The Five Things: Storylines heading into Virginia-Abilene Christian
Shuffling the deck on O line
“For Dillon, it appears he is done for the year,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said on his weekly radio show on Tuesday. “What an amazing person he is. It was a challenge seeing him lying out there on the field and thinking this might be a significant injury, which it was.”
Reinkensmeyer, a 6’6”, 315-pound senior, had a Pro Football Focus season grade of 69.7 in 2020, ranking second on the team (Ryan Swoboda is a notch better, at 70.1).
He had played on 376 of the 570 snaps for the UVA offense this season, all at left guard.
He’d apparently been dealing with injury issues since the Wake game, when he was on the field for 39 of the 90 offensive snaps.
Joe Bissinger, a 6’4”, 310-pound sophomore, has been taking the bulk of the snaps at left guard the past four weeks, and has availed himself well.
Bissinger (PFF grade: 60.4) is actually the top-rated pass-blocking lineman on the roster, grading out at 92.0 in the PFF rendering, not allowing a sack or a single QB pressure on 107 pass-block snaps in 2020.
Briggs’ departure leaves UVA thin on the D line
You may have heard that sophomore nose tackle Jowon Briggs is leaving the football program and entering the transfer portal.
Obvious huge loss here. Nose tackle is maybe the key position in a 3-4 base defense, the point of the spear, responsible for taking on blocks to free up the ends and ‘backers to roam free.
The former four-star recruit was an impact player inside for the Cavaliers, with 20 tackles, three sacks and 12 QB pressures in 2020, grading out, per Pro Football Focus, at 68.5 on the season, ranking 185th out of the 742 interior linemen in FBS in 2020.
The 6’1”, 310-pounder from Cincinnati was the highest-rated prep recruit in the Bronco Mendenhall era, and lived up to the advance billing, recording 19 tackles and three tackles for loss en route to being named a freshman All-American in 2019.
OK, all that having been said, he’s gone, and the loss of Briggs will leave Virginia thin for its final four regular-season games.
UVA had already lost defensive end Richard Burney (PFF grade: 66.7) for the season.
Briggs’ backup at nose tackle is freshman Jahmeer Carter (PFF grade: 52.3).
You could also see JMU grad-transfer Adeeb Atariwa (PFF grade: 65.8) or senior Mandy Alonso (PFF grade: 61.6) slide over from defensive end to get some snaps on the inside.
Freshman Nusi Malani (PFF grade: 59.7) has been getting more snaps at end, including a season-high 25 (and a PFF game grade of 65.4) in the 31-17 win over Louisville this past weekend.
Those four were the only players listed, along with Briggs, on the depth chart at D line for this weekend’s game with Abilene Christian.
Two other linemen – freshman Olasunkonmi Agunloye and redshirt freshman Ben Smiley – have barely seen the field in 2020.
Smiley got three snaps at defensive end in the 42-17 loss at Clemson last month.
This one should be over relatively early, and though coaches won’t admit to assuming that going in, they also have to game-plan.
The UVA offense is Jekyll-and-Hyde dependent upon the availability of sophomore quarterback Brennan Armstrong (PFF grade: 82.1).
If he’s available, it’s good. If not, it’s an ugly hybrid of dropback passer who can’t throw a sideline out (Lindell Stone, PFF grade: 41.8) and wildcat (Keytaon Thompson, PFF grade: 68.5).
The offense relies on QBs a lot in the run game. Armstrong is second on the team in rushing (347 yards), and when you factor in Thompson (138 yards) and freshman Iraken Armstead (68 yards), who was also used as a wildcat QB before going down to injury a couple of weeks back, the quarterbacks account for 46.3 percent of the production of the ground game this season.
With Armstead’s injury leaving you at three healthy QBs, the most important thing for Saturday is that Armstrong is as close to 100 percent healthy Saturday night as is possible.
Which is to say: don’t expect to see him running a lot, and expect to see offensive coordinator Robert Anae go to Stone as soon as is humanly possible in the second half.
You might be able to tune in!
For the first time all season, we’re not on the ACC Network, which requires an additional subscription and good broadband, but instead on MASN, which apparently broadcasts things other than infomercials and poker tournaments in the long baseball offseason.
Seriously, who knew?
The world is coming to an end: Because I’ll be there
The sun came out today, and my email inbox contained a surprise for me: a press credential for Saturday.
I haven’t been to the City of Charlottesville since the Louisville hoops game back in March.
I’m pretty sure I can still take 64 over the mountain, but Google Maps will be there as a backup.
Story by Chris Graham