Archive for November, 2008

Vic Hall at QB Revisited

November 28, 2008

The most recent storyline to surface in advance of Saturday’s 90th meeting between Virginia and Virginia Tech revolve around the Cavalier quarterback position.

 

Once again, there is speculation that Vic Hall may finally get a chance to play under center at the college level.  As most know, Hall was a SuperPrep All-American QB whose number was recently retired at Gretna, where he won all 28 games and two state titles his junior & senior seasons while compiling nearly 14,000 total yards over his career – tops in Virginia and 5th nationally all-time.

 

Early into his tenure in Charlottesville, Hall was moved to CB, but said in 2006 “I still have a desire to play quarterback.  I’m not giving that up.  Just right now, I can help the team most at cornerback, so that’s what I’m doing.”  He played sparingly in the defensive backfield as a redshirt freshman, and speculation about a return to QB continued.  The Roanoke Times’ Doug Doughty prodded “Cavs shouldn’t forget about Vic Hall” early in the year after poor play at the position, but then reported “Groh says Hall not an option at QB for UVa” after the head man said Hall’s role as scout team QB meant nothing.

 

Hall entered 2007 as not only a starting CB, but also the team’s holder and punt returner.  At the time, he toed the company line, which was – in HC Al Groh’s words: “The only people who have ever talked about [Hall playing QB] are people other than Vic.  And that is why he is such a great kid and such a great team member.  There is no personal agenda with him; there is no ego.”  Then-DC Mike London added: “He’s never complained about anything…  He’ll play anywhere.”

 

Hall is now a team captain with 24 consecutive starts under his belt.  He has played mostly average corner, coming up on the wrong end of notable opponent scores – VPI last year & Miami this year among many.  His penchant for turnovers in 2008, however, has been a positive.  Witness win-clinching INTs against Richmond (returned 60 yards for a TD) & Georgia Tech, multiple forced fumbles punched our from behind, and a fumble recovery last week against Clemson.

 

As a punt returner, his per-return average is a mediocre 6 yards to date, down from 10 last year when he had returns of 45 & 67 yards.  2007 saw Hall run for a score from his holder spot (a role now assumed by Scott Deke) against Pitt and complete a 35-yard pass against UConn after lining up at running back.  This season has seen no suck offensive imagination, at least not yet…

 

Two months ago, Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times asked “Where’s Vic Hall?” and took shots at the too-short-to-see-over-the-line, low-level-of-competition-in-high-school, and not-a-Mike-Groh-recruit theories.  At the time, the column came across as too little too late.  Perhaps even sour grapes, simply a SWVA fan pining for – in McFarling’s words – “one of the greatest ‘what ifs’ ever to play football in this state” ?

 

But just this week, the Thanksgiving day edition of The Daily Progress reported that Hall already is Virginia’s #3 / emergency QB.  He practiced under center in “some basic offensive sets” in preparation for the UConn game, after Peter Lalich’s dismissal left no clear third option behind starter Marc Verica and 5th-year senior Deke.  Groh commented this week that “if there was ever a circumstance in the previous games where we have been down to the third quarterback, he probably could have gone in and run two or three plays.”  Groh also added that any plays out of the flavor-of-the-month “Wildcat” formation were removed from the playbook after RB Mikell Simpson’s season-ending injury.  Simpson was “very well suited for it” and “the guy who was in our thoughts for it.” 

 

For his part, Doughty “wouldn’t be surprised to see Hall line up on offense,” but doesn’t see Hall “impacting the game with his arm.”  He notes that Groh “may not feel he can sacrifice Hall at cornerback” and all along has been “unfailing in his praise of Hall, almost to the point of going overboard,” perhaps as if to validate “the decision not to play Hall” at quarterback.”  Groh, after all, has “never shown an eagerness to admit, ‘I was wrong.’”

Just Win the Close Ones?

November 26, 2008

Washington’s lack of point production this season has been well-documented, most recently by the AP’s Joe White this week.  Through 11 games, the Redskins’ 18.3 points per game ranks 27th out of 32 teams.

 

As we told you after Week 9 and after Week 11, a glimpse into points per 100 yards of total offense reveals the dichotomy of Jim Zorn’s offense.

 

What may be even more striking is the fact that this scoring rate has led to seven wins.  Consider that the five teams ranked worse than Washington have also won seven ballgames… combined.  Ranked from 28-32 are the Chiefs (1-10, 17.8), Lions (0-11, 17.5), Raiders (3-8, 14.5), Bengals (1-9-1, 13.5), and Rams (2-9, 13.4).  Looking at the individual games & scores within the greater framework of the entire NFL season is quite telling.

 

Excluding Cincinnati’s lone win, Washington:

  • Has the lowest average score in wins (23.0 in seven).  14 of the 31 teams with victories average more than 30 points when winning, and the NFL average is 28.6.
  • Leads the NFL in wins by fewer than 9 points (seven) and is the only team with all of its victories by 8 points or less.
  • Has the lowest average margin of victory (4.9).  22 teams have an average margin of victory of more than 10 points, and the NFL average is 12.1.
  • Leads the NFL in wins when scoring less than 30 points (seven) and is the only team with all of its victories coming when scoring 29 or fewer points.

 

In case you thought this phenomenon was limited to wins, the Redskins are also: 

  • The only team to have all 11 games won with a score of less than 30.  Only one other team (Pittsburgh – nine) has been in more than eight.  Just 97 of the 176 (55%) of NFL games this year have not featured a score of more than 29.
  • The only team to have played in four games where the winner scored less than 20 points.  Just 27% of all NFL games fall in this category, and 18 of the 32 teams have played in zero or one game like this in 2008.
  • The only team to have 10 of their 11 games decided by fewer than 10 points.  Just 51% of NFL games to date have been this close.
  • One of only four teams (Chargers, Vikings, Colts) to have plated in four or more games decided by a field goal or less.  41% of NFL games this year have been decided by 3 points or less.

 And then there’s these three guys…

 

Clemson: 11 Things to Expect

November 21, 2008
  1. KO will be honored with the seniors pre-game.  WR Kevin Ogletree will join 23 4th– and 5th-year teammates before the game as they and their families are honored for Senior Day.  Virginia fans will immediately recall QB Christian Olsen’s decision to do the same thing in 2006, that– in his father’s words – “create[d] a little bit of a stir” and caused a coach to ask “what are you doing here?”  KO is “not doing it because I think it will be my last game,” but does admit that he’d be “an idiot not to take a look” at his NFL chances following the season.  Clearly, he has a sense of reality, adding in Al Groh-like fashion that “that will be a circumstance where a lot of things would have to turn up.”  Also, don’t fret if you only see one of TE John Phillips’ parents, as mom Susan will be in Williamsburg accompanying brother Jake in his Senior Day at William & Mary.
  2. A small(ish) crowd.  No announced crowd since USC has been above the 53k that showed up for Homecomings against Miami, with each of the last five home games drawing more than 11,000 fewer fans than the record-breaking opener (64,947).  Don’t look for Saturday’s early kick and cold weather to help, as many submitted guesses for Clemson to this site have been in the range of 49-50k.  Not breaking 50,000 would certainly be an embarrassment and would further exacerbate the season average that is currently at 54k, 11% below last year and the lowest since 200’s expansion.  No doubt Virginia officials would blame the economy, as they have done already with respect to both football specifically and the school’s current circumstance overall.
  3. Virginia will be an underdog again.  For the 8th time in 9 games against D-1 opponents, Vegas is giving bettors points to lay down cash on the Cavs.  Virginia is 0-1 when favored, losing to Miami in OT at home as a one point favorite on November 1.  As an underdog, their record is 4-4, with wins in four of their last five.  As a home dog, Virginia is 3-1, with wins in the last three. 
  4. Clemson will score on its first possession.  Virginia opponents have scored on their first offensive series in each of the last five games.  The last four have all scored TDs, with Wake & UNC taking 7-0 leads after keeping Virginia off the board on its first position and Miami & GT both going up 7-3 leads after Yannick Reyering 25-yard field goals.
  5. Holding Clemson under 21 will be paramount to success.  Sounds simple enough… keep their score low and win.  Gambling site covers.com summarizes the biggest key to this season’s now-stalled turnaround: “Virginia’s defense has been the catalyst of the Cavs’ rise from bottom feeder to mediocrity.”  The record is 5-0 when opponents score under 24 (average score of 10 per game), but 0-5 when teams score 24+ (average of 36).  Meanwhile, Clemson is 4-1 when scoring 20+ points and 0-5 when scoring less than 20, but has lost three games when their opponents scored 21 or less.
  6. A scary, unfamiliar, and uniquely-coached up Tiger squad.  Tailback/kick returner CJ Spiller may be a candidate for enshrinement in Canton if Groh is voting, as the latter remarked this week: “There has been no more dangerous kick-returner that we’ve played.  There certainly is no more dangerous runner that we’ve played, and… [Spiller is] doing all the things that the most dangerous wide receivers do and things that hardly any backs can do.”  No player on Virginia’s roster has played Clemson before, and since the last meeting with the Tigers (2004), Virginia has played Wyoming, Western Michigan, Pittsburgh and Connecticut each twice.  Interim Clemson HC Dabo Swinney has recently – among other things in his attempt to get his name on the lips of national CFB pundits – started a new “Tiger Walk” tradition at home games, invited students to attend and participate in practice, referred to a potential QB controversy as “drama for your momma,” and taken a more active role in defensive game-planning that prompted DC Vic Koenning to comment “I didn’t do anything that I was told to do or not told to do.”
  7. Verica will be well-protected.  Of the 17 team stat categories listed on the NCAA site, Virginia leads the ACC in just one… sacks allowed (1.2 per game).  Sophomore QB Marc Verica has thrown for 200+ yards in six straight games, equaling Matt Schaub’s streak during his senior campaign in 2003
  8. But if his pass isn’t complete to a Cavalier, watch out.  OC Mike Groh’s passing attack has moved up to 54th in the nation, as ranked by passing yards per game (220.1) thanks to a career-high 279 from Verica against Wake, many late in the game against a backed-up Demon Deacon defense.  However, Virginia is one of only 15 teams nationally to have more than 10.8% of its incompletions go for interceptions.  The Cavs’ 16 INTs this year are the most since 1996, when 18 were thrown and 33 total turnovers were committed (25 to date this year).  The good news… Clemson is even worse in this stat I just made up, with INTs accounting for 12.0% of their incompletions.
  9. An increasingly thin linebacking corps.  Seven LBs in total were on last game’s injury report, and sophomore Jared Detrick & freshman Cam Johnson have recently joined Aaron Clark on the out-for-the-year list.  Onetime TE prospect & RS freshman Mark Ambrose (6-5 245) has now been moved to linebacker (after two operations) in what HC Al Groh calls “a promising project.”  Ambrose, according to Groh, has “the type of height that we like at that position. He’s bright. He gets it easily.”  This week’s depth chart includes only three OLB’s on the two-deep, with RS freshman Aaron Taliaferro (6-2 222) – who has never played – listed behind both Clint Sintim & Denzel Burrell.  Sintim, in Groh-like fashion, says Taliaferro is “getting better without getting the reps” and has “improved a lot before we even had an opportunity to see him out there.”
  10. Ballgame or no ballgame, the Clemson coaching search will go on.  The Roanoke Times’ Doug Doughty informs us that “a pregame handshake Saturday will mark the first meeting between UVa’s Groh and Clemson interim coach Swinney.”  The 38-yaer old former Crimson Tide WR and WR coach Swinney will be considered as a candidate, but most observers – including Doughty’s RT colleague Randy King – believe it will be one of Swinney’s last pregame handshakes in that capacity.  King said earlier in the week online that his “gut feeling” is VPI DC Bud Foster (resemblance to Steve Spagnuolo chronicled here) is “soon to be” the next head man in Clemson.
  11. One team will be bowl-eligible circa 3:30PM.  The ACC has nine bowl tie-ins, and eight teams are currently bowl-eligible with 6+ wins.  The winner of Saturday’s contest will become #9 (RFK anyone?) and the loser would still have a shot at becoming #10 with a win over their in-state rival in the regular-season finale.  Well, actually Clemson needs to win both its remaining contests and finish 7-5, as two of their five victories to date have come against FCS opponents (The Citadel, South Carolina State) at least Virginia would be if they win.  Virginia’s seniors certainly want another game – TE John Phillips doesn’t “care if we go to D.C. or Boise or wherever” but may have to forget about Idaho, as the Humanitarian Bowl gets the #8 pick.  Younger players certainly want/need the additional practice time & game reps, which Groh says “would continue the development of those players” and “would be well worth everybody’s efforts.”  After the gate is cashed, the bowl folks may disagree, but that’s another conversation for another day…

                        

 

McDonald’s vs. Burger King

November 20, 2008

More on the budding (?) Renardo Sidney–Dave Leitao relationship, originally documented here and here  Tuesday’s LA Times recap of The Sidney family’s visit to Charlottesville last weekend includes the following:

 

Fairfax senior Renardo Sidney and his family made an unofficial visit to Virginia this past weekend and left impressed by the school’s “great campus and academics,” the player’s father, Renardo Sidney Sr. said in a text message to The Times.

Cavaliers Coach Dave Leitao could use a high-profile recruit after last year’s 5-11 showing in the ACC. Sidney Sr. stopped short of identifying Virginia as the leading candidate to land his son, but did praise how university staff treated the 6-feet-10 standout.

“They understand the difference between a Big Mac and a Whopper with cheese,” he said in a text message. “Big Macs are good for resumes, Whoppers with cheese bring home gold balls.”

 

Gold balls?  Maybe he’s thinking of the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Trophy, because no gold basketballs are handed out to the ACC or NCAA champion.  Even the Siemens Trophy, while a ball, isn’t gold.  I guess he can be forgiven, since the trophy case at JPJ isn’t exactly overflowing with those, and its prize possession may be ‘Wonderful’ Wally Walker’s net-necklace (pictured at left).

 

On to the ‘meat’ of the elder Sidney’s text message…  Many hyper-involved fathers out there refer to their children as their favorite dish or preferred fast-food item on the regular.  Heck, Jelly Bean Bryant even named his son after a great steak he ate in Japan.  But consider the history of Renardo Sr.’s comparison in recent pop culture:

 

  • On Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock’s 1988 smash hit ‘It Takes Two,’ the former rapped: “I like the Whopper, [expletive] the Big Mac.”
  • Ten years later, former Virginia State Trojans Das EFX rhymed on ‘Rap Scholar’: “Big Mac not the Whopper, peace to Big Poppa.”
  • In 1994’s Pulp Fiction, John Travolta’s Vincent Vega character noted that in Paris a “Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.”  When asked by Sam Jackson’s Jules Winnfield character what a Whopper is called in the City of Lights, he responded: “I dunno, I didn’t go into a Burger King.”
  • 2005’s Super Size Me featured Wisconsin’s Don Gorske, who also clearly prefers the golden arches.  Gorske claimed at the time to have eaten 20,000 Big Macs (two a day for 29 years), compare to just one Whopper (in January 1984 on a bet).
  • Nerdy rock duo The Black Keys commented in 2006 on frequent comparisons to another two-piece outfit: “I guess the White Stripes and us are like the Big Mac and the Whopper. Both of them have a bun, beef, cheese, lettuce, onions. The Big Mac has ‘special sauce,’ but that’s just ketchup and mayonnaise, and the Whopper has that, too. The only difference between them is the Whopper has a tomato. I guess we have the tomato.”

For the record, per Wikipedia:  “The Whopper (670 kcal) has more calories than McDonald’s Big Mac (540 kcal). However, the Big Mac is smaller than the Whopper – 214g vs. 290g. Therefore, the Whopper actually contains fewer calories than the Big Mac by mass. The Whopper contains 231 kcal per 100g and the Big Mac contains 252 kcal per 100g.”

 

Apparently the Sidneys’ treatment by “university staff” did not include a trip to 1407 University Avenue…

 

 

Stats are for Losers Redux

November 19, 2008

Two weeks ago, you learned in this space that the Washington Redskins ranked 31st out of 32 teams in points per 100 yards of total.  Since then, the team has had a bye and lost to Dallas at home 14-10 and is now officially sputtering, or “kind of treading water” to quote coyote-skinner & head coach Jim Zorn.  Getting points from yardage and capitalizing on opportunities appears the biggest issue for Zorn, especially coming off a game where his defense allowed just 14 points and finally produced some INT’s.

 

Some other telling offensive stats can be found at the QB position, where Jason Campbell is 11th in the league in QB rating (90.3) among passers with at least 800 yards this season.  He’s 10th in completion percentage (65%) and 1st in fewest interceptions (3).  In fact, his INT rate (1 every 102 passes) is off the charts.  The next best QB is Tampa’s Jeff Garcia at 68, and the average among the 33 QB’s with 800+ yards is 38.

 

However, that’s about where the positives stop for the former Auburn signal-caller, who is essentially playing for a contract extension this year.  At what cost has the efficiency and care-of-the-ball come?  Consider this:

 

  • Campbell ranks 10th in attempts and 11th in completions, but 17th in yards per game (212) and 19th in TDs.
  • 14 QBs have thrown longer passes than his longest – the 67-yard game-winning TD to Moss against New Orleans in Week 2.

Doing some simple math with the nfl.com numbers reveals even more:

 

  • Campbell ranks 20th in yards per attempt (6.9) and 26th in yards per completion (10.7).
  • His percentage of completions over 20 yards (12%) and over 40 yards (2%) rank 22nd and 24th, respectively.

So it’s all just dink-and-dunk, 3-step drops & quick slants/screens within the West Coast Offense, right?  Or maybe a function of a weak/injured WR corps?  Perhaps, but Campbell only averaged 10.8 yards per completion last year.  While he may have not taken a ton more shots downfield, there were certainly some riskier throws.  His completion percentage (60%) and INT rate (one every 38 passes) were both significantly lower, and the change to those metrics can’t all be attributed to the tutelage of the ‘original Seahawks QB,’ despite what Matt Hasselbeck thinks the Zorn-for-Bill Lazor QB coach swap.

 

Much has been made about sacks given up recently against the well-employed 3-4 defenses of Pittsburgh & Dallas.  Debate focuses on whether these were a result of superior opponents or protection breakdowns, but the quantity is there regardless.  Only five QB’s have been sacked more than him (26) this year.  In terms of attempts per sack (probably not the best way to measure this), Campbell ranks 26th in the league (11.8).  Last year’s rate for the man whose lips have been the butt of many a locker room joke was 19.9, so he’s getting sacked almost twice as frequently.  One positive has been fumbles, where his rate per passing attempt has improved threefold.  Campbell’s one-time weaknesses of holding the ball too long, pumping, and not ‘feeling’ the rush haven’t appeared much this year since the opener against the New York Giants.

 

So can a low (and flat from last year) yards per completion rate be overlooked when completion percentage and turnovers have improved despite more sacks?

 

Absolutely.  But consider the impact of a passing game with no deep threat on the running game.  Portis’ numbers have taken a big hit over the past two weeks.  In addition to crowding the line of scrimmage on first and second downs, defenses have been much more willing to take chances on passing downs.  Granted, the competition was better, and the WR position appears to be at its nadir with an injured Moss & Randle El and virtually no production from the two rookies.

 

However, this may just partly be a function of who Jason Campbell has become.  He has a big arm, but is it utilized by the coaches or even himself?  Campbell may never put up the per-game numbers we’re seeing from Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Tony Room, and Kurt Warner this season.  But what should we think when guys like JT O’Sullivan, Gus Ferotte, Chad Pennington, and Dan Orlovsky average a full yard more completion?  In addition to Brees, Rivers, Trent Edwards, and Matt Schaub, the left-for-dead Pennington & Warner and fellow 2005-draftee Aaron Rodgers all have better yards/completion and better or equal completion percentages than Campbell.

 

And don’t forget that Virginia’s favorite football oenophile – Todd Collins – averaged 13.2 yards per completion in limited action last year while completing 64% of his passes.

 

But, I do have good news.  The Dan Snyder marketing machine has ensured that Campbell will at least be among the top Pro Bowl fan vote-getters.  At press time he is 9th overall in votes, but not yet among the 16 Redskins who lead the NFC at their respective positions. 

 

Diamond Cutter?

November 18, 2008

Viewers of last Thursday’s VPI-Miami game may have thought former redshirt freshman / current sophomore Tech QB Tyrod Taylor was channeling one Diamond Dallas Paige when he made what appeared to be the “Diamond Cutter” symbol during the game:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“T-Mobile,” who passed for 75 yards in the loss, may want to watch his back.  Or, at least his legal defense team may want to watch it.  Recall that Karl Malone’s one-time tag-team partner recently sued rapper/mogul/Nets minority owner Jay-Z over this copyrighted hand gesture back in 2005:

 

Staying with Tech, has anyone else noticed the striking similarity in likeness between DC Bud Foster and New York Giants DC (and onetime target of Dan Snyder infatuation) Steve Spagnuolo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renardo Sidney Cont’d

November 15, 2008

As discussed previously in this space, recent history suggests heartbreak may lie at the end of Renardo Sidney Rd. for Virginia head men’s basketball coach Dave Leitao.  On Thursday, just days before the Charlottesville trip, the LA Times reported that “Sidney Sr. said the leading pursuers of his son are St. Louis, Kansas State, Kansas, Oregon State, Mississippi State, Washington and Connecticut.”  Furthermore, “playing professionally in Europe might also be an option.”   At a minimum, Sidney is at least a bit more intriguing that your usual elite high school basketball player…

 

At present, “NYC-based recruiting guru” Franklin Harris tells the Daily Progress that Sydney is “the best player in the country. The only reason he’s not [rated] No. 1 is because he can be lazy at times and can sometimes be disinterested. High school basketball is just not competitive for him. I’ve seen him play maybe 10 times. He can score inside, put it on the floor. He’s a prototypical NBA 4-man.”  Scout.com’s Dave Telep tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “When Renardo Sidney is in shape and focused on his game, he may not have a rival in this class. The sky is truly the limit for him, and it’s completely up to him.”  A look back in time reveals even more about the well-documented career path Sidney embarked down at an early age.

 

An in-depth July 2006 Washington Post article:

 

§         Quoted Sidney as saying high school basketball is “not that important. I just like to win tournaments and rings and stuff like that… I just wait until AAU to show everything I got.”

§         Noted that Sidney became the top-rated prospect in his class, by not playing high school basketball at all in 9th grade, but rather on the AAU & camp circuits, where he claimed MVP awards in 2005’s “ABCD underclassmen all-star game” and in a 2006 “elite summer-league tournament in Portland, Ore., where he outshined several senior all-Americans, namely Ohio’s O.J. Mayo.”

§         Revealed that his father – Renardo, Sr. – left his school security guard job (“family could only afford most nights to eat eggs and toast”) for a Reebok consultant gig (“Nike and Adidas made similar offers“).  The elder Sidney told the Post the job responsibilities “entail making sure his son plays at their tournaments.”

§         Indicated a former coach and/or Sidney family members had been approached by “at least four individuals who claimed they were connected with sports agencies…. [hoping to] represent Sidney if he signs a lucrative NBA contract in four years.”

§         Dropped this line: “Once the family settles in Los Angeles, the elder Sidney said his son will become an ‘overnight celebrity.’”

 

An August 2007 New York Times profile by a former Pennsylvania Quaker:

 

  • Waxed poetic: “seeing a 6-foot-10, 250-pound high school player like Sidney shoot feathery-soft 3-pointers is akin to seeing your sister dressed up to go to the prom with your best friend. You may have braced yourself ahead of time, but you are still not ready when it happens.”
  • Declared Sidney’s game as the product of its environment: “He is a product of camp basketball. He does not require a guard to get him the ball. Instead he has developed the shooting and ball-handling abilities to score on his own. He is the epitome of camp evolution. Now the only question is whether the hype will destroy what it has wrought.”
  • Criticized potential flaws in his game: “Sidney had an aversion to defensive rebounding, instead choosing to sneak out to halfcourt in hopes of finding himself alone for a dunk. He was engaging in the time-honored pickup-game tradition of cherry picking.” and “I noticed he was not particularly ardent about his offensive rebounding, either.” and “he was largely a spectator. He did not follow his shots. He took fadeaway shots in the post and backpedaled out of the action. In a close game, he watched as his teammates battled underneath for the ball.”
  • Analyzed the selfishness in his postgame comments: “He talked about how he got ‘no boards’ and did not block any shots.”

 

August An August 2007 si.com feature:

 

  • Compared Sidney to Greg Oden – “a big man with stunning, guard-like skills,” perhaps on pace to “follow in Oden’s footsteps and be No. 1 on the 2010 draft board.” 
  • Called Sidney “more versatile than” Chris Webber, but also “susceptible to lapses in effort.”
  • Shared this compliment from Kevin Love: “He could be a special player. He’s ahead of his time.”
  • Documented two highlights from Sidney’s middle-school days: attending the ABCD Camp as a 15-year-old 8th-grader & receiving his fist recruiting letter in 7th grade from Alabama’s Mark Gottfried.
  • Quoted the elder Sidney on the key reason behind the move from Mississippi to LA: “the same thing O.J. [Mayo] said [about USC] — more marketing.  Mississippi is a small pond.  I love it as my home, but you have to go to a bigger market to get [Renardo’s] name out.”
  • Details the LA-lifestyle the two Sidney’s put on display for the interview: “”Dad wore sunglasses in a dark restaurant, as well as two jewel-encrusted prep state title rings that had recently been won by Renardo and his older brother, who’s now at Santa Monica College. Son wore a Bluetooth clip on his right ear, occasionally tapped away at his Sidekick, and spoke happily about ‘all the pretty girls’ he sees in L.A.”
  • Listed the next step in the AAU game  – “the LA Dream Team, which happens to be coached by Renardo Sr., and spent much of an 0-4 run in the Reebok Summer Championships trying to expand his repertoire by shooting threes — with limited success — rather than playing in the paint.”  Dad/coach on the team switch: “I wanted him to have his own team. I wanted him to call his own shots, and learn how to make everyone around him better. I’m trying to get him ready for D-I.”
  • Dropped this line from the 6-10 Sidney: “I don’t really want to just be a center. That would get boring.”

 

An excellent but lengthy piece in the Halloween edition of the New York Times:

 

  • Remarked that Sidney’s 270 pounds make him look “less like a heavyset teenager rounding slowly into shape than a longtime athlete who has spent his off-season at the buffet.”
  • Recounted that this summer, Sidney “had put on weight” and “talked wistfully about going fishing and ‘getting away from basketball,’ which made him sound more like a 38-year-old power forward on a second tour with the Clippers” and caused “a handful of scouts” to chalk him up as “a bust.”
  • Noted that “his father hopes to hire a personal chef soon, someone who will keep the fridge stocked with three healthy precooked meals a day.”
  • Quoted Clark Francis of Hoop Scoop Online: He is a “prima donna and has one of the worst attitudes that we’ve ever seen…  Sidney could be the poster boy for many of [the] things that are wrong with grass-roots basketball and is the perfect example of just how bad the sense of entitlement among many of the top players has become…  He’s gonna be up there as one of the all-time players [who make you] just shake your head and wish he’d wake up and figure it out. Four years ago he could play any position, do things on the perimeter. He wasn’t heavy. And now he’s basically an underachiever. It’s a tragedy.”
  • Quantified his career arc: ”Sidney estimates he plays close to 100 games a year.”  “Next spring, he will finish his senior year having attended three high schools in two states and having played for three summer travel teams since 2005.”  A long way since his Jackson, MS “middle school charged $3 admission to his games.”
  • Listed his strengths: “a clean flick-knife of a jumper, smooth from anywhere on the court,” “the ballhandling ability of someone a foot shorter and five years older,” and “touch passes and no-looks and footwork out of an Arthur Murray studio” adding up to “a veteran’s game” possibly “too fundamentally sound… At his size, at this level, elegance can look more like nonchalance.”
  • And weaknesses: “he also has a maddening tendency to drift,” “mostly inert and grabby on defense” during one game where “he manages only a handful of points before fouling out with several minutes remaining”
  • Potentially including a former haircut – “the mohawk, a hair style that Sidney wore, briefly and regrettably, earlier this year. He thinks it had a good deal to do with his problems at a tournament in Arizona in May, when he recalls earning at least one technical foul every game and getting tossed twice… Per Sydney, “’The mohawk made me kinda crazy.’ People noticed, too. The University of Arizona student paper described him as ‘not the character Arizona wants.’ So Sidney shaved the thing off and swore never to have one again. ‘And when I cut the mohawk off,’ he says, ‘I was just a normal person.’”
  • Pointed out that his “freelance trainer” is former NBA big man John “Hot Plate” Williams.
  • Commented that Sidney’s nickname – ‘the Difference’ – doesn’t seem to be used by anyone outside his father.
  • Relayed these nuggets from Renardo Sr.: “We’re gonna be with anybody that got the most money. So if you see us with Ponys on, you know Pony came over.” and “The only ranking we care about is David Stern’s.” and “We’re good friends with Master P.”
  • And this one from Reebok’s Christopher Reeves: “My thing is, what makes high-school basketball the alpha and omega? White people, traditionally. Indiana. Playing for your school’s great, but he’s not playing as a hobby, so he can go out on a Friday night, score 17 points and go to the pizza parlor. He’s playing because it’s his career.” 

A piece last month on slamonline.com included a video and still more nuggets from Sidney:

 

  • “About all we eat is Chinese food.”
  • “My favorite thing is to go to Universal Studios. They got rides for big people—Disneyland got too many little rides.”
  • “I think I play like Kevin Garnett-slash…what’s his name, played for the Lakers a long time ago? Magic. I love to run, and I think I play like him a little, too.”
  • “I play all five positions. Next level, I’ll probably be a 4, 3 or 2, but my Pops plays me at the 1 or the 2.”

 

A Get-able Get?

November 13, 2008

On Veteran’s Day, several news outlets across the Commonwealth jumped on the news that heralded high school hoopster Renardo Sidney would be visiting Charlottesville this weekend to chat with the staff & players and take in Virginia’s season opener against the mighty VMI Keydets.  One can only hope that JPJ is filled with more than the 2,019 who came out to witness last Sunday’s exhibition victory over Shepherd University.

 

The 6-10 250+ lb. Sidney grew up in Mississippi and now plays for Fairfax High in Los Angeles, CA.  He appears in the top 10 of virtually all 2009 recruiting lists, making him one of the highest-rated unsigned seniors available.  He is also considering UCLA, USC, Mississippi State, and LSU.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch declares that Sidney is a “solid student” and the fact that his “family will pay its way to Charlottesville reflects its level of interest in U.Va.”

 

The Daily Progress says Sidney is “considered by many to be a ‘one-and-done’ type player” and quotes “recruiting guru” Franklin Harris, who calls him “the best player in the country,” and a “prototypical NBA 4-man” who can “score inside” and “put it on the floor.”  RTD Beat writer Jeff White gushes that youngster “is intrigued by the possibility of doing for a lesser-known team what Michael Beasley did last season for Kansas State.”  Does that mean forcing the hiring of an overpaid assistant, leading the team to the round-of-32 in the NCAAs and two fewer wins (21) than the prior season, only to bolt for the NBA after the season?

 

White adds that Virginia coach Dave Leitao “traveled to California recently on a recruiting trip” and “has established a strong bond with Sidney and his parents.”  Great news… but haven’t we heard this early-stages-of-flirting, coach-meets-boy/boy-reciprocates-interest love story before?

 

  • Didn’t Eric Wallace once say he was “looking for a comfort level and I found it” with Leitao?  Didn’t he also say that Leitao “did all the right things,” and “established a good relationship with me” ?  After committing and then de-committing in a “family-oriented decision,” didn’t he also say that he “always liked Virginia” and even “used to play them on video games” and “still respect[s] their coaches and [has] a good relationship with them” ?
  • Didn’t Leitao himself say after losing Patrick Patterson to Kentucky that “the mom and the dad and the son were incredibly tight, and that’s what enabled us to stay in it as long as we could” ?
  • Didn’t scout.com’s Dave Telep say Leitao had “a better chance with Elliot Williams than Patrick Patterson,” only to lose him to Duke?  Didn’t Williams himself say before decision-day that Leitao was” the first one who offered me [a scholarship], so you’ve got to have that kind of relationship with him” ?  I remember him also adding that his parents “like that [Leitao] has a great personality, is easy to talk to, and is a great coach and great person,” and that the idea of being Leitao’s first ‘big fish’ recruit “definitely appeals to me.  That’s a reason why I’m looking at Virginia.”
  • Didn’t Ed Davis say that he had a “”nice relationship with the coaching staff” at Virginia before committing to UNC?  I believe I remember virginiapreps.com’s Zirkle Blakey comment that “Virginia recruited the heck out of” Davis and “did everything they possibly could to put themselves in a good position with him.”

 

Horned Frogs coming to C-Ville

November 13, 2008

Wednesday’s Dallas Morning News reports that the date for next year’s contest with the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University has been set for September 12th.  Virginia will return the favor and travel to Fort Worth in 2012.

 

The home game against the Horned Frogs will be a rematch of the 1994 Independence Bowl, in which the Mike Groh-led Cavaliers won 20-10.  Virginia’s current offensive coordinator was game MVP and saw his team finish the season with a 9-3 record & top-15 national ranking.  Next year’s matchup will come a week before Virginia is scheduled to travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to take on the Southern Miss.

 

The Golden Eagles are currently just 4-6 this season, but TCU is 9-2 and ranked 15th in the nation, despite falling at undefeated Utah last Thursday night (on a short week).  Coach Gary “I have not talked to Kansas State” Patterson is seeking his fifth 10-win season in eight years after taking over for Dennis Franchione in 2000.  Whether or not he is a candidate to replace Ron Prince at his alma mater, GP and his charges (93 of 113 are from TX) have impressed nationally, currently ranking 1st in rushing defense, 2nd in total defense, 3rd in scoring defense, and 13th in rushing offense.

 

A look at future (announced) out-of-conference games:

 

Sept. 12, 2009               TCU                              Charlottesville, VA

Sept. 19, 2009               Southern Miss               Hattiesburg, MS

 

Sept. 11, 2010               USC                             Los Angeles, CA

 

MM DD, 2011                Southern Miss               Charlottesville, VA

 

Sept. 8, 2012                 Penn State                    Charlottesville, VA

MM, DD 2012                TCU                              Fort Worth, TX

 

Sept. 14, 2013               Penn State                    State College, PA

The Al Groh Drinking Game

November 7, 2008

After your recently-concluded ballgame, turn on the postgame radio show, and get your favorite beverage ready for coach Groh’s press conference.  Also can be modified for the coach’s weekly teleconference with ACC reporters, the Cavalier Call-In radio show, and the “Cavalier Sports Weekly” television program.

 

The rules for this version of the AG/DG are quite simple (other variations will be addressed at a later time in this space):

 

  1. Take two drinks any time Coach Al drop’s his favorite word – ‘circumstance’
  2. Finish said drink if the word is used multiple times in a single response
  3. Take a single drink if you hear either his second-favorite (‘resolve’) or third-favorite (‘resilient’) word
  4. Finish two drinks if ‘circumstance’ is used in the same sentence with either ‘resolve’ or ‘resilient’
  5. Finish three drinks if the ‘circumstance-resolve-resilient verbal trifecta is hit

 

Note that variations of each word do count, so keep an ear out for ‘circumstantial,’ ‘resiliency,’ and ‘resolvitdue.’  Any doubts about ‘circumstance’ being the top seed in Groh’s lexicon have been completely put to rest of late.  Just last week alone, Groh:

 

  • Described his hands-on approach to coaching linebackers, specifically Clint Sintim: “In his particular case because of the position he plays and the amount of years that I have spent involved with the position, I’ve had the opportunity to really have more day-to-day and nuts-and-bolts work with him on his play at the position, maybe than say (if) he was playing wide receiver or offensive tackle or something like that. We’ve spent a lot of time together during the course of his career, probably more so than is the case in many circumstances for the head coach to be able to do.”
  • Talked of preparing for a game during a win streak: “Anytime that your team is able to prepare from a foundation of confidence is a more advantageous circumstance and confidence only comes from demonstrated performance.”
  • Explained some of the reasons behind his team’s turnaround: “The players had a strong resolve… They had faith in each other. They understood the circumstances that were affecting our team early, that those circumstances wouldn’t be constant, and they just had the resolve. They kept believing that it’s going to be better than this.”
  • Gave un update on accused felon but still-participating FB Rashawn Jackson: “We’re comfortable just in terms of his performance, his state of mind, and his circumstances.  I guess I would say we believe in America and everything that goes on in America, and one of those things is everybody’s innocent until proven guilty.  We also believe in accountability and justice, and we’re sure that in the long run all those things will out. He seems to be very comfortable and confident with his circumstances.”

 

Following Saturday’s home loss to Miami, AG:

 

  • Commented on the 12-yard sack Marc Verica took on 3rd-and-2 from the Miami 27 to knock his offense out of FG range: “You’d like to say, ‘Look, if there’s any circumstance in the game, you can’t take the sack in that circumstance,’” Groh said. “But we’re sure that under the circumstances in which it happened, it will leave an indelible mark on Marc.”
  • Talked about bouncing back: “If you want to think of yourself as resilient, then obviously that has to be under all circumstances. It can’t just be when it’s easy.  Resilience is established over a period of time, and there’s a lot of guys on this team that have proved their resilience over the course of their career, and so we’re confident it’ll continue to be that way.”
  • Was channeled by NT Nate Collins, who “never want[s] to lose a game like that under those circumstances. You want to feel like you got beat fair and square, but we let that game go ourselves.”

 

A few other recent Groh nuggets that would have had AG/GC players reaching for their drinks:

 

  • Prior to the Maryland game, on going from one level of football to the next: “They just have to be able to grow into that, but they’re doing it the right way for the way they’re playing. Now they are going to just have to learn how to do it the right way. I’m sure it’s the same thing for Branden Albert, and Chris Long, and Tom Santi …that now they’re having to respect the game and do the right things on an 8- or 9-hour a day basis, instead of four hours a day. They have got to grow into that circumstance, also.
  • Prior to the ECU game, on the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (which has produced NT Nick Jenkins, LB Cam Johnson, and DB Rodney McLeod): “We’ve always been very, very aware of the overall circumstance of those schools. The quality of play, excellent academics, the sense of discipline. We’re very tuned into them for quite some time. The overall circumstances worked out well of late.”
  • Prior to the UNC game, on Carolina’s offense: “The plays usually end up repeating pretty much from week to week, but the pre-snap looks change so one of the critical things to do in that circumstance is, from our playing standpoint, [is to] try to keep it uncomplicated for the players.”
  • This week – prior to the Wake game – on his redshirting philosophy: “Unless a guy is going to play 25 or 30 plays [each game] and be a standout, we would prefer to [redshirt him]. Usually the fifth year’s going to be more productive than the first. But sometimes there are just some circumstances where the team needs the player that year, even though it’s not going to be in the biggest possible role.”

 

And don’t for a minute think this is a new phenomenon or the result of recent media-relations or public-speaking schooling undergone by the head man.  Examples can be cited throughout the years:

 

  • August 2002: “I think it’s always better to have the position as definitive as possible. In years back, it was easier [to platoon quarterbacks]. Now that type of circumstance becomes such a media subject and the spotlight of the team that, even if the players are comfortable with it, it gets brought up so much that it becomes [a distraction.].”
  • August 2003: “This was a good indication that this team has the same type of resiliency and resolve that last year’s team did.”
  • November 2003: “They showed the same kind of resolve to fight back as they have in all sorts of circumstances. Once again, we just made it too hard on ourselves.”
  • September 2006: “That was a terrific job by the defense. Those guys were resilient, resourceful and hung in there under every circumstance.”
  • October 2006: “Today we had to go out there every series knowing the game was on the line. I was impressed with their competitive resolve under those circumstances.”
  • September 2007: “We’ve had some struggles here of late and we haven’t found ourselves in a circumstance like that in a long time. We were certainly in new territory, but this team has demonstrated a strong resolve and focus throughout.”
  • February 2008: “Each year brings its own set of circumstances in terms of talent available at the positions we’re looking for, or the academic circumstances.”