Fall Training Camp 2010 Roundtable

Thursday, August 05 2010 by Tiki

With fall training camp starting in just tomorrow, it’s refreshing to realize that football season is right around the corner. Most years, we at Dear Old U.Va. like to kick off the new season with a roundtable discussion. This year is no different, but we've added a twist: a guest writer! Dear Old U.Va. is pleased to have Brian Leung from StreakingTheLawn.com join us in the discussion this year. Without further delay - let's get to the questions!

The ACC media picked us to finish 6th in the Coastal Division. Do you agree with this? What is your prediction?

Tiki: Come on, we’re not worse than Duke. Yes, the Duke game is in Durham, and yes Duke has beaten us two years in a row. It’s still Duke. They are breaking in a new freshman QB.

Brian: Call me biased, but I think the ACC media is underestimating Virginia. Perhaps more precisely, I think they’re overestimating Duke. Last year, Duke’s sole saving grace was really Thaddeus Lewis, and with him out of the picture, I think Duke will return to its rightful spot in the ACC cellar. Listen, I’m not saying that we’re winning Coastal this year, but I do think that we have a decent group of guys on the gridiron who can run a few plays. If you want me to make an ACC prediction on the season right now, here’s what I’m going with (and I reserve the right to change this any time prior to the start of the season, and maybe even in the middle of this paragraph): at least 3-5 in the conference. I know you’re thinking that we only got 2-6 last season and personnel wise, we’re not looking any better, really. But I’m predicting wins over Duke (see above), North Carolina (in Charlottesville and a true rivalry game), and Maryland (on account of their major suckage). Victories might come elsewhere, but FSU and Miami at home, and GT, VT, and BC on the road don’t really lend themselves to easy victories. Unfun fact, did you know we haven’t beaten BC since they joined the conference?

Tim: Nope, can’t agree. We’ll be 5th. Not that that matters much. We’ll beat Duke this year and we’ll beat more ACC teams than they do outside of that. 5th (and only ahead of Duke) is still pretty bad though, so I’m not sure it’s worth arguing over. The Coastal division, by my back-of-the-napkin calculations, is going to be brutal this year. The lack of expectations are probably good for London though. If we manage to sneak some upsets, he’ll look like a genius.

I think the media folks put too much stock in past performance of teams when doing these predictions. I can’t necessarily say they should do it a different way – they’ve got a lot of teams to cover and they can’t figure out every nuance of every team before they come up with their two lists of six teams. But the truth is, regardless of the team you’re talking about, the set of players on both sides of the ball on September 4th have never played together in a real game. I truly honestly believe that the players we had on the field last year underperformed. You can blame that on Groh, Brandon, Casteen or whoever you want. I don’t really care where the blame lies. What I do care about is that I expect to see a consistent theme of players overachieving under the tutelage of Mike London. And that is a big reason why I say we won’t finish last in the Coastal.

MelbourneHoo: Hell, 1st and hers is why: If a fan can’t be optimistic before the year starts, when can he be? We are undefeated now and until we lose we will stay that way…

Honestly, I think Miami, GT, UNC and VT are better than us, but preseason rankings are dumb. The press is going to hype certain teams for their own reasons. If I have to choose how things will play out:

  1. Miami
  2. Georgia Tech
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. Virginia
  5. North Carolina
  6. Puke

What position is the biggest concern entering the 2010 season?

Brian: I’m most worried about the wide receiver position. Last year we were 105th nationally in passing yards, and with the loss of Riko Smalls and Javaris Brown, who transferred out earlier this summer, and Quintin Hunter, who surprisingly decided to leave Virginia Football, I’m wondering which WR will make the catches this year. The depth chart shows Kris Burd and Dontrelle Inman. Burd, a junior who started all 12 games last season, is our best man, as he led the team last season with 413 yards in 41 passes. I don’t know where that falls in terms of national rankings, but it’s not great. The 100th ranked player gets an average of 56 yards per game. Burd was at 34. Inman’s resume isn’t much more impressive. The senior played in only nine games last year and caught 10 passes for 10 yards. Simply put, we lack depth and great experience in this position, and I’m curious to see how London will compensate.

Tim: Offensive Line. Not necessarily because of a lack of perceived talent (I think it’s one of many positions that will simply look better under a different coach and system). But more because of it’s important to our success.

I’m going to take it for granted that the defense will be able to at least hold its own. But for the offense to have success, the offensive line needs to do its job well. If Verica and the wide receivers are going to succeed, he needs protection. If the running backs are going to succeed, they need holes to run through. it all starts in the trenches.

MelbourneHoo: Center – we need good line calls and Mihota needs to be on his game.

Tiki: This question is almost too easy. The OL is far and away the biggest question mark. If the OL is successful and we can run the ball, the offense will be successful. If the OL struggles, the offense struggles, and the team will struggle.

Which player are you most excited to see this season?

Tim: This is going to sound like an odd choice, I think, but here goes: Marc Verica. While someone like Ras-I Dowling has the potential to be an All-American and a first-round draft pick by the time the season is over, Verica is clearly a bigger question mark. But success from his the quarterback position also has a bigger chance of leading to success by the team as a whole. Dowling can manage to keep us in games, but Verica could win us games. He certainly had his problems in the times he’s started… lord knows his TD/INT ratio is terrible. But when he makes his throws, he makes them very well. With what I consider (and I may be alone in this regard, given Brian’s answer to the previous question) to be a pretty talented wide receiver corps (ok, I’ll admit the depth and experience issues), that could mean good things.

MelbourneHoo: Verica, with an offense built for him and some real tutoring.

Tiki: There are a number of players I am excited to watch, from Ras-I to Cam Johnson to Tim Smith. However, I am most interested in watching the fast new LBs. Nobody knows for sure who will be starting, but I’m excited to see a guy like Laroy Reynolds running around using his speed at OLB.

Brian: Senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling is getting a lot of press this year, what with being a preseason All-American and on multiple watch lists. But isn’t it time for Joe Torchia to have a breakout season? The senior tight end started 11 of 12 games last year, catching 15 passes for 150 yards. He was both a SuperPrep and PrepStar All-American coming out of high school as tight end. With London’s promise that we return to Virginia’s game, fully utilizing tight ends, I’m looking forward to seeing what this co-captain can put forward this year.

We are 7 months into the Mike London era. What do you think of the job he has done so far?

MelbourneHoo: B. I want to see the product on the field. Recruiting is sounding good, and I have always been a character-first guy. London seems to be pushing the boys to be good men so I am happy for now.

Tiki: So far, I am thrilled with London. It’s hard to say for sure how much of this stuff was actually London’s idea, but the spring practice at ODU was a great idea, and the Building a Program series has been phenomenal.

Brian: Even Frank Beamer recognizes that there’s been a shift in the Virginia Football program. With 20 commitments in the bag already, Virginia Recruiting has certainly started off on the right foot. Scout has our recruiting class ranked in the top 25 right now (behind UNC, Clemson, and FSU in the ACC), and we have taken many of Virginia’s top recruits, an unexpected feat for this 3-9 team. I also really like the PR job that he’s been doing, including the practice at Old Dominion in the 757 and the television series. I don’t know how helpful the television series really is, but I like the effort being placed there. Reading players’ messages on Twitter, it really does seem like there’s been a complete shift in attitude by our boys, and that alone is enough to get me excited about the 2010 season.

Tim: I certainly can’t complain. He put together a staff that I am quite excited about – a good mixture of coaching experience at various levels, recruiting knowledge and just general football smarts. Not to mention a whole of lot of connections to the Commonwealth. Aside from having some flashier names (like hiring Pete Carroll as your DC), I’m not sure what else he could have done.

On the recruiting front, some people probably say that things have been a bit underwhelming. We’re certainly not reeling in 5 star recruits. But frankly, we’re a team that has only gone to a bowl game once in the last 4 years. Can’t blame some kids for looking the other way. But in my opinion, that makes what London has done on the recruiting trail even more impressive.

I feel like London is running the program correctly (similar to how I feel about Bennett). If I had to grade him right now, the only grade I could give him would be an incomplete – it’s simply too early. But he’d at least get an A for effort penciled in.

What is your preseason prediction for the ACC Championship game participants?

Tiki: I think Georgia Tech is, again, the class of the Coastal Division. In the Atlantic, I can’t pick Clemson without knowing the status of QB Kyle Parker, so I will go with the old mainstay of FSU.

Brian: Virginia and the team that Virginia will beat. That’s what I’m saying on the record. Off the record, though, I’m going to say Virginia Tech and Florida State. I know, I know. It’s nothing exciting and it’s certainly not bold, but I think it’ll happen, despite the fact that the ACC media gets it wrong every year (in large part because it keeps picking FSU). FSU’s Christian Ponder might be the next coming, or at least that’s what their Heisman campaign makes it out to be. The only other feasible option in the Atlantic is Clemson, but FSU’s schedule simply lends itself more readily for the Atlantic title. From the Coastal, FSU goes to Virginia and Miami, and hosts UNC. Clemson, though, has to host Miami and Georgia Tech (each with a legitimate shot at the Coastal title), and has to travel to North Carolina (also with a legitimate shot, if they’re actually able to play a whole season rather than collapse following game 4). As far as Coastal goes, you guys know I hate picking Virginia Tech for anything, and I don’t think they’re getting the perfect season (or even the 11-win season) that many of their fans have allowed themselves to believe, but I do think that they have enough talent to win the entire ACC this year.

Tim: I’m picking Georgia Tech and Florida State with FSU winning.

I think that an Al Groh defense, when given the time to rest that it’ll get when combined with a Paul Johnson offense (as opposed to the complete and utter lack of rest that it got at Virginia) might be able to do some damage in the ACC. I think that GT, VT or Miami could win it though. Carolina will be on the outside looking in.

On the Atlantic side, frankly I’m not impressed with anyone over there so I just picked FSU because I think they’re putting a lot of long-standing issues behind them this year and they can focus on playing the FSU football that we’re all used to.

MelbourneHoo: FSU-Miami rematch. It would be good for the conference.