Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the replacements: Mike London

This is the first in a more or less weekly series that will go more in-depth and, because this is my soapbox, offer up my opinion on some of the more common names tossed around in the speculation circulating around Al Groh's job.

I had some initial misgivings, because this sort of feels like throwing dirt on the grave before the patient is even dead. It seems disrespectful. But....this is what's going on these days. Might as well get with the program.

So, every Wednesday-ish for a while, until such time as it stops being useful to do so, I'll pick one name and yak about what I think. I won't be getting to every name on last week's Which Coaches post, nor will I limit myself to the names on that list. We're starting off with the most obvious choice.

Mike London

Main qualification: Former UVA defensive coordinator, D-line coach

Coaching resume:

1988-1989: Richmond - OLB
1990-1993: William & Mary - DL
1994-1996: Richmond - OLB, recruiting coordinator
1997-2000: Boston College - DL
2001-2004: UVA - DL, recruiting ('02-'04)
2005: Houston Texans - DL
2006-2007: UVA - DC, DL
2008-present: Richmond Spiders - HC

You know about London. If you're a UVA fan and you have ever set foot in this vast Internet wilderness, you've heard London's name mentioned in connection with the head coaching job. Some think it just has to be London. Some assume it's going to be and that's that. Nearly everybody assumes he'll be on the short list, and most would be pretty happy with the hire.

London definitely has a lot going for him. Most notable is his history at UVA. London's defenses performed pretty darn well; when he took over the defense in 2006, UVA went from 61st in the country in yards allowed per game to 17th, shaving off nearly 100 yards in the process. As recruiting coordinator, his first class was the highest-ranked we've ever had: 12th in the country in 2002, when commitments from Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham electrified the faithful.

And if that wasn't enough, his first year as a head coach was as big a success as it could have been as Richmond won their first I-AA national championship under his tutelage. London is youngish for a head coach at 48 and still has quite a career ahead of him. All in all, it's a very, very solid resumé. Just the sort you look for when hiring a coach you hope will be around a long time.

So why have I gone on record saying I'd rather pass?

One thing you can't escape when talking about London is that somebody will always mention that London "knows what it takes to win at UVA." Presumably this is because he's coached here. Well, more than presumably. Obviously. This is a sentiment that annoys me to no end. London is not an alum and has never coached here except under Al Groh, the guy we are supposed to be running out of town. Any special insider knowledge London has about winning at UVA, he learned from Al Groh. So it stands to reason that whatever London has going for him in this regard, Al does too.

Which is why I call shenanigans. There is no How To Win At UVA handbook inside London's head. London ought to be judged on his qualifications, not this myth that he's got special insider knowledge.

And his qualifications are good, but not immaculate. For one, London has never coached at the I-A level outside of Virginia except for that stint at BC. This is a double whammy in my book, because ideally I'd like to hire someone with experience outside the program. We need a shake-up, and London feels a little too much like an extension of the Groh era instead of a fresh perspective. The second part of the whammy is all that I-AA experience. This is not as big a dealbreaker but the general level of competition is worlds apart.

London should be on the interview list. That's a gimme. A guy who's got ties to the state and has the success as he's had, you have to consider. But I'd like to think our coaching search would have a radius of more than 70 miles, and that in that larger radius there would be someone with more impressive credentials and more experience winning at the I-A level. If London comes in and just blows away the interview, hey, rock out. But I think the brass should be going in looking to be convinced that 1) London offers enough of a contrast to the previous regime and 2) two years as a coordinator and two years as a I-AA head coach outweighs the more extensive list of credentials that the other interviewees likely (and hopefully) will have.

Bottom line, or How I'd Feel If He Were Hired: Generally hopeful and optimistic, but unless a really, truly extensive search turned up London as the actual best candidate that would consider us, a little disappointed in the "easy" hire.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ACC roundtable #4

This week we're hosted by Boston College blog extraordinaire BC Interruption, who have earned kudos for taking the premise of one of the most annoying shows on ESPN and turning it into something completely not-obnoxious. Also it is a sneaky way for both of them to have to do half the work. Well played.

Their questions, my answers. Begin.

Now that most ACC teams’ non-conference schedules are winding down and we are starting league play, it’s time to take the vitals of the ACC’s play in non-conference action. Here is how the ACC fared against the rest of college football through 4 weeks (based on my back-of-the-envelope math):

BCS Conferences

vs. Big East 2-2 (.500)
vs. Pac 10 1-1 (.500)
vs. Big XII 1-2 (.333)
vs. SEC 0-2 (.000)

The Rest

vs. I-A Indep. 1-0 (1.000)
vs. MAC 1-0 (1.000)
vs. Conference USA 2-1 (.666)
vs. Sun Belt 1-1 (.500)
vs. Mountain West 1-2 (.333)

vs. FCS 9-2 (.818)

Overall 19-13 (.594)

Comment on your team’s (if applicable, sorry Miami) and the conference’s non-conference performance through 4 weeks. As a conference, what head-to-head record against another conference stands out to you most?

Second question first. The one that stands out to me is the one that's missing - ACC vs. Big Ten: 0-0. There's only one ACC-Big Ten game this year - ours against Indiana - and it hasn't been played yet.

I dunno, maybe it's just me - my fanhood lands me in both conferences and I constantly find myself defending the Big Ten to ACC fans and vice versa. It seems weird though. The conferences already have a pretty robust basketball relationship, they pride themselves on the academic quality of their schools, and they have an overlapping recruiting base, in part due to the whole academic thing.

And yet only one game this year. Same for last year: Duke-Northwestern. In this past decade, we - that is, UVA - have scheduled Indiana, Penn State, and Wisconsin, played Minnesota in a bowl game, and we have Penn State coming up again in a few years. I think the rest of the conference needs to get cracking - it's very weird that we have all these Pac-10, Big 12, and MWC games and one lone Big Ten one.

As for our own performance in the OOC schedule.....


(Because we like to fan the ACC vs. Big East flames …) The only BCS conferences the ACC has a .500 record against so far this year is the Big East (4 games) and the Pac-10 (2 games). Yikes. In a weekend where 2 of 3 Big East teams knocked off ACC teams, we have to ask. The ACC is still > Big East, right? Right??

The Big East knocked off Maryland. Big whoop. If "They" think the ACC is no good because we don't have any superpowers a la Texas and Florida and don't accept the "parity and depth" argument, then they're not allowed to knock us when our worst teams lose. After all, "They" are the same people that think the Mountain West should replace the ACC in the BCS despite the fact that Wyoming and San Diego State remain full-fledged members. Bottom line: you don't get to beat our bad teams with your middling ones and claim superiority.

As for Florida State, well, that's just indefensible. Score one for the Big East. Take one off the board for the ACC and two off the board for the MWC, because of BYU.

Anyway whatever. We still have all the Big East teams worth having, and the Big East is still C-USA Senior, having hypocritically raided that conference of their teams worth having. They should dissolve for football purposes, stick to basketball, and put South Florida back in the mid-majors where they belong.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is losing to a CAA team and 10 is getting the ACC some much needed street cred by winning the BCS MNC, how satisfied are you with your AD’s non-conference scheduling this year? With the non-conference opponents your program has lined up over the next few years, will you be more or less satisfied?

The scheduling is fine this year. The performance isn't, but the scheduling is fine. I'm OK with I-AA teams on the schedule if they're instate. (Two on the schedule in one year is inexcuseable in any context.) But instate ones are fine - there's some history in playing the Richmonds and W&M's of the world. I actually give this year's scheduling a 9. Pretending for a moment we're the average UVA squad and not the crappy 2009 version, we have two should-wins, one probably-ought-to-win, and one challenge. Right where you want it. Back in August I was thrilled with this non-conference schedule.

As for the future, I'm happy to see Penn State returning to the schedule. And you really have to applaud the maneuvers that led to our road game at Middle Tennessee two years ago. For the uninitiated, when the MAC added Temple, it caused some schedule shuffling that left MTSU out in the cold when an unnamed MAC team had to bail on a scheduled trip to Murfreesboro. We picked them up and took on the trip, with no MTSU return date, in exchange for four freebie MAC team visits to Charlottesville, no future obligations on our part. So even though it's the MAC, that's pretty sharp of our scheduling gurus. If we ever decide to collect.

Long story short, I think our OOC scheduling is about as good as we could expect. If anything I'd like to see a touch more SEC thrown in there - the South Carolina series earlier this decade went pretty well.

Last one, ESPN’s College GameDay is heading to Chestnut Hill this week for Florida State (2-2) at Boston College (3-1). Both teams are unranked. Parts of the blogosphere are going completely ape s**t over the WWL’s selection. Justify the selection (if you can). If not, tell us why you dislike the selection.

It's mindbogglingly stupid. Sorry, BC fans. If it's my call, I'm putting the show in Berkeley for Cal-USC. Actually Miami-Oklahoma is the game of the week, I think, but it's a constitutional requirement that you have to play your games on campus in a college stadium in order to host College GameDay, and Miami fails at this.

Other better choices: Michigan @ Michigan State, UCLA @ Stanford, Washington @ Notre Dame, LSU @ Georgia if that game wasn't on CBS.

Monday, September 28, 2009

weekend review

It's a nice change to write this post after a weekend when we didn't lose. Now let's try winning next weekend. Baby steps.

First, based on all the great comments (there was one) regarding the Blogpoll ballot, I hereby submit a revised one that gives Oregon a smidge more credit than they had before. I guess when you think about it, they really only have the one loss and it's to the #5 team, and two of their three wins are against teams that just missed the cut. One of those wins being by 39 damn points. So there we go: Oregon moves from #20 to #15, even though I sorta think their shellacking of Cal was probably more about the football gods trying to send a message about their uniforms than actual football prowess.

1Alabama 1
2Virginia Tech 14
5Boise State 2
6Cincinnati 15
7TCU 5
8Houston 12
9Oklahoma State 16
11Southern Cal 1
12Ohio State 1
13Miami (Florida) 12
14Auburn 1
16Oklahoma 3
17LSU 9
18Georgia Tech 6
21Michigan 1
22Penn State 16
23South Carolina
24South Florida
25North Carolina State
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: California (#5), Washington (#9), Pittsburgh (#14), North Carolina (#15), Florida State (#17), Brigham Young (#18), Mississippi (#23).

Anyway, soccer: I'm officially perturbed about the offense, and I'm just going to slough off and let you go ahead and insert your own parallels-the-football-team joke this week. They practically write themselves.

So let's skip ahead to baseball. The schedule is out. At first blush it looks like basically the same as last year's, only with a couple early-season series against mildly respectable teams (ECU and Rhode Island.) In other words, ample opportunity for Tim Weiser to be a dick again.

It still is basically not a super-strong schedule, but swapping out Bucknell for ECU to open the season and then adding a series with tournament-snub URI isn't the only change. There's actually also been something of an upgrade in the midseason weekday games - the three New York puffballs we played have been replaced with instate puffballs. And George Mason is one of them and they're not actually a puffball, they were a tournament three-seed. Plus we might actually get to play the Coastal Carolina game this year. All in all we've upgraded the average RPI of the nonconference schedule from 179 to 130. And if that's not enough, WE PLAY IN THE ACC.

(Just to be clear, if you offered us a clean slate and a proper seeding in the tournament and the chance to see how that played out, I wouldn't trade it. Doesn't stop the committee from being retarded, though.)

We're skipping the recruiting board update this week. Nothing's happening. Nada. But they're still playing high school football, so let's see what's going on with that.

ADRIAN GAMBLE: Scored a touchdown in Independence's 35-13 win over East Mecklenburg.

KEVIN PARKS: Three more touchdowns as West Rowan shut down South Rowan, 28-0.

TYLER BROSIUS: Tuscola won 62-0 and Brosius threw for 171 yards and three touchdowns; as his team scored five touchdowns in the first quarter, presumably he did not play the whole game.

That's all I got in that category, and if that seems thin, blame the thin, lower-profile recruiting class. Last year at this time we had 17 in place, not counting the future decommitments.

OK, once around the ACC:

- GT looked a lot more like the team I thought they'd be in trouncing UNC, 24-7. Tar Heel Mania figures GT also did a better job graphically depicting the game and just rolls with it.

- Florida State is the new Maryland. After following up their woodshedding of BYU with a bedshitting against South Florida, Tomahawk Nation has words for those who are not True Seminoles.

- Boston College edged Wake Forest, 27-24, and BC Interruption declares the quarterback competition over. Blogger So Dear self-censors in an admirable show of restraint.

- Clemson joins the lost-to-TCU club, 14-10, and Block-C politely requests more actual scoring when the team approaches the end zone.

- NC State beat Pitt 38-31, and YANCSTSB calls it Russell Wilson's best game of his career.

- That other Virginia team absolutely housed Miami (and yes I threw up in my mouth shortly after submitting a ballot that ranks them #2) and Gobbler Country reacts in the traditional fashion, which involves bourbon. The 7th Floor also reacts in the traditional fashion, which involves vodka, and also is very pissed off so for good measure deploys an indirect Cho Seung-Hui sideswipe - yeowch.

- Maryland got smoked by Rutgers; Testudo Times is talking buyout for Beanpole Ralph.

- Finally, Duke made good on their second chance at a I-AA team. Why didn't we think of scheduling the one that just made the jump from D-II?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blogpoll ballot Week 4

As always, comments and improvements welcome. Especially this week.

1Alabama 1
2Virginia Tech 14
5Boise State 2
6Cincinnati 15
7TCU 5
8Houston 12
9Oklahoma State 16
11Southern Cal 1
12Ohio State 1
13Miami (Florida) 12
14Auburn 1
15Oklahoma 4
16LSU 8
17Georgia Tech 7
21Michigan 1
22Penn State 16
23South Carolina
24South Florida
25North Carolina State
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: California (#5), Washington (#9), Pittsburgh (#14), North Carolina (#15), Florida State (#17), Brigham Young (#18), Mississippi (#23).

Who knows any more? This is really just me chucking things at the wall and seeing what sticks. This seems reasonable enough, but I'm easily swayed by convincing arguments this week, more so than usual. I will say that there were two games this week that had major ripple effects: Stanford's drubbing of Washington (hence drops for teams like LSU, USC, and OSU) and South Florida's win over Florida State in Tallahassee (causing a drop for teams like BYU, though not, oddly enough, Oklahoma.)

Anyway, suggestions that weren't made while drooling on your keyboard are highly likely to go into effect this week, because most of these teams don't have ironclad reasons to go where they are, and there were also about 10 other teams that didn't make the cut but easily could have. (Utah, for example.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

thursday linkpile

My big project for today was to update the depth chart. Perfect timing what with a bye week and all. Speaking of bye weeks, I found myself actually disappointed today that I didn't have a game preview to look forward to putting together, which means I was also disappointed there isn't actually a game. Such is the life of a fan: my brain has given up on this season but my heart hasn't. I use both for writing, which means you're in for some really schizoid stuff in the next nine weeks.

The updates are:

- Dominique Wallace and Matt Leemhuis are added to the rolls of the injured, and they'll be that way all year. Dontrelle Inman and Mike Parker are now healthy.

- Cam Johnson moved ahead of Aaron Clark at OLB.

- Tim Smith moved into the two-deep in place of Jared Green.

- Riko Smalls shifts back to quarterback.

Now, some links.

- Remember the ACC Roundtable from earlier this week? Some people answer pretty straight, and then there's the From the Rumble Seat entry, as it would appear they're still in a bad mood about Miami.

- Jim Young at the ACC Sports Journal talked with Kris Wright of TheSabre about how UVA fans are feeling about things. It's pretty a symbolic conversation. The bulk of the article, as with the thoughts of the fanbase right now, is depressingly concerned with the state of the football team and How We Got Here, but there's just a little bit there at the end, off in the future and splashed with optimism, about Tony Bennett's rising sun.

- Jeff White chronicles a grueling basketball workout. (Future UVA bloggers: When in doubt, link Jeff White. There's always some good shit there.)

- Finally, there is some Jameel Sewell fluff. Plus a little bit - like, a very little bit - of insight into the way the offense is sort of cannibalizing the old principles while still using a lot of the new mechanics.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

which coaches?

Lemme start off with a retraction and/or clarification. Monday I said I wouldn't be discussing the imminent departure of Al Groh beyond that one treatise; I really ought to have said I wouldn't be continuing to harp on Groh, nitpicking his moves, or in general joining the Groh Must Go bandwagon in any way.

It doesn't mean that I won't try to be a little ahead of the curve when it comes to what will likely be the all-consuming story around Virginia athletics not long from now. I mean the eventual coaching search, of course.

For tonight, I've taken a look at all 119 other Division I-A head coaches to evaluate the possibilities of their becoming our next head coach. This study doesn't cover assistants (Charlie Strong), I-AA head coaches (Mike London) or currently out-of-work head coaches (Tommy Tuberville.) All three of those should be candidates for the short list, but today we're only dealing with the 119 men currently employed as head coach by a I-A school.

Actually, it's not even that many. The first step was to narrow the list down to 30, by eliminating those who aren't coming even in our wildest fantasies and then those who would obviously elicit Chizik-at-Auburn reactions from the fanbase. The first list is the vast majority of other BCS schools; out of 65 coaches, only 11 are on the final list, and most of those aren't all that realistic either. The second list is like, the whole Sun Belt, most of the WAC and MAC etc., and even a couple struggling BCS coaches.

Some assumptions are made:

1) Our new hire will make about what Al Groh makes now, which is to say, a base salary of $1,875,000. Groh is one of the better-compensated coaches in the country.

2) No racism. That is to say, when teams interview Turner Gill from Buffalo, they're not doing so just to have a token black guy to keep the BCA off their backs. This keeps things simple when figuring out which coaches are in demand.

3) We're not poaching the ACC. I eliminated all 11 of those coaches right off without even thinking about salary, etc.

All coaches are rated on two simple categories:

- Desirability. How much would we want this coach as compared to who else is on the market? Under consideration are the coach's recent success, where they've had that success, and their age, among other subjective factors.

- Poachability. Is the coach working for his alma mater? Does he job-hop, or has he worked for his current employer a long time? On the flip side of that, maybe he was just hired there very recently. Has he interviewed for other jobs in the past? Would his salary here at UVA be an improvement over what he makes now?

Salary info, by the way, is derived from here.

Here we go. The list is ordered approximately from least to most poachable.

Would Probably Just Use Our Offer To Get More Money From Their Current School. Don't Bother.

- Rich Brooks, Kentucky (desirability: medium-low)
- Randy Edsall, Connecticut (desirability: medium-high)
- Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (desirability: high)
- Gary Patterson, TCU (desirability: very high)

Gundy and Patterson would be awesome, as both have been very successful at very difficult places to be successful. Gundy, however, has a very generous non-base-compensation package and is an Oklahoma State man through and through. He played there and has coached there almost his whole career. Patterson turned down $2 million from Minnesota to stay at TCU.

Edsall also shows every sign of wanting to stay at UConn, having guided the program out of the I-AA hinterlands. Brooks appears to want to retire at UK, and he's damn near 70 anyway.

Job-hop Like Crazy. About As Crazy As We'd Have To Be To Offer.

- Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
- George O'Leary, UCF
- Frank Solich, Ohio (sort of)

These guys have some pretty hefty cases of wanderlust and would at least listen to us, just because it's in their nature to. And they've been reasonably successful at their current jobs. But they're old as dirt. (Well, younger, more recently formed dirt. Groh is actually older.) The same situations with coaches 20 years younger would be highly attractive, but their age turns their desirability into something pretty low.

Solich doesn't fit anywhere else, but he's not a job-hopper either. He's just old.

Would Depend Very Greatly On The Intangibles. Take Trip To Monticello To Seal The Deal.

- Mike Stoops, Arizona (desirability: medium-low)
- Jim Harbaugh, Stanford (desirability: medium)
- Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern (desirability: medium)
- Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt (desirability: medium)
- Mike Riley, Oregon State (desirability: medium-high)

The salary difference between our job and these guys' jobs is pretty significant, and they've all been up-and-comers at one point. Stoops would probably not be worth it, though; he's done a pretty lukewarm kinda job at Arizona and occupies a little bit of a hot seat himself. Riley might be tough to convince to leave Oregon State, having made the very rare move of going back somewhere he once left. But he's done a nice job there.

There's also a trio of guys who at least know what it's like to work at a school where they give a shit about their academic reputation. Harbaugh is a high-risk, potential-high-reward kinda guy. He's a hell of a recruiter, but he runs his mouth and aside from that one upset of USC, his onfield results have been lackluster. It's tough to get a handle on Johnson and Fitzgerald. It seems like they work at very similar schools - the small private-school whipping boy in a power conference - but in fact Vandy and Northwestern are very different on the field. Vandy's just perenially and unnoticeably bad, but Johnson's been inching their standards upwards. Northwestern, on the other hand, is the answer to the trivia question that goes something like, what school has won the most Big Ten championships since 1995 other than Michigan and Ohio State. Which is weird, because they almost always suck otherwise. It's hard to tell what effect Fitzgerald's had there.

In the end, I wouldn't call any of these guys especially realistic, but we're getting into the territory where I wouldn't be surprised if they interviewed.

Out Of The Box, But Sometimes The Box Is There For A Reason

- Ron English, Eastern Michigan (desirability: low)
- Tim Beckman, Toledo (desirability: low)

Both of these guys are very early in their first gig as a head coach, and probably see their current jobs as stepping stones. It seems nuts to consider them, but also consider that they were reasonably in-demand coordinators at high-profile places in former lives. In the end, though, there's a reason they went to the MAC and not, say, Washington.

Would They Even See Us As An Upgrade? If So, Lucky Us.

- Todd Graham, Tulsa (desirability: medium-high)
- Skip Holtz, East Carolina (desirability: medium-high)
- Bronco Mendenhall, Brigham Young (desirability: high)
- Kyle Whittingham, Utah (desirability: high)

All four of these coaches will eventually be coaching at BCS schools if they want to. Whittingham actually turned down his alma mater (BYU) to coach at their rival (Utah, where he's worked since 1994) so his desire to leave is probably limited. At least for anything but just exactly the right opportunity.

These other guys appear to be fair game, though they too can probably afford to wait for the right reason to leave. With Steve Kragthorpe struggling at Louisville and Tulsa continuing to rise, you have to wonder if Graham was actually the brains behind dragging them out of the pits, and if so, who wouldn't want him around? Both he and Holtz are very well paid for C-USA coaches, however, and better compensated than many BCS coaches too.

Mendenhall is the least well-paid of the bunch, but probably will have multiple athletic directors beating down his door every offseason until he leaves BYU. Competition will be stiff.

Regardless of any of the poachability caveats, however, these are four coaches that we absolutely must at least send feelers out to if/when Groh is let go. All would be quality choices, but they'd likely need some convincing in areas that go beyond simple paycheck issues.

Fallbacks. The Girl With Braces Who You'll Take To The Prom If All The Cheerleaders And That Cute Girl From English Class Turn You Down.

- Butch Jones, Central Michigan
- Bill Cubit, Western Michigan
- Kevin Sumlin, Houston
- David Bailiff, Rice
- Larry Fedora, Southern Miss
- Troy Calhoun, Air Force
- Turner Gill, Buffalo

Long list here. All of them would probably jump at an official offer from the desk of Craig Littlepage. Easy to get. Gill especially. He's interviewed all over the place - Auburn, Syracuse - and I don't take that as him having the ability to take his pick, but rather that he'd like to climb the ladder and get the hell up out of Buffalo ASAP.

My little internal chart puts all of these guys at medium desirability, and all for the same reason. All have brought some significant improvement to their teams. These are all bowl teams. With the exception of Cubit, though, they've all been at their jobs three years or less.

Would they be solid hires? Absolutely. But risky too. With any one of these guys, we'd all convince ourselves to feel pretty damn good about the hire. We'd point to the assorted Coach of the Year awards some have earned and the bowls they've been to and the upsets they've pulled off. But these are marriages that could turn out very nicely, or could turn out ugly.

Hey, I Know You

Al Golden, Temple
Derek Dooley, Louisiana Tech

On the poachability scale, these guys are probably sky-high. They have a UVA history and jobs at football backwaters. On the desirability scale, they couldn't be further apart. Golden is only listed because of his history as our DC. But he hasn't distinguished himself much at Temple (though he might with a few more years) and wouldn't otherwise be even close to the radar. He's a little young still and needs more seasoning.

Dooley has skyrocketed through the coaching ranks since playing wide receiver for George Welsh back in the day. He was never a coordinator, yet earned a head coaching gig at Louisiana Tech and in his second year last year, brought that old but complete afterthought of a program to its first non-Boise bowl game since 1990 (and first of any kind since 2001) - and won it. Dooley would fall under the above category but for his diploma. Being a UVA alum instantly makes him a candidate, and I think most fans would love the idea of keeping the job in the family, so to speak in the least eastern-Tennessee-ish way possible.

Might Be Available Whether He Wants To Or Not

Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville

He hasn't been a total disaster, anyway. Part of his problem is that Louisville sees themselves as a hell of a lot better than they really are. (The other part of his problem is he keeps losing to Syracuse and not going to bowls.) Whether he's a good coach or not is probably for a MAC school to find out, though. He'll only be available to us if he's fired, and fans are not going to respond well to hiring a guy from a perceived "lower-tier" program that just got fired because he couldn't win in a worse conference. Strike Kragthorpe off the list.

The Biggest Kahuna

Brian Kelly, Cincinnati

There have been a few knocks on Kelly. Word has it he's a bit of a jerk. Other word has it he's a massive jerk. He doesn't stay in one place very long and is always looking upwards for the next job. His handling of an incident in which some of his players at Central Michigan were involved in a manslaughter case was mildly criticized.

All of which would be forgotten in two seconds if he were hired. He's done nothing but kick ass at every stop. Two Division II national championships. (Grand Valley State is a Division II powerhouse, thanks to Kelly who built that program from the ground up.) He took Central Michigan from a program that won three games every year to MAC champs in three years. They're still enjoying the fruits of that labor. He took Cincinnati to the Orange Bowl. In short, everywhere he's been, he's taken that team to heights they've never before achieved. The Brian Kelly years at three different schools, short though they may have been, have been the pinnacle, which they may have matched since but never topped. The man can coach.

Further, he's dissatisfied with his present situation:
Is it true that you really have no practice fields?

"Yes, we have no practice fields. We practice at the stadium. There is no ability to go out and practice a spread, no-huddle offense. We don't get 120 yards to do that. We have to do it on 50 yards because the defense is on the other half of the field. It is hard to do, and I give our kids a lot of credit for being able to overcome it and continue to win. And, of course, we have no indoor facility. In fact, to prepare for the Orange Bowl [last season], we had to practice in an indoor soccer facility. It obviously wasn't a very good way to prepare our football team."

Where do you think your facilities rank in the Big East?

"Negative. You can't even compare it to any of the teams in our league. There are no luxury boxes, so there is no revenue stream there, either. We have the smallest stadium [35,098 capacity]. From an infrastructure standpoint, the university has to decide if it wants to get it done or not."
Emphasis mine.

Get cracking on that indoor practice bubble. Pay the man his money. Buy him some Polynesian dancing girls. Accept that he will probably stay no longer than four or five years and then go get himself hired at Ohio State. If he produces the same results here as he has everywhere else, every penny of it will have been worth it. We have actual facilities. Everything he complains about not having at Cincy, we have, except for the indoor field, and for the most part, they're all pretty nice, too. Of the 29 coaches we've looked at so far, this is the guy you want.


The Wild Card

Charlie Weis, Notre Dame

Weis is a supremely arrogant lard-ass. Fit-wise, it could get awkward, like those size 48 pants he thinks he can still fit into, only he can't, causing the hilarious and disgusting front-butt effect. His arrogance bleeds onto the field, causing the occasional heinous coaching mistake, and he managed to crater spectacularly in his third -not first, but third - season. You know, the one where you're supposed to have installed your own recruits and your own system. Going 3-9 at Notre Dame is like farting at the Pope's funeral. He's on the hot seat now and in danger of being let go as soon as this year.

But: The man can recruit. And the hot seat at Notre Dame heats up a little easier than at most schools; meaning, you get a grace period of one year, and if you haven't won a national championship in that time, the alums start reminiscing about Rudy and Knute Rockne and wondering if they can pool the money together for your buyout. His coaching pedigree and resume is, you know, good enough to get hired at Notre Dame.

Total shot in the dark here. The joker in the deck. Is he even going to be available (i.e. fired) at the end of the year? Would he call back if Littlepage left a message, or would he consider this job beneath him? Is he really the sort of guy Virginia would hire? Which would kick in first if he were hired - my vomit reflex, or my everything-will-be-alright voice that caused me to not break anything when I learned we hired a basketball coach I'd never heard of? Same question, what about the rest of the fanbase? This isn't just a grand-slam-or-strikeout kind of risk/reward setup. It's more like, a moon shot over the light towers landing in the street beyond the bleachers, or just standing there in the box piddling our pants and then getting beaned by a Randy Johnson fastball. And either way, it would be a circus.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ACC roundtable #3

Time once again for the ACC roundtable. Sort of a shorter post today, I'm busy working on something interesting for tomorrow evening. The roundtable questions are brought to you from the boys of Block-C, the roundtable's Clemson delegation.

1) Does this weekends OOC performance for the ACC negate that first weekend's total bed shitting performance? Why or why not?

At best we took small steps in that direction, but for all the wrong reasons. "National perception" has this absurd idea that for the ACC to be considered a good conference, it has to have a dominant team, and that dominant team has to play in the state of Florida. Enter Miami, after looking like that dominant team two weeks in a row.

Nothing else did any good. TFSU smokes BYU and: "well, maybe the MWC isn't so hot after all." (In fact, the MWC's OOC "performance" probably did more for the ACC's reputation than our own teams did.) VT scrapes by Nebraska and most people are thinking, "Yeah, but their offense still sucks." (Even the Techies themselves.) And it's not like there wasn't some bed-shitting going on anyway, what with Maryland proving themselves chronically incapable of handling MTSU.

However, comma. The national media may say one thing about the ACC (can't beat the CAA hur), but their voting hand says something else entirely. You will note the only other conferences with more ranked teams this week are the Big 12 and SEC. So.

2) Continuing the weekly theme of predicting the conference outcome, who'll play in the ACC CG?

I haven't seen any reason to change my Atlantic prediction of Florida State yet. Unfortunately, I appear to have severely underestimated Miami. If GT had even held it close against the Canes I'd stay firm in my GT prediction, but Miami looks like the team to beat these days. Which sucks and here's why: the conference's wet dream of a Miami-FSU ACCCG would come true and convince the conference bosses to keep the CG in Florida forevermore instead of a geographically sensible location like Charlotte.

3) Is Miami a legit top ten team? Why or why not?

Legit top ten nothing. They have enough of a shot at the actual national title game to be scary. If Miami can bottle up Georgia Tech's offense then they can stop VT's, too. And if Sam Bradford's not healthy in two weeks when OU comes to town.....

The only reason that they should fall out of the top ten is losing both games. After that their schedule lightens way up and they'll be favored in every one, often by at least two touchdowns. You can only judge teams on what you've seen, and right now we've seen enough out of Miami to call them an outside national title contender, let alone top ten.

4) If you had to declare an ACC MVP right now, who's your top guy?

Gotta go with Jacory Harris. How there was ever a controversy between him and Robert Marve was at best inexplicable last year and this year, thoroughly flabbergasting.

5) Women, whiskey, and miles of travelin' is all that I understand. What are three things you understand, blogger friends?

1. I understand that the Al Groh era is coming to a sad conclusion.
2. I understand that the epic BC-UVA clash on November 14 is going to be charitably called a "defensive struggle" and more accurately defined as an "offensive suckhole" unless one or the other straightens out their shit.
3. I understand there are other sports besides football. This is important to remember when you're a UVA fan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

weekend review

Let's start with the good stuff - the soccer - because the rest of it's just depressing.

Beating the #2 team in the land on their own turf is fun. As with always, the ACC is friggin' stacked at the top, and I'd really like not to have to try and fight our way through the minefield again in the tournament. No matter what, the top four or five are going to be beastly, which means if at all possible you want to get a top three seed. Next weekend's matchup is Clemson, with George Washington as filler in between, and Clemson is lousy. The real test is in two weeks at North Carolina - cripe, we have to go on the road to play all the good teams - and if we can eke out a win there and take care of things against the Clemsons and Virginia Techs of the world, we're in business.

But where on earth is the offense? I mean damn. Two goals in three games ain't gonna cut it. Yes, I realize we've been outshooting everyone (including Mount St. Mary's 18-2, yow) but at the end of the day I'd like to see a little less bombing from long range and a little more production out of the moneymakers. When Neil Barlow (first goal since 2007) and Mike Volk (first goal as a Hoo, ever) are your only two goal-scorers in three games, that is a problem, whether or not you won. Maybe they can borrow Gregg Brandon's spread offense, since the football team doesn't seem to be using it.

Speaking of which, the juxtaposition of these two articles caught my eye, and it's really not a good sign. First, "Offensive switch not enough," and second, "Special teams hardly such." Here are the two things we brought in hyped-up new coaches to fix - Gregg Brandon, the offensive wizard, and Ron Prince, the prodigal coach and supposed special teams ace - and they suck. Hard. (Not the coaches. The execution.) And it's the things that you notice without even trying to: lousy offensive production, long kick returns - that kick return touchdown by Southern Miss was a dagger.

It's also worth noticing in the offense article that part of the offensive excellence in the first half was because Southern Miss was totally not expecting the switch back to a regular offense. Think that was maybe our one chance to sneak up on anyone? Groh seems excited about having the bye week to reboot the offense, but the general rule has been the more time we have to prepare for a game, the worse we do, so I don't have high hopes for the UNC game.

The other lesson I've learned - twice now - is that you can't shock the system with a completely new offense and expect to be successful in year one. If we had time, like, a couple years worth, to get this offense installed, I bet it'd look pretty good, maybe as soon as 2010. We don't, so the only thing now is to try and mesh it with the old one. Which might be the way you ought to do things in the first place. We saw some of that on Saturday. Nobody missed the much narrower line splits, but the tailbacks and slots for the most part were in a spread-style formation. Not a bad way to go if you can get the offensive line to figure out who to block and how.

Some bullets, then on to the other standard stuff.

- Dominique Wallace is out for the year. No biggie. The medical redshirt he'll get will give him the redshirt he should have had - without the extra practice, but with some game experience to balance that out. We have enough tailback depth to cover it.

- The UNC game is at noon. Curses. Why must they always have games at the same time as the Michigan one?

Now for the really emo stuff: the recruiting board. Updates:

- Removed DE Andrew Tallman, newly committed to Miami.

- Re-added LB Aramide Olaniyan, who decommitted from Duke. I don't know why. Maybe just because the board is getting so thin. If he comes here I'll be dead shocked.

- Bumped DE Ethan Farmer and WR Brandon Coleman from yellow to red.

You might also notice there's no blue section any more. With the recruiting atmosphere at Scott Stadium as poisonous as it is, do you really think our chances of landing anyone can be called good? There are 14 recruits on the board, really only 8 of which have anything resembling a realistic chance of picking UVA. At best, we'll get two, mayyyybe three. At best. That puts this class size at 15, tops. There will certainly be transfers when there's a changing of the guard at head coach. There always are. On the bright side, we definitely won't have to worry about having too many scholarship players and not enough scholarships. If we're going to fill this class up, we're going to be scraping the bottom for players that were previously torn between Hampton and JMU. That's always fun.

And that doesn't even take into account decommitments, which there certainly will be. There always are. Ever since the William & Mary game the CavsCorner guys have been running around getting a hold of as many committed players as they can and checking the solidity of their commitment. (Who, exactly, is behind the paywall, except for the ones with headlines: Conner Davis and E.J. Scott.) Most - not all, but most - have said they're solid. (They made no secret of the fact that one guy they called is very concerned - again, "who" is behind the paywall.) Which is to say, they're solid while Al Groh is the head coach and the team is 0-3. When the team is 1-6 and Al Groh maybe isn't the head coach any more, are they still solid? You have to figure these guys are getting bombarded with negative recruiting. Some of them probably have Ralph Friedgen's number blocked so they don't have to hear from the king of "you don't really want to go there."

Anyway, speaking of the recruits, let's see how they're doing.

KEVIN PARKS: This is the one guy I absolutely do not want to see decommit. Another day at the office for Parks as he picked up 225 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. The next time he runs for over 100 yards - probably next game - he'll break the state of North Carolina record for 100-yard games. West Rowan is a dominant force. I wonder if we can sign up their linemen too.

TYLER BROSIUS: Handed the #9 team in the state a 34-21 loss with 184 yards passing and two touchdowns.


OK, time to check in on the rest of the ACC and live vicariously through teams that get to win a game once every so often.

- I hate watching games on baseball fields. I also hate watching my preseason ACC champion pick get trucked, especially by Miami. Winfield wants to take it out on North Carolina, which, hey guys, beat them and all but please don't make them mad for the week after. The 7th Floor is, uh, just don't click, especially if you're at work and your boss would take exception to pictures of hairy - never mind.

- Speaking of UNC, they pulled it out over ECU, and Tar Heel Mania thinks a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures of pirates, specifically. Yet more specifically, pirates getting beat the hell up.

- Boston College's offense is even better than ours. Boy, I can't wait for that game. I can already see how this will go. The drive chart is going to look a little bit like this: punt punt punt punt punt punt punt punt punt punt punt punt. The longest offensive play of the day will happen when Jimmy Howell sets up for his fifteenth of the game and finds his leg refuses to swing up and down any more, so he shovels it off to a blocker who rumbles past the chains, prompting the officials to award the game to UVA after secretly declaring sometime in the third quarter that the first first down wins.

What brings this on? The 54 yards of offense BC managed on Saturday against Clemson, that's what. BC Interruption, ironically and sadly, asked themselves on Friday if the two-QB system could work and concluded it could. Then their team let them down in the most spectacular way possible: Justin Tuggle - 4-for-20, 23 yards, three picks. Block-C is giddy about Clemson's defensive effort, which, you can't really blame him. That's another game I can't wait for, in a much more sarcastic way.

- Tech eeeeeeked it out against Nebraska, thanks to Tyrod Taylor running out of ways to suck and having no options left but to win the game. Still, Gobbler Country loves their offense about as much as we love ours. Also, Matt Millen was calling that game - with any luck, he stopped by Frank Beamer's offense after the game to offer some tips.

- Maryland. Hehehe. Thank God we pulled out that win over Middle Tennessee in 2007 because now any Twerp that wants to talk about William & Mary need only be answered with, "Middle Tennessee, twice." Testudo Times is already looking for a replacement for Beanpole Ralph.

- Florida State walloped BYU, like, pretty intensively, so I was curious to read the TFSU bloggers' opinions. I didn't get past, "After a wonderful experience in College Park last year..." Wait, what? Is that possible? Are you sure you were in College Park?

- Wake Forest and NC State beat up on some teams they were supposed to beat up on.

Later this week, look out for:

- Another ACC Roundtable
- A list of potentially poachable head coaches in I-A football. Yeah, it's that time. Ugh.

the clock strikes midnight

I held out as long as I could, which is to say, much longer than most people have. It's in my nature. I always end up being more patient with head coaches than most; I despise the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude that pervades the outlook of far too many fans these days. It's self-destructive. It's how Tennessee ended up with a guy who spent an entire offseason making it a point to piss off the entire conference and make Al Davis look like the sane and rational one in that particular tiff. They ran out on a rail the most successful coach they've had since 1952, just a year after playing in the conference championship game, and they ended up with Lane Kiffin, whose first coaching move was to tell their prized quarterback recruit to get stuffed.

So you have to be careful what you wish for when you decide to turn on the head coach. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. But we're too far past that now. The Al Groh era has run its course.

I have far too much respect for Groh to act the loudmouth and "call for his firing" as the phraseology goes. I still don't want to see it. I still think Groh knows what he's doing and works as hard as ever, and given time, would pull this program out of its tailspin. The problem is, we no longer have that luxury of time. 2009 is a lost season. 2010 opens up with a trip to USC - in other words, 0-1. Our recruiting efforts for 2010 are dead in the water, and the 2011 class is going to be a tremendous challenge and another likely disappointment if this teetering on the brink continues.

We have two weeks to wallow in officially being the worst BCS team before we get another crack at anyone, and we can spend every minute of it debating whether it's a good idea to let go of the coach before the season ends or after and if before, should there be an interim coach and who should it be and what would recruits and coaching prospects think of that and blah blah blah. I think it honestly doesn't matter. When you're cruising for a 3-9, 2-10 type season - or worse - exactly when you fired the coach is the least of anyone's worries. The only opinion I have on that is that if the decision is made midseason, Groh deserves the opportunity to choose whether to continue as a lame duck or not. The other only opinion I have is that an interim coach would serve no purpose. It's not like we're 4-2 when we should have been 6-0. Barring a miracle, the season is lost, and interim coaches do not qualify as miracles. Part of the whole point of an interim coach is to evaluate him for the job - can you think of anyone on the staff you'd really want as the permanent head coach? The only ones with head coaching experience are Prince and Brandon, and neither distinguished themselves.

This is also the last time you'll see anything more than a sentence or two referring to Groh's imminent departure. Like I said: I don't want for it to happen. A better turn of phrase would be that I'm finally ready for it.


As for the game itself, well - you know me, I'm all in favor of slugging as much blue and orange Kool-Aid as you care to put in front of me. I mean, I just about had the entire offense winning a Heisman by the time I was done talking about them before the season. There are a lot of positives you could take away from this game, but I'm passing on the Kool-Aid this time around. If we were not already 0-2 going in, and if the opponent was something other than a middling C-USA team, you could point to a lot of excellent adjustments made by the offense and use it to take heart for future games.

The playcalling tops them all. The touchdown pass to Tim Smith was a thing of particular beauty. Perfect playcall at just the right time. Excellent protection. Beautiful throw by Sewell, and further, a terrific job of staying patient in the face of a rushing end. Nice separation by Smith and nice footwork to stay in bounds. Where's this been all my life?

The linemen look much more comfortable without those unnaturally wide splits, too. For the most part Sewell looked like a quarterback again. There was a running game, at least in the first half. The receivers were productive, if not especially consistent.

So much to like. But you can forget about all of it. Good teams build on what they have done well, improve what they don't, and put it together consistently. Bad teams do not. Just when the offense puts it together, the defense falls apart, the special teams fail us, and then oh by the way the offensive line once again opens up the floodgates - four sacks in the second half is totally inexcusable.

At some point this season we will put it all together, if only for a game or so at a time. There are enough lousy teams in the ACC for us to edge out a few wins. Hey, if you want to get really crazy, we're still 0-0 in the ACC - the conference championship is still out there. (Ha.) But three of the conference's four ranked teams are in our division, so.....yeah.

Postscript: Yes, Chase Minnifield hit a guy helmet-to-helmet - Rodney McLeod. Despite what the announcers kept insinuating, the Southern Miss receiver was hit with a shoulder, which last I checked you're allowed to do.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blogpoll ballot Week 3

This is a weird week, because now we have just enough resume information to actually use it to rank the teams, but not enough that it doesn't result in crazy things like Florida dropping from #1 to #20 or so just because they haven't played anyone worth a damn. Therefore you should take the ballot below as more or less a resume ballot with a very, very heavy perception bias.

1Miami (Florida) 21
2Alabama 1
3Texas 1
4Florida 3
5California 4
6Penn State
7Boise State 4
8LSU 13
10Southern Cal 8
11Ohio State 1
12TCU 3
14Pittsburgh 2
15North Carolina 3
16Virginia Tech 4
17Florida State
18Brigham Young 5
19Oklahoma 11
20Houston 5
22Michigan 1
23Mississippi 9
24Georgia Tech 19
25Oklahoma State 8
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Utah (#7), Georgia (#19), Clemson (#20), Nebraska (#24).

Explaining myself:

- Guess who the only team is with wins over two other ranked teams? Hence the meteoric rise to the top of the ballot for the Hurricanes. If they win next week they're going to be absurdly difficult to knock from that perch.

- The aforementioned perception bias is what's keeping Florida from dropping lower than they are. They wouldn't have fallen all the way to #20, that was a joke, but with the preseason poll now almost totally scrapped, they haven't done anything to set them apart from the pack.

- Taking care of business is generally held in higher regard than beating someone good and also losing to someone good, but the perception bias keeps USC and OSU from dropping below teams like Auburn, Pitt, and UNC. Because c'mon.

- Two games from this week are having a huge, monstrous effect on the rankings: Washington over USC and TFSU over BYU. Obviously Washington looks a lot better than they did last week. Being #9 is a function of the fact that they pretty much have to be ranked higher than USC and OSU right now, and if I pushed them any lower then I'd have to put Auburn, Pitt, UNC, and the like above USC and OSU and that seemed silly. You might laugh, but consider they almost beat LSU, too, and if they'd done that hell they'd probably be #1 or #2 right now given the reasoning for Miami. LSU is the other obvious beneficiary.

As for Florida State's hammering of BYU, that in combination with TFSU's near-disaster against Jacksonville State means that both BYU and Oklahoma get spiked pretty hardcore. This group might be higher too, but I wanted to reward the teams above them for being undefeated against not-shitty competition, and I felt like it was weird for VT to drop despite beating Nebraska. VT would have held steady, but that win was pretty damn skinny, and the teams above them haven't lost.