Monday, August 26, 2013

weekend review

So.  Back from vacation.  Going on a long trip means things get a little out of date, so today I catch up a little.  And because it's my blog you also have to sit through the dreaded vacation slides.

Some people get a thrill out of meeting celebrities. I get mine from visiting celebrity cities. Standing on top of the Arc de Triomphe with all of Paris spread before you is like a personal dinner with Marilyn Monroe. I like my kicks better, because you can't meet Marilyn Monroe anymore. This first view of Paris - we went straight from the airport to the hotel to here - was indescribably sublime in a way that a stitched-up panorama on the screen could never convey.  It's above the city but not way above the city, so it's like being in all of Paris at once.  And it instantly became one of my favorite moments of my life.

-- Fortunately, UVA got through fall camp without getting too banged up in the injury department.  The only major camp casualty (besides Sean Cascarano's hip, which developed into a problem long ago) was Wil Wahee, who was coming along nicely as the fourth cornerback on the roster and now will miss the season.  It's a blow to the depth (and to special teams as well), and probably means peeling the redshirt off of Tim Harris.  But worse things have happened.

-- The same can't be said for Virginia Tech.  Injuries and just plain departures were rampant in Blacksburg this year.  Let's see if I can remember them all:

- Whip linebacker Ronny Vandyke and RB Tony Gregory are out for the season.
- OL Mark Shuman and RB J.C. Coleman are both in the 4-6 weeks range.
- A whole bunch of players simply left the program.  OLs Jake Goins and Adam Taraschke quit football, safety Davion Tookes left the team along with a couple defensive linemen, and CB Donaldven Manning transferred out after losing a camp battle.
- DL Corey Marshall is, according to Tech, "out indefinitely while resolving some personal issues."

Our Hokie friends like to spin this as just normal attrition, but normal attrition happens in the spring and summer.  It's not exactly the total unraveling of their progam either, but that is not how a good, healthy training camp goes.  They've had to move Wyatt Teller away from his more natural defensive end position to try and shore up the offensive line, which is unraveling.

We also visited Cologne, Germany.  I had never had Cologne on a list of places I just had to see, but the opportunity presented itself and we took it.  Paris is awesome in the most literal sense of the word, but I also get a kick out of going to unexpected places, which is to say, ones that it never even crossed my mind to visit.  In that sense it's like Jakarta, Indonesia.  I've always loved traveling and have a really long list of places I want to see.  Neither Jakarta nor Cologne were ever on them.  The difference is, though, I'd go back to Cologne.  

-- I don't think I'm done talking about VT just yet.  I've already gone over their offensive troubles in the previews, but their recent fall camp scrimmage really drives it home.  The two quotes I like best from Bitter's article on it:

"As mentioned before, the protection wasn’t great. The first-team o-line was (from right to left) Laurence Gibson, Andrew Miller, David Wang, Caleb Farris and Jonathan McLaughlin. Even the second-team defensive line was giving them trouble, though."

"Likely starter Trey Edmunds only got one carry. Running backs coach Shane Beamer didn’t want either Edmunds or Mangus running behind the second-team offensive line."

The second-team offensive line at VT is so bad that the coaches were afraid they'd get their running backs hurt.  That is priceless.

-- Regarding our own offense, Steve Fairchild recently gave his end-of-camp press conference, in which I thought his utter refusal to answer anything worth answering was telling in and of itself.  Several of the questions asked ("How much has working with Mike Martz influenced you?") were cleverly but fairly obviously designed to see how much he'd reveal about his plans for the offense, and Fairchild was too smart to take any of the bait.

Nevertheless, I think there's a lot to be learned even from that.  The scrimmage highlights on VSTV included at least one read-option run, and word has leaked out all during camp about things like the pistol formation.  I don't think we're looking at a major tear-down and revamp such as what Gregg Brandon attempted to do, but pistols and read-options have never been a thing at UVA before.  Bill Lazor ran a pro-style offense, and they're calling this one a pro-style offense too, but I think it's plain to see that the changes will be much bigger than that bit of terminology would indicate.

Victor Hugo wrote, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, "There exists in this era, for thoughts written in stone, a privilege absolutely comparable to our current freedom of the press. It is the freedom of architecture."  Those medieval architects, given the freedom to build what they couldn't write down, knew what they were doing.  It's a tremendous testament to their abilities that their creations, 700 years later, still have the power to awe and amaze - and survive four years' worth of visits from Allied B-17s to boot.

-- Baseball is generating some news too.  Phil Gosselin, this past week, became the 32nd former Hoo to appear in the major leagues, getting the call-up from the Braves and making his mark pretty well with a 2-for-4 game in which he scored what would eventually be the winning run.  Gosselin made his debut against the Nationals, and if Stephen Strasburg hadn't been ejected from the game (actually Gosselin's second, but he was only a defensive replacement in his first game), might well have had his first MLB at-bat against him.  Gosselin's claim to fame, of course, is drilling the home run in Irvine that handed Strasburg and San Diego State the loss in the opening game of the regional.

Also, his old teammate Tyler Cannon is coming back to UVA as a student assistant coach - probably a one-year deal unless a more regular spot opens up, since he's back mainly to finish his degree.  Cannon made it as high as AA-ball in his career.

-- The hoops schedule came out, and I have to say it's not impressive.  I think we might well be in for another season of worrying about whether the OOC SOS will drag us down again.  The marquee game is Wisconsin in the ACC/B1G Challenge; elsewise, as far as headliners go, there's a trip to Tennessee, a neutral-site game against Davidson, and VCU.  Most of the rest of it is filler; assuming we don't make a mess of our preseason tournament, the prize at the end is a game against Texas A&M.  Which isn't a good team, residing in the dregs of a decent-not-great basketball conference.  This doesn't capture the imagination.  We're stuck basically hoping A&M isn't bad enough to lose to whatever mid-major they drew in their end of the preseason tournament and that Larry Brown can get SMU (also on the schedule) up to speed in record time.

I'm not really complaining about being the star attraction in this Corpus Christi Whatever preseason tournament (it's brand-new, so without looking, it probably has the word "Classic" in the name); I mean, we can't go to Maui every year.  But another big game or two would go a long way on this schedule, which still has too many sub-250 RPI teams on it.  I continue to say we need to schedule a regular series with Georgetown just to stick it Maryland's eye.

Paris, of course, is one of the most popular literary (and dramatic, cinematic, etc.) settings of all time.  To me, if I'm standing where an angry mob tore down the Bastille or where Marius first caught a glimpse of Cosette, or whether it's the location of an early Middle-Age siege of the city or a fictional masquerade, it's all the same.  You have to use your imagination to picture either one, so landmarks made famous by literature are just as interesting as those made famous by history.  Often they're made famous by both anyway.  This is why I felt the gentleman who, during our tour, challenged the veracity of the relics of the Magi (which are held by the Cologne Cathedral) was completely and utterly missing the point - as well as being a bit of an asshole.
-- I need to do a little bit of a recruiting board update, if only because one of the events of my vacation was Gary Wunderlich's highly disappointing decommitment.  Don't know what appeal an Ole Miss diploma holds when you've got an offer to get a Virginia one, but fandom came into play here, I think.  The changes:

- Moved K Gary Wunderlich from orange to maroon.

- Removed RB Madre London from yellow.

- Removed RB Joe Mixon from red.

I suspect there will be new offers going out as the coaches have a chance to see some players during their senior seasons.

And speaking of which, it's time for that feature to get a start as well.  Unless some people commit quickly, this is gonna be a very short feature this year; there are only nine players to follow.  Four were in action this weekend, two in preseason games.  Caanan Brown and Evan Butts were those.  Following the proper format for the other two....

Peachtree Ridge 23, Walton 17 - Jordan Ellis had a very good start, scoring what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown and grinding out 136 yards.  Ellis flashed a little pass-catching ability too.

Western Alamance 37, Cummings 0 (Will Richardson)

Next week, everyone but Andrew Brown and Oscar Smith are in action.

We visited the Louvre.  You have to visit the Louvre.  It's way cheaper than you'd think, for one thing.  About $15 to look at as many Virgin-Mary-with-Child's as you can cram into your eyeballs, and for the privilege of getting elbowed in the gut by little Chinese ladies for the right to stand as close to the Mona Lisa as they'll let you.  It's a little hilarious how much morbid shit these Renaissance artists churned out, too.  It's like there was this competition to see who could depict St. Sebastian with the most arrows sticking out of his ribs.  I've never been confused with an art connisseur, but I know what I like.


CMUHoo said...

I think you're a little off on the basketball schedule. Navy and maybe JMU or Hampton could be sub-250 games, but the rest of the mid-major opponents are solid programs. Norfolk State and Northern Iowas could wind up being positives for our RPI, even if they don't look that impressive in the name department. This is the kind of schedule that gets you into the RPI top 25 with a solid year IMO.

Anonymous said...

Well, you COULD still have dinner with Marilyn Monroe, but you'd probably lose your appetite.