Wednesday, July 31, 2013

season preview: Duke Blue Devils


8/31: NC Central
9/7: @ Memphis
9/14: Georgia Tech
9/21: Pittsburgh
9/28: Troy
10/5: BYE
10/12: Navy
10/19: @ Virginia
10/26: @ Virginia Tech
11/2: BYE
11/9: NC State
11/16: Miami
11/23: @ Wake Forest
11/30: @ North Carolina

Skip: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Syracuse

2012 results:

Florida Int'l: W, 46-26
Stanford: L, 50-13
NC Central: W, 54-17
Memphis: W, 38-14
Wake Forest: W, 34-27
Virginia: W, 42-17
Virginia Tech: L, 41-20
North Carolina: W, 33-30
Florida State: L, 48-7
Clemson: L, 56-20
Georgia Tech: L, 42-24
Miami: L, 52-45
Cincinnati: L, 48-34 (Tire Bowl)

Record: 6-7 (3-5); 5th of 6, Coastal Division

Projected starters:

QB: Anthony Boone (rJr.)
RB: Jela Duncan (So.)
WR: Jamison Crowder (Jr.)
WR: Max McCaffrey (So.)
WR: Issac Blakeney (rJr.)
TE: Braxton Deaver (rJr.)
LT: Takoby Cofield (rJr.)
LG: Dave Harding (5Sr.)
C: Matt Skura (rSo.)
RG: Laken Tomlinson (rJr.)
RT: Perry Simmons (5Sr.)

DE: Justin Foxx (5Sr.)
NG: Jamal Bruce (rJr.)
DT: Sydney Sarmiento (5Sr.)
DE: Kenny Anunike (5Sr.)
MLB: Kelby Brown (rJr.)
WLB: C.J. France (rJr.)
CB: Ross Cockrell (5Sr.)
CB: Garett Patterson (5Sr.)
S: Corbin McCarthy (rFr.)
S: Dwayne Norman (So.)
S: Jeremy Cash (rSo.)

K: Ross Martin (So.)
P: Will Monday (rSo.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: David Cutcliffe, 6th season

Media prediction: 7th of 7, Coastal Division


2012 1st team: CB Ross Cockrel, P Will Monday
2012 2nd team: WR Conner Vernon, S Walt Canty
2012 HM: DE Kenny Anunike, WR Jamison Crowder, G Dave Harding, K Ross Martin, OT Perry Simmons
2013 preseason: CB Ross Cockrel, P Will Monday

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Last year was a pretty big deal: Duke's first bowl appearance since 1995.  Their upset win over UNC sealed the deal - and then came the tailspin as the Devils lost their last five games.  But the season was historic in other ways too; Conner Vernon rewrote the receiving categories in the ACC record book, setting new marks for career receptions and yards.  Duke now has to try and duplicate that success without a large portion of the heralded skill-position players that got them there.

-- Offense

It's not just Vernon who departs; Duke also must find their way with a new quarterback and without their very productive third receiver, Desmond Scott, as well.  The former position should be in good hands.  UVA fans will remember Anthony Boone as the guy who rudely torched our defense in Sean Renfree's absence last year.  While Boone wasn't quite as productive in other games that he's played, he's got some experience and should be ready for the big time.

Jamison Crowder is the lone returning starter among the receivers, but Issac Blakeney did catch 32 passes last year and has enough experience of his own.  Crowder had exactly as many yards and touchdowns as Vernon last year (1,074 and 8, respectively) and on fewer catches.  He'll bring explosiveness to the position, and the Duke coaches really liked what they saw out of Max McCaffrey in the spring.  As for tight end, Braxton Deaver will give it another shot after missing 2012 with a knee injury; Deaver brings some big-play ability to the TE position and should be another quality weapon for the Devils.

Juwan Thompson is listed at the top of the depth chart at running back, though that may be a nod to his status as a senior as he was third in carries last season.  Thompson is solid, but Jela Duncan is better, coming off of a good freshman season in which he led the Blue Devils in all rushing categories and averaged over five yards a carry.  There was a fairly even three-way split in carries last season between Duncan, Thompson, and Josh Snead, and all are good backs if not home-run hitters, so the rotation should continue.

Duke should also have a pretty good offensive line; the five starters will have the most combined starts under their belt of any ACC O-line unit, and LG Dave Harding and RT Perry Simmons (both now fifth-year seniors) were honorable mentions in all-ACC voting last season.  Center Matt Skura is the only new addition to a line that has developed a tremendous amount of continuity and performed extremely well last year in both pass protection and run blocking.

It's usually tough to see year-to-year improvement in an offense that loses its quarterback, center, and two of its top three receivers.  I don't actually expect a big step forward here, but Boone is a good replacement, there's all that O-line continuity, and Duke's offense should continue to operate in the top half of the league.

-- Defense

I'm really not enamored, on the other hand, of what Duke brings to the table on defense.  It's easily one of the league's weaker defenses, if not the overall worst.  Duke was the only ACC team to allow over 5 yards a carry against the rush and was also last in pass defense with 8.9 yards allowed per pass.  The next worst defense allowed 7.8 yards per pass attempt; that's a difference of 1.1 yards, and another difference of 1.1 yards moves you up to 4th in the league.  So "not enamored" is rather an understatement.

Complicating matters is the mostly new secondary that Duke must deal with this year.  It's never a good sign when your top four tacklers are all defensive backs, and worse yet when the top two graduate.  Ross Cockrell actually is one of the league's top cornerbacks, picking off five passes last year and breaking up 13 more.  Returning safety Dwayne Norman plays the "bandit" position, making him a sort of linebacker equivalent in Duke's 4-2-5 defense, and he's solid but not a major playmaker.  The rest of Duke's secondary is terribly inexperienced.  Garett Patterson is a fifth-year senior, but I'm always wary (at best) of fifth-year seniors just now being given a starting job, and Patterson was strictly a special teamer until 2012.  Just about everyone else on the depth chart in the backfield is a freshman or sophomore.

Up front, Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx are decent pass rushers, with 5 and 4.5 sacks in 2012, respectively.  Neither is remarkably adept against the run, however, and three-tech tackle Sydney Sarmiento has never shown the disruptiveness you'd ideally like from that position.  Penciled in at nose guard, Jamal Bruce saw his role increase during 2012 after returning midseason from a foot injury; what he brings remains to be seen as he only managed six tackles in the seven games he played in.  At linebacker, Kelby Brown returns to a starting role after missing all of 2012, with C.J. France penciled in as his counterpart.  Neither are dynamic players.  There's decent playable depth at linebacker, as backups Kyler Brown and Dan Helton each had 50+ tackles in 2012, but nobody on that unit strikes fear into anyone.

There are some pretty good players on this defense - I'd single out Anunike and especially Cockrell - but they're on an island for the most part.  Cockrell especially, being the one really good player in a large and inexperienced secondary.  If teams passed for 8.9 yards per attempt on Cockrell and another experienced CB (Lee Butler), as well as the talented and now departed Walt Canty at safety, what might they accomplish this season?  The answer might be scary for Duke fans.

-- Special teams

Will Monday is the conference's best punter, hands down.  Last year he averaged 44.6 yards on his punts and had 20 of over 50 yards.  Ross Martin is a solid kicker who was 20-of-23 on FGs last year.  Both accomplished these stats as freshmen.  Duke's kick-return game, however, does not look like much, with nobody coming back who could muster more than 16 or so yards per KR.

-- Outlook

As bad as it was last year, Duke's defense is poised to take a step back this year, with that really ugly-looking secondary and few playmakers anywhere.  The offense is at worst presentable and is certainly better-looking than more than a few ACC teams, with some explosive capabilities in the passing game and a very tough-looking O-line, but they're going to have to win some shootouts.  Duke could go 4-0 in their OOC schedule; it's their only real hope at going to a bowl game, because otherwise I don't see three ACC wins on their schedule again.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

quarterbacks, finally

I've avoided this subject on purpose for a while now.  Mike London has always insisted on making it a pretty painful one, because he refuses to make a decision.  His waffling on this issue is without doubt the most frustrating thing about him as a coach.  More so than his constant haranguing of the refs or his exceedingly questionable decision to have the not-strong-armed Mike Rocco try to lead a game-winning drive into gale-force winds down in Blacksburg.  These are frustrating as a fan.  The quarterback thing is frustrating as both a fan and a blogger, because it makes any prediction I try to make turn to dust a few days later.  Analysis is what I do, more or less, and analysis is pointless when not even the head coach knows who's going to take the next snap.

Why the change?  Because London appears committed to change.  Or less change.  He told the assembled media throng at ACC media days that he would pick a quarterback early in camp, and that guy would actually be the guy.  What a helluva concept.

A quick review of the spinning carousel in the three years of London: In 2010 it was Marc Verica, while some backups came in and tossed the ball a little as well.  This was not offensive to my sensibilities, since there was an established starter, but the signs were there even if we missed them.  Mike Rocco and Ross Metheny split the garbage-time snaps, a pretty clear indication that London had no idea what to do with the #2-on-down pecking order.  2011 was a wishy-washy disaster in August, September, and October, until London appeared to come to his senses, put Rocco in for the rest of the season, and watched him win four straight to clinch a Peach Bowl trip.  It might've stayed that way if Phillip Sims hadn't arrived on scene, and suddenly it was back to the well of indecision.  Depending on who you believe, it might've been fueled by London promising to give Sims the starting job, followed by Sims not exactly seizing it.  Politics, in other words.

Rocco left last winter, not knowing that Sims's eligibility wouldn't survive the spring.  Spring practice saw more of the same ol' stuff, too, but Sims's departure took a chunk out of our depth yet cleared up the picture.  Also clearing up the picture: almost certainly Tom O'Brien.  London by himself might have been moving toward the realization that the waffling wasn't helping, but TOB was brought on for his experience and sage counsel, and no doubt delivered some on the subject.

So, at the moment, there are two contenders for the job.  Matt Johns and Brendan Marshall will be on the roster as well this season, but Johns sat out spring and is naturally behind, and Marshall is a true freshman.  That leaves David Watford and Greyson Lambert.

Lambert probably has the stronger arm, and he's been putting in the appropriate work.  Watford redshirted in 2012 after the snaps he played in 2011 proved that, more or less, he wasn't ready.  That redshirt could turn out to be one of the best things the program has done for itself, because almost every observer labels Watford the frontrunner.  It makes one think about the merits of a redshirt season after a season on the field.  There's something to be said for learning what you don't know and then having a year-plus to work on that stuff.

Besides that, there are more than a few people praising Watford's leadership efforts.  Not that Lambert hasn't also been making himself known in that regard, but Watford seems to have a good combination going for him: leadership, command of the offense, and the ability to move around a little bit.  Watford isn't going to be an electric runner, but he can keep a play alive with his feet longer than Lambert is ever likely to be able to.

If Watford gets the nod, it'll be a new experience for our new OC, Steve Fairchild.  The vast majority of his experience (if not all of it) comes from dealing with big-armed pocket passers, QBs much closer to Lambert's style than Watford's.  I couldn't find any examples of quarterbacks Fairchild has worked with that have a skill set like Watford's.  That said, I don't know how adaptable Fairchild is but it's a little on the encouraging side that the coaches are picking a quarterback based on who's the best quarterback, rather than who's the best fit with the coach's history.  We're not talking about a Rich Rodriguez here, who has done one thing all his life, done it very well, and wouldn't know how to run a pro-style offense in a hundred years.  Fairchild is still going to run whatever offense he runs, he'll just have to figure out how best to use Watford's skills in it.

In any case, though, we'll be going into the season with yet another brand-new starting quarterback.  No matter who gets picked.  Watford has some starts under his belt....two years ago, and with a different OC, and frankly very little he did in 2011 was effective.  I don't think his freshman season is a useful indicator of anything.  Lambert is a redshirt freshman and therefore has never taken a game snap.  Sims was a likewise unknown commodity in 2012, just like Rocco was in 2011.  UVA hasn't had the same quarterback take the majority of snaps in two consecutive seasons since 2006-2007, with Jameel Sewell.  That won't change this year, either.  However, if Mike London has truly decided to join the rest of college football and stop indecisively platooning his quarterbacks, he might just be laying the foundation to end that streak.  Which in turn would mean the kind of stability that one frustrated blogger has never had the privilege to write about.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

season preview: Clemson Tigers


8/31: Georgia
9/7: South Carolina State
9/14: BYE
9/19: @ NC State (Thu.)
9/28: Wake Forest
10/5: @ Syracuse
10/12: Boston College
10/19: Florida State
10/26: @ Maryland
11/2: Virginia
11/9: BYE
11/14: Georgia Tech (Thu.)
11/23: The Citadel
11/30: @ South Carolina

Skip: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech

2012 results:

Auburn: W, 26-19
Ball State: W, 52-27
Furman: W, 41-7
Florida State: L, 49-37
Boston College: W, 45-31
Georgia Tech: W, 47-31
Virginia Tech: W, 38-17
Wake Forest: W, 42-13
Duke: W, 56-20
Maryland: W, 45-10
NC State: W, 62-48
South Carolina: L, 27-17
LSU: W, 25-24 (Peach Bowl)

Record: 11-2 (7-1); 2nd of 6, Atlantic Division

Projected starters:

QB: Tajh Boyd (5Sr.)
WR: Sammy Watkins (Jr.)
WR: Charone Peake (Jr.)
WR: Adam Humphries (Jr.)
RB: Roderick McDowell (5Sr.)
TE: Stanton Seckinger (So.)
LT: Brandon Thomas (5Sr.)
LG: David Beasley (rJr.)
C: Ryan Norton (rSo.)
RG: Tyler Shatley (5Sr.)
RT: Gifford Timothy (rJr.)

DE: Corey Crawford (Jr.)
DT: Grady Jarrett (Jr.)
DT: Josh Watson (rJr.)
DE: Vic Beasley (rJr.)
LB: Spencer Shuey (5Sr.)
LB: Stephone Anthony (Jr.)
LB: Quandon Christian (5Sr.)
CB: Darius Robinson (Sr.)
CB: Garry Peters (rJr.)
S: Travis Blanks (So.)
S: Robert Smith (Jr.)

K: Chandler Catanzaro (5Sr.)
P: Bradley Pinion (So.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Dabo Swinney, 4th season

Media prediction: 1st of 7, Atlantic Division; ACC champion


2012 1st team: QB Tajh Boyd, RB Andre Ellington, WR DeAndre Hopkins, OT Brandon Thomas, C Dalton Freeman, TE Brandon Ford
2012 2nd team: K Chandler Catanzaro, S Rashard Hall
2012 HM: DE Malliciah Goodman, WR Sammy Watkins
2013 preseason: WR Sammy Watkins, QB Tajh Boyd, K Chandler Catanzaro

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Clemson is a popular pick for the ACC championship, and it's easy to see why.  Media types love to see familiar names at the skill positions on offense when they're voting, and can be easily seduced by flashy talent, but Clemson has the muscle to back it up as well.  With a schedule that includes two of the SEC's stronger teams, the Tigers are even considered an outside contender for a national title; a zero- or one-loss run through that schedule could set them up well for a title-game run.  That said, Clemson has a lot more preseason ACC championships under their belt than actual ones, and must first focus on getting through the conference schedule relatively unscathed.

-- Offense

The obvious starting point is Tajh Boyd, the media's pick for preseason player of the year.  Boyd is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who threw 36 touchdowns last season, racked up almost 4,000 yards passing on close to a two-thirds completion rate, and ran for over 500 yards as well.  He's perhaps at his multidimensional best in the red zone; 10 of Clemson's 26 rushing touchdowns belonged to Boyd, whose longest run of the year was only 27 yards.  In large part because of Boyd's versatility, Clemson was one of the nation's most dangerous red zone teams last year, scoring touchdowns on 73% of their trips and leading the country with a 95% total scoring rate.

Sammy Watkins starts the season as his primary receiving weapon; Watkins was a national sensation as a freshman in 2011 before being overshadowed somewhat in 2012 by both DeAndre Hopkins and his own bad behavior.  Hopkins is gone, so Watkins will be expected to return to the dynamic form of his freshman season if the Tigers are to live up to expectations.  Behind Watkins, Boyd will first look to Charone Peake and Adam Humphries, two players whose role should increase this season.  Peake is a former top-100 recruit who's getting his first real crack at a starring role, while Humphries is a dependable possession receiver.

Clemson must also replace 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington, but Roderick McDowell should be up to the task; McDowell had 83 carries last season in relief of Ellington, and with 450 yards, actually averaged more per carry than did Ellington.  He will run behind an experienced offensive line that replaces only its center from last season's starters.  David Beasley and Tyler Shatley established themselves last season as the starting guards, as did Gifford Timothy at right tackle.  These guys put to rest a lot of the questions that surrounded last year's Tiger O-line.  The star of the unit, though, is LT Brandon Thomas, considered by most to be among the elite tackles in the conference.  Thomas finished third in media voting for the preseason all-conference team.  Only Ryan Norton is new among the starters, penciled in at center.  Replacing all-conference center Dalton Freeman will be a tall task, but Norton was essentially the Tigers' sixth O-lineman last season as a redshirt freshman, playing more snaps than any other reserve, and should be reasonably up to the task.

Even with a great deal of replacement to do in the pass-catching realm - tight end is still not perfectly settled and only the somewhat risky Watkins returns as a WR starter - Clemson is lined up for a great season on offense.  This should be a big year for Boyd, and the continuity on the offensive line will greatly ease the transition to a new featured running back.  This will be a big-scoring unit once again.

-- Defense

Stability is the word for Clemson this year.  New DC Brent Venables brought instant improvement to a team that got embarrassed in the Orange Bowl following the 2011 season, and now the Tigers also have the continuity you look for in their personnel, in the front seven especially.  The only "new" starter is DE Vic Beasley, but Beasley may also be the one carrying the highest expectations.  He's a light and quick defensive end who had eight sacks in a reserve role in 2012, leading the team in that category.

Beasley will be Clemson's primary pass-rush threat; they will miss the contributions of Malliciah Goodman, as the other bookend, Corey Crawford, is more of a run-stuffer.  He's a good one, though, and along with tackles Grady Jarrett and Josh Watson, as well as third tackle and rotation member DeShawn Williams, Clemson should be very tough against the run.  Jarrett in particular can be very disruptive, with 8.5 TFL in 2012.

It's a stretch to say there are three returning starters at linebacker, as Jonathan Willard started every game there, but the three projected starters all played all 13 games last year and started 7.  Spencer Shuey may prove to be even better than Willard, though, and Stephone Anthony, a former elite-level recruit who was fourth on the team in tackles in 2012 and only 11th in snaps, could be poised for a breakout season.  The play of Quandon Christian was greatly improved from 2011 to 2012, and Clemson also has some quality options coming off the bench in Tony Steward and Oklahoma transfer Kellen Jones.  This unit is not hurting for depth at all and not only will be tough to run on, but has the ability to chip in here and there on the pass rush.

So if there's a question mark at all, it's in the secondary.  Safety Travis Blanks should be the anchor of the unit after making a major impression as a true freshman in 2012, starting eight games and picking off one pass to go along with seven PBUs.  Robert Smith has the lead in the competition for the other safety spot, although he was only lightly used in 2012.  At corner, the battle is even more heated; Darius Robinson started six of the first seven games in 2012 before succumbing to injury, and should have an advantage along with Garry Peters for the two starting roles.  Bashaud Breeland has starting experience at corner as well.  All are serviceable, but none are likely to be stars.

Pass defense, therefore, could be a relative weak point for the Clemson defense, with a still-unsettled secondary and a thin pass rush.  Relative.  Their run defense, however, looks to be in great shape, with a very deep and experienced front seven.

-- Special teams

Chandler Catanzaro is perhaps the conference's top kicker.  Bradley Pinion punted nine times last year for a 39.4 yard average, so Clemson's punting will at the least not be a negative and could be decent.

-- Outlook

It's Orange Bowl or bust for this team this year, and everyone knows it.  The Tigers have the quarterback to get it done and perhaps an underrated defense.  There's a huge gap between the top two in the Atlantic and the rest of it, so the mid-October FSU game (which, if the ACC had any scheduling skills at all, would be in November) is almost certain to decide the division.  National title goals will be on the back burner unless this team is undefeated going into its showdown with South Carolina.  From an ACC standpoint, though, the goal is to put a quality team into the Orange Bowl, so Clemson is a possible flag-carrier for the conference.

Friday, July 26, 2013

season preview: Boston College Eagles


8/31: Villanova
9/6: Wake Forest (Fri.)
9/14: @ USC
9/21: BYE
9/28: Florida State
10/5: Army
10/12: @ Clemson
10/19: BYE
10/26: @ North Carolina
11/2: Virginia Tech
11/9: @ New Mexico State
11/16: NC State
11/23: @ Maryland
11/30: @ Syracuse

Skip: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, Pittsburgh, Virginia

2012 results:

Miami: L, 41-32
Maine: W, 34-3
Northwestern: L, 22-13
Clemson: L, 45-31
Army: L, 34-31
Florida State, L, 51-7
Georgia Tech: L, 37-17
Maryland: W, 20-17
Wake Forest: L, 28-14
Notre Dame: L, 21-6
Virginia Tech: L, 30-23
NC State: L, 27-10

Record: 2-10; 6th of 6, Atlantic Division

Projected starters:

QB: Chase Rettig (Sr.)
WR: Alex Amidon (Sr.)
WR: Spiffy Evans (Jr.)
TE: C.J. Parsons (rJr.)
RB: Andre Williams (Sr.)
FB: Jake Sinkovec (5Sr.)
LT: Dan Lembke (rSo.)
LG: Bobby Vardaro (rJr.)
C: Andy Gallik (rJr.)
RG: Harris Williams (rJr.)
RT: Ian White (5Sr.)

DE: Kaleb Ramsey (6Sr.)
DT: Mehdi Abdesmad (Jr.)
DT: Connor Wujciak (rSo.)
DE: Kasim Edebali (5Sr.)
SLB: Kevin Pierre-Louis (Sr.)
MLB: Steele Divitto (Sr.)
WLB: Steven Daniels (So.)
CB: Manny Asprilla (Jr.)
CB: Bryce Jones (So.)
FS: Sean Sylvia (rJr.)
SS: Spenser Rositano (Jr.)

K: Nate Freese (5Sr.)
P: Alex Howell (rSo.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Steve Addazio, 1st season

Media prediction: 7th of 7, Atlantic Division


2012 1st team: WR Alex Amidon, LB Nick Clancy
2012 2nd team: OT Emmett Cleary
2012 HM: P Gerald Levano, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
2013 preseason: LB Kevin Pierre-Louis

(Italics indicate departed player.)

BC's expectations weren't that high last year, but they still failed to reach them in spectacular fashion.  A 2-10 season - in which most of the losses weren't even competitive - meant the end of Frank Spaziani's tenure and the hiring of Steve Addazio, whose head coaching credentials consist of riding Al Golden's coattails at Temple for one season before taking the Owls back to Losing Seasonville.  Addazio has depth issues to deal with at several positions and faces a tough ACC schedule; the consensus two best teams are in his division, and his crossover games are UNC and VT.

-- Offense

Lack of continuity will be something that the Eagles' offense has to deal with; senior quarterback Chase Rettig is on his fourth offensive coordinator in four years.  Rettig has helmed the BC offense for the past season-and-a-half, improving his efficiency slightly each season.  He's never been a feared playmaker, though, which is something BC lacks throughout their entire offense.  The Eagles production ranked at the bottom of the conference last year no matter how you look at it, and their 26 touchdowns on the season was the fewest of any team in the ACC.

Boston College does think that RB Andre Williams can be a dynamic playmaker if he stays healthy.  A 99-yard rush against Army last year is some evidence of this.  That said, he otherwise averaged about 3.75 yards a carry, and health has been a problem; Williams has missed games in each of the last three seasons with various ailments.  Behind Williams, there's very little experience; Tahj Kimble and David Dudeck will fight the battle for carries, neither of whom has played more than a minimal role in past seasons.  Dudeck and Kimble do have receiving skills that Williams does not, ensuring them at least a place in the offense.

At receiver, Alex Amidon is a very dependable option who had six 100-yard games and seven touchdowns last year; he represents BC's best proven playmaking capability.  Spiffy Evans and Bobby Swigert also return; Swigert isn't listed on the depth chart but he had 44 catches two years ago and it was a pair of knee injuries that limited his stats in 2012, so you'd expect to see a role for him as well.  Though quality pass-catching tight end Chris Pantale departs and a battle looms between Mike Naples and C.J. Parsons to fill his shoes, there should be adequate receiving capability in the offense as long as there's also health.  If there isn't, it might start to get ugly.

Probably the biggest offseason loss for BC was left tackle Emmett Cleary; getting first crack at replacing him will be redshirt sophomore Dan Lembke, who has been grooming for the job for a while.  On the other end, the very experienced Ian White slides over to right tackle after playing the first three years of his career at right guard, where he's made 23 starts.  White could be a safety valve option at LT if Lembke isn't ready.  On the interior, Bobby Vardaro at LG and Andy Gallik at center provide solid continuity, each having started all 12 games last season and at least a few in 2011 as well.  The question will be Harris Williams at RG, a player the coaches like but who missed most of last season with a broken foot and has played only nine games the past two years.

With a senior quarterback, a decent receiving corps, and reasonable continuity on the O-line, the pieces are in place for BC to make some modest improvements on offense this season.  But no defenses save the dreadful NMSU Aggies and (maybe) Villanova will be intimidated by this bunch, and putting yet another system into place (the new OC is last year's WR coach, so it's not that new, but still) might hold them back at times.  Potential for improvement exists (very little place to go but up) but there's still potential as well for this to be the conference's worst offense.

-- Defense

As has been the case for a while, BC's strongest unit on either side of the ball is their linebackers.  Two very productive linebackers return, and though the Eagles will have to replace Nick Clancy's 145 tackles and 10 pass breakups, the talent is more than available to do so.  Steele Divitto moves to the middle from the strong side, and Kevin Pierre-Louis moves from weak to strong.  Pierre-Louis is BC's entry on the preseason all-ACC team and made Phil Steele's preseason first team as well; he had 85 tackles, 4 TFL, and 2 sacks in an injury-shortened 2012 (and happened to be BC's sack leader as well.)  Divitto recorded 92 tackles as well, and led the team in snaps played last year with 1,052; he's proven exceedingly durable (particularly by BC's injury-riddled standards) by starting each of the last 24 games.  Filling in on the weak side is Steven Daniels, a well-regarded recruit in 2011 whose role increased heavily during his redshirt freshman season in 2012. Daniels is a product of the same Cincinnati high school that produced BC superstar Luke Kuechly; he is expected to step right in and be a top contributor as well.

The defensive line is another story.  Last year I wrote that "the Eagles badly lack a true pass rushing threat from the ends."  The team as a whole had had only 11 sacks in 2011.  That somehow got even worse; the Eagles managed just six sacks all season, the absolute worst number in the whole country.  Kasim Edebali is the top pass-rush threat, if you can call it that; he had 1.5 sacks in 2012, a 300% improvement from his half-a-sack in 2011.  There may be a boost coming from Kaleb Ramsey, who played only four games total in 2011 and 2012 due to injury and was granted a sixth year by the NCAA.  He played reasonably well for the Eagles in 2010 and ought to provide a boost for what was a pathetic pass rush.  Brian Mihalik provides the primary depth, though he's not a terrifying presence either.

In the middle, a four-man rotation looks likely, with Mehdi Abdesmad moving inside to make room for Ramsey.  Connor Wujciak was a top-250 recruit in his class and looks ready for a larger role after earning five starts last season.  Jaryd Rudolph and Dominic Appiah are listed as the backups for now but both also have some starting experience under their belts.

Pass defense was a strength of sorts last year, partly because the linebackers are very good in pass coverage but also because the back line is solid.  CB Manny Asprilla had a pair of picks last year, and Bryce Jones had some success as the nickel back, which in turn gave the Eagles confidence enough to move Sean Sylvia over to free safety.  Sylvia pairs up with Spenser Rositano (three INTs) to give the Eagles a good pairing in the defensive backfield.  If they had any pass-rush help this group might get some conference-wide recognition.

That said, until that pass-rush help shows up, BC can't fire on all cylinders on defense.  Their pass rush has me scrambling to the thesaurus for syllables for "pathetic" - I like "piteous," "deplorable," and "grotty" myself.  A grotty pass rush.  It really can't be worse than six total sacks this year.  The linebackers do a great job of cleaning up the mess from the D-line and the secondary really has potential, so if the Eagles can solidify themselves up front, the defense should be at least non-disastrous, perhaps even decent.

-- Special teams

PK Nate Freese had consistency issues in 2011 but got them mostly fixed in 2012, and should be dependable in this, his senior season.  The Eagles will be looking for a punter; the only one on the roster is sophomore Alex Howell (younger brother of former UVA punter Jimmy Howell), though Freese might also be called upon for that job.
-- Outlook

BC was really, really bad last year.  2-10 was a very apt record, and their Maryland win was by a mere three points.  It's not like they had a bunch of close losses that just happened to swing the wrong way.  This year's schedule offers only a modicum of relief; basically by not having Notre Dame on the OOC list, replacing them with 1-11 New Mexico State.  There should be improvements on both sides of the ball, if a healthy Andre Williams can give Chase Rettig some run-game help and if the D-line improves even a little.  Finding two ACC wins among Maryland, Wake, and Syracuse ought to be the goal; the rest of the ACC schedule is daunting.  If they can do that and hold serve in the OOC by beating Army, Villanova, and NMSU, that's five wins.  Where the sixth would come from would be a mystery; five seems like the cap and four seems just as likely.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 baseball recruiting class, part 2

Continuing the series begun last week, this post will serve as sort of a closing-down of the offseason, even though it's only July; tomorrow begins the ACC football previews, which we'll intersperse with various other football-type things as August rolls along.

Connor Jones - RHP
Great Bridge HS (VA)
Drafted: 21st round, San Diego Padres (628th overall)

By virtue of being the best prospect in the state of Virginia and a potential top-5-round pick (had he not committed to a school where signability is a legit concern for MLB scouts) Connor Jones is easily the most well-known member of the class.  (Jones, by the way, ended up just five picks behind UVA senior Reed Gragnani.)

Jones was named the top player in the state by just about everyone who did that, and was a very legit pro prospect.  He throws a 91-93 fastball that's reported by multiple sources to have a very good sinking action, a highly desirable trait for both college aces and pro prospects.  His second best pitch: probably his breaking ball, and he'll probably need to work some on his changeup before he's ready to be ace material.

That he dropped all the way to the 21st round is a function of his announcement that he would not sign in the MLB draft, not his talent; Keith Law rated him the 25th-best prospect in the draft and called him one of the draft's "few premium right-handed prep arms."  Obvious comparisons to a right-handed Nathan Kirby go here, as Jones has the same pedigree that Kirby did coming in.  Kirby's fastball proved awfully flat and hittable once he got to Charlottesville, and he spent the season making some headway on that but never really cracking the starting rotation.  In-stone predictions for Jones, therefore, would probably be unwise, but it's fair to assume he'll start off right in the mix for innings, whether as a starter or reliever.  And he appears to have the mental makeup and dedication to improve and succeed, so even with Kirby as a cautionary tale, there's no reason not to be excited about the possibilities.

Austin Nicely - LHP
Spotswood HS (VA)
Drafted: 10th round, Houston Astros (287th overall)

Nicely is a hard thrower for a lefty and would've made a solid left-handed addition to the staff, but we'll have to file him in the could've-been category; Nicely signed with the Astros for about a $610,000 bonus, which was more than $400,000 above his slot.

Daniel Pinero - INF
Western Tech. Inst. (ON)
Drafted: 20th round, Houston Astros (587th overall)

The 'Stros only went 1-for-2 with UVA prospects, though, as Pinero didn't sign with Houston.  Pinero is a big guy whose 6'6" size will probably put him at first base sooner or later, though he does prefer shortstop.  Pinero is a key part of Canada's junior national team, and in the 18U Pan Am championships in 2011, made the all-tournament team as a first baseman.

Perfect Game has a high opinion of Pinero, rating him a 10 of 10 as a prospect and suggesting that he does have the athleticism to play short or third base.  They also mention multiple times his line-drive hitting ability, and between that and his "projectable" frame (he's kind of long and skinny and at 6'6", 200, he could add another 20-30 pounds) he has potential to be exactly the kind of extra-bases hitter that BOC likes in the middle of the lineup.  Pinero might be in line for a few at-bats here and there as a first baseman in 2014, and might get a shot at third base as well; shortstop is out of the question with Brandon Cogswell around.  Long-term, that height probably consigns him to first base, but there's a great possibility he follows in Jared King's footsteps as a top-notch defender there and reliable hitter as well.

Jack Roberts - RHP
James River HS (VA)

Roberts can talk with Ben Carraway about what it'll be like to follow in the footsteps of an accomplished older brother at UVA; he is not only the younger brother of perfect-game tosser Will Roberts, but a high school teammate of Nathan Kirby as well.  With a name like Jack Roberts, he's the clear winner of this year's Hard to Google Award, but he's got a fastball that sits around 89-90 and still on its upward trajectory, and made Rawlings's all-region first team in the mid-Atlantic.  Also of importance: Roberts was the Richmond T-D's male scholar-athlete of the year this spring.

Righties will be a bit more plentiful on the roster next year than southpaws, and Roberts will find himself in a fight for innings.  It probably won't be til 2015 that he starts to be a major part of the mix, but at a minimum during his career he should provide good, solid depth.

Matt Thaiss - C
Jackson Memorial HS (NJ)
Drafted: 32nd round, Boston Red Sox (953rd overall)

Nate Irving handled so much of the catching load that it's plain he'll do the same next year, and it's not really even clear that he'll leave after the 2014 season as a junior.  With Robbie Coman looking like a decent bet for heir apparent, it's possible Matt Thaiss might have to wait a little while for his chance.

Might not be smart to bet against him either, though.  Thaiss's MLB scouting report described him as an "elite defensive catcher" and "has an advanced understanding of the game and plays aggressively."  High praise for a prep draft prospect.  Thaiss hit in high school for a relatively low average (in the .300s) as compared to a lot of high schoolers that routinely reach the .400s and .500s, but had decent power and went on a rampage in this spring's Carpenter Cup, which is a Philadelphia all-star tournament that pits regional all-star teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware against each other.  Thaiss doesn't have much of a path to the lineup as a freshman, but that MLB report is very encouraging and, if it pans out that way, will give Thaiss a clear path to eventually grabbing the starting role.


As a whole, this recruiting class doesn't need to carry the water for the future the way the past couple have done; the way the numbers have been shaking out means we're in a small cycle for this year and will probably see a much bigger class in 2014-15.  But there's not much filler here.  Connor Jones provides the star power, there's good pitching depth with guys like Adam Bleday and Jack Roberts, and I really like each of the position players' potential to work their way into the starting lineup in the future.

Don't be too worried, this year or any year, about the lack of high-level draftees.  UVA has cemented a nasty reputation among MLB teams as a black hole of signability.  Guys like Connor Jones drop from the 1st round to the 21st.  Players that might be drafted in the mid-20s just aren't bothered with.  It took a signing bonus of roughly 450% of the recommended slot to pry Austin Nicely away, and at this point, when a player says before the draft that he's not going to sign, teams take him at his word.  It makes draft position a fairly unreliable indicator of our incoming talent level.  It's not huge, so this isn't a class I'm over the moon about, but I like it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

big picture look

On the right you'll find the depth chart updated with all the changes over the summer.  A few things we know since the last time that was done:

-- Phillip Sims and Clifton Richardson are no longer on the team.

-- Neither is Justin Renfrow.

-- Corwin Cutler will prep.  I mean, that was kind of an open thing for a long time, but I decided to wait until the roster was updated before I made anything official on my charts.  Just in case.

-- Zack Jones....probably won't ever make it to UVA.  I don't think anything's a real done deal yet, but he's making other plans, and guys with that much of their foot out the door don't usually make it back.  So I think we're going to have to write off Perry Jones's younger brother.

A few other shuffles have been made too, but none really worth going over in detail.  The upshot now is that we'll go into this season with 81 scholarship players....and only seven of them seniors.

We'll discuss later the roster questions that face the 2013 season, like who's going to carry the ball the most (Parks and Mizzell, perhaps), who's going to throw the ball (probably Watford or Lambert), what happens if Sean Cascarano's hip is a long-term problem (pray), what Renfrow's departure means for the DT rotation (lots of PT for the true freshmen, probably) and so on.  Today we deal with the longer-term stuff.  Which is a euphemism for recruiting.

With Cutler headed off to FUMA, there are currently ten players signed up to be 2014 freshmen - which thanks to some rather disappointing attrition (Richardson, Renfrow in particular) means there's actually one more slot open just to get us to the limit of 85.  After that you look to the junior class for non-invitee possibilities, of which I see a few.  This would be the 2010 recruiting class that we're looking to, which, since that was the coaching-change class, isn't one of our best.  I'd say I see three strong possibilities (not going to go into names at the moment) with one or two more outside possibilities.  Then of course you'd have to figure on the usual other attrition routes too.

Not taking anything for granted, but Chris Brathwaite is a decent possibility to go the Jameel Sewell route and work his way back to school, so for now let's say that one-short slot that we talked about is his.  So future hauls for the 2014 recruiting class will rely on uninvited fifth years and attrition for their slots.  For the sake of argument, let's call it three non-invites and four attrites; probably a conservative guess.  Now, who fills those spots?

-- Probably one more offensive lineman, maybe two.  This could either be someone like Alex Bookser or Marcus Applefield, or a story like last year with a late-blooming pickup.

-- A space is there for Jamil Kamara whenever he wants it.  I think the coaches would take both him and Cameron Phillips in a heartbeat as well.

-- A space is also there for Derrick Nnadi if he wants it, which is looking less and less likely by the week.

-- Melvin Keihn and Greg Stroman are each, I would guess, slightly better than 50/50 chances to pick UVA.  Maybe two-thirds chance they do, one-third chance they don't.

So let's say we do get one lineman, both receivers, Keihn, and Stroman.  That's five, and by the way that'd really round out this class in beautiful fashion especially if that lineman is Bookser.  (He seems more likely Pitt or OSU-bound, but UVA does have a shot.)

That leaves two more slots, maybe three to four if the attrition guess turns out to be too conservative.  Other possibilities, then?  Jeffery Farrar appears to have a very genuine interest, and Mike London really likes "athletes" that he can get on Grounds and then figure out his position later, which is the deal with Farrar.  I think we badly need a born-and-bred tight end; the only real one on the list currently is Devin Pike, but there might be a guy like Jamal Custis that the coaches think they can turn into a tight end.  On the other hand, if Pike was someone the coaches absolutely had to have, I think he'd be committed by now.

Defensive end is another major need.  Andrew Brown might get a look on the outside.  Kentavius Street would be the pipe-dream scenario, and Kurt Holuba would be a great addition as well.  Neither seem likely at this point, but they're not dead to us either.

In a realistic good-case scenario, then, the seven slots will be filled by:

-- An O-lineman
-- Kamara
-- Phillips
-- Stroman
-- Keihn
-- Farrar
-- A defensive end

Missing on any of those (and let's be honest, even with optimistic appraisals of our chances in all five specific cases, we only have about a 15% of bringing them all in) would probably open the door to London offering an as-yet unnamed instate guy, as he tends to do.  (Think Mason Thomas, Divante Walker.)  Also opening the door: the likelihood that seven spots is a conservative guess.

The overall point: we're looking at a lot of flexibility at this point.  I'd guess more than the coaches anticipated.  They have the freedom to really put out the red carpet and work hard on the players listed above, as well as to not give up the ship on guys like Nnadi.  And I think we'll see the recruiting board expand at some point with new offers.  I'm easing up on worrying that the class will be full with some badly-wanted players on the outside looking in.

2013 baseball recruiting class, part 1

I guess I usually do this closer to baseball season when the thought is still fresh in everyone's mind, but I didn't.  So we'll do it now.  It's our annual series in getting acquainted with the prospects that will grace UVA's roster as freshmen next season.  "Acquainted" is not an accidental choice of words; this can be an awfully imprecise exercise.  Probably the worst prediction I've ever made in five years of writing this blog is that Brandon Waddell would be "probably a future LOOGY or one-inning specialist."  That's about as far from "Friday starter" as it gets.  Sometimes I don't include everyone, because lists found on the Internet aren't up to the level of the comprehensive coverage of football recruiting, and sometimes guys leave unexpectedly before the season or the semester begin.  It's the sort of imprecision that every year makes me strongly consider not doing this, and every year deciding that I at least want to have it as a reference for when the season begins in seven or eight months.  On the plus side, the signing deadline is earlier than it was, so we don't have to stretch to August to find out if our signees are skipping school.

The class is a little smaller this year, which is unsurprising because of the small number of players lost to graduation/the draft.  BOC knows how to manage a roster.  Last year I had to make this a three-parter, but we're back to two this year and the entries are shorter than usual as well.

Tyler Allen - OF
Powhatan HS (VA)

The road to playing time next year for a freshman outfielder is nigh-impossible, so Tyler Allen is a name that'll have to be stashed in the long-term memory banks.  He's the only outfielder in the class, which is not too surprising; we have at least five legitimate candidates for playing time and even if Mike Papi moves to first base, the rest of the field is crowded with ouststanding hitters.  It'd be a huge surprise to see him in the lineup in 2014.

That said, though, Allen is a good all-around outfield prospect.  I wouldn't go so far as to call him "five-tool" because that carries some connotations of sky-high expectations, but Allen can hit, run, field, and throw, all with the skills to do so competitively in college.  He's fairly tall with good speed and a left-handed bat, and he could probably at least compete for time in center field when it's his turn.  Left field otherwise.  Like most college prospects, he's a .400 hitter, and he was player of the year in his district.  About half the class made a Rawlings all-region first team; Allen was one who did.  He's got great timing, too; in a 15-3 win this season, Allen hit two grand slams.  Nice display of power for his future coach; Brian O'Connor was in the stands for that one.

Allen will see the field sparingly, if at all, in 2014.  You'd expect that Brandon Downes and Derek Fisher will leave after next year, though, which opens the door.  Both left and center field will be open for competition in 2015, which is when Allen's time will come.

Alec Bettinger - RHP
CD Hylton HS (VA)

Bettinger is a summer-ball teammate of UVA's best-known prospect in this class, Connor Jones.  He's got a fastball that tops out around 90 and a good breaking ball.  Different coaches of his seem to have different ideas as to the effectiveness of his off-speed stuff and which is his better pitch and so on, so they sound like something that'll need honing before they're college-ready.  If Bettinger is eventually destined for the rotation, a stop in the bullpen on the way seems highly likely.  One possible obstacle for him will be his size; other than Whit Mayberry there aren't any heavily-used righties on UVA's staff shorter than 6'3; Bettinger stands just 6'0".  Lefties get more of a pass than righties on height and Bettinger will have to work hard to separate from the pack.

Adam Bleday - LHP
Titusville Area HS (PA)

Bleday is an interesting prospect; he's not big or super-athletic and as a pitcher, he's not by any means a hard thrower.  But he's a very good hitter (.429 batting average) who played center field as well as pitched for his high school team, and as a pitcher, his senior season saw him finish with an 0.18 ERA.  That means in the 38 innings he pitched, only one earned run crossed the plate.  He struck out 72 against only 12 walks.  In his junior year, he pitched a full 9 innings in one game (which qualifies as extra innings in high school) and struck out 23(!!) hitters.

Stuff-wise, he's sort of a typical lefty; fastball in the mid-80s at best, but with obviously excellent command and two other pitches that work well for him.  He's also small, even for a lefty.  With three good pitches, Bleday could get at least a look as a starter and might have that in his long-term future.  The competition for the 2014 starting rotation looks as wide open as it's ever been, and the field is stocked with veterans like Whit Mayberry and Artie Lewicki, so if a freshman can crack it, that freshman would have to be very impressive.  Mental makeup means a lot to BOC and Karl Kuhn, and we've got no way of knowing how that will go (which is why I make occasionally awful predictions like the Waddell one) but the fact is that the competition both in the rotation and among bullpen lefties is going to be strong in 2014.  It might be tough for a guy like Bleday to have a major role early, but long-term he should be in the thick of the race.  (Kind of the story of this freshman class, really.)

Tony Butler - INF
Sun Prairie HS (WI)

I wish there were more on Tony Butler, but he's been unfortunately injury-prone in his high school career.  He's had two surgeries already; one on his hand after his sophomore year and one this spring, on his shoulder after suffering a dislocation and torn labrum.  That injury cost him his senior year.

A shame, because he did some gaudy things as a junior.  He batted .521 as a shortstop, had an 0.78 ERA (three ER in 28 IP) as a pitcher, and tossed a no-hitter as well.  At least one publication, during the preseason, called him the best player in Wisconsin, and he played for the best team, too; his team was state champs in both 2012 and 2013.  This year, instead of playing, he coached.

Butler is one of the members of this class to make Rawlings's all-region first teams, and one of two infielders in the class.  The amount of playing time available for infielders will depend partly on what the coaches decide to do with Nick Howard; does he continue to play third base (where he's a little bit of a butcher with the glove) or does he focus on pitching full time?  John LaPrise may have the inside track on the vacated second base job, and we'll also be interested to see what we get out of George Ragsdale.  By virtue of being an infielder, though, and also by virtue of being pretty good, Butler stands to be one of the few freshmen with a solid path to some playing time in 2014.

Ben Carraway - RHP
Creekview HS (GA)

Yes, this is the year for younger brothers of former Hoo pitchers.  Ben's older brother is Andrew, one-time standout starter for UVA and current Seattle Mariners minor leaguer.  Carraway is otherwise somewhat overshadowed in this class; his fastball currently tops out around 88, low for a righty, and beyond that there's precious little information on him.  I would guess just based on that fastball that Carraway would have an uphill climb for innings, but with so little to go on, predictions are even dicier than usual.


For future reference, next week I go offline for three days and then return with the second half of this series and then the first of the preseason ACC football previews.  I feel like it's way too early for that shit but I have two more of them to do now and if I don't get an early start I'll never finish.  Even with just 11 to do (on top of, you know, actually focusing on our own team) they had a way of making August race past at the speed of sound.  The fall roster is out, so tomorrow there will be depth chart discussion as part of the previously-promised big recruiting picture post.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

recruiting board update

Not a lot of movement this time at the top of the board, but some interesting shuffles down below.  You know where this thing lives.

-- Moved ATH Jeffery Farrar from yellow to green.  I'd no longer be surprised if Farrar committed to UVA, which is one of the big differences from yellow to green.

-- Moved OT Bentley Spain from yellow to red.  A move that may be long overdue.

-- Added DE Kentavius Street to yellow.  Street is a big-time prospect who is taking public notice of the fact that other big-time prospects (Andrew Brown, to be specific in this case) are committing to UVA.  Street's main focus is NC State at the moment, and he's got a lot of other suitors, and yes I'd be awfully surprised to see him actually verbal up to UVA, but stranger things have (occasionally) happened.

-- Removed OT Justin Falcinelli (Clemson), ATH M.J. Stewart (UNC), and CB Christopher Murphy (Arkansas) from red.

Before the end of summer I'll have a big picture type look.  Hopefully soon, cause there won't be much point to that after another couple commitments.  If it's not some time this week, then it'll be interspersed with the annual football previews, which start at the end of next week and run through August.

Monday, July 15, 2013

weekend review

OK so it's more of a weekly review but regardless.

-- Folks must be feeling good about our ability to reinstate fired employees, because a group of people are expressing their discontent over Mark Bernardino's resignation.  Or firing or whatever it might have been.  There was definitely a certain abruptness to that.  I doubt there was anything too fishy because reporters always nose around these things and there doesn't seem to have been anything much that showed up beyond what you're seeing.  OK, it probably wasn't totally Bernardino's idea to quit either - at least not without something that might've triggered it - but on the rage-scale it ends up a few notches below the whole Sullivan Affair too.

-- This particular group didn't get the moratorium they wanted (which is not terribly surprising) because UVA was not slow in hiring a replacement.  If we have to set aside one of UVA's most successful coaches in any sport, I think the profile of his replacement is just what you'd look for.  Augie Busch has the bloodlines (his dad once ran the national team, which is only the most successful swimming organization in the whole world), worked at one of the NCAA's elite programs (Arizona) for a long time, and has head coaching experience which proves he's not a screw-up once handed the reins.  Swimming is even more completely about recruiting than most sports, since coaches are deprived of the chance to invent schemes, and Busch was UA's recruiting coordinator.  I'll take it.

-- More than 420 basketball players have transferred this offseason.  I say this mainly to point out that that makes it not totally off the wall that UVA has had two now, with Taylor Barnette being the second.  It's still a little annoying that a little under 10% of basketball players transfer every year.  Player goes to team, realizes he's not going to play 25 minutes a night, transfers.  We're getting to the point where the NCAA really ought to create some incentives for staying all four years at one school.  (Yes, I know, a UVA degree ought to be enough of one.)  Arguments are always made against making it harder because shouldn't kids have the right to play where they want, what about hardships, etc. etc.  Fine.  Then figure out a way to reward loyalty.

From a depth chart perspective, it might've been nice to create a little instant heat off the bench the way Barnette was able to do at times, but there are certainly more than a few guys who should be able to hit that shot.  And it relieves some of the crazy scholarship crunch in that class.  Tony has room for three guys in 2014 (to go along with B.J. Stith) if he likes, and he probably will if he can swing it.

-- John LaPrise is doing really well in summer ball.  (His Northwoods League is probably about second on the hierarchy of summer ball leagues, behind Cape Cod and even with New England.)  Possible front-runner next year for the vacated 2B job left open by Reed Gragnani.

-- Hokie running back Michael Holmes was kicked out of Virginia Tech - by a student-run disciplinary council.  Frank Beamer must be pissed that his usual policy of never punishing misdemeanors (after first having Jimmy Turk make sure no felony charge ever touches his players) was undercut by students who don't want to be represented by a guy who beat someone else up to the tune of $13,000 of damages.  If you hear Hokies complaining about this, it's probably because they're used to seeing guys with much worse behavior kept on the team without any student council being involved.  The really amusing part of that article was this line, though: "It would be refreshing if other colleges and universities looked at what took place in Blacksburg and said, 'This is what we need to do.'"  Funny, I can't think of any other schools in the state of Virginia where students get a hand in deciding who their classmates will be, can you?

Recruiting board update coming tomorrow.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

why you should be rooting against ed o'bannon

Chances are you don't need the update, but in case you're a little behind, the deal is this: One day, former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon noticed he was in a video game and realized he hadn't seen a dime of the money from it.  So he sued - Electronic Arts for using his likeness and not paying him and the NCAA for licensing it.

That was nearly four years ago.  Much legal wrangling has gone on since then, which is not entirely important except to note that the defendants have been totally unsuccessful in getting the case dismissed.  Which either means a settlement (bad for the NCAA) or a trial (very risky for the NCAA.)  Either way, the case trundles toward a resolution sometime in another few years.

It's really, really bad form to be cheering for the NCAA in this one.  It feels like taking a big bite of a slime sandwich.  The idea goes something like this:

-- The NCAA puts these players - football and basketball, we're talking about here - through long hours and uses their labor to make a lot of money.

-- That money then goes to line various pockets.  Maybe it pays exorbitant coaching salaries, like Nick Saban's $5.3 million per year, which when other compensation is included probably rolls in closer to about $8 million.  Maybe it's used to build extravagant palaces, including waterfalls in the locker room.  Whatever the use, it goes to something other than the players who actually appear on TV.

-- This is bad.

I'm here to tell you why it's not.  And why, if Ed O'Bannon gets the USFL treatment, the world will be better off.  (History lesson: The USFL won their antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and received for their trouble a check for $3.76, which has never been cashed.)

Here's the problem.  O'Bannon is asking for a lot of things.  First he wants a lot of money to cover all those years that players had their likenesses used, seemingly without permission.  Players do waive their right to their likenesses as regards their college careers, but O'Bannon argues this is a violation of antitrust law.  I can't really argue against this part.  Jake McGee is a white, 6'6", 250 lb tight end with very good pass-catching skills and average blocking skills who wears #83 for the Virginia Cavaliers.  So when EA puts out a video game and includes a white, 6'6", 250 lb tight end with very good pass-catching skills and average blocking skills who wears #83 for the Virginia Cavaliers, not many courts will accept the argument that that isn't Jake McGee.

The problem is that the NCAA and EA aren't competitors.  If an agreement was made between GM and Toyota to fix the price of their products, that would be antitrust; the NCAA and EA don't compete.  It's perfectly legitimate for the NCAA to license out likenesses to which it has a legal right; whether it's legally fair for them to have that legal right in perpetuity is something the courts will decide.

So there are, like, jillions of dollars of damages at stake there, because antitrust law triples any damages automatically.  But those are one-time fees.  What O'Bannon is also demanding is that players receive 50% of future TV revenues.  Current and future players.

I wish there were more clarity on that, because to me, that's the huge kicker.  Even the text of the lawsuit doesn't define that very well.  Nobody is really sure what this means, and every article on the subject just says "players" as if that answers it.  Players who regularly appear on TV?  Players who appear on TV once?  Every athlete on the roster of a team?  What if the school never appears on TV?  What if Florida State is on TV all the time and Wake Forest is only occasionally?  What if not a single Coppin State game ever shows up on TV?  Schools tend to receive TV distributions equally within a conference regardless of how much their value contributed to that revenue, so one would imagine that Wake is on the hook just as much as FSU.  But if FSU's softball team plays on TV and BC's never does, which softball players get a cut?

Then of course, we have to ask about the form of these payments.  Can their scholarships count or is it straight cash?  O'Bannon is opening up a major can of worms here.

What bugs me is this, though.  It is very easy to root against the scummy ol' NCAA here, for the nasty exploitation of their players.  Emotion leads us to believe that of course the players deserve to be compensated for their efforts.  Of course they should get a cut of their jersey sales and video game sales and so on.  There are a load of articles gleefully predicting the demise of the NCAA, some in the guise of "a guide to the lawsuit," which is more like "why you should hate those bastards."

Well, let's try something.  Let's talk in those terms: athletes should get what they deserve, not what the NCAA and their schools allow them to have.  Chris Webber semi-famously wondered why he had to scrounge for pizza money while his jersey was on sale in the school store; this was part of the impetus for all the under-the-table money the Fab Five took that sent Michigan into basketball irrelevance for fifteen years.  Fine: athletes like Webber should get what they deserve.

But let's give everyone what they deserve.  And what do wrestlers, runners, swimmers, volleyball players, tennis players, rowers, gymnasts, golfers, and other obscure athletes deserve?  Nothing.  NOT A DAMN THING.  Screw them, man - they don't sell jerseys, drive ratings, or pack stadiums.  They're leeches on the system.  Forget scholarships - they should pay for the right to play their sport in dedicated facilities with fancy uniforms and they definitely shouldn't be getting $8.8 million tennis facilities.  What a country where a tennis player whose audience is smaller than my rec league soccer games can shower and change in donated luxury.

The gleeful vultures like Charles Pierce would have you believe it's "skyrocketing coaching salaries" and straw men in suits taking all this money.  That's not how this works.  Yes, part of the money goes to gold-plated facilities and expensive coaches - all to attract these exploited players, who eat that shit up like the fat kid at the donut buffet.  Nothing recruits like excess.  Kids get a personal tour of Alabama's country-club locker room facilities from a coaching legend and they suddenly forget all about the fact that their future appearance on ESPN is paying for all this.  Or they realize "man, I get to play on ESPN!"

But what really happens is that a whole hell of a lot of opportunities are being paid for by all this TV money.  In what I would call zero-revenue sports (swimming, wrestling, tennis, etc.), the NCAA allows a maximum of 71.1 scholarships, and in low-revenue sports (soccer, baseball, lacrosse, hockey) there are a further 52.2 for a total of 123.3.  Let's say the average school offers 75 of them at an average cost of $20,000 each (somewhere in the middle between in-state and out-of-state tuition); the school spends $1.5 million on scholarships, and probably a further $5-10 million total on coaches, and another few million a year on facility maintenance.

O'Bannon wants to take about $10 million - by instantly cutting schools' TV revenue in half and sending it I don't know where.  Schools may be able to count scholarship money in that and thus substantially reduce the financial hit, but I doubt it; O'Bannon is already contending that a scholarship does not equal compensation.

Title IX proponents have always said that they think schools ought to get themselves in compliance by spending more money on women's sports, not by cutting men's.  These people live in gumdrop-rainbow-land.  In real life, schools have always complied with Title IX by killing off opportunities for men.  Because they can't make money appear out of thin air, that's why.  It's a scarce resource, in the economic sense of the word.

They'll deal with O'Bannon compliance the same way.  They won't wave magic wands and hand four-figure checks to all their players and still pay for a tennis team.  They'll likely face the choice between a football team and a bunch of non-revenue sports.  The wave of new D-I football teams like Georgia State and South Alabama is because most schools think football will raise their profile and visibility and thus the expenditures are worth it for the school.  They're probably right.  Which means tennis and swimming go right out the window.  Quite a few schools won't be able to afford Division I any more, because that requires six each of men's and women's sports.  Other reforms aside, schools are not going to stop paying coaches and building nice facilities, they're just going to do so for fewer sports.  That's how they've always operated and that's how they'll continue to operate.

The overstuffing of D-I aside, this means way fewer opportunities.  Especially for men, since Title IX makes it that much harder to cut women's sports.  Play football or don't play.  No scholarship for you.  There are a ton of reasonable suggestions out there that could put to rest quite a few of these problems.  Trust funds and the like - then you could even put names on the jerseys and maybe even sell more of them that way.  Salary caps for coaches.  What have you.  There are no possible reasonable suggestions to fairly divvy up TV money if you are talking about writing checks directly out of the TV pot, because no matter how you do it someone can always make a case they deserve more than the next guy.  Ed O'Bannon thinks he is taking money from rich guys in suits and giving it to exploited athletes; he's really just setting up a mechanism to move money from some athletes to others.  Not a good future.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2012-2013 Cavalier of the Year

Last year there was just one intrepid soul that voted for Jarmere Jenkins.  That person can congratulate himself or herself for being into tennis before it was cool.  Jenkins's national championships - plural, as he earned both the team and doubles trophy and came within a hair of earning the singles trophy as well - were enough to sway this year's voting public into making him the FOV Cavalier of the Year.

Frankly, this award has turned out exactly as I'd hoped.  The winners have come from five different sports and only one is a traditional revenue sport; we have baseball (twice), men's soccer, women's soccer, men's basketball, and now, men's tennis.  Does it suck that our football team isn't ever good enough to produce stronger candidates?  Yeah, kinda.  But the one year they were pretty good, women's soccer still beat them out with a better player.  I'd like a better football team, but I can't help it that UVA is so dang exceptional at pumping out really good athletes everywhere else.

Jarmere Jenkins is as worthy a candidate as you'll ever see for the award, and for the record, yes, I voted for him too.  One vote, same as you.  I thought it was a shame Caroline Miller didn't earn more votes, as I figured her for the second-best choice, and we also really ought to give like a lifetime achievement award to Paige Selenski for being the first four-time nominee.  Of all the athletes I've ever nominated, Selenski has had probably the best UVA career.

But Jenkins, man: national champion.  You can't beat it.  Here are the voting totals for posterity:

Jarmere Jenkins: 81
Joe Harris: 30
Mike Papi: 19
Paige Selenski: 8
Steve Greer: 6
Caroline Miller: 5
Brittany Altomare, Melanie Mitchell, Luke Papendick: 1
Will Bates, Casey Bocklet, Scott McWilliams: 0

Monday, July 8, 2013

the school: Notre Dame

It pains me to say it, because Lord knows the Domers don't need larger heads than they've already got, but Notre Dame is not only a brilliant addition to the ACC, it's essentially a necessary one.  Everyone else has been looking to add to their conference a big, high-profile team, and of all the teams that actually moved conferences, Notre Dame has the highest of profiles.  The ND logo looks decidedly odd among all the other ACC ones, even the other two new schools, but it's a marriage of some necessity.  And the Irish bring a ton of instant, and very tangible, cachet.

Overall profile

Enrollment (undergrad):

1. Florida State: 31,800
2. Maryland: 26,800
3. NC State: 26,200
4. Virginia Tech: 23,900
5. North Carolina: 18,600
6. Pittsburgh: 18,400
7. Clemson: 16,600
8. Virginia: 15,800
9. Syracuse: 14,800
10. Georgia Tech: 14,500
11. Miami: 10,300
12. Boston College: 9,100
13. Notre Dame: 8,400
14. Duke: 6,500
15. Wake Forest: 4,800

Academic rank (USN&WR):

1. Duke (#8)
2. Notre Dame (#17)
3. Virginia (#24)
4. Wake Forest (#27)
5. North Carolina (#30)
6. Boston College (#31)
7. Georgia Tech (#36)
8. Miami (#44)
9(t). Syracuse (#58)
9(t). Maryland (#58)
9(t). Pittsburgh (#58)
12. Clemson (#68)
13. Virginia Tech (#72)
14. Florida State (#97)
15. NC State (#106)

Director's Cup average:**

1. North Carolina: 6.2
2. Florida State: 9
3. Virginia: 10.6
4. Duke: 12
5. Notre Dame: 18.4
6. Maryland: 28.8
7. Virginia Tech: 40
8. Clemson: 50.8
9. Syracuse: 54
10. Miami: 56.4
11. Georgia Tech: 59.6
12. NC State: 60.2
13. Boston College: 67.6
14. Wake Forest: 70.8
15. Pittsburgh: 113.6

**average finish in the last five years, including 2013.
When you think about it, having five teams that averaged in the Director's Cup top 20 in the past five years is pretty good.  It leaves less than four each to be scattered among the other four major conferences.  I think a world-class university should excel in everything it does, athletics included, and there are really only three schools in the ACC that can make a strong claim that they do.  (And one of them is muddling their way through a no-show class scandal with tutors who wrote papers for players and getting caught agents crawling around the place being buddies with "Coach Black Santa."  So.)

Anyway, Notre Dame.  Their academic prowess is well-known and their Director's Cup standings have been moving in the right direction as well, from 27th in 2010 to 9th in 2013.  People talk about how the ACC will add Louisville at just the right time, but basketball and football fame can be fleeting if they don't work to maintain their grasp and there's another whole season to go.  ND has their whole program moving upwards just as they hit the ACC.

Sports we play that they don't




Field hockey

Sports they play that we don't


Ice hockey



With 23 teams, UVA offers more varsity sports than most other schools.  I haven't counted, but I would guess maybe only 15 or so D-I schools offer that many or more.  We're talking Michigan, Ohio State, UCLA, Texas, that kind of school.  (Actually, I just looked it up and UCLA only has 22 if you don't count "sand volleyball.")  Anyway, with 24 sports, ND is one of those schools; they have 12 for men and 12 for women.  The big one is hockey (and it's a little surprising there's no women's team.)  There's also fencing, which I think will make them the only ACC team to have that sport.  We've got wrestling and field hockey; I'm a little surprised that a Midwestern school has no wrestling and that a rich kids' school has no field hockey.

Common sports

(The number after each year shows how many Director's Cup points were earned by that sport in that year.)


2008-2009: 0 (UVA 78)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 64)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 83)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 64)

Totals: 0 (UVA 314)

Brian O'Connor will get a chance to go against his old team.  Irish baseball isn't much of a power, though; they're probably a notch or two below Pittsburgh and less likely than the Panthers to initially threaten to make the ACC tournament.  It might be interesting to see how they can recruit against other Midwestern teams that are stuck in Midwestern conferences, though.  UVA shouldn't find them to be a major threat to the upper echelons of the conference.

Men's basketball

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 0)
2009-2010: 25 (UVA 0)
2010-2011: 50 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 25 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 25 (UVA 0)

Totals: 125 (UVA 25)

Notre Dame hoops wasn't really a thing in the 90s, but made a reappearance on the national scene under Mike Brey, and it might've gotten even farther if it hadn't been overshadowed by an expanding and improving Big East.  Instead they became sort of an "oh yeah, also them too" kind of team when talking about how deep the Big East was, after teams like Syracuse and Louisville got mentioned.  Now they'll be sort of the same deal in the ACC: strong, almost always tourney-worthy, a step or two shy of being a national contender.

Women's basketball

2008-2009: 25 (UVA 50)
2009-2010: 64 (UVA 25)
2010-2011: 90 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 90 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 83 (UVA 0)

Totals: 352 (UVA 75)

There's a lot less parity in women's hoops than in men's, and ND has taken advantage of that, lately emerging as challengers to Tennessee and UConn and making three Final Fours in a row.  In fact, they recently became the first team to beat both of those schools in the same tournament.  They should be the ACC's top program instantly.

Men's cross country

2008-2009: 36 (UVA 48)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 45)
2010-2011: 24 (UVA 40)
2011-2012: 26 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 46 (UVA 61.5)

Totals: 132 (UVA 194.5)

Women's cross country

2008-2009: 16 (UVA 22)
2009-2010: 28 (UVA 45)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 32)
2011-2012: 30 (UVA 34)
2012-2013: 60 (UVA 0)

Totals: 134 (UVA 131)

For what it's worth, Notre Dame is a perennial winner of the National Catholic Championship, which invites about 35 schools every year.  They have a solid CC program that should at least be a contender in the ACC, with outside chances at a championship.


2008-2009: 45 (UVA 0)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 0)
2010-2011: 45 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 25 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 85 (UVA 0)

Totals: 200 (UVA 25)

Since Notre Dame isn't a football member of the ACC per se, it seems potentially not worth the discussion here.  But then, we'll play them more often than we ever play NC State or Clemson, so why not?  Anyway, I didn't have to explain Syracuse lacrosse to you and I don't have to explain Notre Dame football either.  This whole ACC deal might not have ever gotten done if ND hadn't agreed to always play a partial ACC schedule; it's pretty important for the ACC to have five televised ND games every two years.

Men's golf

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 46.5)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 65)
2010-2011: 21 (UVA 27.5)
2011-2012: 40 (UVA 51.5)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 39)

Totals: 61 (UVA 229.5)

Women's golf

2008-2009: 27 (UVA 70.5)
2009-2010: 24 (UVA 63)
2010-2011: 52 (UVA 80)
2011-2012: 28 (UVA 80)
2012-2013: 29 (UVA 42)

Totals: 160 (UVA 335.5)

I'm not terribly well qualified to talk about golf; you can draw conclusions from the numbers above just as well as I can.

Men's lacrosse

2008-2009: 25 (UVA 83)
2009-2010: 90 (UVA 83)
2010-2011: 60 (UVA 100)
2011-2012: 83 (UVA 60)
2012-2013: 60 (UVA 0)

Totals: 315 (UVA 326)

It seems like Notre Dame is still a newcomer to lacrosse's elite scene, and maybe they kind of are.  But it's been four years since they failed to get past the first round, and they've been a semi-regular participant in the Final Four the last couple years.  Adding ND to the ACC will help ensure the conference stays at the very top of the lacrosse world, especially with a new Maryland-based threat from the Big Ten.

Women's lacrosse

2008-2009: 60 (UVA 25)
2009-2010: 25 (UVA 60)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 25)
2011-2012: 25 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 25 (UVA 70)

Totals: 135 (UVA 205)

ND's women's team isn't quite as accomplished as Syracuse's, and they have a Midwestern recruiting rival in Northwestern that might make it hard for them to move into the elite.  But they're still a solid team that should add to the ACC's degree of difficulty.

Men's soccer

2008-2009: 50 (UVA 50)
2009-2010: 50 (UVA 100)
2010-2011: 50 (UVA 25)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 64 (UVA 50)

Totals: 114 (UVA 250)

Unlike with the other two schools, the ACC is getting a pretty well-accomplished soccer program in the Irish.  They're coming off a Big East championship season - during which they also beat Duke and Clemson, mid-level ACC teams - and they tend to advance a round or two in the NCAAs each year.  They should be at least a respectable addition to the conference, if not a strong contender at times.

Women's soccer

2008-2009: 90 (UVA 64)
2009-2010: 83 (UVA 64)
2010-2011: 100 (UVA 64)
2011-2012: 25 (UVA 73)
2012-2013: 73 (UVA 64)

Totals: 371 (UVA 329)

The Irish have one of the elite women's soccer programs in the country; only North Carolina has been to more championship games, and ND took home the title in 2010.  Putting them in the same conference as UNC in this sport is, well, it's kinda like putting Duke and UNC in the same basketball conference, only with more geographical separation.  Even more so, really; men's hoops is a fairly large oligarchy, whereas there's no question in women's soccer that it's UNC, then ND, then the rest of the country.


2008-2009: 50 (UVA 0)
2009-2010: 50 (UVA 25)
2010-2011: 25 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 50 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 25 (UVA 0)

Totals: 200 (UVA 25)

For softball, the ACC is good, not great; Florida State went 18-2 in conference play this year and wasn't rewarded with a regional.  The jump for Notre Dame to the ACC isn't a huge one.  ND has been making the tournament with semi-ease and then not making it out of the regional for several years now; their performance in the ACC should be much the same.  UVA is near the bottom, looking way up, so Notre Dame will be more of a concern for the UNCs of the world that hover near the middle-top and the tournament bubble.

Men's swimming and diving

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 69)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 67.5)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 70.5)
2011-2012: 46 (UVA 60)
2012-2013: 33 (UVA 47)

Totals: 79 (UVA 314)

Women's swimming and diving

2008-2009: 43 (UVA 64.5)
2009-2010: 30 (UVA 69)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 63)
2011-2012: 51.5 (UVA 57)
2012-2013: 58.5 (UVA 56)

Totals: 183 (UVA 309.5)

As should be evident from the numbers above, ND's women's swim teams have generally been better than the men; the men, however, are on the rise, and broke through two years ago to claim the Big East championship.  Neither team has finished lower than second in the past two seasons.  UVA still has a better team, as long as we can find a worthy successor to Mark Bernardino, but the Irish present a threat.

Men's tennis

2008-2009: 25 (UVA 73)
2009-2010: 25 (UVA 83)
2010-2011: 50 (UVA 90)
2011-2012: 50 (UVA 90)
2012-2013: 25 (UVA 100)

Totals: 175 (UVA 436)

I mean, UVA hasn't lost a men's tennis contest in the ACC in something like six years.  Notre Dame has a decent outfit but UVA is the class of the conference in this sport, and ND won't be changing that.

Women's tennis

2008-2009: 83 (UVA 50)
2009-2010: 83 (UVA 50)
2010-2011: 50 (UVA 64)
2011-2012: 50 (UVA 64)
2012-2013: 50 (UVA 64)

Totals: 316 (UVA 292)

These matches, on the other hand, should be pretty tight.  Our women's team is good, and very competitive in the conference, but doesn't rise to the level of the men's team; ND made a couple Final Fours a few years ago and should slot in somewhere near the top of the ACC as well.  They knocked off 5th-placed (in the ACC) Georgia Tech twice in the past season, and easily handled NC State in the opening round of the tournament.

Men's track and field (outdoor)

2008-2009: 24.5 (UVA 24.5)
2009-2010: 5 (UVA 49.5)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 46)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 15)
2012-2013: (UVA 0)

Totals: 5 (UVA 135)

Women's track and field (outdoor)

2008-2009: 50 (UVA 36.5)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 0)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 44)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: (UVA 0)

Totals: 0 (UVA 80.5)

Track is not ND's strong suit, but then, neither is it ours except in fits and starts.  UVA is much closer to changing that and fielding strong teams that regularly place athletes in the national meet than Notre Dame is.

Women's volleyball

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 0)
2009-2010: 25 (UVA 0)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 25 (UVA 0)

Totals: 50 (UVA 0)

One of ND's weaker programs nationally, the volleyball team makes occasional appearances at the tournament and doesn't generally advance.  That'll still put them at least in the middle-to-top of the ACC, and it'll be a while before UVA can consider competing with them.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

the school: Pittsburgh

Continuing the deep-dive look at the ACC's newest members, we move on to the team that will join UVA in the Coastal Conference and become a yearly opponent.

Overall profile
Enrollment (undergrad):

1. Florida State: 31,800
2. Maryland: 26,800
3. NC State: 26,200
4. Virginia Tech: 23,900
5. North Carolina: 18,600
6. Pittsburgh: 18,400
7. Clemson: 16,600
8. Virginia: 15,800
9. Syracuse: 14,800
10. Georgia Tech: 14,500
11. Miami: 10,300
12. Boston College: 9,100
13. Notre Dame: 8,400
14. Duke: 6,500
15. Wake Forest: 4,800

Academic rank (USN&WR):

1. Duke (#8)
2. Notre Dame (#17)
3. Virginia (#24)
4. Wake Forest (#27)
5. North Carolina (#30)
6. Boston College (#31)
7. Georgia Tech (#36)
8. Miami (#44)
9(t). Syracuse (#58)
9(t). Maryland (#58)
9(t). Pittsburgh (#58)
12. Clemson (#68)
13. Virginia Tech (#72)
14. Florida State (#97)
15. NC State (#106)

Director's Cup average:**

1. North Carolina: 6.2
2. Florida State: 9
3. Virginia: 10.6
4. Duke: 12
5. Notre Dame: 18.4
6. Maryland: 28.8
7. Virginia Tech: 40
8. Clemson: 50.8
9. Syracuse: 54
10. Miami: 56.4
11. Georgia Tech: 59.6
12. NC State: 60.2
13. Boston College: 67.6
14. Wake Forest: 70.8
15. Pittsburgh: 113.6

**average finish in the last five years, including 2013.

Pitt is about 4,000 students bigger than Syracuse, but academically right in the same area.  They're a private school that behaves like a public one (funding from the state, lower tuition for instate students) thanks to the weird way the Pennsylvania higher education system is set up; otherwise, their profile is remarkably similar to Syracuse.  The differences on the athletic fields are much more pronounced, however.  Pitt will become the only ACC team to finish outside the top 100 in Director's Cup standings at any time in the last five years; worse yet, the only time in the past five years they finished inside the top 100 was in 2008-2009, when they were 93rd.  That's worse than all but one of Wake Forest's showings.  Thus, it's the Panthers that stand to gain the most from ACC membership of any of the three additions.

Sports we play that they don't




Field hockey

Sports they play that we don't





Pitt has a much more balanced profile of offerings than Cuse does, but like Cuse, they skip a number of sports that UVA is good at.  Lax and men's tennis come to mind, and crew and field hockey on the women's side.  Gymnastics is the only Pitt sport not offered at UVA.

Common sports

(The number after each year shows how many Director's Cup points were earned by that sport in that year.)


2008-2009: 0 (UVA 78)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 64)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 83)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 64)

Totals: 0 (UVA 314)

Pittsburgh has never found itself at the bottom of the Big East standings; in fact, they usually end up somewhere between the middle and the top.  But they haven't earned any national tournament berths because when they do have a good record, it's built on an inferior OOC schedule.  They were 42-17 this year - their best record in this time frame - but had the 202nd-best strength of schedule.  They've been competitive in the Big East - whether that translates to the ACC will be very much in question, because they really haven't played a team as good as those at the top of the ACC in the last five years.  They'll at least be better than BC, though.

Men's basketball:

2008-2009: 73 (UVA 0)
2009-2010: 50 (UVA 0)
2010-2011: 50 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 25 (UVA 0)

Totals: 198 (UVA 25)

One of the school's calling cards, but less successful of late than in the past and slowly earning the reputation of a tournament underachiever.  They earned 1 seeds in 2009 and 2011, but that didn't get them past the Elite Eight, and then only in 2009.  Still, they're a tough team under Jamie Dixon and they consider it a major disappointment if they miss the tournament.

Women's basketball:

2008-2009: 64 (UVA 50)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 25)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 0)

Totals: 64 (UVA 75)

Had a good run in the mid-2000s, but a three-year string of losing seasons led to a coaching change this past offseason.  Like UVA, rebuilding and looking uphill in a tough conference, and probably have farther to go than we do.

Men's cross country:

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 48)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 45)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 40)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 61.5)

Totals: 0 (UVA 194.5)

Women's cross country:

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 22)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 45)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 32)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 34)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 0)

Totals: 0 (UVA 131)

Both cross-country teams run in the bottom levels of the Big East, and will continue to do so in the ACC.


2008-2009: 25 (UVA 0)
2009-2010: 60 (UVA 0)
2010-2011: 45 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 25 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 25 (UVA 0)

Totals: 180 (UVA 25)

Between Pitt and Syracuse, the Panthers are the team more likely to find some early success in the ACC.  They have a five-year bowl streak going, although the last three are trips to the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.  As with Syracuse, it might be harder in the ACC to find six wins than it was in the Big East, but the Panthers are moving to what right now is the easier side of the conference.

Men's soccer:

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 50)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 100)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 25)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 25)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 50)

Totals: 0 (UVA 250)

Pitt might very easily be the very bottom of the barrel in ACC soccer.  In the recent five years they won seven Big East games, three against Seton Hall.  That makes something like 30-some losses (I didn't bother to look out for ties.)

Women's soccer:

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 64)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 64)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 64)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 73)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 64)

Totals: 0 (UVA 329)

The women are slightly more competitive, but the story's still the same.  The ACC is a monster conference in women's soccer, and the Pitt ladies will probably get steamrolled for a while.


2008-2009: 0 (UVA 0)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 25)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 0)

Totals: 0 (UVA 25)

Similarly to UVA, sort of generically bad, but with lower high points (as in, we once made the NCAA tournament and they didn't.)  They usually have a losing record in Big East play and probably will in the ACC, too.

Men's swimming and diving:

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 69)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 67.5)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 70.5)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 60)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 47)

Totals: 0 (UVA 314)

Women's swimming and diving:

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 64.5)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 69)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 63)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 57)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 56)

Totals: 0 (UVA 309.5)

Pitt used to really dominate Big East swimming, but that was ten or more years ago; they typically roll in about 3rd or 4th in the 11-team Big East meet these days.  They've been a regular dual-meet opponent of ours as well, and UVA has always won without dominating.  I suspect if I looked a little deeper into the lineups I might find that UVA hasn't been throwing the A-team out there; an experienced swim coach like Bernardino knows what kind of minimum lineup he can set in order to shuffle things around a little and still win.  At any rate, if UVA is knocked off its lofty pedestal in ACC swimming, it probably won't be Pitt that does it.  Neither will they free-fall to the bottom of the rankings.

Women's tennis:

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 50)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 50)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 64)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 64)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 64)

Totals: 0 (UVA 292)

Nothing very notable about this team, and unlikely to give UVA a difficult time or to make many waves in ACC competition.

Men's track and field (outdoor):

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 24.5)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 49.5)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 46)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 15)
2012-2013: 5 (UVA 0)

Totals: 5 (UVA 135)

Women's track and field (outdoor):

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 36.5)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 0)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 44)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 0)

Totals: 0 (UVA 80.5)

Occasionally send a participant to the national championship meet.  Bout all that can be said.

Women's volleyball:

2008-2009: 0 (UVA 0)
2009-2010: 0 (UVA 0)
2010-2011: 0 (UVA 0)
2011-2012: 0 (UVA 0)
2012-2013: 0 (UVA 0)

Totals: 0 (UVA 0)

Will enter the league ahead of UVA in the pecking order, but then, most teams would.  Their lack of entries into the NCAA tournament probably won't be rectified by joining the ACC, but they won't embarrass themselves either.


2008-2009: 36 (UVA 40)
2009-2010: 48 (UVA 60)
2010-2011: 40 (UVA 50.5)
2011-2012: 60 (UVA 45.5)
2012-2013: 59 (UVA 53)

Totals: 243 (UVA 249)

Pitt's wrestling team is good and getting better, with some top-15 finishes at the national championships.  They're close to where Virginia Tech finishes, and Tech is the usual ACC champion, with UVA coming in 2nd in recent years.  Pitt will come into the ACC and instantly be the most likely team to dethrone the Hokies; wrestling will easily be their most likely path to an ACC championship.

Pitt's campus is smack in the middle of a large northern city, with minimal if any room for outward growth.  That has about exactly the effect you'd expect on their athletics.  With the exception of football - for which they borrow the Steelers' stadium - and five points in track this spring, not one of their outdoor sports has earned a Director's Cup point in however many years.  Everything they do well is indoors, and they typically earn all the points they're going to earn during the winter season, after scraping a few from football.  They have potential to be a major force in ACC wrestling and will definitely add to the ACC profile in hoops, and they'll do alright in football, too.  I don't see them having an upper-echelon baseball team (and they have one of those obnoxious even-the-dirt-is-turf fields) but they ought to provide some competition for the likes of Duke, Tech, and Maryland for the bottom seeds in the ACC tourney.  Most of the rest of their programs, though, won't be competitive at least until the ACC money starts to take effect.