Nothing really worked out for the Hoos this year on the gridiron. And while we will address the elephant in the room later this week, let’s take a look at the team by position, with what went down this year and what the future has in store.
This season: I should really call this section ‘Quarterbacks’ because that summed up the entire campaign this year. Coming into this season, many fans were looking at a competition between incumbent Michael Rocco and 1st year Greyson Lambert. But in comes transfer Phillip Sims and everything changed. With the word that David Watford was going to redshirt along with Lambert and fellow rookie Matt Johns, it would be a two horse race. Rocco knew the offense by the raw ability of Sims was hard to ignore. It seemed early on this season that Rocco still suffered from the same consistency issues that plagued him last year, mainly the inability to throw the long ball and interceptions. The Hoos made the decision to insert Sims into the starting role, but was still not the answer fans were looking for. Thusly, we emerged into the 2-quarterback rotation, which was executed very poorly, with no rhyme or reason which QB would trot onto the field. At the end of the day, Virginia’s total passing yards increased about 200 yards on the year and total touchdowns increased by 6 (23 vs. 17), but interceptions and completion percentages saw very slight bumps.
Next season: While the overall offense will be an important question in the offseason, it must begin and end with picking a quarterback to lead the team. Both Rocco and Sims will return, but Virginia will have 5, yes 5, more signal callers to choose from. Leading that list will be Greyson Lambert, who showed off his arm all spring ball. Matt Johns will also come off his red shirt while incoming 1st years Corwin Cutler and Brendan Marshall will most certainly put theirs on. I left one out for a reason. Not only will the staff have to address starter, they will have to figure out what to do with David Watford, who took a rare 2nd year redshirt, after appearing in 10 games in 2011. If Virginia is going to move forward next year, there needs to be 1 quarterback and every eligible QB needs to be evaluated from square one.
This season: What was a strength in 2011 was less so in 2012. With the Jones-Parks-Richardson combo all returning after rushing for about 2100 yards, you would expect that they would at least come close to that total this year. But that would not be the case. Jones saw his rushing yards decrease by almost 400 yards and Richardson was slowed all year due to injury, only Kevin Parks held his own. And while the passing touchdowns went up, the rushing touchdowns plummeted from 18 to 10. The backs earned their living last season by rushing Jones and Parks on the outside and Richardson up the middle, but they mostly abandoned that this year, mainly staying between the tackles and leaving it in the hands of a lesser interior line. Khalek Shepherd showed flashes of goodness, but only got to touch the ball 19 times, even though he averaged 6.4 yards per play.
Next Season: Gone is Perry Jones, but the buzz is around (hopefully) the incoming 1st year Taquan Mizzell. I pray he makes it to Signing Day in February, but when he gets to Charlottesville, he should see the field about the same frequency that Jones or Parks did. That 1-2 combo should be enough to get out of this year’s funk, with Richardson, Shepherd, and redshirt 1st year Kye Morgan providing depth. But we said the same thing a year ago this time. One thing that has been overlooked is the fullback slot, as Battle, Skrobacz, and Swanson all rotated through the slot, but did not provide a bunch off support. Could we see a one back system soon?
This season: Burd was the go to receiver last season, but with him gone, someone needed to step up and be that guy. But, alas, no one did. First on that list was Tim Smith, but injury bug bit him as well and only appeared in 9 games, and looked slower early in the year. He did have 405 yards and 4 touchdowns, but it was another year where we had to look at potential, not production. Jennings was the leading WR this year with 568 yards and 5 TDs, but had key, touchdown costing drops in at least 4 games this season, most notably TCU and UNC. Terrell started to come around, having 475 yards but no scores. It was nice to see E.J. Scott got a great offseason rewarded with on field playing time and put up 390 yards and 3 touchdowns, as he has the best hands of the entire group. We had thought that 1st years Adrian Gamble and Canaan Severin were going to make an impact, but they combined of 4 catches for 38 yards and a TD.
Next season: Not a senior on the roster, all the WRs return and will add 3 more in Keeon Johnson, Zack Jones, and Andre Levrone. Jennings has the making of a number 1 receiver, but will need to be more reliable downfield. Some in the group of Terrell, Smith, and Scott will need to notch it up one more step next year provide a solid 2nd and 3rd option for [insert QB name here].
This season: Probably the biggest bright spot this year was the emergence of the pass catching tight ends. And by tight ends, I mean tight end. And by tight end, I mean Jake McGee. McGee was integral in the passing offense, catching 28 passes for 374 yards and 5 touchdowns. Freedman and Mathis each had red zone touchdowns and Phillips had some nice moments as well. The issue this season wasn’t that they couldn’t run block like they did last season, it was the packages they were put in that made the play calling transparent. When Phillips or Freeman entered the game, UVa ran the ball. When McGee was in, they were throwing. Let me just say this: when the 12 year old can that sits in front of me at Scott Stadium call the plays before they happen, what are the chances opposing defensive coordinator can figure them out?
Next season: The Hoos will be very thin next year at TE, thanks to 2 recruiting cycles of being shut out on our main targets. Look for a lot more passing sets with. The two main blocking tight ends Phillips and Freedman are both gone, but McGee will only be a 3rd year. It looks like Rob Burns and Max Valles might be in the mix, but don’t count out Zach Sawnson as a hybrid FB/TE in some more sets like this year.
This season: One of the biggest questions this year was how the interior line was going to preform. After the Penn State game, we learned that it was going to be a long season. The number that defines this team was 25, as in the number of sacks this group gave up versus 14 from a year ago. In addition the run blocking looked so much worse this year, which directly lead to Virginia not running the ball as well. It looked like the defensive line was a good 1-2 yards into the backfield even before the hand off to the running backs. Oday and Morgan were solid again, but still got their fair share of holding and false start penalties.
Next season: The biggest question is whether we are losing 1 tackle or 2. Oday is graduating, but Morgan Moses has a decision to make whether or not to go pro. He already played a prep year before coming to UVa, so he is senior old already, and with the class coming out of college, a guarantee of a 2nd or 3rd round projection might be enough for him to jump. Now the Hoos have two very, very good backups in Jay Whitmire and Kelby Johnson, who would be the next in line to take over. The interior line returns, but the line is anything but set and the hope is that either this line gels or gets blown up and reset.
This season: It’s not that they played poorly, it’s just that I but so much stock in this group to be heads over heels amazing. The raw tackles, TFL, and sack numbers were very low, but it seemed that, starting with the NC State game, the youth on the line started to adapt to the college game. Leading that list was 2nd year Chris Brathwaite and 1st year Eli Harold. Brathwaite (41,10, 3.5) was stellar at DT this year even in the 3-4 tackle rotation and Harold (36, 7, 2) got better and better each game. Snyder was the most consistent off the edge this season and Urban capped off a solid year with the scoop and score against Virginia Tech. But it seemed that it was feast or famine with this group, with the first half of the season not putting any pressure on opposing QBs.
Next season: If you thought hopes were up this year, just wait til next season. While production players like Will Hill, Schautz, and Walcott are leaving, (and hopefully not Snyder), the cabinet is being filled up quickly with talent. Snyder (hopefully) and Harold will lead the way with players like Michael Moore, Courtnye Wynn and Canadian Trent Corney filling in the two-deep at DE. At tackle, Brathwaite and Urban will man the middle with Renfrow, Dean, and Croce competing for slots. That is a solid group.
This season: The conversation begins with Greer and ends with Reynolds. Every game it seemed that Greer broke his own tackle record, capping it off with a 19 tackle, 1 TFL performance against Tech. He finished the year 122, 9 TFL, 2 sack season, and easily an All-ACC nod, if not some national attention. Reynolds was second on the team with 90 tackles (behind Greer) and 9.5 TFLs (behind Brathwaite). Coley and Romero split the Sam duties this season, with both of them preforming about the same. Again, getting to the QB was an issue, with Greer’s 2 sacks being the only ones from the LB corp.
Next Season: The biggest losses outside of Jones and Aboushi are going to be Greer and Reynolds. Look for Coley and Romero to find places along the line, with talented Kwontie Moore to take over the middle. There are a lot of players that can get in the mix next year like D.J. Hill, Demeitre Brim, and recruits Micah Kiser, LaChaston Smith, and Zach Bradshaw.
This season: Well, it could have been a lot worse. With 1st and 2nd years manning every secondary slot, the group allowed 23 touchdowns, which is a little high, but actually allowed less yardage per game than last year, right around 208.4 a game. Now a lot, a lot, of touchdowns were due to playing out of position or overcommitting, and that is something that needs to be coached up by someone (hint hint). In addition, this group only had 3 interceptions, way down the list of NCAA FBS teams. While we knew that Nicholson was a stud, it was Maurice Canady that really stepped up this season at the other corner slot. In the middle, Harris and Phelps started to play better as the season went on, but again, still have a long way to go.
Next season: All are back….for another 2 years. And what was viewed as a very thin secondary, they should be extremely deep with so many players coming off redshirts and 1st year seasons. Also add to that some impressive 1st years like Kirk Garner, Tim Harris, and Malcolm Cook, and what has been a determent the last 2 years will become a strength.
This season: Sucked.
Next season: Will likely suck. Coaching change advised.