Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the Hopkins game; also, spring practice

So a couple notes from the ongoing spring practices that necessitated some changes to the depth chart:

- Chris Cook will in fact return to corner. The depth at each position remains the same, however, as Rodney McLeod moves to safety. Which is where I kept thinking he was in the first place, so that's helpful.

- Mark Ambrose is effectively retired from football with recurring shoulder troubles, thus freeing up a football scholarship. More in a bit.

- John-Kevin Dolce is more a nose tackle than a linebacker these days. This gives us some needed depth up front. Nose tackle is really what makes the 3-4 go, and tired nose tackles don't draw double teams. This means plenty of rotation, and just three guys at that position probably wasn't going to cut it. Four is a number I like better.

Now: Ambrose. Moving him off the depth chart means you can now count up the names and come up with a total of 89 scholarships promised. 88 if Kyle Long doesn't make it in the fall. The limit, as you know, is 85. How we'll reconcile this I don't know but a hint to the answer can probably be found in the news that Ambrose's career is over. I have, of course, absolutely no knowledge of the actual severity of the injury. The coaches say he can't play any more, and absent other evidence you have to believe them.

But this is pretty similar to what happened with Alabama last year. They had too many scholarships promised out, and lo and behold three or four guys had recurring medical issues and were forced to give up football. All reserves, of course, who barely saw the field. A few recruits didn't qualify. I think it's fair to at least ask a couple questions - rhetorical, because I have no press pass, but questions anyway:

- If Ambrose were a starter, an all-ACC performer even, would his shoulder problems be severe enough to warrant giving up football?
- If we had 83 scholarships promised out instead of 90, would his shoulder problems be severe enough to warrant giving up football?

I suppose you have to assume the coaches know what they're doing. But going all-out with the '09 class and taking so many LOIs seems like playing with fire. Much was made of UNC's recruiting class which was well over the limit of 25, but what's the difference between signing over the single-class limit and signing over the overall limit? There may of course be a perfectly innocuous explanation, like, the coaches saw this shoulder issue coming a mile away and anticipated that once they put on pads, Ambrose wouldn't be able to play. Still, there are 88 or 89 healthy and presumably academically qualified players on that chart. Some of them won't be there on September 1 against W&M. I'd hate to see us have to resort to skeezy tactics to make it fit.

OK! Now that I've got you pissed off at either me or the football program, let's talk lacrosse, and specifically, the win over Hopkins that was first an awesome blowout then a complete abomination then awesome again. My observations:

- I'm pretty amateur at breaking down lacrosse. Very amateur, actually. The number of lacrosse games I've seen on TV can be counted on my hands. So when I can see the gaping holes in the JHU defense and see what's coming before it happens - which usually involved one of our attackmen sliding into the open spot untouched and slamming home a perfect pass - that's when you know shitty defense is being played. Debbie Downer that I am, I liked our offensive effort but I'm pretty sure a middle school Quiz Bowl team could have donned the pads and potted a couple goals against the criminal negligence masquerading as defense that Hopkins was playing in the first quarter. I hope none of our rivals were watching that (they were though) because the clear message regarding how to stop our offense is PLAY ZONE.

- With a name like Steele Stanwick, your life is pretty well cut out for you before you even start. Hotshot lacrosse player at a prestigious East Coast school - check (and if he doesn't live up to the potential he's displayed so far, it'll be the greatest waste of a terrific name since Majestic Mapp landed on his knee funny.) Next up is law school at Georgetown and a feverish, cutthroat race to make partner at a DC or New York firm. Either that or writing paperback courtroom/murder dramas (Firm Fatale by Steele Stanwick), but either way, bigshot lawyers in fancy suits and BMWs are going to be involved. And by the way, I'm still trying to figure out what rathole his second goal (team's sixth) wormed through before it found the back of the net. Guy's a deadeye shot, too.

- OMG win faceoffs plz k thx!!! Gaudet did a very good job at this, and frankly if he had only won half, we'd have lost. I think it was Benincasa getting utterly destroyed on that faceoff at the end of the third quarter in which a Hopkins goal ensued approximately three seconds thereafter. Gaudet's going to have to continue his faceoff excellence all season because I don't know if our defense is consistently good enough to withstand a lot of extra possessions for the opposition.

- For a team whose style is pursuing and attacking the ball on defense (I know this because the announcers mentioned it at least eight thousand times, usually in the context of pointing out us getting burned by it) we sure don't do a lot of it when the ball is loose. I need to go back and look at the recording again to find out who that was ambling down the field with the ball like right next to him screaming "PICK ME UP!" and not paying attention to it. As Hopkins fell behind, they became the more desperate team on ground balls and played like it. I want to see a better sense of urgency next time out.

- Maryland is next, on Saturday and on ESPN2. Not the UVA Football Channel. The Deuce. How cool is it that ACC lacrosse is on ESPN2? I wish I was a UVA lacrosse player so it would be legal for me to hit a Twerp with a stick on national TV.


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure this has something do with some "suggestions" made by the folks running the athletic department to Groh about things he needed to do to keep his job. From Will Hall being an early enrollee (did that ever happen before?) to this "over-signing" situation, perhaps UVA football is just starting to do what others are doing. We shall see if it leads to any success.

On another note, over the past couple of years, UVA has been consistently bringing a slightly above-average class (Top 40 or so) and then bringing in a mediocre one to follow. Do you have any explanation for why that occurred? Do you see the Class of 2010 bucking that trend? If we have little scholarships to hand out, we may be heading down that same road as before.

Brendan said...

Size has a little something to do with it. The '08 and '04 classes were relatively speaking kinda small. When you know you can't top out at 25, you cast your net a little smaller and you don't get as many big fish. '06 is an exception though - big class, small stars.

As for the '10 class, I do like our chances at breaking the pattern. If Kevin Parks were taller he'd be in the Rivals 250 and all those other scouting rankings, right now. The next three commits could be Ty Linton, Conner Davis, and Ed Reynolds - no slouches, any of 'em. And the Philip Sims recruitment is gonna take all year, but we'll be there til the end. This class will be smaller, but solid, very solid, with Sims as a possible headliner.