Friday, April 13, 2012

spring game primer

Not to be left out of a big spring weekend, it's the football team's time on Saturday to have their share of the spotlight.  It's a big recruiting weekend, as it should be.  And unlike last year, the weather is expected to be the kind that makes you want to spend every minute of the rest of your life in Charlottesville.

The game itself is to be a controlled scrimmage, evolving into perhaps more of a game as time goes on.  You can find the rosters here.  To save you the time of parsing them, it's 1st team defense and 2nd team offense on the Blue roster, and vice versa on Orange.  Myself, I'd prefer to see captains choose up sides and let 'em go at it, but coaches are usually reluctant to do that and anyway there're way too many linemen sitting on the sidelines for that.

Some of the things I find interesting about the rosters:

-- Reports have been that Drequan Hoskey and Brandon Phelps are in competition for the second cornerback slot, but Hoskey is on the Blue roster so it's fairly easy to see who's leading the race.

-- Also it's not much of a surprise to see Rijo Walker and Anthony Harris as the two starting safeties.

-- Ausar Walcott is a DE on the Blue roster.  Is that indicative of something?  Hard to say; the other two DEs are Jake Snyder and Brent Urban, which is obvious, and of course Billy Schautz is still recovering from that ugly broken leg.  We may have to actually watch the spring game (imagine that) to learn something there, because the Orange DEs are Stephen Lawe, Diamonte Bailey, and Rob Burns.  None of them were ever likely to play a starring role this season.

-- Finally, you have three DTs on the Blue team, which is what you'll see this season; most likely Will Hill getting most of the snaps and Justin Renfrow and Chris Brathwaite getting starters' snaps as well.

-- Not too much that's surprising on the offensive side.  Billy Skrobacz is on the Orange roster, so he's likely to be someone we'll see on the field this year; the other Orange fullback is Zach Swanson.

-- Looks as though Matt Mihalik has hung on to the job at center; he is on the Orange roster with Ross Burbank on the Blue.

-- OK, there is one surprise: Kelby Johnson, who did not redshirt last year, is shuffled down to the Blue team.  The Orange tackles are Jay Whitmire (who did redshirt) and Morgan Moses.  You could read into it that the coaches want a better tackle to protect the QB's blindside, but I'll be very surprised if the QBs don't have red jerseys.  Has Whitmire leapfrogged Johnson?

-- With so many offensive linemen sitting out, the Orange O-line (especially at guard) is mostly second-stringers and the Blue line is further down than that, so it looks like the second-string guards are Cody Wallace and Conner Davis.  Tim Cwalina shares the Blue line with a handful of walk-ons.

-- I get why David Watford is going to shuffle between the two teams, but I wonder why, specifically, E.J. Scott will also be doing that?  That seems random.  My uneducated but reasonable guess: without Scott, the only scholarship receiver on the Blue team would be Miles Gooch (a converted quarterback).  Scott is (I'm guessing) fourth on the pecking order after Tim Smith, Darius Jennings, and Dominique Terrell, and therefore he'll be on the field this year and needs practice time with the first group.  But Greyson Lambert also needs someone to throw to besides just Gooch and a bunch of walk-ons, so Scott and Gooch will be his go-to guys on the Blue squad.

Speaking of Lambert, of course, he will probably be the most-watched player on the team.  Rocco we know, Watford we know, but Lambert is the new, and therefore exciting, entry.  I would bet some ducats that Lambert will make some throws that draw oohs and aahs, and that more than one person will suggest Rocco should give way to the freshman.  They'll be wrong, of course, but the future isn't too far off.

What I want to see most, though, is a big day out of the receivers.  (And then I will tell myself it's because they're awesome, not because the secondary is as green as grass.)  It's time for Tim Smith to take the reins as the #1 guy, and it's time to see some of that explosiveness out of the Wondertwins.  The running backs - Jones, Parks, Richardson - are a step shy of dynamic and getting closer all the time; if the receivers are just as good, there's no limit to what the offense can do.

You'll notice, though, that a lot of these observations are pretty mundane.  Mostly, they're little more than the chronicling of the natural evolution of a football program - who'll do the best job at replacing who; a couple of scattered position battles; a glimpse of the future at quarterback because the present is occupied.  I like this.  You might not recognize it, which is perfectly fair - it's called stability with ambition.  It's much better than not knowing who really is the quarterback until half past October.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your last paragraph. This team is starting to resemble the dynasties (directionally) I put together on the NCAA football game. It's great to see players growing rather than disappearing in a cloud of academic or legal problems, or just fading into the background because they are either too slow or just not very good. Oh, I also like having more than 5 serviceable linemen during the season. Depth is a good thing (see VT.)

Anonymous said...

Tough, tough loss in baseball. 2-1 in 10.

The positive I take away from this season is that, outside of Kline, I'm not sure many guys turn pro, so if they can replace Kline in the rotation next year (and Silverstein, but he was a senior who I don't think many fans expected to take such a key role this year), this team should be loaded next year. Fisher looks like a stud lineup anchor for 2 more years.

The only guys that feel like they have a chance to turn pro would be Bruno and Taylor (and personally, I think Bruno more than Taylor, IIRC, Bruno was the top prospect on one of the Baseball America Summer Leagues). If Bruno gets drafted high enough, it might make sense for him to go pro, as he likely would get back to being developed in the middle infield, which is where he should be.

Anonymous said...

If anyone even remotely suggests Lambert ahead of Rocco, they'd be fools. I'm intrigued with Lambert, and I hope he doesn't play this year and gets red-shirted, but this is Rocco's team. (as a side note, I think the pursuit of Cutler as a 2nd QB to go with Marshall might be a sign that the staff might anticipate Watford transferring at some point).

The guy I'm curious about is Miles Gooch. There's going to be a need for a big boundary target and a move the chains possession type, and Gooch has the size to be an option.

Defensively, if Walcott shows well enough, I prefer him at DE, as it would give us a better base package pass rush (again, assuming he shows well enough). That also allows us to work in some young LB's on a more regular basis so we aren't replacing all three LB spots next year.

Anonymous said...

The wide receivers and the taller of the TE's looked pretty good. The #71 kid looked good (and huge!) at center. The db's appeared to be lost in their coverages. I thought Snyder looked really good at DE, although his offensive line counterpart looked absolutely horrible (very slow footed). We have a lot of work to in preparation for the upcoming season, but I saw enough good to put in my order for season tickets!