What a difference a half year makes. When we did our midseason breakdown, we were 3-2 and looking for some identity. Well we finished with a bang (and one game we just got blown up) and ended up with an 8-4 record and headed to a bowl game. So how did we do by position? Here is our year end grades. Included are our Preseason and Midseason grades for comparison.
Quarterback– Pre: B, Mid: C, Final: B+
I am perfectly okay with Rocco from here on out, provided he can manage a game. A lot of the offensive turn around revolved around the running game. That way we don’t win or lose games on his arm. Now we won a few with him, and we have lost some games because of him, but he is the best QB on the current roster, and when he was treated that way, the Hoos went 5-2. Watford could be good, but needs a lot of time to develop. Unfortunately, he might not get the chance, with 2 stud QBs coming in next year.
Running Backs/Full Backs– Pre: B+, Mid: A-, Final: A-
The offense worked when UVa ran the ball effectively, and sputtered when it did not. Perry Jones, Kevin Parks, and Clifton Richardson will all be back next year so it should be more of the same in 2012, and if Richardson can continue to be effective up the middle, it will be one of the best in the ACC. The fullback, Max Milien was used in the blocking and passing game, but the Hoos will have to find someone to fill those shoes next year.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends–Pre: A-, Mid: B-/C+, Final: B-
They broke out of their shells late in the season, but still left a lot to be desired. Not all of it is on them, but it seemed that none of the receivers could cause deep separation from any defense all year. And when they did, Rocco couldn’t connect. Snyder and Burd are gone next year, which means that Tim Smith, Jennings, and Terrell will have a large load to carry next year with a bevy of WRs coming in. The tight ends were used in the blocking game most of the year and only saw limited touches in the passing game. But when they are utilized, it can open that middle right up.
Offensive Line– Pre: A, Mid: B, Final: A-
They kept Rocco upright most of the season and opened some huge holes for the running backs sealing the corners, but a few times each game, they hurt themselves with penalties. We lose 2 starters, but luckily, we are deep with more coming in.
Defensive Line– Pre: B, Mid: A-, Final: A
The biggest improvement this year was the ability to stop the run, and in the second half of the season, the Hoos looked amazingly impressive, especially against GT, Miami, Maryland, and FSU. Now the line is going to be blown up next season, but with some of the talent coming in, look for a faster, younger line to not skip a beat.
Linebackers– Pre: B, Mid: C+/B-, Final: B+
Just a great job all around with Greer leading the way in the middle. All you really could ask for is for them to find their way to the QB more effectively, but they clued in on the running backs and really stopped the sieve from leaking like it was in 2010. Now Aaron and Steve are gone, but a lot of young guys are going to be thrown into service next year, which should lead to an early learning curve in 2012
Secondary– Pre: B+, Mid: C, Final: C
I hate to lump in all the secondary into one category, because the corners were light years better than the secondary. The big problem on this UVa team was coverage up the middle, and the Hoos just did not have the speed to compete with most teams this year. And I really hate to say this, but this is the one area that it might be addition by subtraction. All new safeties next year and a new corner to replace Chase will give us the speed to address the issue, but if they can’t pick up on the passing schemes, it might be more of the same.
Punter/Kicker– Pre: B-, Mid: B-, Final: B-
Well, we made it through the year without it hurting us, but clearly was not up to par. Randolph was a lot better this year but Howell had to resort to rugby style kicks to be somewhat effective. Both are gone, and the Hoos need to find some replacements next year.
Punt Return/ Kick Return– Pre: B-, Mid: D-, Final: D+
Two bright spots: Shepard was very good in kickoff returns and Perry Jones was a breath of fresh air in the return game. Outside of that, it was very poor. Big changes need to happen, and unfortunately, both the safeties and special teams are Dex’s area.