Tuesday, March 11, 2014

2015 big-picture recruiting

One of these days, a 2015 recruiting board is going to hit the streets.  Cross my heart for real.  I'm hoping you've been distracted by basketball.  For now, we need to take the annual look at the likely positional makeup of the class.

First, we establish the actual size.  The answer: big.  The senior class now sits at either 20 or 21 by my count (I'm not totally sure if Chris Brathwaite got his scholarship back, but I'm assuming he has unless I ever read otherwise.)  At that number, you're taking 25 in the class if you can, that's all there is to it - unless you take more by counting some early enrollees toward 2014.  This is a limited-only-by-imagination class, essentially.

This is actually bad news if you buy into the likelihood that this will be a transition class between coaches.  For purposes of today, we'll assume it won't be, since obviously the coaching staff is not going to recruit with that in mind.  But hold no illusions about the obstacles we have to overcome: 2-10 will have poisoned the well for a lot of recruits, who simply won't bother returning any phone calls with a 434 area code.  Most of the key assistants are in the second year of a two-year contract.  London's seat is the hottest in the ACC, quite possibly the country. This is the sort of thing Li'l Shane Beamer knows by heart and will remind our recruits of approximately once every four seconds.

Before embarking, some depth chart notes.  I updated it for spring, by the way.  Not a whole lot of position changes; those are hereby detailed:

-- Kwontie Moore from LB to DE.
-- Sean Karl from OT to OG.
-- Eric Tetlow from OG to C.
-- Ross Burbank from C to OG.
-- Wil Wahee from CB to S.

For the record, the official roster lists just five OTs.  Sweet.  And that's with putting Jay Whitmire back at the position where the coaches wanted him all along, which is tackle.  Karl's move to guard is a byproduct of his being bypassed, but the center moves are sending a more pointed message: Ross Burbank probably ran out of chances to win the job, and drops into the shuffle at OG.  Hopes are now apparently pinned on Eric Tetlow, who nosed his way into the depth chart last year as a freshman.

Kwontie Moore's move is the other major thing here; this is probably a combination of two things.  The first is the admittal that he wasn't going to crack the lineup at linebacker unless he wanted to wait til he was a senior, and even then maybe not.  That's as much because of Henry Coley as anything.  Two, DE certainly does need some shoring up.  Far too many unknowns there; not having any real known quantities except for Eli Harold, you might as well add another unknown just to boost your odds of finding a workable combo.

Jake McGee is still listed as a TE here, just for giggles if nothing else.  His roster position is "TE/WR" and he's been doing some more actual WR work than nose-to-the-ground TE work, so we'll see if I change my mind later.

The following names are gone from the list (not including graduated seniors):

-- Adrian Gamble
-- E.J. Scott
-- Pablo Alvarez
-- Matt Fortin
-- Kyrrel Latimer

Scott will spend a graduate year at Wake Forest.  Latimer sort of faded away as early as last year - he was still on the roster, but in sort of a ghost capacity.  Gamble is transferring to parts unknown as of now.  Alvarez has been extraordinarily injury-prone and there was probably a fair amount of mutuality in not bringing him back for a fifth year.  Fortin is going to chase his dream as a Navy SEAL.  (Long-snapping wasn't exciting enough?)

This leaves 88 names on the roster, so, attrition of a minimum of three more is to be expected.

Now, on with the show.


I won't be surprised if the coaches take one.  I won't be surprised if they don't.  You should probably take one each year, but things don't work out in that highly idealized fashion, particularly if you've spent the last couple years fumblefucking the position.  UVA will have five on the roster this year, and, assuming no attrition (quite a stretch, honestly) they'll have five on the roster next year, too.  So I'd look for either one or none in the 2015 class, and I don't think either answer is wrong.  If we take one, it means either we got one the coaches are really high on - think Nick Johns - or they know of some impending attrition.  Or both.  If we don't get one, I don't mind going into next year with this same group of five.


With two good ones graduating this year, it leaves four on the roster for 2015 (not including Daniel Hamm), and that's if LaChaston Smith never makes the move to linebacker.  Two backs in the 2015 class would be a very sound investment.


This position got slammed with attrition during the offseason; nevertheless, it remains fairly deep.  Three seniors will graduate - Gooch, Jennings, and Terrell - leaving behind seven.  I don't think it's especially nuts to carry 10 on the roster, and you know how Mike London is about generic athlete types.  Let's say anywhere from 3-5 as a possibility.  I'd prefer three or four, as the junior class consists of just one player (Caanan Severin) and you risk glutting up the position again if you go all the way to five.


We lose Zach Swanson, and if truth be told, Rob Burns and Mario Nixon aren't likely to be big-timers at the position.  Tight end recruiting is one of the positions most susceptible to offensive philosophy - no matter who you are you need linemen and quarterbacks and so on, but recruiting a tight end is a choice you make, one that's often sacrificed in favor of prospects elsewhere that you want to close on or lose.  Still, there's a need here, and some viable targets, too (Chris Clark would be the dream candidate) and it's a safe bet we'll take at least one, maybe two.


You know how I am about this.  We have a grand total of 12 scholarship players lined up for 2015's roster.  That's before attrition.  So we could take ten linemen and I wouldn't bat an eye.  Well, I would out of sheer surprise, but certainly not in protest.  Five OLs usually constitute a big class - and if we took five I'd still consider the position undermanned.

Need-wise, the barest of bare-bones minimums here should be four.  That's still not enough, but when someone is starving - I mean actually starving - you don't feed them a big steak dinner.  I'd like to take seven, on account of thinking 19 linemen (again - you need a hedge against attrition) is about right, but that would cause problems down the road.  Namely, needing huge classes again later on.  I'll settle for five in the class - the undermanning of the depth chart just isn't going to be fixed in one year.  It's going to be two or three before we have this thing back up to snuff, and that's if we don't neglect the recruiting again.  Call the target 4-6.


In only losing one player after 2014, this will be a fairly well-stocked position if it's recruited correctly.  Signing at least one is a must, because five DTs doesn't do the job; I'd rather see two and wouldn't exactly mind three.


Moving Kwontie Moore to DE puts us at 10, which is a big number, but it solves nothing long term because that junior class is five large.  Getting three (maybe four depending on what you call J.J. Jackson) in the 2014 class was smart, even if they're mostly projects - we needed numbers.  We need them again in 2015 because that junior class will eventually leave and we'll be up on the rocks unless we can get two or three more DEs.  Three would give us the appearance of having just way too damn many in 2015, but that would serve to smooth out the numbers a little, and the best part is they could be redshirted.  I'd say 2-3 is the target, but Jon Tenuta's philosophy might muddy up the numbers a little, particularly in the distinction between DE and LB, and we're probably looking at also continuing to recruit another tweener or two.


No complaints about the numbers here; even with four in the senior class, I wouldn't complain if they were replaced with three signees - maybe even two, if one was really good.  Again, the tweener factor complicates the numbers a bit.  This class does have to include, however, at least one prototype middle linebacker, as Henry Coley is graduating and the only other one listed is Micah Kiser.  I'd say a class of 2-4 would be in range, with three as the probable sweet spot.


Honestly, the need here in terms of numbers is really slim, which is why I'm combining CB and S into one.  Even with four graduating seniors, we could honestly get away with sitting tight right where we are, which is to say, one commitment in the form of Juan Thornhill.  I have him listed as a safety, which gives us seven and the luxury of being tremendously picky with any more safety candidates.  One cornerback is all I'd bother taking as well.

What I absolutely wouldn't do is replace all four graduating seniors.  Some of those are scholarships that need to be reallocated, stat.  OL or DT would be a good start.  OL as well, and possibly OL and even OL too.  London's been doing this long enough that it seems safe to declare his philosophy as one of building a football team on athletes that you can try and turn into football players, and most of those generic athletes end up as defensive backs, so if we took four I'd sigh and be totally unsurprised; if we took five I'd complain loudly and still be totally unsurprised.  One more DB besides Thornhill is all I want, but in the business of predicting, 3-4 total seems like a more likely bet.


We offered two last year - neither of which took the bait - and will probably try again.  One kicker/punter type is the target, but there's no point offering a scholarship to just any kicker, so it'll probably be another this-guy-or-bust year.

Here's the sum total, then:

QB: 0-1
RB: 2
WR: 3-4
TE: 1-2
OL: 4-6
DT: 2-3
DE: 2-3
LB: 2-3
DB: 3-4
K: 0-1

That's a range of 19-29.  19 won't suffice to fill up the roster, so if this wasn't a hot-seat year I'd say lean hard to the upper end of all those ranges.  This is a combination of a prediction and a wish list; a true wish list would say 5-6 OLs and 2-3 DBs while a true prediction would say more like 1-2 DTs.  Recruiting is a really fudgy science and I'm allowed to do that. It's even fudgier when you throw in the potential transition; you never know how the recruit pool will react.  Al Groh actually managed to recruit a pretty balanced 2010 class before he was fired, but an extremely small one.


It was a foregone conclusion, but Tony Bennett is the ACC COTY.  As no coach in ACC history has ever improved his team's ACC record in each of his first five seasons - and yes, that includes his first one, as Tony went 5-11 to follow up Dave Leitao's 4-12 - it's fitting timing for the award.

The voting went like so:

ACSMA 2013-14 Coach of the Year Voting
Tony Bennett, Virginia (68)
Roy Williams, North Carolina (6)
Jamie Dixon, Pitt (1)
Brad Brownell, Clemson (1)
Jim Larrañaga, Miami (1)

That Roy Williams got six votes doesn't surprise one bit - it just tells us that there are six voters, certainly all within the borders of North Carolina, that aren't aware the conference extends beyond said borders.  We knew that.  I'm just surprised it wasn't more.  Don't take this as me suggesting Williams is the least bit deserving, of course.

Brad Brownell is not a completely batshit selection.  Certainly much less so than Roy.  This same media poll picked Clemson 14th in the conference, and they finished 6th - that tends to earn some worthy COY consideration most years.  Jim Larranaga (when, by the way, did he start using that ñ?) is a bizarre decision.  I guess finishing 10th when you were picked 12th is overachieving?  As Jamie Oakes pointed out, though, Miami provided Virginia Tech its only two conference wins.  That's much closer to grounds for firing than Best Coach In The Whole Damn Conference.

The real space-cadet pick, though, is Dixon.  Who the hell voted for Jamie Dixon?  Pittsburgh was supposed to be one of the league's pacesetters.  Instead they'll be watching Selection Sunday and hoping Wisconsin-Green Bay doesn't steal their bid.  (Hey, all I'm sayin' is, one school beat UVA, and one didn't.)

I tried to find Caulton Tudor's ballot for all these awards, just so we could all point and laugh at the homer, but have been unsuccessful.  However, I did find this gem from 2011:
With today’s announcement that no one from the regular-season champs was voted first-team all-conference, the Tar Heels were clearly low-balled by voters.  Never before has an outright regular-season ACC champ failed to have a player on the first unit.  This season’s first-team members — Duke’s Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, Maryland’s Jordan Williams, Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney and Boston College’s Reggie Jackson — had big seasons.  But can anyone seriously think the championship team didn’t deserve at least one first-team berth?

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/accnow/tudors-take-tar-heels-robbed-in-all-acc-voting#storylink=cpy

Emphasis mine.  Do you think Tudor voted for any Hoos this year on the first team?  Yeah, me neither.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/accnow/tudors-take-tar-heels-robbed-in-all-acc-voting#storylink=cpy


Anonymous said...

Here is Caulton Tudor's ACC ballot.

Deane said...

Andrew Carter is another future homer if he gets the opportunity to vote:

"But no coach has done more with less than Williams, who guided UNC’s from the depths to 12 consecutive victories and, possibly, 2nd place in the league. And he did amid tumultuous circumstances."


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/06/3680118/acc-again-fighting-for-respect.html#storylink=cpy

Brendan said...

Wow. Ol' Caulton not only put Malcolm on the first team, but put C.J. Fair about down where he belongs - unlike most of the rest of the media. Credit where credit is due on that one.

I wouldn't call it a mystery how UVA managed to hold T.J. Warren to four points, though. Most people wouldn't.

LT said...

"Never before has an outright regular-season ACC champ failed to have a player on the first unit."

Get used to it, Tudor. When you expand to 15 teams, history goes out the window, and you start seeing a lot more "never-befores". The more teams, the higher the odds that the 5 best players are not on the regular season champs. (Despite the fact that some voters "force" the "best player on the best team" onto their first-team ballot, regardless of individual achievement.)

And frankly, making the *second* team in the new ACC is equivalent to making the *first* team in the 70's and 80's. Back then, the top ~13% of starters made the first team; today the top ~13% of starters are spread over the first *plus second* teams. So if you want to make a meaningful historical comparison, you need to make that adjustment.

Anonymous said...

You forgot London's favorite position: ATH. I'm thinking he'll recruit 10-12. You can never have too many.

Anonymous said...

The link for Tudor's ballot says it is written by Adam Gold.