news des kitchings seems to be coming back after awful first year at virginia how
Sports

Des Kitchings seems to be coming back after awful first year at Virginia: How?

des kitchings virginia
Virginia offensive coordinator Des Kitchings. Photo: UVA Athletics

I wouldn’t have bet a nickel a month ago that Des Kitchings would still be the Virginia offensive coordinator, but here we are.

That Kitchings hasn’t been shown the door isn’t just coaching malpractice on the part of head coach Tony Elliott; it’s AD malpractice on the part of Carla Williams.

It’s been widely bandied about by those in the know that Williams laid down an ultimatum to Elliott’s predecessor, Bronco Mendenhall, to tell Mendenhall this time last year that he needed to make a change at defensive coordinator, after last year’s defense ranked in the bottom 10 nationally, and was the key reason the team limped to a 6-6 finish.

Mendenhall didn’t blink, and up and quit, out of the blue, ushering in the Elliott era, which got off to a rocky start right off the bat when the offensive line left en masse over the holidays.

That happened, we’d find out later, after Elliott bypassed giving Jason Beck, the QB coach under Mendenhall’s offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, a chance at the OC job.

Anae and Beck ended up together at Syracuse, and Anae has since moved on to take over as OC at NC State, and has been succeeded at Syracuse by Beck.

Meanwhile, back on Grounds, Kitchings, whose other chance to run an offense didn’t end well – he was not retained after a single year as OC at NC State, in 2019 – took the reins of an offense that ranked third nationally under Anae and Beck in 2021 and turned it into the 102nd best offense nationally in 2022.

The numbers that tell the story as to how that all happened start with QB1 Brennan Armstrong, who passed for 4,449 yards, 31 TDs, 10 INTs and a 156.4 passer rating in 2021 under Anae and Beck.

Kitchings’ pro-style offense never clicked with Armstrong back at QB, and his top wideouts from 2021, Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson, joined by Lavell Davis Jr., a 2020 freshman All-America, who missed the 2021 season after suffering a torn ACL in spring practice, back with him.

Everybody saw their numbers drop dramatically under the new regime.

In 10 games, Armstrong passed for 2,220 yards and seven TDs, with 12 INTs and a 109.4 passer rating.

His completion percentage also dropped more than 10 points, from 65.2 percent in 2021 to 54.7 percent in 2022.

After averaging 404.5 yards per game through the air in 2021, Armstrong had just one game over 300 yards in 2022, passing for 313 yards in Virginia’s 34-17 loss to Louisville on Oct. 8.

The wideouts also struggled. Wicks, a first-team All-ACC pick in 2021, followed up his 57-catch, 1,203-yard season from 2021 with a 30-catch, 430-yard season in 2022, a big problem being drops – nine on 72 targets in 2022; he had five drops on 93 targets in 2021.

Thompson, who somehow still earned third-team All-ACC honors this season, saw a drop-off from 78 catches, 990 yards in 2021 to 53 catches, 579 yards in 2022 – with him also suffering from the dropsies, nine on 77 targets in 2022, after having seven on 112 targets a year ago.

As for Davis, a surefire NFL prospect, we’re going to miss that guy, and his teammates Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry, forever more.

Much love there, guys.

Back to football: Armstrong is out the door, headed somewhere else in FBS via the transfer portal.

Wicks has declared for the NFL Draft, joining Thompson and another veteran wideout, Billy Kemp IV.

The offensive line coach, Garett Tujague, is also on his way to greener pastures, rejoining Anae at NC State.

This is rats fleeing the sinking ship on steroids.

The offense has to replace the record-setting QB, the starting wideouts, has to start over, again, on the line, and somehow none of this reflects on Kitchings, the architect of the shocking demise of the one good thing that the Mendenhall era left for the group that took over.

Williams shouldn’t have to tell Elliott that he needs to make a change at offensive coordinator, but since she has a track record of telling her football coaches what they need to do at the coordinator positions, it would seem incumbent that she takes care of this one now.

Frustrating as it is to say, that we’re now on our third Monday of the offseason, and not seen any movement, means we’re not going to see any movement here.

So, this one now is on you folks reading this who write the big checks that help Virginia Athletics balance their books every year.

This year was a 3-7 dumpster fire that didn’t need to be.

Elliott didn’t need to burn it all down and start over.

This wasn’t a rebuild, but rather, a tweaking.

Think about it: if Mendenhall had been able to pull the trigger and hire John Rudzinski to run the defense, and kept everything else together, this year doesn’t end anywhere near 3-7.

Next year, three wins might be wishful thinking, with the QB and the wideouts gone, and the replacements, to this point, looking like the kind of guys that might make Virginia competitive in the MAC or Conference USA.

If this is what you write the big checks for, what you helped spend $80 million on for a new football ops center, you’re not as smart with your money as you think you are.

We already know now that the hotshot AD that we have isn’t as smart as she seems to think she is.

She’s why the stadium is empty on Saturdays in the fall, and why Virginia Athletics is going to need more of your money just to tread water until it’s time to hire the next guy.

Video

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, youtube.com/chrisgrahamAFP. Want to reach me? Try [email protected].