Monday, February 6, 2012

2013 early look

I'll toss in some bastyball notes at the end, but I just don't have enough of that circling inside my head to make a full post out of.  So today, we'll take the first look at the makeup of the recruiting class of 2013.

The first thing you need to know is that it'll be small (relatively speaking) because the upcoming senior class is small.  By the time we get to the fall, there'll be no more than 12 players in it.  And the class behind them - this past year's sophomores - doesn't have a lot of candidates to be uninvited for their fifth year.  That's as it stands now, anyway, but I don't see more than three right now.

As always, you have to factor in some attrition, but this 2013 class isn't going to push the limits of the rulebook the way the previous two have.  What's the target number?  I would say 16-19. No more than 20 or 21 players at the most, and that would really require some major attrition.  The first one is already on board - the recruiting sites aren't officially counting Trent Corney among the commitments just yet, but I am.

So let's see what the major needs are.....


This is not a need, but we'll probably take one anyway.  The instate crop is too good to ignore.  You probably know the names right now, because you've been hearing them for a while - Ryan Burns of Stone Bridge (no relation to Rob who came from the same school), Bucky Hodges of Salem, and Christian Hackenberg from Fork Union.  Those three, plus Good Counsel's Brendan Marshall, comprise the offer list at the moment.

After declaring we were done recruiting quarterbacks when Matt Johns committed and then ending up with green eggs and ham on my face when Greyson Lambert did too, I shouldn't be ruling out surprises.  But the depth chart is pretty full now, so it wouldn't be surprising if we whiff on quarterbacks entirely and it would be hugely surprising if we took two again.  Especially in a smaller class.  I'll put myself back on that limb and say we won't take two.  But I think we'll take one, and right now I'd call it a coin flip as to whether we get one of those four.


This is a need, however, and UVA will look for two, if not three.  (Well, maybe not three.  But you never know.)  Taquan Mizzell seems likely-ish to pick UVA, hailing from pipeline school Bayside and all.  In an ideal world, the other back we get will be a tough, pile-moving, Big Ten-style big back.  The coaches tried hard for one in 2012 and didn't get one.  The deal is that Kye Morgan probably redshirts and puts a full year in between him and the trio of Parks, Richardson, and Shepherd, which means Morgan would lead the replacement charge when those three graduate.  But not getting two backs in this class would mean way too thin of a lineup at that point.  Two is the bare minimum.

There's also a need for an H-back type of player.  Corney is being offered without much regard (yet) to slotting, and that could be him, but he's probably going to outgrow it if he hasn't already.  The coaches pursued Nathan Staub and didn't get him, so they'll probably try again with a similar type of player to fill the fullback/H-back role.  Otherwise that position will have to be manned from within, because Zach Swanson is the only listed scholarship player right now.


We took bloody six this year.  I think there's sort of a fair chance we won't take that many again.  And there is not one rising senior in the WR corps, so this is completely not a need.  Zack Jones is Perry's brother and will probably end up at UVA playing receiver.  And you almost never see recruiting classes with just one wideout, so another one is probably in the cards.  And the coaches seem to have this thing for recruiting generically athletic instate players and letting the slotting chips fall where they may, so that might bring us to three.  If we take more than that it's gross negligence.

Besides that, I expect one tight end to show up, since we graduate two.  That guy might be called a defensive end or something originally, like Max Valles.


Three linemen is a working, basic minimum regardless of class size.  If you could only bring in three players, they'd probably be offensive linemen.  The class will probably tilt toward tackles a little bit since three of the four players in the 2012 class look like interior types.  But the conveyor belt is humming along nicely and O-line looks like a strength for the foreseeable future.  With only two scholarship players graduating after this season (Oday Aboushi and Matt Mihalik, the latter being a fourth-year junior and a possibility for a non-invite) I don't think the coaches will take four scholarship linemen.  They've done a good job of filling the program with talent in this department and now have the luxury of being very choosy.


Likewise.  If 2012 was the year of going crazy on WRs, 2011 was the year of DEs.  Only two scholarship linemen will graduate after this coming fall - there were three, but Connor McCartin and his medical scholarship are counting as attrition to help make room for the 2012 class.

Even though Tyrell Chavis probably ends up in the 2013 class, another DT is a need.  The 2012 class only has Chavis and some defensive ends that might end up tackles; a true one-tech or zero-tech nose tackle is something we ought to have more of.  Aside from that, you probably take two defensive ends and call it a day.  Again: we can be picky here.


This is where we'll take the biggest hit after the season; one-third of the graduating seniors are linebackers.  Four graduating players at one position in a class of 12 is a lot.  Might we take four to replace them?  It shouldn't come as a surprise if we do.  Linebackers are nice in that they sometimes have the flexibility to become H-backs, which, hey, that's a big need remember, so a distinct possibility is recruiting a guy whom all the services list as a linebacker, and telling him he's a fullback all the way.  Or else recruiting all of them as linebackers with the idea of converting one of them later.  (People still half-expect D.J. Hill to make that switch, after all.)  Add all this up and expect UVA to take quite a few of these guys.  All flavors of linebacker are on the table.


Annnnnnnd....this is where I throw up my hands in defeat.  You'd think, having taken a busload of safety-types in 2011 and another busload of cornerback-types in 2012, we might back off a little.  Not so; in fact, we're already in decent shape for more cornerbacks.

This past season, the coaches broke up the logjam a little in the freshman ranks of defensive ends and safeties by playing Thompson Brown, Anthony Harris, and Kameron Mack.  People complain about burned redshirts and wotnot all the damn time, but this was smart from a roster-management standpoint, because it's terrible to have one guy in one class and five in the next.  So I expect something similar to happen with that wad of cornerbacks, helping to clear things up a little.  For 2013, we'll probably need three DBs, evenly split between safeties and corners.  This almost definitely means we'll take one guy who is simply called "defensive back" with no definite slot at corner or safety.  This is what coaches do to purposely drive bloggers crazy.

So, the final breakdown?  Looks like this:

QB: 1
RB: 2
WR: 2
TE: 1
OL: 3
DL: 4
LB: 4
DB: 3

That adds up to 20, for the math uninclined.  Obviously, because this stuff depends on the whims of 17-year-olds, each of those numbers is +/-1, depending on how those whims turn out.  I think there'll be a little more attrition than normal in the next 18 months, because of how big Mike London's first two classes turned out to be.  Call it a lesson learned from Tony Bennett's heralded six-man class that has all of two players left in it.

If you're wondering whether you should believe these numbers or not, take a look at last year's post at this time and ask yourself if I nailed it or not.  I call myself out for being wrong often enough, so I think I'm entitled to point out that we did, in fact, take three linebackers, one (eventual) tight end, and four of each type of lineman, as predicted.  On the other hand, I might have said something along the lines of "two wide receivers" and in fact I was off by four.  (But only three if one gets moved to defense, which would fulfill the prediction of six DBs that I made.)  I'm also taking credit for the 2 RBs thing, because it's not like we didn't try.  But I also predicted "no quarterbacks," so, oops.

Anyway, there you are.  Some other miscellaneous trends to watch for:

- I don't think we'll be as heavy on the camp commitments as we have been.  Coaches typically use the camps as ways to identify players they haven't evaluated much yet, and several offers usually go out on the spot.  But camp commitments also tend to be the low-star, lightly-recruited types.  Since we don't need to - and can't - pack the bus to the gills this year, as we have in previous years, look for the coaches to be a little more cautious in extending camp offers.

- Also look for the coaches to look farther south for some of these recruits.  In 2011 they re-established the home base: only three recruits came from outside the borders of Maryland and Virginia and one of them had committed to Al Groh.  (That was Adrian Gamble.)  In 2012, that number rose to 10, with the coaches working the northeast hard: two commits each from old stomping grounds in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and two from places more well-known for lacrosse recruits than football ones.  But the other state they worked on?  Georgia.  Al Groh's staff used to work the northern end of things very hard, particularly New Jersey, and he drew talent from New York and some from the Midwest as well.  Other than North Carolina, Groh went south only very sporadically.  London, however, seems to be leaving the Midwest alone for the most part, and working on Georgia as one of UVA's primary talent mines.  And to a lesser extent, Texas.  And to a lesser extent than that, Florida.  London appears to have identified Georgia as a point of emphasis, perhaps even more so than North Carolina.


In the world of round orange balls going through circular hoops, the ACC appears to be settling into a hierarchy of sorts:

- At the top is FSU, Duke, and UNC, in some order.
- The next layer consists of UVA, NC State, and Miami - propitious for us, because we beat them both and won't play them again, which'll come in handy should tiebreakers be necessary.
- Then you have the three children playing with loaded guns.  They look harmless and innocent, but sooner or later that thing is going off and someone's getting hurt.  These are Maryland, Clemson, and Tech.  None will play in anything resembling a postseason tournament, but all of them have inexplicably beaten someone really good (and/or given them a real scare) and will probably do so again at some point.
- Finally we have the bottom level of Wake, GT, and BC, none of which would hurt a fly.

The thing is to get to the fourth seed or better in the ACC.  Then you get the bye, of course, but the thing about not being the sixth seed (or worse) is that any second-round game would involve nobody scarier than yourself.  Sixth seed has to play the three seed.

That's not to say this isn't open to some change.  In the part of that hierarchy we care about, Duke is the most likely to shake things up.  This is because there's a growing body of evidence exposing them as a Sweet 16 team, but little more.  Thanks to Miami, they now have two losses, and they have yet to play either of their games against Carolina and also they have to visit FSU, which, like Miami, beat them on their suddenly not-that-scary home floor.  Some things would have to go surprisingly well for us (or the Pack or Canes) to pass Duke in the seeding, but it certainly looks as if they'll finish with no fewer than five losses and that's if they don't startle one of the loaded-gun kids or get tripped by NC State.

As for UVA, 5-3 at the halfway mark is not half bad if we want to get to 10-6, but there isn't much margin for error.  To get to that 10-win mark, we have to do one or more of three things:

- Upset UNC
- Revenge on FSU
- Take care of business with no stumbles in the five other games.

The two things I want out of this season are to play on Saturday of the ACC tournament and play in the second week of the NCAAs.  So really, the taking care of business thing is a goal regardless of whatever else.


Anonymous said...

Yeah but, in all honesty, what about Sammy's shot right now? Are you left with any revised expectations for the end of the year, given how protracted this has become?


Anonymous said...

I think you're dead on about the loaded gun kids. There are other Virginia sites who are all stressed out about Maryland. But they aren't good. That's not Gary Williams on the sideline anymore.

Brendan said...

It's not totally crazy to stress out about Maryland. Nobody wants to lose to them, after all, and we won't have an answer for Alex Len the first time we play them. But they play pretty assy defense, and anyone who thinks Sammy's shooting has been bad ought to check out Nick Faust.

Speaking of Sammy, no, I haven't revised my expectations because those expectations do take into account the current state of his shot. It's not inconceivable to think we'd be 8-0 or 7-1 right now if his shot was falling.

Anonymous said...

Re 2013, I don't get your treatment of HB. It's a FB-TE hybrid position, and I get how you're going to play one or the other so it makes sense to view them in tandem, but HB is generally funded by smallish TEs, not by otherwise-FBs.

At UVA, HB hasn't been a fully-funded position, but maybe that's changing with Swanson, Mathis, and the high number of HB candidates in the 2012 class. On that note, I count at least 4 potential HBs in the 2012 class: Severin, Nixon, Dockins and Valles.

I also don't understand how you think Corney has or will outgrow the HB position. Even if you trust the Rivals listing (6'3"/235#), which I wouldn't, that's right in line to grow into a Gibbs HB like Chris Cooley (6'3"/255#) or Frank Wycheck (6'3"/250#), or NE tweener Aaron Hernandez (6'1"/245#).

Anyway, if we are planning to build a depth chart at HB, between all the 2012 guys and Corney, I think we're in good shape.

Brendan said...

If Corney grows to be as big as Cooley or Wycheck, and is athletic enough to be a receiver, he's a tight end. You can't compare to the NFL because everyone is bigger in the NFL, especially at those tweener-athletic positions like TE and LB. Our current field-ready tight ends are between 245 and 260, and if Corney is 235, he's gonna grow to TE size in a year or two.

But you look at Max Milien and he's only 220. Nathan Staub was 210-215. In other words, look for fullback/H-back (really, fullback is almost a misnomer) to be built very similar to a linebacker (Staub played linebacker as well as fullback) - witness how our linebackers top out at 240-245 and mostly play closer to 230. Walcott is listed at 240 and again the coach is hinting he's too big. (Again why you can't use NFL comparisons - a 230-pound linebacker would be squashed.)

Re: Corney, I definitely believe the 235 number because he looks 235, and because there are articles out there that even call him 240:

That's a big guy, and I don't see him coming out of the backfield the way we seem to have set up the offense. He'll grow into TE or DE, I think. Valles is also likely to be too big.

It's certainly possible that the coaches could change the position description based on the players filling it, but we have to use the evidence we have, which points to players more the size of Milien or Jason Snelling, not big hulking 250-pounders.

Anonymous said...

"You can't compare to the NFL because everyone is bigger in the NFL, especially at those tweener-athletic positions like TE and LB."

That's system dependent. If you run pro schemes, there's no reason you can't have pro-sized players at pro positions. Look at our experience with Groh: NFL size at LB and TE. Groh ran NFL systems and really focused on those positions.

Lazor spent a lot of time with Gibbs, so if he wants to feature the HB position -- which remains to be seen -- he'll probably go after people with prototype Gibbs HB size. That's about 6'3"/250#. And that's not outrageous at this level. Most schools don't use the HB position, but Hernandez (at UF) and Cooley (at USU) both played 'tweener positions, not just plain TE. Closer to home, Groh got creative with Santi, and Welsh got creative with Baber. I wouldn't call either of those guys HBs, but they could certainly have handled the role for a coach who really used that position.

On that note, I agree that it's all limited to the talent on the roster. But next year's depth chart at HB is Swanson (6'5" and I'd assume up to 240# by next year), and Mathis (6'3"/255# this year). Then we added 4 guys who seem to have real potential at HB, and Corney should be here next mid-year.

So I understand looking at Milien and Snelling as evidence that we're good with an undersized FB. But if you look at the depth chart and who we're adding, I think the evidence supports the Gibbs model. More generally, I would not use a FB to project what we want from an HB (I view them as distinct positions).