instead.  Linebacker all the way in college, of course.  "Motor" is a word you see in several different places, and he racked up over 150 tackles during his junior year, when he moved back to middle linebacker from the D-line.  The scouting reports portray a very strong player without super-elite athleticism, but more than enough quickness to play in space and go sideline to sideline, and plenty of smarts.  Recruit757 calls him "a muscle-bound stud with a heart of gold."

Man-love aside,** the last part of that compliment is as important as the first part.  Moore's the outgoing type who's already been instrumental in landing and keeping a couple commitments for UVA and plans to play the kind of recruiting role that Clifton Richardson (among others) did for UVA last year.  He's emblematic of the change in the recruiting dynamic that Mike London has brought to Charlottesville: I remain something of an Al Groh apologist, but it's undeniable what Mike London has brought to recruiting, and the main thing that wasn't there before is the contingent of players who will carry the flag for UVA in the high schools.  Kwontie Moore is that kind of guy.

If Moore was a lesser recruit, I'd guarantee a redshirt, as his freshman year will be Steve Greer's senior season, and Henry Coley is the current heir apparent at middle linebacker.  We don't know for sure what Coley will bring, though, nor do we know how much the coaches will insist on platooning Greer the way they did last year.  So the events of this season will have a big effect on Moore, more so, I'd say, than many recruits.  If Greer doesn't platoon and plays most of the snaps, I'd bet on Moore making early inroads onto the two-deep.  If Coley plays a lot, especially as the year goes on, then it may be that UVA can afford to redshirt Moore and ease him into the lineup.  I suspect Moore is the type that it'll be very hard to keep on the bench, and there's just a ton of potential for all-conference honors and such as Moore grows into an upperclassman.  For purposes of 2012, come signing day he'll be one of this class's crown jewels.

**I hate the word "stud" as it applies to recruiting and will never, ever use it on this site in my own words.  For chrissake we are not bringing the kid in to breed him.  The only reason I even bothered here was for the "heart of gold" thing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

the recruit: Wilfred Wahee

Name: Wilfred Wahee
Position: CB
School: Norfolk Christian
Hometown: Norfolk
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 179

24/7: 79; two stars
ESPN: 75; three stars; #102 athlete
Rivals: 5.3; two stars
Scout: two stars

Other offers: none

At the beginning of the recruiting season, the group of sought-after athletes from Norfolk Christian was thought to be a trio.  Colleges were after a fourth, though, and when Will Wahee got his offer from UVA, he became the first of his teammates to commit.

Let's get the uncomfortable part out of the way early: with near-consensus two-star ratings, being ranked #37 out of the top 40 recruits in the state by TheSabre/TSL (it's a safe bet that nobody else outside the top 30 will land at a BCS school), and the lack of offers despite the high-profile teammates, it's not totally unfair to wonder if Wahee was offered in order to help convince his besties on the team to also consider UVA.  Kwontie Moore committed a couple days later, so the theory has backup.

That said, it's also fair to wonder if scouts overlooked Wahee because of his smallish size, and assumed that his production was the result of being ignored by opponents in favor of his bigger and generally more talented teammates.  Wahee's athleticism is undeniable and would have gotten him a set of offers eventually anyway.  He had the second-best shuttle time of 4.09 (twice) at the 757 Combine and will undeniably be one of the faster players in the class.

His position in college is more about projection than high school history.  Wahee lines up in the slot on offense, except for when he lines up at tight end.  On defense he's a linebacker at NCA, and was second-team all-state in VIS D-III and racked up 105 tackles.  At that size, though, tight end and linebacker are out of the question.  You could envision him playing in the slot as a receiver, but cornerback seems likeliest, especially as per his ESPN assessment which is far more optimistic than the rest of the services.

Given the state of the depth chart in the defensive backfield, Wahee will probably (and hopefully) find plenty of competition in this recruiting class.  And that's not to mention the two outstanding prospects slated for cornerback in this year's freshman class.  He's highly athletic but in order to play cornerback (or even safety, if that's his destination) he'll need a ton of retraining.  So in an ideal world, Wahee would spend a couple seasons learning the position and emerge as a nickel back in his redshirt sophomore year or maybe the year after.  A speedy, smallish bugger like Wahee would do well covering slot receivers.  In the black hole that is the UVA depth chart - and highly depending of course on what happens to our recruiting for the rest of this year as well as next - Wahee may be forced onto the field before he's 100% ready.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

baseball recruiting, part 2

The widely-anticipated blockbuster sequel to last week's Part 1.  Straight to it:

Nate Irving - C
Riverdale Country Day School (NY)

Not one of the most heralded prospects in the signing class, but at least one of the biggest.  Irving hasn't stopped growing all throughout high school and measures in at 240+ pounds.  He was invited to the Power Showcase in Arizona this past January, and despite his size ran a respectable 7.28 in the 60-yard dash - a very solid time for a player his size.  Better yet, his pop time (the amount of time between the ball hitting the catcher's glove and hitting the infielder's glove on a throw to second base to cut down a basestealer) was third-best at the showcase: an excellent 1.83 seconds.

Irving's bat is about average for a college-bound prospect; in other words, very good, not excellent.  As a junior he batted .360 with a couple home runs and then chose UVA over offers from Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, among others.  He's been playing varsity since he was an eighth-grader and serving as the starting catcher almost that long.

However, catcher is maybe the touchiest position on a baseball team.  Irving comes in at the same time as two juco catchers, who will naturally be more polished behind the plate and be ahead of the game in terms of winning the trust of the pitching staff.  He's got very good athleticism for his size and looks able to develop into an excellent defensive catcher.  Barring a big surprise, I wouldn't expect to see much of Irving at all for the first year of his UVA career, just to get him up to speed on catching a college pitching staff.  But juco players are only around for a year or two, and as a sophomore and junior, Irving should come around and start earning front-of-the-line privileges for the starting job.

Brett Lisle - LHP
ThunderRidge HS (CO)

Lisle is a rare commodity and one that coaches the world over wish they could have: a 6'8" left-hander on the mound.  He's big enough that he also played center on his school's basketball team.  Lisle's stats this year weren't overwhelming - an ERA of 3.52, though he also struck out 12 batters per nine innings - but he was named first-team all-league in what his coach called the toughest league in the state.  (Coaches do that, but still.)

At 6'8" and less than 200 pounds, Lisle is still a big beanpole, and his fastball doesn't yet reach 90 consistently.  But a college strength-and-conditioning program could change that.  It wouldn't surprise to see a couple mph added to Lisle's velocity between fall practice and the new season in February.  Not every pitcher brought into a college baseball program pans out, but at 6'8" it's hard to see there being no role for Lisle at all as he develops.  You'd love to have a big lefty like that be able to go a consistent seven innings out of the rotation; even if not, that kind of height from a lefty can screw up a batter's eye and Lisle could just as well be effective out of the bullpen as well.  This is not a recruit you expect to be able to jump right into the college game, but a projectability pick, so to speak.  It'll be interesting to see what Lisle will be molded into by the coaching staff.

Kevin Matthews - LHP
Richmond Hill HS (GA)
1st round, Texas Rangers

Just to let you know what could've been.  Matthews has already been signed by the Texas Rangers.

Chace Mitchell - C
Florida State College at Jacksonville

As with Nolan Clark, I've touched on Mitchell's potential a little bit already.  Good thing, too, because my post mentioning him is on the second page of Yahoo's results.  So there ain't much out there.  Mitchell was brought aboard for his defensive skills, underscored by the fact that he hit .243 this spring for FSC.  He'd been hitting much better (.462) in Terre Haute where he was playing summer ball, until he broke his hand last month.  Bummer.  He should be ready for fall ball, but his summer season is over.

Mitchell's playing time next spring will largely be a function of how good his fielding/hitting combination is as compared to Clark's.  Chances are that Mitchell is much less likely than Clark to be position-flexible, since it's his defense at catcher that induced Brian O'Connor to sign him up.  It'll be very interesting, in the fall, to see how he and Clark pan out in the Orange and Blue World Series.

Barrett O'Neill - RHP
Dexter School (MA)

It's been almost two years since O'Neill committed to UVA, having done so in the fall of 2009.  In contrast to the last pitching prospect on this list, O'Neill should come to UVA with a lot of polish.  Originally he was a member of the class of 2010, but reclassified a year backwards after transferring to Dexter, meaning he originally would have been a UVA freshman this spring.  Even back then he was able to top his fastball out at 92; these days he can do that consistently.

Dexter is a brand-new school to the baseball scene, but with O'Neill and his teammate John Magliozzi, who's headed to Florida in the fall, they've become a New England powerhouse.  O'Neill is one of the better athletes and all-around baseball players of this class, having grown up playing hockey, and also plays the middle infield when he's not pitching.

O'Neill picked UVA over Boston College and was getting a look from Clemson and Vandy, too.  And he plays against perhaps the best competition in New England.  I wouldn't put much stock into his undrafted status; his teammate Magliozzi has better stuff and also went undrafted.  Of the four pitchers in this recruiting class that'll be at UVA in the fall, I would judge O'Neill as the most college-ready, even despite a bout of mono that cost him part of his junior year.

Mike Papi - OF
Tunkhannock Area HS (PA)
30th round, Los Angeles Angels

One of the higher-profile players coming to UVA in the fall.  Maybe it has to do with hitting .531 with six homers this year, to improve on a .410 showing last year.  Papi is a do-it-all type; the Angels drafted him as a right fielder and corner outfield is his likely destination, but he played shortstop "out of necessity" this year, and has taken a few spins on the mound as well.  This year, he helped his team get to the state championship game before finally losing in the final, in no small part by throwing six innings of no-hit ball in the semifinal.

Rated the #84 high school player in the country by Baseball America, Papi will be the biggest freshman hitter coming in the fall if Derek Fisher signs with the Rangers.  Personally, I'm fairly optimistic that Fisher won't sign, which would give UVA a dynamic set of outfield bats in this freshman class.  With so much playing time in the outfield up for grabs for next year, look for Papi to be a well-known name this spring.

Kenny Towns - IF
Lake Braddock HS (VA)

Only one player in this class coming from our backyard this year, so if you're only gonna take one, make it a good one.  Towns is pretty much the consensus player of the year in the state of Virginia.  He's another two-way guy who hits and pitches; a 1.77 ERA on the mound and .544 batting average at the plate, slugging 1.108 in the process.  And in the multiple-sport realm, we've had players in this class who played hockey and basketball; how about golf?  Towns also happens to be an outstanding golfer, which actually is very different because swinging like a golfer will screw up your baseball swing, and vice versa.  But again: .544.  So no worries.

The infield will be a lot harder than the outfield to break into in 2012.  So the best case for Towns as a freshman probably involves early-season at-bats that get people excited for 2013, kind of how Stephen Bruno did in 2010.  Only third base has much playing time available, and there are players (like Bruno himself) that will come higher in the pecking order.  But the infield in 2013 will likely be as wide open as the outfield is now, so Towns will be in the middle of the conversation.


Ultimately, this is a crucial recruiting class.  Last year's was brutally whittled down by transfers and the draft, and it's about to take another hit with the news that Derek Justice might be transferring.  That'll leave exactly two position players in that class: Mark Podlas and Mitchell Shifflett.  If this class makes it to Charlottesville intact (which is mostly to say, if Derek Fisher doesn't sign with the Rangers) then it'll be a badly-needed infusion of position-player talent.  I think there's a lot to be excited about with this class.  Many of these guys have played against top high school competition.  The general theme is that there's, for the most part, enough talent already on the team to get through 2012 in good shape, with a few contributions from the freshmen, but in 2013, this class will step up and come into its own.  It's a great group, and it's truly the future of UVA baseball.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

recruiting board update, and big-picture too

With 13 prospects in the fold for Mike London, the recruiting class of 2012 is more than half-filled no matter how you slice it.  I think it's time for a look at the big picture for the next seven months of recruiting-trail madness.  A few themes have emerged in the class so far:

- It's all about defense.  The first four commitments, and six of the first seven, were players headed for the defensive side of the ball.  And most of the best prospects left on the board that UVA is chasing - Eli Harold, Kaiwan Lewis, Nigel Williams, Courtnye Wynn, Trey Edmunds, and so on - are also defenders.

- Out-of-state recruiting is back.  Last year, London only signed three recruits from outside the VA/DC/MD home base, and one of those (Adrian Gamble) had given his verbal to Al Groh, not Mike London.  This year, six of thirteen are from outside VA/MD - two from Pennsylvania, one each from New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Ontario (though Ryan Doull, the Canajin, will be headed to Fork Union this fall.)  London has sent out offers as well to prospects in Tennessee, Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio, and North Carolina, with mixed results.  This is partly because states like NJ and PA are still UVA's recruiting wheelhouse and partly because it's a thin year in the state of Virginia.  Players like Rob Burns and Daquan Romero, ranked at the bottom end of the state's top 20 last year, would be closer to 12th or 13th this year.

- Less star power.  This isn't likely to end up as a top-25 class like last year.  I know, I know, Jennings and Terrell weren't even possibilities at this point last year etc. etc.  Actually, "less star power" is a little misleading because we've got Kwontie Moore and Mike Moore, and Eli Harold on the way, and are at least in the discussion for guys like Canaan Severin, Kaiwan Lewis, and maybe a few others.  What this class is short on is meat-and-potatoes guys who aren't big-time four and five stars - guys like Vincent Croce or Jay Whitimre, to name some examples from last year.  Still, UVA recruiting has, for the last decade, been good to great in the odd years and way down in the even years; the class of 2012 has a chance to be as good as some of the lesser odd years and is already way better than any of the recent even years.


Where we're done:

- Offensive line: Four commitments in the fold, which is what I predicted back in February when I wrote the first big-picture look.  It's not out of the question we take one more, but that would have to be a really good, top-notch player like Adam Bisnowaty.  Chances are we're done here.  This group has no big names with long offer lists, but it's a solid bunch that you can build on and derive real depth from.

- Quarterback: I was a little surprised to see UVA see through the hunt for a quarterback, what with having so many as sophomores and freshmen, but there's a school of thought that says you take one every year.  It's not wrong.  It's not a rigid, unbreakable tenet of recruiting, but it's not wrong.  Having gotten one now, though, I'd be damn near shocked if the staff took another.

Work in progress:

- Defensive line: Three players are lined up already, and we might very well take three more.  And there will be some amazing depth here.

- Linebacker: See "defensive line," and replace "three" with "two."  Or don't, because we can't say with 100% certainty that someone like Demeitre Brim won't be a linebacker, and there are plenty left on the board, several of which we wouldn't turn down even if we'd already reached the target number.

- Secondary: Still a trouble spot in my book.  Two commits so far, but the secondary is hard to pin down because a lot of players are ostensibly "athletes" and only projected to the secondary.  I wish the staff were more aggressive in going after potential defensive backs.

- Wide receiver: One in so far, but lots left on the board.  You can bet the staff is working hard on both Anthony Cooper and Canaan Severin, among several others, and would gladly take both.  Or more.

Lots of work to do:

- Running back: Thin position on the roster, and none yet in the class.  Both Kye Morgan and Chris Mangus would be brought in in a heartbeat, and the staff continues to send out offers.  Still waiting for our first commitment at a position where we need two.

- Tight end: If we don't get a tight end and find ourselves in need of one, other positions could be cannibalized to fill the spot, as with Jeremiah Mathis.  But I think the staff will continue to hunt for at least a developmental depth guy.

- Punter: I still expect to sign one up, maybe even a scholarship guy.  This is Jimmy Howell's last season.


So, all that said, now we get to the recruiting board part of it, with updates:

- Moved OT Sean Karl and OG Andre Miles-Redmond from green to orange.  As I mentioned, that about seals up offensive line recruiting.  This in turn causes the next two moves....

- Moved OT Adam Bisnowaty and OL Greg Pyke from green to yellow.

- Removed OT Jon Heck from blue.  I wonder if his commitment to UNC is related to UVA's picking up Karl and Miles-Redmond.  Not being sarcastic.  I actually do wonder.

- Removed WR Eugene Lewis and ATH Davon Jacobs from yellow.  Jacobs committed to Rutgers and Lewis has a top five sans UVA.

Tomorrow: Part 2 of the baseball recruiting adventure.  Then, to finish off the week, a double dip into football recruiting profiles with the Norfolk Christian pair.

Monday, July 4, 2011

2010-2011 Cavalier of the Year: Danny Hultzen

Right from the word "go" this was a two-horse race, between exactly the two players I figured.  One is in the ranks of the best, most elite athletes in any sport to ever suit up for UVA, the other won us a national championship and was named the best player in the country in his sport.  A seesaw battle ensued.

Which lasted a week.  Perhaps propelled by a performance in which he struck out eight of ten hitters he faced in between barfing his gall bladder out, Danny Hultzen leaped ahead of Steele Stanwick to claim the title as 2011 Cavalier of the Year.  Hultzen is a repeat winner, having earned the inaugural award in 2009.  Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo was sandwiched in between in 2010.

Myself, I didn't even vote, and I still don't know who I'd have voted for between Hultzen and Stanwick.  Either makes a most deserving winner.  On the one hand, I thought Stanwick had the better year; on the other hand, the like of Hultzen may not be seen again around here for many, many years.  The people have spoken, and it is Danny Hultzen, and by a landslide too.  Congratulations all around, and thanks to all the voters.

These are the final results:

Danny Hultzen: 79
Steele Stanwick: 35
Mu Farrakhan: 16
Robby Andrews, Keith Payne: 6
Matt McLean: 3
Brian Ownby, Michael Shabaz: 2
Paige Selenski: 1
Liz Downs, Sinead Farrelly, and Lauren Perdue: 0

Now, run along and have an awesome 4th of July.  And don't blow your fingers off.  We'll be back tomorrow to add more orange lines to the recruiting board.

Friday, July 1, 2011

the recruit: Demeitre Brim

Name: Demeitre Brim
Position: S
Hometown: Lakeland, FL
School: Victory Christian
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 205

24/7: 78; two stars
ESPN: 79; three stars; #43 ATH
Rivals: 5.7; three stars; #29 S
Scout: two stars

Other offers: Wisconsin, Mississippi, Temple, Central Florida, Tulane, FAU, Western Kentucky

Demeitre Brim (pronounced, I think, like Demetri) was the second recruit to commit to UVA, and it was a weird recruitment.  It might still be, but I hope not.  UVA wasn't the first school to offer Brim, but it was the first BCS school to do so, and after a couple days and talking with a few recruits who'd already been to UVA, Brim jumped onboard.

At the time, he was something of an unknown quantity to a lot of people.  Not a high-profile guy.  His commitment to UVA helped change that, though, and other schools came in with offers and camp invites.  Quite a few other schools.  Wisconsin's offer was post-commit, as was I think Ole Miss's, and Miami was all over him to camp in Coral Gables.  All the attention, as well as some noncommittal-sounding quotes from Brim, had UVA fans worried that Brim had offered a placeholder commit. (Every year there are recruits somewhere who say they're "still committed" but "looking around" or "75%."  What it means is they want the coaches to hold their spot while they check out to see if there's anything better.  Occasionally this results in pulled scholarships.)

Brim stuck to his word at least long enough to take a visit to UVA two months after committing sight unseen.  This was good news because when you're one-on-one with Mike London at the most beautiful school in the country on a terrific summer day, there's nobody who can resist the spell.  Brim came away with his commitment solidified, and ended up turning down Miami's camp invites.

What had Miami so anxious to get him on campus, and other schools jumping into the fray after his commitment?  ESPN says: "He has an ideal set of measurables coupled with speed, quickness and range."  Their scouting report describes a player who's more of an athlete than a football player at this point:
With Brim you are getting supreme athleticism, but very little discipline. ... He must be careful as a tackler as he generally looks to make the big hit instead of being a sound, wrap-up tackler. ... He has speed and range and is a very physical player that needs to home and refine skills to maximize his talent.
Sounds like a shoulder-tackler who will try to slam opponents to the ground via sheer momentum with his arms at his sides.  (And this highlight video is bloody 16 minutes long, but the first part of it shows quite a bit of shoulder-tackling.)  Corey Mosley is notorious for that.  I hate it.  Pet peeve aside, most of the rest of that evaluation is full of praise for Brim's athleticism, and recognition skills to boot, always a necessity for a safety.  Sounds similar to the reports on Javanti Sparrow, actually.

Brim transferred in to Victory Christian some time during last summer, and led them to the state semifinals as both starting safety and starting quarterback, and put up some decent numbers behind center, too.  Decent enough to be the Class 1B Player of the Year.  This was actually kind of an out-of-nowhere performance because Brim was thought of as a question mark, not a top player on his team, going into the season, which explains the late-ish start to his recruiting.

And yes, it was a strange recruitment - not just from a UVA perspective as I've mentioned, but because his early commitment and then teams getting ahold of his game tapes from 2010 threw his offer list out of whack.  It's hard to evaluate based on offers like I like to.  It's even harder because two of the scouting services gave him the two stars of doom, and the other two are very high on him.  ESPN's and 24/7's very similar-looking numbers are really two different scales and actually represent diametric opposites.  79 is the same grade that ESPN gave Kwontie and Michael Moore; the 78 from 24/7 is the lowest number they've given any of our commits (that they've actually rated.)

Because of the attention Brim was getting after his commitment in April, I think I'll lean toward the enthusiastic Rivals/ESPN rating rather than the Scout/24/7 thumbs-down.  Scout is typically lazy and doesn't really revisit a prospect once they've taken their look, and the two-star rating came after Brim's commitment but before the attention really heated up.  Interpretation: the guy committed to UVA over weak-ass offers from Sun Belt schools, just slap a two-star up and ignore it the rest of the year.  Scout is known to do that.  They still have yet to even add Ryan Doull to the freakin' database.  So my opinion is that it looks like Mike London successfully unearthed a diamond in the rough - a horribly overused phrase, but appropriate here. 

However, the diamond needs polish.  Like any diamond that comes out of whatever the rough is.  Yes, Brim's a shoulder-tackler, and that drives me crazy.  He'll need to come to grips with the fact that you have to wrap up in college because nobody you're tackling weighs 140 pounds anymore.  Some guys never do.  Regardless, most guys like Brim who get by on instincts and athleticism need a year to get the football skills in order.  Brim should be no exception, especially since he's a safety which requires a lot of diagnosing offensive formations, systems, etc..  By the time he gets here, both Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley will have graduated, and the safety situation scares the bejabbers out of me.  But Brim will still need time to point his athleticism in the right direction.  Once he does, he has more of it than most of the safety options on the roster, though.


Looking for part 2 of the baseball recruits series?  I've decided that'll be Wednesday.  We crown the Cavalier of the Year on Monday, and the recruiting board gets its badly needed attention on Tuesday.  The football recruit series then continues on Thursday with Wil Wahee.