By Jerry Ratcliffe
Filming around Virginia’s athletic program ahead of kickoff with Syracuse…
If the Cavaliers landed the nation’s No. 4 point guard, Elmark Jackson, he would be the highest-ranked player in the Tony Bennett era, if not before, since ‘star’ rankings and position rankings have become a thing. . Currently, that honor goes to current signing, Elijah Gertrude, a shooter from Jersey City, NJ, who is ranked the 36th player overall in the nation by various scouting services. Gertrude is ahead of former Cavalier Kyle Guy, who was No. 37.
Or, what if the UVA gets the disengagement from Ohio State George Washington III, who has the Cavaliers on his five-school roster? Jackson has Virginia in his top five.
Surely one or the other, or both, would increase UVA’s 2023 recruiting class rankings by the top three national recruiting services, On3, Rivals and 247Sports.
Currently, none of these three are giving the current class much love. Rivals ranks the UVA class as the 28th best in the nation at the moment, while 247 has the No. 21 Cavaliers and On3 has the No. 31 Wahoos. Neither of them even come close to being No. 2 of the ACC behind Duke. , which is ranked #1 nationally with five 5-star engagements. Only On3 ousted Duke from No. 1 and has the Blue Devils behind Kentucky and Michigan State.
On3 has Carolina at No. 7, Florida State at 18 and Louisville at 24. Meanwhile, 247 has Louisville at No. 17 and Notre Dame at 25, not giving the ACC much love at all. Rivals has Louisville at No. 13, UNC 15, FSU at 24, followed by Pitt 26 and UVA 28.
Bronco has “the itch”
We’ve all wondered how long it would take former Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall not to coach football. He sold his ranch in Charlottesville to former UVA All-American Chris Long in the spring and moved back west where Bronco trained for a triathlon.
He started a podcast called “HeadCoachU” and recently said he was ready to coach again. Mendenhall shocked the college football world when he resigned just days after a season-ending loss to Virginia Tech.
In typical Bronco fashion, he said on the podcast, “I’ve taken a break, reflected, renewed and I’m ready to coach again. It just felt like the perfect time to put the infrastructure in place to relaunch with more clarity, more purpose, more passion and more perspective than we could possibly have without pausing.
Mendenhall also said, “I’m drawn to programs that have struggled and maybe help them improve. I look forward to winning back the hearts and minds of young people and helping them grow.
Most people who know Mendenhall think he would be best suited for a program somewhere in the western part of the country, and there are two programs – both struggling – that fired their coaches early this season: Arizona State and Nebraska.
Will the UVA be run or will it go to Syracuse?
While it can’t be ignored that Syracuse gave up more than 400 yards in the air to Purdue in last week’s 32-29 shootout, will UVA try to do the same? Where try to control the clock by running the ball against Orange?
Either way, QB Brennan Armstrong will have to rise to the challenge of acknowledging what the Syracuse defense is throwing at him. Tony Elliott said this week that in a 10-game practice, Syracuse could show 10 different defensive fronts and an assortment of blitzes.
It can certainly play havoc with Virginia’s passing game, but what does this variation of setups do to a running game? What challenges does play-caller Des Kitchings face when trying to kick the ball against all these unpredictable fronts?
I asked Elliott to elaborate on that.
“I think you have to make sure you don’t have too many variations because you’re going to have to prep your guys by showing them all the different looks, because it’s going to be too hard to just ‘check with me’ everything. time and try to get into the perfect spot,” Elliott said. “You’re going to have to have call-it-and-run-it plays, and when you’ve got that, then the offensive line has got to block everything. ‘she sees.
“So the most important thing is that the backs have to understand what kind of game it is. I call it – you have to get the yards dirty – game. You have to run through the smoke, kind of like NASCAR There’s wreckage ahead of you, but you better hit the gas, close your eyes and hope to make it to the other side They’re gonna have to have a downhill mentality and they’re gonna have gummies because that it’s going to be hard to expect the guys in front to be perfect with all the moves.
Elliott said it’s not just about the lineups, as Syracuse will line up one way but constantly move. There is a twist (cascade) on every game.
“They have the backers coming in and picking and looping and all that… I think you go with your basic race plan. Don’t make it too expensive and prepare the guys as best you can and then capitalize too because some of the opportunities are going to be there,” Elliott said.
With all of Syracuse’s movement, there will be creases, so fullbacks will need to have the vision, find the crease, and then have eye-foot coordination to be able to make the cut to hit the crease and keep Virginia in front of the chains.
“That’s the key,” Elliott said. “If you can stay ahead of the chains, you can also keep [Syracuse] of some of the exotic stuff that they get into on long runs.
Covering all the bases…
- The Indiana Pacers signed former UVA forward Justin Anderson on Friday.
- Another Hoo, Mamadi Diakite, recently signed a training camp contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Virginia basketball is up against Indiana a lot on the recruiting track, including a new prospect in the recruiting class of 2025, EJ Walker of Erlanger, Ky. He has offers from Purdue and Virginia- Western. Indiana was visiting Friday, but UVA, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Minnesota are showing interest.
- UVA was there to see the Rakease Passmore 4-Star Junior on Thursday. The Cavaliers recently offered Passmore. Indiana (two coaches), Tennessee, Georgia, Oregon and Seton Hall were also to be discovered.
- Virginia coaches are burning the recruiting trail, having stopped by Collegiate in Richmond this week to watch 2025 goaltender Donovan Richardson.
- Virginia was also in Lincolnton, NC at Combine Academy to see 4-star point guard Silas Demary Jr., ranked No. 61 nationally by On3’s Class of 2023 Rankings. He was part of the first team at the NBA Top 100 camp in Orlando this summer. He is one of the top five point guards available in the country. Guess what… Indiana was also visiting.
- UVA has also expressed interest in 2024 prospect Landren Blocker, a 6-4 guard from Little Rock, Ark.
- Former Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert, released from the Green Bay Packers a few weeks ago, has now been in camp with the San Francisco 49ers since Trey Lance broke his ankle last Sunday against the Seahawks.
- Pavin Smith ripped a home run in his first IL game of 60 days, for AAA Reno on Wednesday.
- Meanwhile, Zack Gelof was called up to Triple-A Las Vegas this week. He is the No. 4 prospect in athletics.
- Additionally, another former Cavalier, pitcher Will Geerdes, picked up a playoff victory for Lake Elsinore this week. In his last six games, the right-hander has allowed just three earned runs and struck out 21 in 20 innings, while recording two wins and one stoppage.
- Once upon a time, Sylven Landesberg was a basketball star from Virginia, who turned pro too early and is now back in China for his 13th season in professional basketball. He left UVA after his sophomore year but never touched the NBA.
- In another “Where are they now?” Former Wahoo hoop Lars Mikalauskas (2006-08) has signed with BC Telsiai of Lithuania. This will be his 15th year as a pro. Last season, Palangos Kursiai averaged 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
- Some observers are high on Miami football after giving A&M a decent battle, but the Hurricanes became the first team since 2000 to post 27 or more first downs and not score a touchdown.
- In UVA tennis, Dylan Dietrich of Switzerland has committed to the Cavaliers, according to tennis insider Parsa Bombs, who shares news regarding all levels of tennis. The 17-year-old will join UVA in the fall of 2023. He recently qualified for the men’s doubles final at the US Open and sits 41st in the ITF junior rankings.