Monday, August 3, 2015

off the deep end

First, it's time to put on your voting hats.  UVA finished its most successful season ever, with six ACC titles (most in the league) and three national titles (also far most in the league) and the Capital One Cup in men's sports.  Virginia athletes competed in the U.S. Open, the FIFA Women's World Cup, the FINA world championships.  They brought home individual national championships and individual ACC championships to go along with the team ones.  They rewrote the school record book.  They won trophies for being the top athlete in the country, the top scholar in the conference, the top tournament performer, there were multiple ACC Freshmen of the Year, there were more all-Americans than you can count on your hands.

Now all you have to do is decide the Cavalier of the Year.  It's the strongest field I can think of.  You get one vote.  Use it wisely.  To help you with that, here's the list of candidates, with links to their nomination profiles:

Eric Bird
Quin Blanding
Morgan Brian
Malcolm Brogdon
Denny McCarthy
Josh Sborz
Ryan Shane
Leah Smith
Nick Sulzer
Courtney Swan
Tara Vittese
Jordan Young

Voting lasts for two weeks.  Enjoy.


Back to the music.  It's August, and that means football preseason.  In the past that's meant full-blown ACC previews, but this year I'm backing off.  Much of that work will still be done behind the scenes so I can still put out an abbreviated preview.  August will still be pretty much football preview month, though, just, differently.

Today we're gonna start with the roster turnover.  Not the graduating seniors or the incoming freshmen - we're talking attrition and transfers.  And then I'll digress into a bit of a recruiting diatribe because it's such an easy target.

Anyway.  Best I can tell, the list of non-senior losses looks like this:

Greyson Lambert
David Watford
Eli Harold
Max Valles
Darius Lee
George Adeosun
Mario Nixon
Dominique Terrell
Jamil Kamara
Michael Biesemier
Jordan Jackson
Caanan Brown

The last three - all front-seven defensive players - would've been redshirt freshmen and simply don't appear on the roster; there is no Googlable article on their departure nor any mention on the official site.  Would any have played a major role this year?  Rather unlikely.  It's basically three lost lottery tickets and a year each of developmental depth.

That's a ton of attrition, though.  13 players, two of which left early for the league.  Also two quarterbacks, which is not helpful.  Two names that were once-promising receiver talent and never lived up to the hype.  A couple medical scholarships.  It's a combination of factors, but successful programs do not see that much attrition.  If there's a coaching transition this winter, UVA could see that kind of attrition again.

To the staff's credit, though, they were very, very active on the transfer market, plugging quite a few holes with veterans.  Again, this is not that healthy.  Football is not basketball; it's very, very rare to find an Anthony Gill on the transfer market.  Successful programs generally don't see that much in-and-out in from transfers.  It's mostly guys who didn't pan out at their first choices.  Nevertheless, under the circumstances it's remarkable work by the staff.  Just about everyone should play a visible role, and a very important one.  UVA's free-agent acquisitions, alphabetically:

-- QB Connor Brewer.  Really intriguing pickup here.  And badly needed, too, after losing Greyson Lambert.  Brewer was a highly-coveted four-star recruit who originally picked Texas.  Big-time stuff.  After one redshirt year, his OC left and the Longhorns recruited over him, and he used a year of eligibility to transfer close to home to Arizona.  It was kind of a poor choice, career-wise - Brewer isn't a runner, but he transferred right into the Rich Rodriguez spread, where he naturally spent two years on the bench.  Having graduated from Arizona, he's eligible to play right now with two seasons left on his clock.  UVA was looking at having three quarterbacks and Matt Johns being the only one with any experience.  Johns enters camp as the starter, and Brewer really doesn't have any game experience to speak of either, but at the very worst he can enter a three-way competition for the backup job.  That itself is pretty crucial.

-- TE Charlie Hopkins.  Hopkins graduated from Stanford and is eligible right away for one season.  Tight end was looking just as desperate as quarterback, and Hopkins, though lightly-used as a receiver, does have a fair amount of game time under his belt.  The TE situation was as follows: one little-used converted DE, one never-used converted QB, and three freshmen (one redshirt.)  Hopkins should step right in and be a heavy contributor.

-- RB Albert Reid.  Thanks to an injury waiver and a degree in hand from Maryland, Reid is immediately eligible as well for two seasons.  Taquan Mizzell is the heir apparent at RB, but he still has a metric ton to prove, and other than him there's, again, precious little experience.  Reid has a solid resume from his time in College Park and really upgrades the competition.

-- WR T.J. Thorpe.  A really intriguing player.  Wide receiver really wasn't in need of much of a boost (that changed somewhat with Doni Dowling likely out for a while, but Thorpe was brought in before that happened) but even so, Thorpe has exciting possibilities.  He's instantly the fastest guy on the team; his lightning-quick feet set kick return records as a freshman at North Carolina, but his career has been hampered by injury and he never really got far off the ground as a regular WR.  This is definitely a boom-or-bust acquisition.  It's not hard to believe Thorpe could go for 1,000 yards and just light up ACC defenses.  He has that potential.  He could also break his foot again or something.  It'd be a huge shame, but at least, if that happens, UVA has the depth to absorb the loss.  If one of these other guys turns out to be a dud, the position can't really handle the disappointment.  With Thorpe, there's nothing but upside.

Those depth chart issues are the source of a lot of London angst.  UVA is overloaded in some places and badly undermanned in others.  His backers like to argue it's just a lot of bad luck.  The incoming 2016 recruiting class says otherwise.  A quick count of the 20 players so far:

-- 1 quarterback.  Fine.  Take one every year, I'll never complain.
-- 1 running back.  Also fine, as none graduate this year.
-- 0 fullbacks.  Not helpful for a coaching staff claiming to want to establish a power running game.
-- 2 tight ends.  Fine.  Two graduate this year, the position will at least have bodies if not much experience.
-- 3 OL.  It was four, but one dude was basically placeholding in case he didn't get other offers.  Replace him and I'm OK with the numbers.  They'll need four more again next year, and four the year after that, and maybe the year after that too, but chances are a non-crazy coaching staff will be making those decisions.
-- 0 defensive tackles.  Unhelpful.
-- 1 defensive end.
-- 1 linebacker.  Normally not enough of either, but the staff went apeshit last year, so piling up at these positions would be wasteful.  They need to spread out the huge glob they created, though.

This amount of players does not remotely fill out a team.  Good thing, then, that the staff has chosen to pile on eleven WR/DB types!

There's a bit of a necessity at safety.  Cornerback technically needs two starters but in real life needs three, so you can pile up a bit there.  A bit.  Then again I also count six players likely slated for wide receiver.  At least you can't say these guys are afraid of competition.

When Tom O'Brien was brought in, word was that he immediately convinced Mike London the O-line needed more bodies, and recruited some.  When he left, it was whispered he ended up not doing much.  I wonder if the first impression wasn't correct and maybe he was providing some adult supervision after all.  The 20-man recruiting class currently has 11 WR/DBs and 9 of everything else.  That is completely insane.  I can't tell whether London's philosophy is to fill the team with athletes or just if he sees a shiny object at a camp and can't help but offer.  Either way, what he's doing is bizarre.

There'll probably be a decommitment or two.  It's damn near inevitable.  That means I'm probably overreacting and the final result will be rather less crazy.  Maybe.  The real point is - as much as I like the transfers we've brought in, London is making damn good and sure we'll need plenty more in the future.


Anonymous said...

I watched the clip on va sportstv on TJ - seems like a really good kid. lots of charisma. i hope he can come in a really be a player for us. we need it.

Anonymous said...

As always, the COY lineup is eye-opening. Somehow every year I'm once again surprised at just how outstanding this lineup is from top to bottom.

Thanks for doing this feature once again. It's my favorite FOV thing all year.