Sunday, September 22, 2013

hamm it up

Everybody loves a good Cinderella story.  And I love watching dominant running backs.  That makes Daniel Hamm the obvious topic du jour.

If you'd ever heard of Hamm, you are a teammate, a relation, or lying.  His existence flew under every radar that's tuned on Charlottesville.  He doesn't have an entry in most recruiting databases and he never received any scholarship offers to speak of, not in football.  He showed up on the field and people probably tried to remember if Khalek Shepherd wore #22 or some other number, until his name was announced.  Now his name is on all the headlines.

You have to admit, that's pretty cool.  It might be for just this one week, and might've only been VMI, but the entry in the record book is just as permanent as any other.  And it made something interesting out of an uninteresting game.

Also, it leaves some questions, or at least, one big one.  Namely, does this mean we have a new running back?  Well, the quality of competition looms large over everything positive we can say about Hamm's future.  Except for the first couple drives, VMI had no chance against the blocking, and Hamm always had a hole to run through.  When he broke a tackle, it always came with the question as to whether a player on a better team would've brought him down; when he ran past someone, you always wondered if another team's players would've been faster.  There's no way UVA's running game will generate 357 yards again this year.

Even so, a couple things look to be really in Hamm's favor here.  First and probably foremost, it's got to be really bad news for Kye Morgan, hasn't it?  That Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell are both hurt, and the next guy out is a true freshman walk-on, instead of Morgan who redshirted last season - that's a surprise.  Morgan's got more than three-and-a-half seasons left in his career, so it's not like you just write him off, but what didn't he show last year?

As for Hamm himself, some of those runs - particularly, I thought, his second TD run - were nice runs regardless of opponent.  He looked strong in his running.  Some of the holes he hit weren't very big, and the truth is, a lot of guys might have considered them too small and stepped around them, looking for a home run elsewhere.  And against most teams, that's how you run for two yards.  Hamm was content to take the five-to-seven and come back and do it again.  There's only one Barry Sanders, so give me the north-south, workhorse stuff all day long.  I loved watching a guy who would - oh, fuck it, Hammer the defense - carry after carry.

Whether Hamm has or will unseat Shepherd or Mizzell this season, nobody can say except those who aren't telling.  Whether that performance will translate to success against actual opponents, nobody can say at all.  But I'm looking forward to finding out.

Other stuff in short:

-- That was the good story of the offense.  The bad story: the passing game.  The numbers are good but the eye test was definitely not.  So many of those yards were YAC, and not like with Mike Rocco where the YAC was often the result of a very well-timed ball.  Watford threw a swing pass behind Kevin Parks and Parks was still able to pick up a ton of yardage; no ACC team will let that happen.

Watford's interceptions were the result of locking in on a receiver to absurd extremes.  Especially the first.  Some blame goes to Miles Gooch for running his route and then stopping, but he was so thoroughly covered that Watford had no business throwing that thing at all.  Watford had some nice throws, too - the one to Tim Smith for a touchdown was gorgeous.  Both his touchdown throws, actually, were excellent.  Even then, he was watching nobody but Smith all the way.  Until he learns to go through his second read he's not going to be a productive QB.

It would help if his receivers gave him a little assistance.  Gooch has been mentioned; Dominique Terrell was also guilty at least once.  Watford was scrambling and Terrell ran to a point on the field and simply stopped moving.  I can't believe this only happened the two times I noticed it.  Marques Hagans has got to impress on these guys that the route doesn't stop where the little arrow ends up.  Of all former quarterbacks - a guy who kept a ton of plays alive with his feet - he ought to know this best.

-- I love the defense, though.  When the announcers talked about how VMI had us "on the ropes" in the first quarter, well, OK, the offense didn't produce, but the VMI offense gained 15 yards the whole quarter.  I mean, come on.  The defense just crushed the fightin' Vimmies.  No contest.  If the offense had played as good a game as the defense it would've been 105-0.  I'm not going back through the annals to find out the last time UVA allowed so few yards (79) but the notes tell us that they allowed 84 to Akron in 2004.  So it goes back further than that.  I would go so far as to say that even with as bad as VMI is, the defense outperformed expectations.

Time for a prediction review:

-- Mizzell and Shepherd combine for at least five more carries than Parks.  The point here was that Parks was going to get a nice light day, maybe not show up in the second half.  I could null it out since nobody knew about their injuries, but I'm giving it to myself, actually, because Hamm by himself had four more carries and then the fourth quarter was turned over to the backups.

-- Watford averages 10 yards per attempt, enough to double his seasonal passing yards if allowed to throw 28 times.  He was at 8.2, which isn't enough for this.

-- At least five new redshirts are burned, two on the O-line.  The grand total is seven: Hamm is one, along with LaChaston Smith, Eric Tetlow, Sadiq Olanrewaju, Eric Smith, Max Valles, and Donte Wilkins.  Most are defensible; LaChaston Smith is the one I have to question.  That hurdle was cool, but couldn't Morgan have just gotten those carries?  Five deep is plenty.  It's doubly screwy because of the very strong possibility that Smith might move to a whole new position eventually.

The rest are fine.  I actually saw someone complaining that Hamm's redshirt had been burned.  Lordy.  You wouldn't have known he was even remotely good if you'd gotten your way.  Besides, Hamm is a walk-on; it's exceedingly wrong to essentially tell a walk-on "for the good of the team we're going to ask you to pay your very expensive way for a fifth year."  The offensive linemen almost had to play; the first-stringers can't take every snap of the season.  And we'll almost certainly see more of Wilkins, too.

-- Defensive tackles account for at least two sacks.  No, but they still dominated.

-- So does Eli Harold.  No, but Trent Corney did, probably against VMI's second-string tackle, although I didn't look to see.

-- Urban bats down at least two passes.  There was actually a lot of very good pressure on Eric Kordenbrock, but VMI did a nice job of keeping his release time short.

I only get two of six, which adds up to 6-for-16 on the year.  Full game prediction, with a win against the spread and a gimme on the straight-up, makes me 2-1 and 2-1 ATS.

We'll cover the rest of the ACC as part of tomorrow's weekend review.

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