2021 Production Loss – Virginia

Next up on Pitt’s ACC schedule are the Virginia Cavaliers.

But first a POV public service announcement. Do not forget the FrankCan POV golf gathering. Link for article with details below.

FrankCam Cup Golf Announcement (pittpov.com)

Still spelled wrong in the linked title.

Virginia has a new head coach. After the abrupt and unexpected resignation of Bronco Mendenhall, the Wahoos hired ex Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott. This will be his first season as a head coach. He has hired Desmond Kitchens (Atlanta Falcons) as his offensive coordinator and John Rudzinski (Air Force Falcons) as his defensive coordinator. What, no Bowling Green Falcons coaches available?

At Air Force, Rudzinski lead a defense that finished as the 2021 # 4 FBS team in total defense allowing on average 296.5 yards per game.

Kitchens has mainly been a position coach. He was the offensive coordinator at both Vanderbilt and NC State but only for one season at each team. Since Elliot called plays at Clemson, I believe Kitchens is what his title is and is not responsible for play calling.

Virginia’s 2021 results and the 2022 schedule.

Nothing unusual on the schedule except for having the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers during the annual SoCon weekend. Do they not realize that is the weekend you schedule your FCS opponent or at least Old Dominion before a Thanksgiving rivalry game?

Here are the Rivals 5.6 and above 2022 commits. Also included are the current Transfer Portal (TP) additions.

Virginia under Mendenhall was not a recruiting powerhouse. Mendenhall’s best class was the 2021 class. It featured three 5.8, 4-stars and two 5.7, 3-stars. The 2021 class was the second recruiting class after the 2019 Coastal division championship. One of the ’21 5.7’s entered the TP (to LSU) this year.

As an aside, Mendenhall’s highest ranked commitment was a 6.0, 4-star OT in the 2020 class. He never signed as he took a two year hiatus to do a missionary stint. Upon learning of Mendenhall’s resignation, he ended up committing to Michigan.

Maize&BlueReview – The improbable story of how Michigan landed 4-star OT Andrew Gentry (rivals.com)

Speaking of the TP, the Cav’s lost 19 players to the TP – eleven from the offense, eight on the defense. The latest TP entry was 6/10/22. Look for a lot of light blue (eligibility) and pink (TP entry) in the charts.

Head Coach Tony Elliot, during the ACC media days, admits he did not do an excellent job of selling his vision to the departed. He was able to talk two players into returning.

Virginia, to staunch those losses, added eight from the TP. Four each on offense (WR, RB and two OLinemen), and defense ( All DL). Three of the pickups were from FCS schools. Only one is in the final year of eligibility.

On to the stars identified as NCAA team leaders in selected stats or members of the 2021 All ACC teams. I have added a new stat –  Athlon’s 2022 preseason All ACC Conference’s (four teams). I only found two players on the Phil Steele All ACC team by reading the Virginia athletic department site (for Non-Phil Steele watch list articles).

Most of the Hoos star players are back, but if you look you can see the start of lost production.

The  offense revolves around QB play. I have added sacked and yards lost to the QB chart. I also added Kenny Pickett’s stats for comparison.

Armstrong is one of the top returning QB’s in the ACC and FBS football.

Wahoo running backs and receivers 2021 activity. Also returning production summary for Pitt, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Louisville, UNC, Syracuse, and Virginia.

Virginia only lost around a third of their skilled players production. The starting WR group is intact. They will miss starting TE Jelani Woods. His backup will have to produce.

WR Wicks is one of the three best returning receivers in the ACC. Even if the media covering the ACC media days did not vote for him. (Flowers BC, A.T Perry Wake, and Josh Downs UNC).

The RB group leading returning rushers are QB Armstrong and “Football Player” Keyteon Thompson. Virginia does have experienced backups. I expect new HC Tony Elliott will want a more robust rush game. The prior offensive coordinator makes Whipple look likes he actually believed and used a robust rush attack.

After all that, it seems like the Virginia offense will keep rocking. But we need to review the third leg of the stool – the Oline.

What does the Oline stats tell us? I added Pitt allowed sacks and tackles for loss.

I hope you see the problem. The Wahoos need to totally rebuild their Oline. I believe it was the Oline that HCTE was referring to in not selling his vision.

Only one player with two starts return and limited game experience of the balance. They did pickup two FCS OLinemen from the TP. The Dartmouth player was All Ivy. The Lehigh player started and was a Rivals 5.6, 3-star.

Last year Virginia’s Oline allowed 71 TFL’s (NCAA #73). They gave up 40 sacks (#119). There is a comparison to Pitt near the bottom of the above chart.

At the bottom of the chart is a Pass/Run/(Sacks) percentage of plays.

Pitt will have this problem next year but that is a next year known problem. This year it could be a lot harder for Armstrong to put up the stats he did during the ’21 season.

On to the defensive review.

Virginia had 49 players make a defensive stat. But twelve of them were offensive players. Three were special teams player. That leaves 34 defensive players making a stat.

The chart below strips out the non-defensive players and eleven players who did not make at least four or more tackles.

The below chart includes 24 players- ten DB’s, six DL’s and eight LB’s making up (and I mean made up) a “4 tackles two deep.” I did lower my goal of ten tackles to four to make a “two deep.”

Using the column “Tot”(al Tackles) Virginia’s returning defensive production was at 56.9%. Of the ten P5 Pitt opponents, the Virginia returning production is the fourth lowest. Only Louisville (55.5%), GT (43.2%) and WVCC (34.7%) are lower.

To help put all of the defensive data into perspective, here are the Virginia 2021 NCAA defensive stats.

I give Virginia’s 2021 defense a “D”.

Virginia will have a solid passing attack. Will the Oline be serviceable enough to protect Armstrong and improve the rushing offense? Will the defense make a leap forward? They may but I have this game as a Pitt win.