The spring game has come and gone, and now spring practice as well. The football team got to break in its fancy new practice facility, which is a vast improvement over walkthroughs on the JPJA floor. You'd think we'd have some answers as to how things might look in the fall, and it so happens we just might. I've been taking notes, and as usual here's what I think:
STUFF THAT GOT CLEARED UP:
-- Quarterback, sort of. Just having something resembling a depth chart at this stage of the game is an improvement over the past. At the beginning of spring practice it was clear that Phillip Sims had somehow worked his way to the bottom of it. Mike London made noises about how nothing's decided this is just a guide of sorts blah blah blah, but it became clear pretty quickly that Sims was being sent a message. David Watford and Greyson Lambert more or less split the first-team quarterback duties, and one starts to get the sense that Watford has a slight leg up on Lambert. And that Sims hasn't done anything to move out of the doldrums; his 8-for-18 spring game performance was something less than impressive.
-- Defensive line should be pretty sweet. The age-old question of whether we should rejoice or jump off a bridge when one unit dominates the other naturally applies. However, there's good reason to believe the D-line was showing off for real. David Dean in particular came in for high praise from all corners - including, most importantly, the coaches - and there's a good chance he becomes the disruptive three-tech we thought we'd get out of Chris Brathwaite. (For whom, praise be, the door is not closed for a return. It looks like he'll be trying to follow in the footsteps of Jameel Sewell.)
-- Wide receiver should also be in good shape. Good things are being said about the second line. Dominique Terrell had a Jeff White article devoted to his good work, CavsCorner had a flowery one about E.J. Scott, and Adrian Gamble is getting noticed too.
-- We do seem to have a starting linebacker corps. And Henry Coley in particular is stepping into the leadership gap left when Steve Greer and Laroy Reynolds graduated. Coley had a little disciplinary hiccup last year, and it's nice to see that seems to be resolved. Occasionally I've seen a couple hyperactive imaginations worrying that Coley's entrenchment at middle linebacker means Kwontie Moore is a bust, to which I say piffle: Coley has two years of experience on Moore. And Demeitre Brim is moving quickly to secure the strongside spot. UVA's front seven will not be among the most-hyped in the conference when the season begins, but it could have some eyes open and looking their way by November.
STUFF THAT DIDN'T:
-- We heard precious little out of the running back realm that was especially useful. Even if we had, Taquan Mizzell is still showing up in the fall ready to scramble whatever pecking order has been established. Even so, I was hoping to hear what that pecking order might have been, and specifically, where Clifton Richardson fits. In the pre-spring depth chart he's third, and didn't appear to make a strong upward move.
-- It's all well and good to know sort of where the quarterbacks stand, but we still don't have a starter.
-- The O-line. This is the real question mark. It would be getting a lot more attention if we had a settled quarterback situation. I think the running game in particular is the most at risk, because the interior of the line is the least secure. And David Watford may have an advantage at quarterback partly because he can scramble out of the way of incoming pass rushers much better than either Sims or Lambert.
Everything will get ten times more complex when the rubber hits the road in September, of course. But if I were to break things down as simple as possible, here in April, I'd say this: The defense has the bodies and the talent to be very good, and it depends on how well they take to Jon Tenuta's schemes. And how often they blitz into a screen pass. The offense depends on the line, and secondarily on the quarterback. Quarterback is going to get the attention, and let's hope the line doesn't because poor play will be much more readily apparent than quality play. But the offense will have the weapons it needs; we'll see if the line can let them shine.
Just a couple things I thought shouldn't wait til Monday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an excellent interview with George Adeosun. Refreshingly honest and insightful. And Joe Lunardi's "I need to justify my existence for the other ten months out of the year" early bracketology has UVA a four seed. This means absolutely nothing for next year's tourney but is interesting in the sense that we know the hoops team should do very well next year, but it's a little surprising to see the media powers-that-be thinking so highly of them as well. Much more surprising than Chris Nelson's decommitment, anyway. Dude visited darn near every school in Florida in the last two months. Nelson will probably land on his feet, and I do appreciate that he decided to get it over with rather than holding a spot until the last minute before committing elsewhere. UVA will be fine, as long as they snag Andrew Brown and/or Derrick Nnadi.