Monday, January 3, 2011

two and a half items

Time to kick off the first week of the New Year, and what better way to do it by looking forward? First, a half-item: the hiring of Randy Edsall at Maryland.

There's every reason to believe that Maryland considered Mike Leach, came close to hiring him, and got cold feet. The result is a win for UVA. Edsall is noncontroversial, likely to result in a smooth transition, and not a major threat to put the Terps in the Orange Bowl. While I stand by what I said about Leach - that it didn't matter to UVA if he was hired because London would be able to take care of business if London's the man - the fact is that Leach would have been a gamble for Maryland, but not one that would have paid off for their opponents in the event of disaster. The risk was that Maryland would win football games and get bad press doing it, not that Maryland would sink to Duke-levels of suckdom. Leach turning out "badly" for Maryland would've meant another ugly exit involving lawsuits, which is bad for Maryland but not especially beneficial for us, if you follow. Maryland losing all their games is what's beneficial for us, and while that's not likely under Edsall, neither is a return to their 10-2 early-decade years. I'm perfectly happy coexisting with a Maryland team that might see 9-3 in one of their luckier years.

Speaking of coaching changes, now, the downside to having a recruiting class just about put together with little to no risk of decommitments is the lack of ability to take advantage of turnover in our recruiting rivals. Other than an improved chance to land Darius Jennings and the possibility of poaching Jeremiah Hendy, there's little to be said for the effect of all this turnover on our own class. Little Boy got dropped on Pittsburgh's class when the Wannstache was forced out and Fat Man followed when they had to cut ties with newly-hired Mike Haywood following his arrest. There practically is no recruiting class at Pitt any more. Pittsburgh is one of our bigger recruiting rivals, but VT was a beneficiary instead, yoinking Kyshoen Jarrett (ugh). And it'd be worth our while to take another shot at quarterback Gary Nova if we had room to.

But the recruiting board is due for a shakeup anyway, so here you go:

- Removed OT Donovan Smith, who'll announce pretty soon his choice of a school that isn't UVA. We have our four linemen, anyway.

- Moved WR Dominique Terrell from green to blue. Total 180 on this recruitment.

- Moved TE Rory Anderson and WR Demetri Knowles from green to yellow.

- Moved LB Troy Gray and TE Max Mason from yellow to red. Mason doesn't appear to have ever gotten an offer and probably won't, either.

- Changed QB David Watford from "verbal" to "enrolled." Yes, he's officially in and shows up in the directory. No, Daquan Romero does not, yet, but probably any day now.

At this point the five names in blue and green are the guys to watch between now and Signing Day. And I would be willing to bet that not only are these the guys the staff is after, they're the only ones. In other words, in the unlikely event that we strike out on all five, I think the staff would be happy to sit tight with what they have. Say two-thirds chance they do and one-third chance they put the press on a couple other possibilities to fill the gap.

Those possibilities are mostly the ones in yellow. For example, Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings both look like excellent bets to land at UVA, and the staff will take them both and go "woohoo." If they both fall through, there's still a little bit of a need at receiver in this class besides just one, and I could see the staff going back to Demetri Knowles or perhaps Brandon Reddish and turning up the heat again.

There is one twist: the potential decommitment of Darius Redman. This has all the makings of a done deal. Why? Because it's probably a mutual decision kind of thing. Redman is a useful prospect but not a game-breaking one, and "admissions decisions" make for a good reason to clear some space in the class for other commits. Or, cynically speaking, an excuse to. It reads like a gentle push out the door. It sounds like a crummy thing to do, but it's a lot better way to handle it than the SEC way, which is to take a letter of intent and then tell him to go to prep school.

Quick review of the numbers, then: 25 commits so far, 23 officially with the two early enrollments, room for two more. Three if Redman does decommit. Maybe four depending on the qualification status of Kyrrel Latimer, which we've heard precious little about.


So, basketball. It's still going on. This past weekend saw the last two of those 50/50 games against the dregs of the other BCS conferences and what do you know, we lost one and won one.

That brings the total to 3-2 against crappy BCS teams (wins over Oklahoma, Oregon, and LSU and losses to Stanford and Iowa State, the latter of which has turned out a lot better than crappy) and 4-3 overall (win over Minnesota and loss to Washington.)

That's great. If you'd offered me this start before the season, minus the awful loss to Seattle (or maybe even with that since we got the win over VT on the road), I'd have taken it without blinking. And it all means practically nothing without Mike Scott going forward.

Basketball, college basketball especially, is as much a chess game as it is an athletic contest, and going into the season without Mike Scott is like starting a chess game short your queen and knights. You lose a lot of options, and you're going to be relying pretty heavily on the other guy being really bad at this in order to win. Scott sat out both the ISU and LSU games, and how long he'll be out is anyone's guess right now. But the way things are reading, I'd put a lot more money on "the whole season" than "another week or two." I should have known that missing one game was too good to be true when ankle surgery is involved.

There's only one good way to look at this: the chance that Scott could be eligible for a medical hardship waiver to return in '10-'11. Even that isn't the greatest thing ever, because the frontcourt will be packed. But it'd be nice to have Scott around to lead a big group of developed sophomores instead of a big pack of wide-eyed freshmen. Could make for a good season.

Still, the downsides are many and they don't bode well for this season at all. With Mike Scott, UVA would be a legitimate threat to make some noise in the conference, and the NIT would be a realistic destination. Without him, we're scrabbling to stay out of the cellar and hoping to pick up some wins against the GTs and Wakes of the world. Beating LSU without Scott is encouraging, but the team's shooting was still iffy at best. Without Scott getting people's attention in the middle, the perimeter is a lot easier to defend. I don't think you can even say that freeing up Scott's minutes will help the freshmen develop, because they'd be able to run the offense better, shoot better, and generally have better freedom of movement on the court with Scott taking some pressure off of them. KT Harrell and Joe Harris and the rest aren't going to easily improve if some pesky dude is up in their grill because he's not scared they'll pass to the post.

So nothing good can come of this. If it sounds like I've entered GLOOM mode over basketball, I have. Just the other day I was wishing it was lacrosse season, which is a bad bad sign. A win over Howard tomorrow will do little if anything to dispel the cloud, because following that are three ACC games in which there is major potential for ass-kickery and not in a good way.

If you want basketball optimism, wait til tomorrow when I make an attempt at profiling Mike Tobey, Tony Bennett's first 2012 recruit.

No comments: