Thursday, January 31, 2013

acc season sim

Before the ACC season got underway, I made a fancy spreadsheet toy.  Ken Pomeroy, see, projects a team's record using simple probabilities, and if you look in the right places his site also projects the conference's #1 seed and tells you what that team's chances are of getting it.  What he doesn't do is simulate 10,000 conference seasons to come up with a projected order of finish and each team's chances of landing in a particular seed from 1-12.  So I did.

There are good reasons not to, one being that doing it for 30-odd conference would be pretty time consuming.  Also, such a simulation cannot deal with tiebreakers unless you got wizard programming skills with a language of some kind.  I found a crude way to do it on the spreadsheet, but it's not the right way.  That is, it's not the conference's actual tiebreakers.

The basic idea here is that KenPom gives you a percentage chance of winning for every team in every game.  For example, at the moment he assigns UVA a 56% chance of beating Georgia Tech this Sunday and a 79% chance of beating Clemson next week.  Those change daily, but I've only bothered to update this thing weekly, that's all that's really necessary.  Anyway, these percentages are all you need.  Each game gets simulated 10,000 times and each team's wins are tallied up.  The tiebreaker, if teams end up with the same number of wins in a simulated season, is KenPom's overall team rating.  (At this point in the season, however, I've only found one instance where that tiebreaker doesn't agree with the ACC's first tiebreaker, which is head-to-head results.  And those two particular teams - Maryland and NC State - are far enough apart in KenPom's ratings that there aren't more than 10 or so of the simulated seasons where they end up actually tied.  So it's an imperfect but good enough tiebreaker for now.  As the season progresses I'll be able to switch to using the actual results to break ties, since I won't have to simulate them.)

As the season goes on, of course, I input the actual results of the games and update the sim. 

(Technical insert goes here for explanation's sake.  If you're curious, read; if this would bore you, feel free to skip and just take what I say at face value.  It's very easy to mix real results with simulated ones.  For the simulated games, the road team's chance of winning is X and the home team's is 1-X; Excel will give you a random number between 0 and 1, and if it's above X, the home team won, and if it's below, the road team won.  To insert the real results, I just change the road team's probability to 0 if they lost and 1 if they won.)

The results so far have been interesting.  Want to know what the effect was of Miami's crushing win over Duke?  Beforehand, Duke had an 82.38% chance of earning the 1 seed and Miami a 15.45% chance.  The roles are reversed; Miami is now at 62.77% and Duke crashed to 36.26%.  And to warm the cockles of your heart, VT has gone from a 16.07% chance of earning the basement 12th seed to a nearly 55% chance after last weekend.

Here are each week's results so far.  Click on each to make them bigger if they interest you; skip ahead to see UVA's numbers alone.

For UVA specifically:

1st: 2.07%
2nd: 33.69%
3rd: 25.23%
4th: 16.39%
5th: 10.35%
6th: 6.13%
7th: 3.30%
8th: 1.91%
9th: 0.76%
10th: 0.14%
11th: 0.02%
12th: 0.01%
Projected seed: 2nd

After 1 week:
1st: 3.37%
2nd: 29.41%
3rd: 33.98%
4th: 17.79%
5th: 8.42%
6th: 3.89%
7th: 1.91%
8th: 0.77%
9th: 0.42%
10th: 0.04%
11th: 0%
12th: 0%
Projected seed: 3rd

After 2 weeks:
1st: 0.05%
2nd: 1.22%
3rd: 7.22%
4th: 28.67%
5th: 22.98%
6th: 16.15%
7th: 11.22%
8th: 7.53%
9th: 3.18%
10th: 1.35%
11th: 0.34%
12th: 0.09%
Projected seed: 4th

After 3 weeks:
1st: 0.21%
2nd: 3.01%
3rd: 16.71%
4th: 42.91%
5th: 18.62%
6th: 9.55%
7th: 4.96%
8th: 2.88%
9th: 0.89%
10th: 0.23%
11th: 0.03%
12th: 0%
Projected seed: 4th

After 4 weeks:
1st: 0.57%
2nd: 4.36%
3rd: 46.41%
4th: 28.37%
5th: 11.80%
6th: 5.35%
7th: 2.09%
8th: 0.78%
9th: 0.21%
10th: 0.06%
11th: 0%
12th: 0%
Projected seed: 3rd

The kicker here is that these results are only through Monday, which is when I've been updating these because the ACC doesn't play games on Mondays.  Meaning it doesn't yet account for our glorious triumph over the Wolfpack this week.  Have to wait til Monday; that, boys and girls, is the cliffhanger.

sudden change

Apologies, I would've had an NC State preview and stuff, but homework got in the way.  Lesson learned: four hours before it's due isn't always the best time to start.  I mean, it still gets done, yes, but at the expense of everything else.  At any rate, it saves me the embarrassment of being wrong about the NC State game, since I almost certainly would've predicted a UVA loss.

The other thing it saved me was having to come up with some kind of sputtering about Bill Lazor's sudden departure to the Philadelphia Eagles.  The thought of Chip Kelly needing an offensive coordinator is a little bit goofy, but it's not like he didn't have one at Oregon either and anyway Lazor is only going to be the QB coach.  UVA went out and hired a new coach in something like 36 hours, so I don't have to flap my arms about oh no what ever will we do.

UVA went back out west again to hire Lazor's replacement, in the form of Steve Fairchild.  Technically Fairchild comes to us from the San Diego Chargers, but he described his job thusly: "'I’m just here to help Norv [Turner],' Fairchild said. 'Anything I can do to take a little bit away from Norv and help the offensive staff, that’s what my job is.'"

That's coachspeak for, "I'm collecting a paycheck and staying plugged into the network while I look for a real job."  Fairchild's most recent actual job was that of head coach at Colorado State, where one of his assistant coaches was Larry Lewis, newly-hired special teams guy.  In this, his lone head coaching experience, he was not successful; CSU went to a bowl game in his first season and then reeled off three 3-9 seasons in a row.  Hence why his tenure lasted only four seasons.

Probably the most illustrious point on Fairchild's resume is as the St. Louis Rams' offensive coordinator and QB coach under Mike Martz.  Anyone who could make Marc Bulger into the wildly successful quarterback that he was (even if only for a short time) probably did something right.  Martz, however, was famous for calling his own plays, and the great success of the Rams' offense has always been generally credited to Martz.  Fairchild was picked up by the Buffalo Bills after Martz left the Rams; he spent two years there presumably actually calling the plays since he was now working for a defensive head coach (Dick Jauron) and must have done alright, because he left of his own accord to coach at Colorado State, where he'd spend a lot of time in the '90s as OC.

I admit, though, I don't consider myself blown away.  I wasn't exactly unhappy with Lazor.  I thought it comical and a little bit stupid that a lot of the people who chewed their fingernails off in January 2012 over the possibility that Lazor might leave were the same people who were ready to call his cab outta town themselves after this season.  Really, one season and he goes from indispensable to horrible?  So fickle.

UVA, though, must've had some idea Lazor was a flight risk.  The speed of Fairchild's hire gives it away.  Clearly he was on a short list.  People who wanted a "young, up-and-coming energetic coach" will be disappointed; Fairchild is more retread than up-and-comer.  (But really, that's one of the sillier and most overhyped traits that people want in a coach.  Nobody ever questioned Jim Reid's energy and certainly nobody will be questioning Jon Tenuta's.)

I will be in wait-and-see mode, though, which is a couple notches down from the enthusiasm I felt about Lazor when he was hired.  Fairchild was pegged by an MWC blogger as a guy who tried to force the running game and limited his quarterback to dink and dunk stuff.  That would not be too popular with this fanbase, but then, we're talking about people who wanted to see Phillip Sims repeatedly wing it downfield whether or not it was ever caught, so I take that opinion with a grain of salt too.  Fairchild's CSU teams did lean pretty heavily to the run, for the most part.  But I can't speak to that being definitely his style as a play-caller because, after all, he was the head coach, not the OC.  With Buffalo, his Bills offenses actually split almost perfectly down the middle between the run and the pass; in the pass-wacky NFL, that might count as forcing the run too, but the guy had Marshawn Lynch toting the rock (in 2007) and J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards under center.  I might never have passed the ball with that personnel.

So in the end I can't draw any concrete conclusions about Fairchild's style, other than that I don't see the philosophy changing too radically.  Jon Oliver spoke about "changing systems" in his press release but I think he was referring more to the change in coaches rather than any major paradigm shifts like when they tried to pair Gregg Brandon with Al Groh.  Fairchild's got an NFL background, after all.  I don't think the difference between him and Lazor will be very tangible on the surface.

Monday, January 28, 2013

weekend review

Back and forth on the seesaw we go.  If you were listening in the past, you've been prepared and you know what it means.  If not, you probably think UVA is a perfectly legitimate darkhorse to make the Sweet 16, win the ACC title, and why aren't we ranked yet anyway?

I wish I could say all that stuff is true, but there's work yet to be done to scrub away the memories of ODU and some crappy conference losses.  For now, though, I don't mind riding a little high on the wave of three very decisive conference wins.  The outlook for this basketball team should continue to be, on balance, optimistic.  I might even let off a firework or two if they win tomorrow against NC State.

Because here's the deal.  So far, we've had the easiest conference schedule, if you go by KenPom's numbers.  Second-easiest, if you go by RPI, with only VT having it easier.  Does that mean we're gonna make up for it in the last two-thirds of the schedule?  Only a little.  Of the three teams considered the likeliest to win the conference, we play each of them only once, and two of them at home.  It's not an easy schedule, it never is in the ACC, but the games are winnable.  I don't think you can ask for much more.  Except health, which we never seem to get.

Some bulletized semi-issues from the past week:

-- There is this tendency - almost a desire, actually - to believe Teven Jones is "in the doghouse" because Doug Browman is eating up his minutes.  After the BC game, Tony Bennett was even asked "where's Teven?" and his answer was basically that Browman was doing a better job at defending (on-ball screens were Tony's example) and knowing the system, by which I assume he means both offense and defense.  This isn't hard to believe, given all the minutes that Will Sherrill got over Tristan Spurlock because Sherrill took to the system like the fat kid to the donut buffet.  Browman has been receiving Bennett's coaching for four years now; Teven, barely one.  People still want to say, "no, I think Teven's in the doghouse."  OK, you know best.

-- It's almost like Tony read my scouting report on VT.  The keys to winning were to shut down all the players not named Erick Green and shoot a zillion open threes because Tech will let you.  Boom, 11 for 23 from three-land and Green scores 35 of Tech's 58 points while their next-best option (Jarell Eddie) shoots 2 for 11.  I didn't even realize Green had so damn many points, either.

-- The stat sheet from that game is fascinating.  Jontel Evans had six assists and no turnovers and the Hoos as a team had 21 and 6.  They had more steals (nine) than VT had assists (six, and 14 turnovers.)  It's a testament to coaching that the team in the hostile road gym was far more composed and together than the team playing for their home fans.  By the way, Marshall Wood played for Tech after James Johnson had called it unlikely, but it might not've been the wisest move: if he hadn't picked up his one lone turnover he would've earned himself a seven-trillion.

-- UVA's length is starting to get to the opposition.  Justin Anderson is becoming the master of the fuck-yo-shot out-of-nowhere swat, and guys like Joe Harris and Evan Nolte are putting themselves on the shot-block board too.  Good positioning is the key to a lot of those; Anderson's extra athleticism is what turns the mundane into the spectacular.

-- By the way, I didn't have a big problem with Anderson's end-of-game dunk against BC.  Partly because it let the UVA side of the score exactly match my prediction, yes.  But the main thing is, he'd've dribbled out the clock, but BC double-teamed him.  Hey, you keep playing, I'll keep playing.  Anderson's apology to Steve Donahue was a solid thing to do, though.

-- BC's lineup, now that I actually think about it, is full of Reggie Cleveland All-Stars.  Both ways, too.  How is it that Olivier Hanlon and Ryan Anderson are black and Dennis Clifford is white?


More from around the world.  The whole world.  If your world is mostly UVA sports.

-- The CDP's headline that the notion of a UVA-Oregon football series is "premature at this point" is pretty much all the confirmation you need that it's happening.  Penn State backed out of our game this fall and Oregon appears to be the replacement, with a 2013 and 2016 home and home.  (From the way things have been sounding, by the way, PSU still wants to play the game, just not during their crippling sanction period.)  It would appear the 2013 game is in Charlottesville, which would mean eight home games and not a single OOC game away from Scott Stadium.

There's a disturbing reaction from a wing of the fanbase that claims we should be scheduling Somalia State instead, in order to puff up our record and send the message that we're a team on the rise.  Nonsense.  If we're so lousy that we need fluffy cotton candy to squeak into bowl eligibility at 6-6, we got bigger issues.  The Hokies go 6-6 and apologize for it; we shouldn't be needing to find the shittiest teams we can just so we can brag about six wins.  If we can't get bowl eligible by beating Duke, Maryland, Ball State, VMI, and two more teams out of the eight others on the schedule, the problem is probably coaching, not scheduling.

Besides, sometimes the cupcake bites back.  Ask Louisiana Tech.  That was supposed to be a cupcake game, when it was scheduled.  I'd rather be trounced by a top-5 team than by a WAC-snack.  For the record, I'd really rather have replaced PSU with a quality-but-not-dominant Big Five team like Mizzou or Vandy, but any business of shying away from Oregon is proof we need a new attitude as a fanbase.

-- The Hokies will be without starting cornerback Antone Exum for most of the offseason and maybe part of the regular season after he tore his ACL.

-- There's also an interesting CDP article today on Anthony Gill, the DeLorean in the garage, as Whitey Reid puts it.  I wish by that he meant that we were going back to the Ralph Sampson years with this guy, but I think we're in for something interesting next year regardless.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

game preview: Boston College

Date/Time: Saturday, January 26; 1:00


Record against the Eagles: 8-6

Last matchup: UVA 66, BC 49; 1/26/12, Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 74, VT 58 (1/24); Md. 64, BC 59 (1/22)


UVA: 59.6 (#345)
BC: 64.9 (#244)

UVA: 103.3 (#114)
BC: 106.1 (#71)

UVA: 85.9 (#10)
BC: 101.4 (#196)

UVA: .8689 (#32)
BC: .6143 (#124)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (3.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.0 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Evan Nolte (7.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.8 apg)

Boston College:

PG: Joe Rahon (10.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Lonnie Jackson (10.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg)
SG: Olivier Hanlon (13.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SG: Patrick Heckmann (8.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF: Ryan Anderson (16.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.5 apg)

Last night can only be called a rousing success; the truth is there's no better place to win a game than Cassell Coliseum.  Oh, you have to defend your home court and win for your fans, to be sure, but there's something extra-special satisfying in sending a full house of Hokies (the ones that aren't Tar Heel fans) home muttering about football season, which too bad for them is eight months away.

There's not much time to enjoy it, though.  The turnaround time is something less than 40 hours, and Boston College shows up in the JPJA.  BC had some stumbles in the non-conference schedule and sports an ugly ACC record, but the scores of their conference games could mean they're a more dangerous team than they look.

-- UVA on offense

It's too bad Darion Atkins is likely to once again sit out, because Steve Donahue has been employing a four-guard lineup of late, and I'd like to see one of them try and guard Atkins and/or Akil Mitchell.  But we're here for the game that will be played on the court, not in my fantasies.  The four-guard lineup may be just the thing for defending UVA's recent three-point barrage; the truth is that Harris and Nolte basically comprise the taller half of a four-guard lineup themselves.

However, like VT, BC is a team unlikely to create many turnovers.  UVA did a great job taking care of the ball against Tech, because the Hokies didn't hardly ever get into the passing lanes.  BC is similarly weak in the steals department, and except for when backup center Dennis Clifford gets into the game, they aren't a shot-blocking team either.  They'll try to keep you in front of them and they don't play overly aggressive.  It keeps them out of foul trouble, but teams are shooting three-pointers quite well against them.

BC is actually an excellent defensive rebounding team, thanks almost entirely to the sterling efforts of Ryan Anderson, the only forward in the starting lineup, as well as Clifford.  Both are terrific on the boards, particularly Anderson; were they not, BC probably would go from the top to the bottom of the defensive rebounding percentage barrel in a heartbeat.  Akil Mitchell could have some room to work against Anderson, though.  He has about 15 pounds on Anderson and should BC try to double him, Mitchell will probably find it easier than usual to pass out of it.  If Anderson is assigned to Mike Tobey, Tobey will again look to shoot jump shots over his head the way he's been doing with ever-increasing confidence lately.  Clifford is another matter; he's a seven footer and a quality defender, likely to neutralize whoever he guards and give lane drivers a tough time.

The bottom line, more or less, is that UVA will again have room to shoot the threes that've carried them to victory recently.  And as a bonus, they should be able to supplement that with some work in the post.  The 1.2 points-per-possession output in the VT game was probably about the best we'll see all year, but BC might also leave the Hoos some room to operate.

-- UVA on defense

The Eagles' offense is surprisingly decent for a team struggling to keep its head above water.  I said in their season preview that they would be improved but their record might not show it, and the results so far reflect that pretty well.  They kept pace with NC State's powerful offense and put a fright into Miami as well; they had mid-second-half leads in both games before succumbing to a talent deficit.

I also said in that preview that Lonnie Jackson might be shooting his way out of a job.  He shot his way back in since I said that.  In the last six games he's been hitting three-pointers at a .564 clip, and he's boosted his percentage from .273 then to .400 now.  Freshman Patrick Heckmann has meanwhile cooled off, with his success rate dropping from over .500 to .355 now.

It's important to look at those percentages because the Eagles will attempt a lot of threes.  All four of their starting guards have taken four a game, or closer to six in Jackson's case.  Over 40% of BC's shots are threes, which puts them in the top 25 in the country in that respect.  They also draw a ton of fouls; that again is Ryan Anderson's doing, along with quick-moving freshman guard Olivier Hanlon.  Anderson has blossomed as a go-to scorer, displaying a wide array of post moves and making himself incredibly difficult to guard.  Hanlon has earned multiple selections as the ACC's freshman of the week, and despite a very modest three-point percentage, is BC's second-leading scorer and has also proven he can fill it in a variety of ways.

UVA will likely use the low-post double team copiously on Anderson.  Mitchell will be an interesting matchup on him; his length and athleticism will make for some interesting battles.  Anderson likes to fall away as much as he likes to attack the rim.  One major advantage the Hoos will have everywhere else, though, is size.  Especially when the four guards are in, UVA will be much bigger and longer at most positions; the exception is point guard, where Jontel Evans isn't usually bigger than anyone.  But Joe Rahon is a freshman and Evans a senior, and Rahon has done a nice job this year but Evans will be a new experience for him.

This could be a dangerous matchup; Steve Donahue is instilling some decent basketball into the Eagles, who do an excellent job of taking care of the ball and look like they've developed some nice offensive cohesion.  But they're one of the few conference teams less experienced than UVA, playing on the road on Saturday, and Tony's defense has been a well-oiled machine lately.

-- Outlook

I can't believe I'm about to say this, since we have such a freshman-powered team and half a frontcourt, but experience and size ought to tip the game in UVA's favor.  The former mainly because it's on the road, and the latter because UVA has very deceptive size; big guards that can match up with BC's four (normal-sized) guards lineup.  At some point this season Boston College will upend someone who isn't paying attention.  They're 1-4, yes, but thanks to four very close losses and a demolition win over VT, their total point margin in conference play is only -4.  Only NC State has generated better conference-only offensive efficiency than the Eagles.  That said, the Hoos are on a roll, and the short layoff is usually a good thing when you're on a roll.  I like UVA to keep up the good work.

Final score: UVA 65, BC 55

Friday, January 25, 2013

2014 recruiting board

You were promised it this week and here it is: the 2014 recruiting board.  It is perhaps a little smaller than it might have been.  The coaches are being a little choosier because there isn't as much space this year.

The names you see here are not every prospect UVA has offered; mainly the ones that don't show are those I figured that UVA had no chance at all.  The list ranges from likely to mildly conceivable that listed name could pick UVA, with you knowing the drill by now about the colors.  (Even if you don't, it's pretty self-intuitive.)  UVA has already picked up one commitment: DT Chris Nelson, who did so back in August.

Don't totally give up hope, by the way, on a name in red.  Since I'm being more judicious with names than I was in the early days of doing this, red names, at least to start with, are not completely absurd longshots.  Last year's original look put Zach Bradshaw in red.  He moved up quick, but the point is it's an imperfect art.  A lot of these recruits don't even know yet what they want to do, so don't go bugging me to know that with a certainty either.  As usual, it's a probability thing, and grains of salt are standard issue.

Anyway, I've talked enough.  Here's the long-awaited list.

Latest changes:

-- Added LB Chris Peace and DE Cory Jones (re-add in that case) to orange. 

-- Moved OL Will Richardson from orange to maroon.

-- Removed CB DaiQuan Lawrence from blue; recommitted to Wake Forest.

-- Removed DB Daniel Ezeagwu from green (Maryland.)

-- Removed TE Blake Whiteley (Texas) and CB Cornelius Floyd (Arkansas) from yellow.

-- Moved DT Derrick Nnadi from red to yellow. 

-- Added LB Vincent Jackson and CB Ladarius Wiley to yellow.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

game preview: Virginia Tech

Date/Time: Thursday, January 24; 8:00

TV: ACC Network, ESPN3

Record against the Hokies: 81-52

Last matchup: UVA 61, VT 59; 2/21/12, Blacksburg

Last game: UVA 56, FSU 36 (1/19); VT 66, WF 65 (1/19)


UVA: 59.7 (#344)
VT: 70.1 (#48)

UVA: 102.0 (#132)
VT: 105.7 (#79)

UVA: 85.9 (#8)
VT: 104.2 (#252)

UVA: .8540 (#39)
VT: .5370 (#151)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (3.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg)
PF: Evan Nolte (6.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.9 apg)

Virginia Tech:

PG: Erick Green (24.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.4 apg)
SG: Robert Brown (10.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SF: Jarell Eddie (14.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.4 apg)
F: C.J. Barksdale (5.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.7 apg)
F: Cadarian Raines (6.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.6 apg)

The Hoos righted the ship last weekend against Florida State, or so I'd like to believe.  If they're going to have any kind of success this season, though, they'll have to figure out how to win on the road, where so far ACC play has been very unkind.  There wouldn't be a better place to get that figured out than Blacksburg.  Virginia Tech sports the same 2-2 record as UVA, but they've largely played the dregs of the conference; the best team they've faced has been Maryland, and their wins have been of the skin-of-teeth variety.  Nevertheless, any team with Erick Green is going to be dangerous.

-- UVA on offense

KenPom-wise, there aren't many bigger pillowfights in the ACC than this side of the matchup.  In conference-only play, UVA's offense rates 10th of 12, and VT's defense is bottom-of-the-barrel bad.  Tech isn't a great rebounding team, and doesn't create turnovers.  Only Erick Green is a threat in that regard, and not a big one.  If turnovers again plague the Hoos and their point guards, they'll have only themselves to blame.

Tech also allows teams to shoot a large number of threes; though their opponents' make percentage is pretty low, the high number of attempts still allows extra points to creep in.  If VT wants to let UVA shoot threes, UVA will probably be happy to oblige, so it'd be nice if we could get the same kind of performance we saw in the first half against FSU thank you very much.

VT is a thin team - their rotation will mainly feature seven players - so it's to their credit that they do a decent job of staying out of foul trouble.  Green is a good defender, and Jontel Evans will find it tough to find the rim, so ball movement will be important.  Tech can be broken down this way.  They still have some of Seth Greenberg's habits to break and have that good shot-blocking athleticism, but don't always rotate and help quickly.  UVA shouldn't be afraid to shoot the open three; Tony Bennett has talked of having only three players that have the green light (likely Joe Harris, Paul Jesperson, and Evan Nolte) but some of those yellow-light guys, like Justin Anderson, will at some point find themselves with an opportunity; they should bomb away as well.

There may also be some good second-chance opportunities, a good time for Akil Mitchell to shine.  Mitchell will easily be the best rebounder on the court, and if his ankle allows it, Bennett might do well to allow Mitchell to crash the offensive glass instead of ordering him quickly back on defense like usual.  There will be some points to be found this way; VT's starting frontcourt of Raines, Eddie, and Barksdale are okay rebounders and bench center Joey van Zegeren isn't aggressive on the boards.

Ultimately, the Hoos' fate will be in their own hands.  Tech doesn't defend well enough to stop most teams.  UVA can be stubbornly bad at offense when it tries, though.  Shoot passably well and don't turn the ball over and they'll earn enough points to win.

-- UVA on defense

Any discussion of Tech's offense starts and ends with Erick Green.  There's no getting around it; the guy is legitimately good and probably a lock for first team all-ACC at the end of the year.  Green takes care of the ball, he distributes it well, he's an extremely-high-usage player who can get to the rim with ease.  He draws a bazillion fouls and shoots from the line exceedingly well.  If there's a hole in his game it's that he's merely a respectable three-point shooter.  He's been held under 20 points just once this season - in Tech's debacle against BYU - and he could easily get his 20 against UVA, too.

The best way to go is to try and limit the rest of the team.  Green loves to drive and kick to his big, shooting wing Jarell Eddie, who can be dangerous behind the arc.  C.J. Barksdale is probably underused and is a good scorer down low, and Cadarian Raines must be kept off the glass; he is one of the country's better offensive rebounders.  Nor can you feel comfortable putting most of these guys on the line; most are solid free-throw shooters. 

UVA should try to funnel the ball to Robert Brown, the weakest link in Tech's starting lineup.  Brown scores 10 a game and is Tech's third-leading scorer, but is the very definition of a volume scorer with just a .343 shooting percentage, and .234 behind the arc.

The good news for UVA is that Tech's weapons are potent, but they're limited in number.  Brown, I don't consider much of a scorer.  VT's sixth man is Marquis Rankin, in the game for his defense, most definitely not his offense.  Joey van Zegeren is the only other player likely to get much time off the bench.  The Hokies will sub in Will Johnston if they want someone to knock down a quick three; Johnston has taken 29 shots this year and 27 have been threes.  But his minutes have diminished of late and they've been inconsistently given all season.

In the end, Green will probably have his points.  UVA is a tough defense to drive on, yes, but Green is the best player they've faced all season.  The game will almost certainly hinge on whether the others get their points as well.  If UVA can limit Tech's complementary players, they'll have a clear upper hand.

-- Outlook

Tech still looks a lot like the team that Seth Greenberg ran, but with better discipline.  Somewhat.  They like to score quickly, though - they have a fast tempo, and since they don't hardly ever get steals, the tempo isn't borne of a transition game.  It's from a desire to hurry things up in the halfcourt.  Tony Bennett prefers you don't do that.  Whoever can impose their tempo is very, very likely to win this game.

I expect a close one, though.  Both games last year were, and this is on the road and likely won't be much different.  Tech gets up for these games and will give us a fight.  I still think the Hoos have legitimate tournament hopes, and since I think that, I really have no choice but to step back out on the limb and call for a win.  We're not going to have an easy time convincing a committee otherwise.

Final score: UVA 59, VT 55

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


What a relief.  It's nice to know, after a couple games which made one wonder, that UVA is still capable of delivering a good ass-beating.  To be sure, the Hoos, after delivering a few stinkers courtesy of their own youthful inconsistency, this time took advantage of someone else's.  Florida State is rebuilding, and you don't rebuild with experienced veterans.  Still, we're in no position to complain about any wins.

Especially historical ones.  It's one thing to hold Wofford under 40 points.  It's another to do it to an ACC opponent; FSU's 36 points are the fewest any ACC team has managed against UVA since the shot clock.  And yet the astonishing thing isn't the high school output from the Noles.  The astonishing thing is that I'm not astonished.  I should be; even for the pace of the game, which was the second-slowest of the season at 55 possessions, it's an excellent defensive effort; 0.65 points per possession is all FSU managed.  That's real nice.  I think the actual deal here is that I'm getting used to Tonyball.  56-36 is going to go down as one of the lowest scoring games of the year in the whole country and yet it didn't make my jaw drop.  Maybe it should, or maybe defensive shutdowns like this are starting to become routine.

That would probably make Tony Bennett a very happy man.  People may deride the slothy pace of Tony's games, but there are worse things than coming to be known for a completely impenetrable defense.  The mass media's reticence in picking up the whole concept of pace can work to our advantage there.  Keep this man around long enough and "you can't score on Virginia" will become as much a truism as "Calipari is probably still cheating."  It'll attract exactly the kind of recruit Tony wants to attract.

In giving FSU the business, UVA places itself in the thick of an ACC race that's in dire need of untangling.  After three weeks of play, seven teams are either 2-2 or 2-3.  Opportunity lies ahead; the next two games are against two of the three teams that KenPom labels the three worst in the conference.  (Of course, we went and lost to the other one, but never you mind that.)  Even more fortuitously, the conference's three leaders - Duke, Miami, and NC State, all of which look tourney-bound - only appear on the schedule once.  I have no doubt that at some point this season, the Hoos will look as crappy as they did two weeks ago, because it's a young team with a still-fluky point guard, but there's still no reason at all to put the dancing shoes in the closet.


-- Speaking of that point guard, KenPom has some interesting stats on Jontel Evans.  His turnover rate, first off, is a positively disgusting 40.1%.  Which is to say that when he's on the floor, he's got a 40% chance of giving the ball away.  He did so five times against FSU.  Now the good news: his assist rate is 36.2%.  Which is to say that chances are damn good he will either turn it over or create a basket.  I can live with that as long as he keeps playing like he did against FSU and not against Clemson.  Remember I said he was putrid against Clemson: passive, indecisive, and lost.  He was none of those against FSU.  His turnovers were the result of aggression, not endless wishy-washy dribbling.  I can live with that.  Six points, seven assists, and five boards is a solid game, even with five turnovers.

-- You need no more proof of FSU's youthful foolishness than the power play possession they wasted.  With Akil Mitchell very slow to get up from a hard fall, UVA had no other choice but to play something that I can only call a 2-2 zone.  Or a 1-2-1; it looked diamondy.  Most teams would've attacked the rim and tried to overwhelm with numbers.  FSU made two passes and hoisted a stupid three-pointer; like thirteen of their other three-point attempts, it didn't go in.  Dumb.

I would add this, too: this is something I can't say for sure, because the possession was so short, but what UVA was doing didn't look like what I would think the defense would look like if it were a pack-line with one guy left unguarded.  It looked like a four-man zone defense.  That might just be coincidence.  It might also be that the team is coached to play like that if they're one man short.  I don't have any way of knowing, but if it's the latter, you gotta hand it to the coaches; not too many teams would have a contingency plan like that.

-- If you showed me a picture of Mike Tobey guarding Boris Bojanovsky, but only from the chest up so you couldn't tell they were seven feet tall, I'd ask you what does middle-school basketball have to do with anything?

 -- The one note of caution for those getting too excited over the sound beating we just witnessed is that we're not real likely to splash that many threes in one half again.  The open looks were nice, but still.  FSU's dismal 1-for-15 effort, though, is good reason to be pleased with the defense.  Most of those shots were well contested and not a few were shot-clock desperation heaves.


Some very quick weekend review-type notes:

-- Vincent Croce is moving from DL to fullback, which gives us another candidate to smash heads the way I was talking about in the Connor Wingo-Reeves post.  Croce ain't going there to catch passes.

-- No, I really don't think Taquan Mizzell's little legal issue from the big official visit weekend is even remotely going to be a problem.

-- Interesting article on UVA's new special teams coach, Larry Lewis.

-- I'm not going to waste much space on the whole Manti Te'o thing, but my God this has to be the best intentional-yet-unintentional humor ever.  The Dallas Stars tried one joke, and it worked, but your inner 12-year-old will see another one.

Friday, January 18, 2013

game preview: Florida State

Date/Time: Saturday, January 19; 4:00


Record against the Noles: 17-19

Last meeting: FSU 63, UVA 60; 3/1/12, Charlottesville

Last game: Clem. 59, UVA 44 (1/12), UNC 77, FSU 72 (1/12)


UVA: 60.4 (#341)
FSU: 69.6 (#63)

UVA: 102.2 (#130)
FSU: 108.2 (#46)

UVA: 87.7 (#18)
FSU: 96.0 (#112)

UVA: .8270 (#52)
FSU: .7731 (#71)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (2.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.3 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.3 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg)
PF: Evan Nolte (6.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.8 apg)

Florida State:

PG: Montay Brandon (5.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.8 apg)
SG: Terry Whisnant (7.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.8 apg)
G: Michael Snaer (15.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.6 apg)
F: Okaro White (13.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.7 apg)
C: Kiel Turpin (3.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.5 apg)

A week off in the ACC basketball season is as good as a bye week, and it came at a good time for the Hoos.  They suffered a couple unsettling losses, but the season is by no means lost, and there's still time to right the ship and work their way into the tournament.  They'd do well to seize the opportunity, since there won't be another one this year.  The rest of the season is two games a week.  FSU is coming off a similar off week, so the advantage against the opponent will be limited, but it's an opportunity nonetheless.

If there were any way of knowing which members of this team will be togged up and ready to go, that'd make things easier on me, but Tony Bennett is quietly developing a reputation for stinginess when it comes to injury information.  At least Florida State will be in the same predicament as I am, trying to figure out what exactly to prepare for.  Darion Atkins probably won't play, if I read the tea leaves right.  Akil Mitchell - I guess probably will.  Chances are that someone else stepped into the Hoos' secret ankle-breaking machine this week, but I guess we'll see.  I'm writing this with the assumption that Atkins is unavailable, and that Evan Nolte will start in his place, but I'm not a mind-reader and I don't know what Bennett is thinking.  The man is inscrutable.

-- UVA on offense

This is where the last two games have been lost.  The shooting's gone cold and the point guard play against Clemson (that's code for "Jontel Evans") was atrocious.  Evans has been made aware of the need to "take care of the ball," yes.  The problem, I suspect, is that he was already aware of that need and played over-the-edge cautiously as a result.  And that in turn was disastrous.

We're dangerously close to the territory that we've become familiar with over the past few years of basketball previews.  That territory essentially is that it doesn't matter what I write if a few shots don't fall.  Nothing matters if you can't get people to respect your jump shots, and right now, there isn't much reason to respect UVA's.  That, naturally, means Joe Harris, Evan Nolte, Paul Jesperson.  The need is even more paramount with one of UVA's post weapons sidelined.  Akil Mitchell is the only Hoo that's played consistently well on offense in the past couple games, but he could be neutralized if FSU can key in on him as the only post threat on the floor.

They have ways of making it happen, too.  The Noles have no fewer than three seven-footers on the roster, two of which exist in the rotation.  Kiel Turpin starts at center, and 7'3" Boris Bojanovsky gets about as many minutes as Turpin.  That's not that much, fortunately; FSU will go for long stretches without either on the floor, but both, as you'd expect, are excellent shot-blockers.  Another factor here is forward Okaro White, who isn't quite Bernard James but plays an aggressive brand of defense that's led to 23 blocked shots this year and also to fouling out of three games.  Ultimately, though, FSU as a team blocks almost 14% of opponent shots; they're 25th in the country in that regard.

It would be nice if the Hoos can stretch the floor and nullify the likely advantage the Noles will have in the paint, because otherwise we're asking Mitchell to do the work of three.  An occasional dropped-in jump shot from Mike Tobey, who isn't shy about taking them, would help here.  Failing that, UVA might look to try and get White and Terrence Shannon into foul trouble, as both are prone to it.  Shannon averages more than five fouls per 40 minutes, which is Jeff Allen territory.

There will be an extra onus on Evans and Teven Jones, as well: FSU's monstrous point guards.  Backup Devin Bookert is tall enough at 6'3"; their starter, who Evans will have to deal with, is 6'7" Montay Brandon.  I'm sure I've never written a game preview for a team with a 6'7" point guard.  You'd think this guy would be all over the top of every steals list in the world, but in fact he's got just two all season; still, I worry that just his sheer size will complicate things for Evans.

Overall, FSU's defense has fallen off sharply from last year, when they were one of the nation's elite.  That's true no longer, but they're still respectable.  The only thing they do badly, for whatever reason, is rebound; they're 304th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, but since we've (likely) lost our second-best offensive rebounder and Tony Bennett prefers not to crash the offensive glass, there's probably not much we can do about that.  Just make it moot, I guess, by hitting shots.

-- UVA on defense

Where FSU's defense has slipped, their offense has taken up the slack.  The main threat: three-point shooting.  Florida State's percentage as a team is .391, which is good for 17th in the country.  They've got four players hitting on better than 40%, and in volume sufficient enough to be worrisome: Michael Snaer, Okaro White, Devin Bookert, and Terry Whisnant.

Snaer is FSU's go-to guy, with White not that far behind.  Snaer is kind of a volume scorer inside the arc, shooting less than 40% from two, but he's a versatile guy who draws a ton of fouls and not to be taken lightly.  White is relatively low-usage for a team's second-leading scorer, but usage rate includes turnovers, and White takes care of the ball very well, especially for a forward.  These two are giving FSU a potent scoring punch that is dangerous from most anywhere on the court.

Terrance Shannon can also score - strictly down low, he lacks White's versatility - but he'll also be one to contend with.  But FSU's frontcourt is otherwise thin on scoring options, something of a blessing for our thin front line.  Neither Kiel Turpin nor Boris Bojanovsky play enough minutes to do anything more than chip in here and there.  And the entire frontcourt, White included, has a very low assist rate - in other words, once the ball goes in, it tends not to come out.

At point, the Seminoles rely on a pair of freshman.  Montay Brandon starts, Devin Bookert comes off the bench, but they split the minutes about evenly.  If not for that I might suggest that Bookert's superior play comes from playing against bench players himself.  Perhaps it does, but at any rate, there's almost nothing on the stat sheet that Brandon does better.  His assist rate is barely half his turnover rate (though Bookert also turns the ball over too much.)  Bookert has been the superior three-point shooter, hitting on more than half his attempts, and Brandon is an atrocious free-throw shooter.  The only place where Brandon is better is two-point shooting percentage, and small wonder at that; Brandon probably posts everyone up who tries to guard him.  It wouldn't surprise me, though, if at some point this season there's a change of the guard here.

The rest of the Seminole backcourt consists of complementary pieces to the scoring of Snaer and White.  Terry Whisnant is a deadly shooter and hasn't missed a free throw all year.  (I await your actions, gods of the jinx.)  Aaron Thomas is a sound player for the most part, except for his miserable three-point shooting.  (If not for his 4-for-22 performance this year, FSU would be another 10 or so places higher in the ranking, moving them into the top ten, easily.)  Ian Miller has been limited by a foot injury this year (amazing - it doesn't only happen to us) and has given way in the scoring department somewhat to Snaer and White and various others, but he's a guy who doesn't do anything badly, either.

To take advantage of FSU on this end of the floor, UVA needs to mercilessly hound the Seminoles' freshman points, who've been known to be free and easy with the ball.  Their frontcourt, particularly Bojanovsky and Shannon, can also be turnover-prone.  The Hoos must beware that FSU doesn't go on a three-point binge, which can change the flow of the game in a very bad way.  With a thin frontcourt, they'll need to also stay out of foul trouble; hard to do, because the Noles draw fouls very well.  UVA has defended better teams before, so it's not like this is an insurmountable task, but three-point shooting teams have a way of bailing themselves out of bad situations.

-- Outlook

Perhaps our best hope is the youthful inconsistency that dogs all teams that rely so heavily on underclassmen.  That, and the friendly confines where the game will be played.  Like UVA, FSU has lost to some bad teams this year; South Alabama, Mercer, and Auburn show up as the Seminole equivalent of UVA's CAA blemishes.  Common opponents are no use as a comparison: FSU beat Clemson at Clemson and lost to UNC at home.

I have a hard time predicting a win, though.  Maybe I'm snakebit by watching the offense perform the last two times out.  This is truly an anything-can-happen kind of game, what with the week off and the plethora of freshmen that'll take the court for both sides and the inconsistent results both of these teams have put on their resume so far.  I don't have a great feeling about it, though.  If we do lose, as predicted, it means I'm a genius and I told you so; if we win, you can just chalk it up to me trying to shake off a jinx, OK?

Final score: FSU 69, UVA 59

too-late review, too-early preview: defense 2012-2013

Continuing our HIGHLY CONTROVERSIAL! series from last week.


This year....

Other than a weak pass rush, pretty good.  The line managed only 13.5 sacks in 2012, no doubt a contributor to the low turnover margin (making the quarterback go AAAAAH is a great way to get a few now and then.)  But there was a great lineup of playable depth at both end and tackle.  Will Hill was particularly stout in the middle, and Brent Urban nosed ahead of Justin Renfrow for the starting job next door; Renfrow was solid if unspectacular when on the field, and Chris Brathwaite, despite playing in a reserve role, led the whole line in sacks and TFL.  Brathwaite was a feast-or-famine player, susceptible to being encouraged to go exactly the direction the offensive line wanted, but the feasting overtook the famine by the end of the year.

The ends lacked a consistent pass rush threat, but they contributed mightily to UVA's excellent run defense.  Jake Snyder, despite his second-on-the-team 2.5 sacks, isn't a pass-rusher, but if we did have a pass-rush threat on the opposite side, Snyder could probably increase his own total too.  He did an excellent job chasing down runs to the edge and more than held his ground against opposing tight ends.  Ausar Walcott adapted well to the position switch to DE, and though he was more of a quarterback hurrier than sack-collector (that, in fact, was the story of the defensive line all season: generally good enough to generate some pressure but not quite good enough to actually reach the prize) Walcott did a good job learning the nuances of the position and being a more complete defensive end than just a pass-rush specialist.  And Eli Harold flashed some of the skills and made some of the plays that made him such a prized recruit, but the truth is he was too small to make a consistent dent in opposing offenses.

But he definitely improved over the course of the year.  As did most of the younger players on the line: Brathwaite, Mike Moore, David Dean - which is why I was so disappointed to see Jeff Hanson let go.  Hanson, I think, was getting through with some quality lessons.  This line didn't make a lot of flashy plays, but they got the job done.

Next year....

Officially there's no D-line coach on the staff anymore, which is to say that London is going to leave some of the head-coach adminstrative gobbledygoo to Tom O'Brien, and get back into the positional coaching a little bit.  London knows what he's doing, so the line ought to continue its upward trajectory.

UVA will lose Hill, Walcott, and Billy Schautz, whose injury-bit self was somewhat missed when a hamstring kept him off the field for half the season; Schautz did come back and had himself a nice game against VT in the finale.  Also gone is Brathwaite, who just set himself up next to Jeffrey Fitzgerald in Wahoo lore.  If that's any precedent he'll follow one of our departed coaches to some other school and tear it up completely, which is pretty much par for the course as a UVA fan.  Brathwaite is going to be a real loss, maybe more so than any of the seniors, and that's really saying something in Hill's case.

It means David Dean will probably play a big role.  Dean started to assert himself in the second half of the season and just might push Renfrow for the starting job alongside Urban.  At least he's a top candidate for the third spot in the rotation, which is basically as good as being a starter.  It'll also be time to start seeing what we have in Vincent Croce and Marco Jones.

On the ends, Snyder will head into his senior year, which gives the Hoos a solid building block on one side.  Harold will likely put on some weight, and big things will be expected.  Michael Moore is the top candidate to be the first off the bench.  Expectations should be big for the entire unit; what we saw this year will hopefully be a minimum.


This year....

Other than Henry Coley finding his way to Mike London's doghouse, we had some enviable stability in this unit, culminating in Steve Greer's selection to the all-ACC first team.  Here's a fun fact: at the end of this past season, the only active player in the country with more career tackles than Greer was Manti Te'o.

When Greer was out for a brief time, his position in the middle was ably manned by D.J. Hill; likewise, Daquan Romero did a fine job picking up the slack for Coley.  Laroy Reynolds, on the weak side, was sometimes the victim of his own overaggressiveness, but for the most part played a very solid season as well.  Greer is the star of the group, and he's about as flashy as a mud flap, so there were very few exciting, spectacular moments out of the linebacking corps.  But there's not much to complain about, either.

Next year....

Both Greer and Reynolds are gone, leaving two pretty big holes.  And I don't think anyone can say for sure whether Coley will definitely reclaim his starting job.  Romero looks ready for one if necessary.  Hill is not that far behind, and is versatile enough to play a couple different positions.  If it were Romero, Hill, and Coley, that group would probably do a good job continuing the steady play of the last set of linebackers.

But there are some serious athleticism upgrades lurking as well, in the forms of Kwontie Moore and Demeitre Brim.  Moore, a middle linebacker all the way, will need some seasoning to fully replace what Greer brought, but he'll be a major step up in the speed department.  Just in time for Jon Tenuta and his blitzorama.  Brim has serious potential in Tenuta's defense as a weakside pass-rusher as well.  Both will push very, very hard for playing time, and let's not leave out Mark Hall, either, who is coming off a redshirt season.  UVA also has LaChaston Smith enrolled and ready to go for spring practice, but it is hoped we don't have to dip into the freshman class for answers here.


This year....

An absurdly young unit wasn't the federal disaster zone I expected.  I wouldn't say they were great.  Only four interceptions all year, which puts the Hoos almost at the very bottom of the barrel, and by the way one of those picks belonged to Eli Harold, so really, only three.  Other than their lack of turnovers, this was a tough unit to judge because the coaches were protecting them somewhat with their schemes.  That soft coverage that everyone hated, for example, was the coaches' way of keeping the safeties out of trouble.  It generally worked: only three teams in the country matched or beat UVA's count of 82 pass plays of 10+ yards given up.

Change that number to 40+ yards, though, and you start to see the cracks; UVA was in the bottom half of the country there.  Brandon Phelps had some rough introductions to the starting safety job, and Anthony Harris only a few less than Phelps.  Those two played most every snap, though; the coaches used Anthony Cooper not much and Rijo Walker (puzzlingly) even less.

Demetrious Nicholson continued his development nicely; he ended the year with 15 PBUs, although not a single interception.  He added about 10-15 pounds, which was a very noticeable aid to his tackling.  His tackling was crummy in 2011 because he kept getting run over; the extra weight cut down on that considerably.  Drequan Hoskey started for most of the year opposite Nicholson, but Maurice Canady put a world of pressure on Hoskey for that job, and his two picks helped make his case.

Next year....

Not a single player will be lost to graduation, and after 2013, only Walker departs, so the hope is that the secondary grows into one of the ACC's elite.  It probably won't be that good in 2013, but it should start to show signs of being a strength. 

Jon Tenuta's arrival will have its greatest effect here.  Safety blitzes will become part of the repertoire and there should be a lot more press coverage.  I think there would've been more press coverage anyway as the staff started putting more weight on these guys' shoulders, but Tenuta will use it much more than Jim Reid would've.

I don't expect much, if any, change to the safeties.  Malcolm Cook is highly heralded, but safeties with experience are almost always going to look better than the newcomers.  Phelps and Harris shouldn't see much challenge to their positions.  Nicholson won't either; it's Hoskey that'll continue to feel the heat from Canady, and don't be the least bit surprised to see Canady move into the starting lineup at some point this calendar year.  Two excellent cornerback prospects are coming in the fall, but I think it'll be too tough for them to unseat the incumbents.  The only mystery is Canady, and how much field time there'll be for those below the top three and who it might be for.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I don't have any writing today.  I've been doing some blog housekeeping instead.  I updated the recruiting board for 2013 (Hipolito Corporan and Brad Henson to maroon, Eric Smith and Connor Wingo-Reeves added to orange, for the sake of posterity in case I have to go back and track changes) and all three depth charts.

The hoops one should've been done long ago since we're halfway into the season, but there you go.  The football one simply removes the decommits (except, I just realized, Corporan, but F it that one's a pain in the ass to do and I'll just fix it in the spring), adds the new commits, and also removes Mike Rocco and Chris Brathwaite.**

The lacrosse one is sort of the preseason edition, with last year's senior class rolled off the edge and next year's signed freshman class added.  Some positions shuffled, a few players (think: Blake Riley and Nick O'Reilly) held back a year due to redshirts, a few deletions (nothing major except for one goalie, which crimps the depth somewhat), a few additions (remember Thompson Brown? that movie now showing at Klockner instead of Scott; also an important transfer in the form of ex-Bucknell Bison Charlie Streep***) and whatnot else.  Please keep in mind the foggy nature of lacrosse positions, particularly midfield where the roster doesn't make a distinction between the various types (offense, defense, FOGO) unless they carry a long stick, and don't yell at me if something isn't quite right.

I've also been putting together the 2014 recruiting board, and you can look for that next week.


***Streep, in fact, played his last, as in most recent, game of lacrosse at Klockner.  More on Streep in the lacrosse season preview in a couple weeks, but you'll remember him as a key player in one of the most exciting tourney games UVA's played in semi-recent memory.  Then he had to sit out last season with an abdominal injury.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

the recruit: Connor Wingo-Reeves

Name: Connor Wingo-Reeves
Position: LB/FB
Hometown: Richmond
School: Monacan
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 223

24/7: 73, two stars; #118 ILB, VA #63
ESPN: 64, two stars; #151 OLB, VA #53, Atl. #263
Rivals: 5.4, two stars
Scout: two stars; #125 OLB

Other offers: Temple, Navy

This past weekend, Hipolito Corporan took an official visit to Utah.  It's good for him he had a scholarship from there, because he didn't have one from UVA anymore as his reward for the visit the coaches had asked him not to take - and warned him what'd happen if he did.  With a newly-freed-up scholarship, Mike London called up Connor Wingo-Reeves, and it wasn't long at all before the scholarship was spoken for.

Wingo-Reeves is a guy the coaches kept tabs on, but had never actually offered until last weekend.  Very few schools had, actually.  CWR camped at quite a few places, but sat through most of the recruiting cycle on just two offers, those from Temple and Navy, and was verbally committed to Temple at the time of his UVA offer, and had been since August.

As evaluated, and mostly as he camped, CWR is a linebacker.  Probably an outside one.  Rivals judged him to be pretty good at pass coverage during one particular 7-on-7 camp, and that's one rare instance where I would value the evaluation more because it's 7-on-7.  It's harder for linebackers to shine because of the emphasis on speed, speed, speed.  Which Wingo-Reeves doesn't really have in spades; his pass coverage is more instinctual than athletic.

In ESPN's evaluation, in fact, the best thing they can say about his athleticism is that he has "enough," which is damnation with faint praise if there ever was such a thing.  Much of the rest of that scouting report is full of veiled criticisms of his athleticism, and truth is, he's not that much faster than the the competition that he plays against.  He brings a very strong and solid tackling technique when he gets to the ballcarrier (obvious caveat: in the highlights) which is where a lot of his value comes as a linebacker.  That and being in the right place at the right time, which is how he earned his interceptions.

Wingo-Reeves has been told by the coaches he'll play either linebacker or fullback.  Temple actually had him as a defensive end, which is small surprise; at about 225-ish pounds, CWR is just about as big as any linebacker we have, only a few pounds off, and could probably outgrow linebacker without even trying.  Truth is, it'd probably be a tricky thing to add muscle mass and yet keep his weight in the right place for linebacker.  And the coaches spread their net far and wide for linebackers in this recruiting cycle; if they wanted Wingo-Reeves as one, he'd probably have had his offer long ago.

My guess, and my hope, is that the answer is fullback.  We truthfully don't have one.  Zach Swanson is an H-back, not a fullback.  At 6'6" he's too tall (and not heavy enough) to block in a gap with good leverage.  Billy Skrobacz is only 5'9", and on at least one occasion that I can recall, got his running back killed by running directly past the linebacker he ought to have blocked.  For fullback I'd prefer Wingo-Reeves to be a little shorter, but that's nitpicking.  His strong tackling skills make him good for cracking someone's skull to clear the way for a running back.  His anticipation in pass coverage is easily converted to the ability to see into the gap and find the guy who needs blocking.

As a linebacker, I doubt Wingo-Reeves would ever see the field.  We got three damn good ones in this class and will probably look for more in 2014.  The upcoming athleticism at that position is outstanding.  But as a fullback?  Even though Wingo-Reeves is a consensus two-star - the only one in the class, in fact - who was unable to catch the eye of most of the schools that he tried for, as a fullback he could be one of the least likely redshirts in the whole class.  Some of this is wishful thinking on my part, because I don't think a pro-style, up-the-gut running offense is at its best without a real fullback.  I would love to watch Taquan Mizzell following a proper fullback into the line.  I think we got one here.  Get him coached up on a few sections of the playbook and this guy could be a sleeper addition that adds a different dimension to an offense that needs it.

weekend review

Some days all I want to write is, "That sucked."  I figure if I left it at that, there wouldn't be much else to say, really.  But maybe I owe you a little more than two words.  I wrote a few more than two for ITA this week, and you should go check that out as sort of a starting point for the rest of the ramblings on where we stand, one-sixth of the way into the ACC hoops season.

The injuries are nothing new.  We get slammed with those all the time.  It's like all you have to do is impress the fans at the JPJA and then the injury gremlin shows up in the night and chops off your foot.  Jeff White points out that Akil Mitchell re-injured his ankle in the Clemson game, which is no surprise since high-ankle sprains get reinjured like it's their job.  Oh, and Darion Atkins is essentially week-to-week with what Tony Bennett called a "stress reaction."  Like shin splints on steroids.  As with anyone who's ever had any kind of a symptom of anything, I know how to look things up on WebMD and the like, and a "stress reaction" apparently is "a preceding stage to a stress fracture."

Oh goody.

So now we're playing almost entirely without the two players that really made the engine purr in November and December.  Joe Harris is the main scorer, but Mitchell and Atkins were drawing just all kinds of rave reviews for their athleticism, activity, and ability to light up a stat sheet on both ends of the floor.  Remember that?  We had shot-blocking, rebounding, killer double-teams, and best of all, they had post moves that worked.  Now, according to Whitey Reid, it might be back to the four for Harris, which is a terrific way to get murdered in the post when we're on defense and destroy Harris's scoring value.

It's not like they're both declared out for the FSU game this coming Saturday, of course.  The week away from game action might help.  But until further notice, even if they play they're both likely to be pretty limited, and they're not getting any practice time.

If that weren't bad enough, we now have a point guard going on tilt.  Against Clemson, Jontel Evans played probably the worst game I have ever seen out of a UVA point guard, and Calvin Baker could conjure up a real stinker sometimes when he had to play the 1.  There's no sense in beating around the truth, though: Evans was absolutely horrible against Clemson.  He's well aware of the need to take care of the ball, of course - it seems to me he's too well aware.  He was indecisive, which in turn caused turnovers.  (Case in point: a semi-transition moment when he thought about passing to Mitchell, decided not to, and traveled.)  He didn't want to risk a turnover by attacking the basket, so he dribbled around the entire halfcourt everywhere but near the basket.  That only ever resulted in shot-clock violations, or a hurried shot at the end of the time limit, which is just as bad.  Against Clemson the offense was a chaotic mess, and yes, the finger needs to point squarely at the senior point guard.

Among UVA fans, you very often see premature quitting on the season.  There is this thought that if you bring in the future starters right now, they'll gain the experience they need and, magically, the program will be so much better next year.  It's an attitude that is almost willfully ignorant of the many other pieces of the puzzle, such as the should-be-obvious fact that if you lose a lot of games this season by playing your greenest players over your best players, recruiting tends to suffer.  I hate this attitude.  And yet there'll be a lot of merit to the idea of having Teven Jones start if Evans keeps playing like that.  Not just to give Jones experience for next year so he can be a useful bridge to the era of Devon Hall and London Perrantes, but because if Evans keeps that up, Jones will be the best point guard we have.

There clearly is no better time for a week off, followed by a home game in front of what should be a decent crowd.


-- Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.  If Jeff Banks looked like a perfect fit for UVA's football staff, I guess you got no choice but to say the same about his replacement, Larry Lewis.  Lewis coached Banks when Banks was punting at Washington State and gave Banks his first coaching job, at Idaho State.  Otherwise I probably can't do much of a better job outlining Lewis's career than the official release plus Jeff White's take, so I won't try.  I also assume that when London (or Jon Oliver, or both, I dunno) interviewed Lewis, they asked the question, "You're going to at least stick around to help coach a practice, right?"  So I figure UVA landed on its feet here after being spurned by Banks.  Godspeed to Lewis as he tries to fix one of the brokenest units UVA has ever seen.

-- UVA isn't the only program in the state hiring assistant coaches.  Tech settled on an offensive coordinator to replace Brian Stinespring, and hired Scot Loeffler from Auburn's recently fired staff.  As a Michigan fan I know a great deal of Loeffler's history; he was Tim Tebow's QB coach, which earned a fair amount of mockery from my fellow blue-and-orange brethren, but Loeffler, it should be noted, was also Tom Brady's first QB coach, and also tutored Chad Henne.  And Henne owns every passing record at Michigan that matters and threw more touchdowns than all but one Big Ten quarterback, ever.  So I wouldn't cast too many aspersions on his ability to coach QBs.  As for track record as an OC, well.....that's a different story.

-- I'll fix the recruiting board later, but for now the basic story is essentially trading Hipolito Corporan for in-state recruit Connor Wingo-Reeves.  I listed CWR on the board as a linebacker since that's where all the services place him, but I think he's more likely to be a fullback.  A real fullback, the run-into-linebackers type, which is refreshing.  As for Corporan, he's off to Utah, a place he'd been hinting for a while now that he'd probably end up.  UVA is definitely deep enough at cornerback to absorb the loss.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

game preview: Clemson

Date/Time: Saturday, January 12; 12:00


Record against the Tigers: 67-50

Last meeting: Clem. 60, UVA 48; 2/14/12, Clemson

Last game: WF 55, UVA 52 (1/9); Duke 68, Clem. 40 (1/8)


UVA: 60.2 (#343)
Clem.: 62.6 (#321)

UVA: 103.7 (#102)
Clem.: 99.7 (#168)

UVA: 87.0 (#15)
Clem.: 91.9 (#48)

UVA: .8580 (#31)
Clem.: .6974 (#95)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (2.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.3 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.4 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF: Darion Atkins (7.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg)


PG: Rod Hall (6.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Adonis Filer (8.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.6 apg)
SF: K.J. McDaniels (11.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.9 apg)
PF: Milton Jennings (9.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.0 apg)
C: Devin Booker (11.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 0.8 apg)

Whoops.  The Hoos tripped and fell flat on their face in Winston-Salem, dashing any thoughts of this being an easy stretch of the schedule.  There is no easy stretch of the schedule.  This is Virginia - there is no easy anything.  We're still the team that gets recalled whenever Chaminade pulls within 15 points of an opponent in the second half of a Maui Invitational game, after all.  UVA continues a mini road swing in Clemson, with a chance to either redeem themselves or confirm everyone's deepest, darkets NIT fears.

-- UVA on offense

Clemson is an 8-6 team that's going to struggle to keep their head above water in the ACC this year, but defense is not their problem.  Brad Brownell is from a similar mold as Tony Bennett and emphasizes strong defensive play, and it shows in their stats.  They held Duke to 25 points in the first half of their recent game - if they'd scored more than 10 themselves, it might've been a game.

Clemson also plays at UVA's slow pace, so they get more credit than they should for points allowed per game, but that doesn't mean credit is undeserved.  They're an active, pressuring team that get a lot of steals, and their frontcourt blocks a bunch of shots.  It doesn't show in their blocks-per-game stat because of their pace, but Devin Booker and Milton Jennings are both pretty good in this department.  And wing K.J. McDaniels is more than pretty good, with a shot-block percentage (percentage of opponents' shots he blocks while he's on the floor) of 8.1%, and 1.9 blocks a game.  McDaniels is Clemson's top defensive player and will probably be assigned to Joe Harris, which could make life difficult for our one consistent scorer.

That frontcourt of Jennings and Booker should have a great battle with Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins.  They're all about the same height, but Booker has some extra girth that makes him hard to post up on, but might leave him susceptible to moves based on quickness.  Spot minutes are given as well to 6'10" freshman Landry Nnoko, who is very much a Tunji Soroye type at this point (purely a defensive stopper), but with the heft to be able to stand his ground as well.

Truthfully, failure to score - not failure to defend - was the primary reason for the loss at Wake, and UVA will struggle somewhat to score here, too.  About the only thing Clemson doesn't defend well is the three-pointer - opponents can find open looks with good crisp passing to stay one step ahead of Clemson's pressure.  But you have to bury those looks.  For example, Evan Nolte's 1-for-7 performance against Wake can't be repeated.  Fortunately, UVA won't need to bury Clemson in points to win - maybe just hit a few timely threes.

-- UVA on defense

Clemson is a little bit of a KenPom oddity: their top six usage players all have O-ratings over 100, but the team's O-rating is below that.  Big reason: they leave a lot of points at the line.  Over three-quarters of their free throws are taken by players shooting under .700; at the bottom end is Booker, shooting only .524.

From the field, though, they can shoot.  At three-pointers, they're only okay - Milton Jennings is shooting a very nice-looking .429 and diminutive reserve guard Jordan Roper a decent .378, but that's as far as it goes.  But Booker does excellent work down low, and Clemson has a lot of ways to score in the paint, with both guards and forwards.

At times, it's likely they'll go small; they don't overwork Jennings and Booker, don't give many minutes to Landry Nnoko, and seem to be phasing Bernard Sullivan out of the rotation (only 7 minutes total in the past two games), but they're deep at guard.  Brownell has shuffled shooting guards in and out of the starting lineup, giving Adonis Filer his first start of the season this week against Duke.  Filer, DaMarcus Harrison, and Jordan Roper are a solid off-guard rotation.  OK, if we're getting technical, Roper is the backup point guard, but when he's on the court, the offense tends to run through everyone else more.  Roper averages less than one assist per game.  When starting PG Rod Hall is out of the game, the offense lacks a field general, which is probably another reason for their low effectiveness on offense.

This could be a very exceedingly boring part of the game, what with a UVA defense that wants to make you use the whole shot clock and a Clemson offense that has no problem with that, and habitually clanks three-pointers besides.  (Hint: the goal is to make Harrison and his 6-for-33 three-ball percentage do all the shooting from behind the arc.  Then at least the sound of bricklaying will jolt people awake.)  UVA may very well break out the low-post double-team on Booker early and often, and also needs to find a way to contain McDaniels, who is breaking out into a dangerous player.

(Also, as a P.S.: the Hoos better have fixed the baseline issues they had against Wake.  I lost track of how many times in the first half Wake was able to drive the baseline.  This causes Tony Bennett to flip his shit because one of the things we learned very, very early in Bennett's UVA tenure was that his defense is totally shot if the baseline is conceded.  Help on a baseline driver always, always leaves a post player open for a pass and easy layup.  Wake demonstrated this perfectly.)

-- Outlook

I have been understandably asked not to predict the Hoos to win any more.  That's great and all but I did correctly predict the winner of the Tennessee game, and despite what has happened multiple times against certain crappy opponents we had no business losing to, I will cling to that one low-scoring ugly-ass basketball game and stick to my guns.  This is a game UVA should win.  Clemson, for their part, is one of four ACC teams to start the season 0-2 and has to know that two of the others are playing each other this Saturday (which is to say, one has to win) and the fourth is UNC, who won't be winless for long.  They're going to be fired up on their home floor.  But UVA has so far always rebounded well from bad losses, and I like the Hoos in a close one.

Final score: UVA 53, Clemson 49

Friday, January 11, 2013

too late review, too early preview, part 1: offense 2012-2013

Alright, I have had this post planned for this particular day for like two weeks, and I will be damned if I'm going to let the sorry events of the past 24 or so hours change that.  By which I mean Wake Forest and Jeff Banks.  I can sum these events up with something you already know: this is Virginia, and we can't have nice things at Virginia.

I will, however, elaborate just a touch on Banks, who is leaving after less than two weeks to take a similar job, only with more money, at Texas A&M.  Man, we must have really hit a home run with that hire for him to be that much in demand.  Banks is probably getting something like twice the salary he was going to get in Charlottesville; it would be only natural to assume the extra money A&M is making in the SEC is the reason they were able to pull Banks away, and that our place in the ACC makes us financially uncompetitive.

Not so.  The SEC is the hotter place to be for an assistant coach, yes.  Even if we had matched A&M's offer dollar for dollar, the SEC would still be the better place for a coach's career, and besides that, Banks is buddy-buddy with Kevin Sumlin.  His UVA Twitter account follows Sumlin's, Sumlin's old Houston account, and a Sumlin parody which actually owns the name @KevinSumlin.  Besides, UVA's athletic department has revenues of over 80 million dollars; it's not a question of whether they can shuffle around some money to find an extra couple hundred grand, it's a question of how much they want to.

So now it's back to square one to find a special teams coach, and if London just hands those reins back to Poindexter I'll kill him myself.  Probably they'll go hire one of their other finalists, but at any rate now there's now more work to do.  One train of thought would say that Banks did a damn sleazy thing to "the people here" in Charlottesville that he claimed to have fallen in love with.  Show up, do a couple days' work, parlay that into a new gig, take the hell off and leave the people who gave you a great opportunity in the lurch.  Another train of thought is that it's hard to pass up a chance to coach a better team in a better conference for twice the money and work for a pretty old friend.  Coaching, after all, is that kind of a profession.  Both are correct.  But really, the least Banks could do is return whatever paycheck UVA may have given him or "owes" him for the "work" he did.

As for the Wake Forest thing, all I can say is the selection committee is probably going to spend more time on UVA than all the rest of the teams under consideration combined, if this keeps up.

Right, now for the part I had intended for this all along.  One last look at the 2012 football season and the first one at 2013.  There's no such thing as an offseason.


This year....

For this post last year I wrote of 2012: "There's no reason to think there will be any kind of competition in camp this year."  At the time, of course, there was also no reason to think Phillip Sims would transfer to Charlottesville.  He did, and just when it looked like we might finally have a drama-free season under center, instead the drama kicked into overdrive.

Sims and Mike Rocco were the only two players to take a quarterback snap, as David Watford and the rest of the gang redshirted.  Neither played well.  Sometimes they did, but more often they played worse, and you could never tell which you were going to get out of either.  And yes, that's the scientific version.

After letting Rocco start the season and quarterback his way into a few losses, Mike London had Sims take over, and Sims's play went straight downhill until London decided on a full-on platoon.  Sims's arm strength and beautiful spirals looked great except for when they landed harmlessly 20 yards from anyone who could catch them.  Rocco's leadership and superior knowledge of the playbook were an asset until he led the ball straight into the hands of a defensive back.  Ultimately the season was living proof that when you have two quarterbacks, you really have none; the only plausible justification for the platoon was that whatever skill one had, the other did not.

Next year....

It's totally possible we'll see more of the same.  One really, really hopes that London will learn his lesson about QB platoons, or else let Bill Lazor and Tom O'Brien convince him to pick one guy and stick with him.  At any rate, spring and fall camp will be interesting; with Watford, Matt Johns, and Greyson Lambert all having used up their redshirt (not to mention Sims) it will be a full-blown, no-holds-barred competition in the camps.  Again.  Brendan Marshall and Corwin Cutler will not be factors in 2013, so it's a four-way race.  The favorites will be Sims and Lambert.  Both are strong-armed pocket passers, which is a good thing if you're like me and in the pick-one-dammit camp; the differences between the two will be easier to spot because they won't be obscured by different styles.  I'm not stupid enough to try and actually predict in January who'll take the snaps in September, though.


This year....

The biggest story was either Perry Jones's regression or the lack of use (yet no redshirt) for Clifton Richardson.  Jones actually was UVA's top receiver, but somehow morphed from the one-cut back he was in his junior year to an indecisive nibbler, and ran for barely half his 2011 rushing total.  Baffling.  Richardson, meanwhile, got basically garbage-time carries and ran for fewer yards than both Rocco and Khalek Shepherd.  If he was going to be so little-used there was really no reason for him to play at all.  Also baffling.

Kevin Parks, meanwhile, emerged as UVA's top back, albeit with not many more rushing yards than he had in 2011.  But he did show up as a much bigger threat in the passing game, and was an effective goal-line option when the line deigned to block for him.  Parks, in short, has demonstrated the capability to be a workhorse; UVA probably will not ever use him like one, but he could carry the load if he had to.

Zach Swanson stepped in as the starting "fullback" but never carried the ball; he did get eight receptions but was rather a disappointment in the blocking game.  Since Billy Skrobacz pretty much never got in the game after making a few waves in fall camp, UVA basically didn't have a fullback, since Swanson was more of an H-back anyway.

Next year....

There will be a new coach at the position and an embarrassment of riches on the field.  Jones will be gone, which will deprive us of a pass-catching threat out of the backfield but also remove the temptation for the coaching staff to try and use a near-midget as a short-yardage sledgehammer.  Parks will return, of course.  Richardson will return, hopefully with too much talent to be wasted like he was this year.  (He likely will need to work on his pass-blocking, though, or risk ending up like Torrey Mack, who was unplayable due to the fact that his presence on the field screamed run play.)  Khalek Shepherd flashed some talent at times, and Kye Morgan comes off a redshirt year.

There will be an odd man out somewhere, though; UVA's freshman class will include a super-elite talent in the form of Taquan Mizzell, who ain't redshirting.  Mizzell is an excellent pass-catcher to the point that he was asked to play slot receiver in the Army All-American game, and should more than make up for the loss of Jones in the receiving game.  And he might just have the best pure running skills in a UVA uniform since Thomas Jones.  If the offensive line improves and actually opens some holes, this is a group of running backs that will make life miserable for opposing defenses.  They'll go as far as the line will let them.


This year....

He was only fifth on the team in receptions and sixth in yardage, but clearly, the biggest revelation in the receiving corps was tight end Jake McGee.  He announced his presence in style against Penn State with a one-handed catch of a Rocco desperation heave - while being interfered with - on a drive that culminated in the game-winning touchdown.  McGee made a few other early-season spectacular catches as well and proved to be one of the most difficult covers on the team.

There were a few disappointments in this group.  Dominique Terrell wasn't very consistent and dropped too many passes, and he wasn't the only one guilty of the latter sin.  Tim Smith had another injury-hampered season, and McGee was the only true pass-catching threat among the tight ends.  But the good ultimately outweighed the bad.  When on, Terrell was a very valuable slot receiver.  When healthy, Smith was the dangerous medium-to-deep threat he was advertised to be.  Darius Jennings emerged as a sophomore to be UVA's best and most versatile receiving threat, and E.J. Scott did a very nice job too as a guy who could keep defenses honest.  There were problems here, but on balance the receivers were a clear asset.

Next year....

If those problems diminish with experience, things could go really well for these units.  The only losses to graduation will be tight ends Colter Phillips and Paul Freedman, who were respectable blockers but didn't make a dent in the passing game.  There are so many receivers that it would be hard to see this group not losing one or two more to regular attrition and transfers, but it's a very deep group and can take the hit.

I would expect Jennings to continue to develop into a potential all-ACC player.  Scott, Smith, and Terrell will keep doing their thing, though Terrell is the most likely of those three to be marginalized if he doesn't fix the drops issue.  McGee, if he can put on weight and still be a big athletic receiving target, has a chance to develop from a curiosity to a real terror.  You'd like to see room for contributions from guys like Adrian Gamble and Canaan Severin, maybe Miles Gooch, but they'll probably be stuck on the fringes for another year unless something happens to one of the upper-echelon guys.  Part of it will depend on who wins the quarterback derby; the winner may favor certain receivers over others, it's just the nature of quarterbacks.


This year....

Uck.  The supposed strength of the line (the tackles) was a liability at times, and the supposed liability (the interior) was still a liability.  Let's start on the inside.  Cody Wallace was the chosen replacement for Anthony Mihota at center, but was replaced by Luke Bowanko in fall camp and bumped to guard.  Then he was bumped to the bench by Conner Davis, who was better but not by a lot.  Bowanko struggled with the transition, his shotgun snaps were noticably slow and floaty which threw off the timing of a lot of plays (though that improved as the season went on), and he had a tough time getting the snap off and immediately executing a blocking assignment.  A lot of the pressure on the quarterbacks came straight up the middle.  Sean Cascarano was OK at guard, but Matt Mihalik's snaps, when he came off the bench, were generally a waste of time.

Oday Aboushi was getting first-round talk as an NFL draft prospect, but murdered his draft stock this season and probably will not go earlier than the middle of the second round, or maybe the third.  He was still good - he did earn a place on the all-ACC first team, after all - but not as good as the preseason hype.  He racked up too many holding penalties.  On the other side, Morgan Moses was abused all season by speed rushers taking advantage of his poor side-to-side footwork.  He simply could not shuffle to his right quickly enough.  The basic sum of it was that Aboushi was a very solid pass blocker and usually took his holding penalties in the run game, where Moses was still a devastating run blocker who got killed in pass protection.

Next year....

With any luck, adding TOB to the staff will be a boon for the offensive line.  Aboushi will have to be replaced, and as much as I might have been down on him, he'll leave some big shoes to fill.  Kelby Johnson probably gets the first crack at his left tackle job, but Jay Whitmire will push him.  Moses will stick at right tackle.

The only graduation losses, though, are Aboushi and Mihalik, so there will be some good continuity.  I suspect the center position will be up for some competition between Bowanko and Ross Burbank, the latter of whom has been groomed for the position for about a year and a half now.  Cascarano and Davis are excellent candidates for improvement.  The guards will be more critical than the tackles; there's less depth and therefore less margin for error.  Two tackles - Michael Mooney and Sean Karl - are coming off redshirt seasons, but only one guard is (that'd be Ryan Doull.)  Something tells me those positions aren't set in stone; London and Scott Wachenheim have shown a penchant for flexibility on the line and some of the depth might be moved around where it's needed.  Burbank, for example, might get some work at guard if Bowanko hangs on to the center job.

Ultimately, this group will be the limiting reagent in the offensive chemistry equation.  Plenty of talent exists at the skill positions, and we'll assume against all hope that not only will London settle on a quarterback, that quarterback will actually play pretty well.  But Phillip Sims was awful under pressure and everyone else but Watford is a totally unknown quantity, so the line must improve its protection.  And the offense's red-zone struggles were in direct proportion to the line's inability to block in short-yardage situations.  You can't score in the red zone if you can't run the ball in the red zone, and we couldn't.  Fix the line and we fix the offense.


Next week: the defense, assuming Jon Tenuta doesn't get offered a zillion bucks to go coach at Auburn or something.