UVA Football News and Notes: Show of hands … ‘Hoos been to the Carrier Dome?
UVA football coach Tony Elliott asked his team how many of them had been to the Carrier Dome – now the JMA Wireless Dome, but whatever, the Carrier Dome – and didn’t see a lot of hands shoot up.
“I think it would be important to get them there, kind of learn from Illinois,” said Elliott, whose team got waxed, 24-3, in its road opener at Illinois in Week 2.
The Carrier Dome is a unique environment in terms of how the noise collects in the domed environment.
“They do a great job regardless of the size of the crowd,” Elliott told reporters at his weekly presser on Tuesday. “They find a way to make it loud in there. Those guys in my experience, they always play tough at home. You’ve got to go in, and you’ve got to take it from them.”
And so the schedule for the week will have Virginia getting to Syracuse for a walk-through to allow the UVA players to “go in, see it, see the locker room, walk around on the field, see the new ceiling that they put in, for guys that are going to be catching balls in the lights,” Elliott said.
“We’re definitely going to get there early,” Elliott said.
Familiarity with Anae, Beck
Former UVA offensive coordinator Robert Anae and QB coach Jason Beck are now in those jobs at Syracuse, and doing well.
Syracuse, picked to finish last the ACC Atlantic Division in the preseason, is off to a 3-0 start and averaging 408.3 yards and 37 points per game this season.
“I don’t know the previous coaching staff, because Coach Anae wasn’t actually here when I came in. I think he was back in Hawai’i during the time that I was here. I did meet Coach Beck, but we didn’t have a ton of time together,” Elliott said.
“Good coaches, they’re going to do what their personnel allows them to do, and when you’ve got a running back, I think he was close to 2,000 yards last year or something like that, he had an outstanding season. He’s a really, really good player, and then you’ve got (Garrett) Shrader, who is a big athlete that can run the ball,” Elliott said.
“Good coaches are going to play to their personnel and they’re going to play to the strengths of their personnel. They’ve done a good job of scoring points. It took a little while in the last game, but in the fourth quarter they came alive, hit some big plays, but that quarterback is a problem. You could see they’re attempting to throw the ball, but they’re also telling him if it’s not there, if you don’t like your reads, then you pull it down and you run, and it takes three, four guys to get him down.”
How much might Armstrong wish he had gone with them?
As much as Brennan Armstrong flourished under Anae and Beck last year, throwing for 4,449 yards and 31 TDs and a 156.4 passer rating, he has struggled under Elliott and the new offensive coordinator, Des Kitchings, this season, passing for 710 yards, two TDs and a 108.3 rating through three games in 2022.
Elliott was asked Tuesday what he learned about Anae and Beck through his analysis of his new team in the offseason.
Here’s where you learn what made the Anae/Beck system work at UVA, and what’s different about the Elliott/Kitchings system that’s been hard for Armstrong and his offensive teammates to pick up on.
“They did a great job of being creative and using their personnel. They had a different approach. That’s just my perspective, and I don’t know this for certain, but it was more kind of just go make plays,” Elliott said. “We’re going to focus more on the play aspect, where my approach is more off of the timing, the design of the play, the progressions of the reads, the balance on offense. So, they did a great job with what they did. They found a way. I think it helped Brennan because he was able to get in a rhythm where he threw the ball a lot, where it’s a little bit different here, and it’s more — in the pros you don’t throw the ball every single play, you have to be balanced. There’s going to be times you’ve got to hand it off. You’ve got to manage the game.
“I think that’s a little bit of where Brennan is. He’s trying to make every single play for us because he had that freedom last year in the system, and he was confident. Again, he’s a playmaker, whereas here I want him to play within the system and make the required play,” Elliott said. “I had that discussion with him today, said hey, maybe the required play is, throw the ball away. That’s the best football play. You never go broke making a profit. Chad Morris taught me that. You never go broke making a profit, and sometimes the profit is hey, throw the ball away as opposed to scrambling around and you take a loss, and now you’re behind the chains.”
For the record, an incomplete pass is not a “profit.” It’s not a loss, but it’s not a “profit.”
You can go broke losing money, but you’re not going to get rich throwing things away.
Logan Taylor has been a nice find
Logan Taylor was a four-star prep recruit who only got on the field for 19 special-teams snaps as a true freshman.
The 6’6”, 300-pounder has been on the field for 234 offensive snaps through three games this season, and last week earned a season-best 80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus, allowing just one pressure on 45 pass snaps.
His first Power 5 game, in Week 2 at Illinois, had him with a 45.7 PFF grade after giving up two sacks and six total pressures on 44 pass snaps.
“He’s a guy that hasn’t played much, so he’s thrown into the fire, and now he’s playing left tackle and right tackle, and he could possibly be doing it in the middle of a series. I thought he made, I thought overall the line made progress, just developing that cohesion, developing that timing,” Elliott said.
Injury updates: Antonio Clary and Billy Kemp IV
Safety Antonio Clary and wideout Billy Kemp IV were scratches in Week 3. Elliott said Kemp had been battling an undisclosed illness and was “practicing, doing well, and then he just became severely dehydrated and then had to go get some tests run.”
“He’s doing better now, but we’re just erring on the side of caution to make sure that – most important thing for me is his health overall, and it’s not a severe situation, but he needs to be cleared from a doctor, and he won’t be able to go to the doctor until tomorrow, so we’re not going to push it, so I don’t anticipate that he’ll be cleared.”
Clary is “day-to-day,” Elliott said.
“He’s dealing with the stinger issue that you saw in the game, and really it’s just a matter of how quickly the nerve responds, and he has the proper amount of strength. So, it could be a game-day decision, but he was out there today. He was running around. He was in a green jersey, which means no contact, but I saw him in a tackling drill, so obviously he’s feeling better, so he’ll be a game-time.”
The defense is playing ‘more free’ than the offense
The Virginia defense has been a revelation. After giving up 31.8 points and 466.0 yards per game in 2021, new defensive coordinator John Rudzinski’s unit is holding opponents to 18.3 points and 349.3 yards per game through three games in 2022.
OK, so two of those games are Richmond, an FCS program, and ODU, picked last in the Sun Belt.
“Yeah, you’re seeing that on that side of the ball, the guys are playing a little bit more free than we are on offense,” Elliott said. “I think on defense, too, defensive football is assignment sound just like it is offensively, but a lot of it, too, is effort, getting to the football, finding a way to make a play, whereas offensively it’s a lot more all 11 on the same page, poetry in motion, guys working together. What you see is you’ve got a couple of guys that are a little bit older that are leading, leading the right way. Nick Jackson has been awesome here the last three weeks. I’ve really challenged him to be more vocal, so he’s being more vocal with his play and with his words. You’re seeing that.”
Rudzinski’s 3-4 stack is similar to the 3-3-5 scheme favored by Bronco Mendenhall, but you can see the nuances to Rudzinski’s approach in terms of physicality.
“The competition, all those guys wanting to play, especially on the D-line, and you can roll multiple guys, and then on the back end, still challenging the guys on the back end, especially at corner, to play a little bit more physical. You see those guys, they trust what he’s doing,” Elliott said.