Thursday, January 3, 2013

overhaul complete

Today, finally, Mike London (or Jon Oliver) finalized the overhaul of the football staff.  Or appeared to finalize it; four coaches have been let go and four have been added, so that would seem to finish things off.  I've been wrong before when I said "done," though, so, yeah.  Anyway.

We already covered Jeff Banks, so I won't bother repeating myself.  Marques Hagans needs no introduction.  Those two, though, while perfectly good additions to the coaching staff (particularly Banks, I think, if mainly because it gives us someone who knows what he's doing on special teams) don't comprise the home run portion of the moves.

First, there's Tom O'Brien, who you'll remember as the one-time head coach at NC State, and before that, Boston College.  TOB's official title is associate head coach for the offense and tight ends coach.  Jon Tenuta is "associate head coach for the defense/defensive coordinator."  This associate stuff is going to be pretty transparent to us, and truthfully I'd guess that TOB will handle more of that associate grunt work stuff than Tenuta will, since he's not also a coordinator.

What I'd love to do is evaluate Tenuta under the cold hard auspices of statistics, but that'd take longer than I've got; only goes back to 2007 and the truth is that Tenuta's only spent two seasons in that time as an actual defensive coordinator; 2007 was his last year at Georgia Tech, he was never the DC at NC State, and only spent a year with the title at Notre Dame.  So it's awfully hard to tell how much of the defense was really his.

Make no mistake, though, he's had his fingerprints on all of them.  And Tenuta is one of the best-known defensive names in the business.  So well-known that it's rather astounding UVA would land him; it just may have helped that this is his alma mater, and Scott Stadium is where he played his college ball.  There probably isn't an assistant coach anywhere that's been involved in more rumors lately than Tenuta.  Ohio State, LSU, and Illinois are three schools that were in various stages of hiring Tenuta and ultimately didn't, which has probably added somewhat to his celebrity.

Also adding to his celebrity: blitzes, and lots of them.  UVA fans who wanted a "hyper-aggressive" defense have gotten their man.  Blitzy blitz blitzes.  No more of those drives where the offense runs the exact same wide receiver screen for eight yards a pop like six times in a row because the corners are playing that far off.  (Of course, the fans that wanted "hyper-aggressive" lose the right to complain when we blitz a screen pass and it goes for 85 yards.  Still.)  Tenuta isn't known as much of a recruiter, but his presence is likely to be something of a recruiting chip among defensive players.

O'Brien isn't much of a recruiter either.  In fact he's kind of milquetoast; his teams always seemed that way, at any rate.  Very even tempered, which is weird for a Marine.  But you can tell he knows his football just from the way he always took the 9th-rated recruiting class in the ACC to bowl after bowl after bowl.  One wonders what might've happened if he could recruit.

Let's make no mistake, though: recruiting is not this team's problem, and these hires weren't made with recruiting in mind.  They were done to shore up the X's and O's.  And not even that so much as the mechanics of running a football team.  TOB is probably one of the better details men out there, and that is not weird at all for a Marine.  (Trust me.  Nobody nitpicks like a Marine.)  The staff turnover now looks like this:

HC: Mike London ->London

OC: Bill Lazor -> Lazor
DC: Jim Reid -> Jon Tenuta

QB: Bill Lazor -> Lazor
WR: Bill Lazor -> Marques Hagans
RB: Mike Faragalli -> Jeff Banks
TE: Shawn Moore -> Tom O'Brien
OL: Scott Wachenheim -> Wachenheim

DL: Jeff Hanson -> vacant
LB: Vincent Brown -> Brown
CB: Chip West -> West
S: Anthony Poindexter ->; Poindexter

ST: Anthony Poindexter -> Jeff Banks
RC: Jeff Hanson -> Chip West

People in new positions are duly highlighted.  Not everything here is as it seems, though.  There is no official defensive line coach; London just so happens to have his roots as a DL coach, and will probably take a more active role there, along with graduate assistant Jonathan Lewis, who's going into his second year.  TOB didn't get hired just to coach tight ends; he and Wachenheim will probably work hand in hand with both the OL and TEs, as O'Brien has much experience coaching the offensive line in the past.  Including right here in Charlottesville.  Hagans's actual duties won't change much, except now he's getting paid for real and can go recruit.  (Neither, for that matter, do Lazor's.)

(Speaking of recruiting, I wouldn't, by the way, get too focused on trying to pilfer any of NC State's class even though we hired most of the brains of their coaching staff.  There isn't much to steal, for one thing, nor much room in our class, for another.)

The upshot in the end is that UVA has done absolutely the best it could do.  Anyone wanting more than this is being stupidly unrealistic.  Tenuta is one of the top defensive minds in the country.  Jim Reid is a very good coach, but he's spent most of his career at the lower levels, below I-A football.  Tom O'Brien's credentials are impeccable, and you should expect him to improve the offensive line as well as maybe even fix Mike London's time-management skills.  Banks should be a massive upgrade on special teams.  We sacrificed some recruiting ability in Reid and Shawn Moore, but Hagans should be able to help bridge that gap, and anyway, London, Poindexter, and West know what they're doing in that regard.  If London can't succeed with this group, he can't succeed - and his successor may very well be on the staff now.


Anonymous said...

First, these are awesome hires. I have zero complaints. Wow.

Second, I don't understand what TOB's new job is. We already have a great OC, and we already have a head coach. Is O'Brien the COO to London's CEO? Is London the public face and recruiter-in-chief, but O'Brien will really run the day-to-day? Or is this the first step toward replacing the head coach?

Anyone have any insight or speculation on this?

Brendan said...

COO to the CEO sounds like the way to put it, really, as well as being given the TEs as an excuse to work alongside Wachenheim and offer his O-line expertise.

The Ole Philosopher said...

These are good hires, and I agree with Brendan that if London cannot get it done with these guys, he cannot get it done. London needs to win at least 14 games over the next two years to keep his job. Any body taking bets?

Anonymous said...

TOB's presence, along with London's new duties coaching up the D-Line will make it harder for him to get his incompetent hands on the offense and make personnel decisions he isn't equipped for. From my perspective, TOB is the OC in waiting because its only a matter of time before Lazor bolts back to the NFL. TOB is like the perfect cerebral, X's and O's ying to London's 'rah rah', motivational, recruiting yang. They both cover each other's weakness and make this staff more formidable moving foward. And I really like what I've read about Banks. Couldn't be more thrilled about the hires. I thought getting rid of Reid was HUGE mistake. Not a big fan of Tenuta. DC's who can't hit the trail and recruit need to be slam dunk X's and O's guys and I don't beIieve Tenuta fits that bill. But I thought they would royally screw this up. But they actually came out of it with a better all-around staff.

Anonymous said...

Heard WVU is hot on the heels of Chip West. Losing him would be a big deal.