The Five Things: Virginia at Wake Forest
Lindell Stone finally gets his chance
I remember talking with a friend who is an usher at UVA football and basketball games about the hotshot new kid coming in at quarterback.
“That kid from Woodberry Forest is one of the best quarterbacks in the country,” he tried to tell me.
Lindell Stone did break records, did lead the state in TD passes as a junior and senior, but there was a reason the recruiting services had him as a three-star.
His coaches at Woodberry Forest cited his knowledge of the offense, how they allowed him to draw up and tweak play calls.
His UVA coaches call him a coach on the field, and no doubt he could be a coach when he’s done, if that’s what he wants to do.
He just lacks some things.
A decent arm, for example.
Anything resembling foot speed.
But he has moxie, and he’s going to need it.
Because now that opponents have game tape to study, you can bet they’re going to squeeze the hell out of the UVA offense.
He’s going to see extra guys in the box, press coverage, basically a series of dares to try to get Stone and offensive coordinator Robert Anae to try to beat the defense deep, the assumption being, based on the tape, that he can’t.
He’s a smart kid. Let’s see if he can figure it out.
The Ronnie Walker era also kicks off
The NCAA is nothing if not inconsistent in how it approaches granting eligibility waivers.
For scores of players – ahem, student-athletes – making moves in the pandemic offseason, you see immediate waivers.
For Ronnie Walker, there was at first a denial, then a lengthy review, for some reason, ahead of the eventual, inevitable, sure, kid, go play.
Walker loses three games of his junior season in the process.
Totally unfair to him.
And now you have to wonder what he can offer.
At the least, depth at the tailback spot, behind starter Wayne Taulapapa and backup Shane Simpson.
There’s talent there in Walker, a star in high school at Hopewell, but he was never able to catch on at Indiana, where he only got 59 carries in two seasons.
Maybe the change of scenery will allow the talent to be unleashed.
The slow starts
Reporters love beating to death whatever narrative they can seize upon.
The slow starts thing for the ‘Hoos is what you call low hanging fruit.
Opponents are outscoring Virginia 34-0 in the first quarter through three games.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall speculated that the issue might be inexperience at QB.
That’s not going to get any better with Lindell Stone making his first career start.
One tweak: trying to adjust practice routines this week to emphasize more urgency at the beginning of practice, hoping that will spill over to game day.
That’s somebody doing some smart thinking there.
Stars on D need to step up
Mendenhall specifically called out outside linebackers Charles Snowden and Noah Taylor as needing to “be more productive.”
“Our defense thrives on production from those two positions, and to this point, while they’re both playing solidly and capably, the impact on the game isn’t to the level that we would like it to be, what we expected to be. So we need more production I guess is probably the bottom line there,” Mendenhall said on Monday.
Snowden has yet to record a sack in 2020, and Taylor has 1.5 – though to be fair, Taylor has been used more often in pass coverage this season, dropping back into coverage on 70 of the 109 snaps involving passes that he’s been in on through three games, and Snowden is just getting fewer snaps.
Through three games, the senior has averaged 50 defensive snaps per game, and he was on the field for just 38 of the 70 NC State offensive snaps on Saturday.
“After games one and two, we felt like Charles needed a little bit more rest. And in terms of the season coming, it just, the volume we were putting on him, as well as special teams and how hard he practices, it looked like he was going to lose ground rather than gain ground over the course of the year. It wasn’t his performance that didn’t have him playing more. We just have to manage him and his workload because he tries so hard,” Mendenhall said.
Taylor was used more in pass coverage last week, Mendenhall said, to try to account for the loss to injury of senior safety Joey Blount.
“Noah Taylor is a very versatile player. And so that then had him become a secondary-ish type of player last week more than a rush player. And that influenced his production up front. So those are contributing factors,” Mendenhall said.
That all said, Mendenhall feels “those two positions can and need to be at a higher level.”
Simple request: no timeouts before the first punt
First fourth down last week, a minute-fifty-nine into the game, and Virginia had to burn a timeout, because there was a guy missing from the punt team.
Literally five minutes after the opening kickoff.
It wasn’t that somebody had gotten injured and was missing.
You know your assignments, have known them for weeks.
It’s fourth down, you run out on the field, take your spot.
And then, later in the quarter, it happened again.
And then, in the third quarter, they had all their guys on the field, but one guy was out of place, and NC State, which wasn’t even in punt-block, was able to sneak a guy through to block a Nash Griffin kick.
It’s not nice to speak ill of the departed, but that’s Mike London-level nonsense.
For all the talk of slow starts hampering this team, you had to have the feeling after the timeout a minute-fifty-nine in that this was a team not ready to play a football game.
And think back to the season opener: Virginia taking the opening kickoff, and promptly fumbling, setting up Duke in the red zone.
“We just need to be significantly better in all phases,” Mendenhall said.
No timeouts before the first punt. That’s all I’m asking.
Story by Chris Graham