It was our worst season since 1981. After that season, UVa Athletic Director Jim Copeland decided to go in another direction and fire then coach Dick Bestwick and hire a little known coach called George Welsh. The rest was history. Fast forward to yesterday, and in the wake of a 16-6 loss to Virginia Tech, the Hoos 11th loss in a row to our second cousins, there is not even a rumbling of a coaching change. So with our leadership staying the same, what, if anything, can we as fans look forward to in 2014? Here is our brief wrap and preview of next year.
The Blame Game
It is easy to say ‘clean house’, but it is even harder to do. We wrote an article a few weeks ago about playing out that scenario. So you fire Littlepage. Yes football and lesser-known softball is a mess and lacrosse (another televised sports team) is not championship quality. But the Hoos are 7-1 in the other ‘major TV’ sport and have a chance to win not 1, but 2 national championships in soccer alone. Not to mention the chance to win 2 more NCs with rowing and men’s tennis in the spring, a good chance at College World Series and NCAA Basketball Tourneys, top 15 finishes for cross country, and another handful of ACC titles. All that adds up to this year showing that the Hoos have one of the top athletic programs in the country, with only the football team needing cleaning up.
Go down the line. So you fire Jon Oliver. That would be a logical choice and one that should have happened a long time ago. But the schedule was not his fault this year. Sure the Oregon game was a farce, but nobody knew Ball State was going to go 10-2 on the year. With the ACC slate set outside of Oliver’s hand, the best we could have done would be 3-9. Would you feel any better today? Next year gets a bunch harder, but you can’t just schedule 2 FCS teams, a MAC, and an ‘other’ and hope for 6-6. That is not a healthy program. So then you fire London. You lose all those 2014 recruits and pay 9 million vs. keep the last decent class we will see in a while and pay 4 million next year. And none of those recruits would have come if London didn’t get that extension after the 2011 season. Just the way the world works. Next year will be the year of change, don’t worry about that, but how far up it goes will be directly related to how bad we end up.
The Glass Is Half Full
1. Running Backs. All 3 featured backs will return next year. Parks went over 1000 yards with 11 touchdowns, Shepherd (as much as we yelled at him to get off the field) averaged 6 yards per carry, and Mizzell started to come into his own running and receiving later in the year. Used correctly and there is a glimmer of hope.
2. Wide Receivers. Only gone is Tim Smith, who ended up 2nd in receiving yards. But what is optimistic is that Keeon Johnson showed that he can be a #1 option. He has great hands, awareness, and a 14.1 ypc. With everyone else back plus a few new players, it might help some.
3. Defense. Hoos could have hoped for better this year, but secondary injuries really took a toll late into the year. We got routed in a lot of games; still, we were in just as many games to the end if the offense would have put some ANY numbers. Add a few quality pieces and we might have some more opportunities.
The Glass Is Half Empty
1. Confidence in Coaching. If/When London goes down, it will be the mismanagement of the offense, mainly the quarterback position that will be the most scrutinized. First the O. Watford is not the guy, and Lambert might be the guy, but we didn’t learn much from him this year. My money is on the rookie Cutler next year, but if neither Lambert nor Cutler can do any better than 2013 Watford, it won’t make any difference. Secondly the play calling. This is not, or will not, be a power I, pro set offense. Yes you can run SOME plays out of it, but not an entire offense. We need to go one back and open it up.
2. Offensive Line. Virginia loses 3 4th years on the line and with interior issues all year, it doesn’t look like those problems will be solved next year either.
3. Cornerbacks. While overall the defense should be better, the secondary might not catch up as quickly as the front seven. Nicholson will be coming off of injury, and even with him in, it was tough going on the other side. Really need someone, anyone, to step up.
Individual Superlative Redux
Offensive POY- Preseason: Kevin Parks, Postseason: Kevin Parks. Who knows where we would be without his performance this year, which also placed him on the 2nd team All-ACC.
Defensive POY- Preseason: Eli Harold, Postseason: Anthony Harris. 8 INTs, 80 tackles, and one wicked blocked kick sums up a 1st team All-ACC season.
Special Teams POY- Preseason: Smoke Mizzell, Postseason: Alec Vozenilek. Not only did he have a 41+ punt average, but he had to take over kicking duties, going 12/15 and perfect inside of 40 yards.
Offensive PYDKBW- Preseason: Adrian Gamble/Rob Burns, Postseason: Keeon Johnson/Daniel Hamm. Keeon was 5th in the team in yardage and 2nd in YPC. Daniel Hamm only played 2 games, but the VMI game saw him blow up for 142 yards and 2 TDs.
Defensive PYDKBW- Preseason: Kirk Garner/Tyrell Chavis, Postseason: David Dean. Deann was 6th on the team in tackles with 49, T4th with 7.5 tackles for loss, and T2nd in sacks. Imagine him next to Brown next year.
Special Teams PYDKBW- Pass
Offensive PYRWTRF- Preseason: Tim Smith, Postseason: Dominique Terrell. Terrell never got going this season, finishing with only 107 receiving yards and a 21 yards rushing. Maybe he will get some more chances next year without Tim Smith around.
Defensive PYRWTRF- Preseason: Daquan Romero, Postseason: Mike Moore. Past Harold and Snyder, the DEs were not the best. Moore only had 16 tackles in 11 games in a back up role, with 1.5 TFL and a sack. Snyder will be gone in front of him, so hopefully those numbers will shoot up.
Special Teams PYRWTRF- Preseason: Khalek Shepherd, Postseason: Khalek Shepherd. Sure, why not. Always root for Khalek.
Way, Way To Early Look
Home Schedule: UCLA, Richmond, Kent State, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, Pitt
Away Schedule: BYU, FSU, Duke, GT, VT
Prediction: 4-8. UCLA is solid all around and just game Mora Jr. a big fat contract. Richmond will be emotional with Rocco’s return for about a quarter before the Hoos pull away. Kent State was 4-8 this season and was probably the MAC team we needed to play this season. Louisville is now our ‘rivalry’ game…yikes. Miami and UNC won’t be much better than this season. Pitt could be interesting if we find our offense. The away games will all be losses, except maybe for Duke. Don’t try to find 6 wins in this slate unless Hoos can find a quarterback.