Now that the Virginia Cavaliers are through the first third of the regular season and the team sitting at 2-2 with losses to the two power-five schools, we’re being pessimistic this evening and addressing what’s been the biggest disappointment for the ‘Hoos with the team.
So, guys, what or who has been the biggest bummer for your now that we’re four games in?
Dontayvion Wicks. Who would’ve expected one of the best QB-WR connections in college football to look completely out of sync all season? Of his 29 targets more than 10 yards downfield, Wicks has caught just six and dropped four, and he hasn’t made any of his seven contested catches all season, per PFF. Brennan Armstrong has an NFL passer rating of 40.8 on Wicks’s 47 targets this season, down from 128.5 last year. Even scripted plays to get Wicks going, like back-to-back shot plays to start Virginia’s game vs. Old Dominion, haven’t worked. The ’Hoos need to find a way to unlock the star receiver Wicks showed he can be last season.
I’m going to go one step further and say the entire receiving corps. Virginia’s top three WRs, Wicks, Keytaon Thompson, and Lavel Davis Jr. have combined for 11 drops on the year. That’s easily the most in the conference as no other team’s receivers have more than six. Last year, according to PFF, Thompson, Wicks, and Billy Kemp IV graded out as the ACCs 3rd, 7th, and 12th best receivers. This year Thompson is the only bright spot at 20th with Kemp IV 82nd, Davis Jr. 86th, and Wicks 101st (out of 106). With Brennan Armstrong struggling to get time, he’s going to need to count on his receivers to make plays, something they’ve yet to do so far.
I’ve been disappointed to see Virginia abandon its previous offensive identity, without any apparent effort to establish a new one. And I don’t mean “We’re going to be tough,” or “We’re going to run the ball,” as an identity. What is this offense trying to do? What are the positions in the offense where UVA can find and implement unique skill sets that are available in lesser-recruited guys? We’ve seen the offense really struggle to put points on the board this year but — as usual — I have my eye toward recruiting and what the pipeline to Charlottesville is going to bring.
Right now, I can’t identify something about Virginia’s scheme or philosophy that would make the Hoos more attractive than a blue-blood powerhouse. The play designs and playcalling in the Syracuse game showed more creativity than the first three games of the year, so hopefully this is a problem that resolves itself with time. But right now, I don’t see it.
I could go with Brennan Armstrong here, but I feel like we’ve already gone into heavy detail about problems so far this season, so I’ll pick the team’s issues with the minutae of the game.
Looking at the offense, the ‘Hoos are averaging 2.5 turnovers per game. That’s bad and could be way worse if the defense hadn’t turned the first opponents over 2.8 times per contest. Armstrong and his playmakers have been sloppy and, if that continues, this offense will struggle to get back on its feet.
The team has also had penalty problems with an average of 16.2 penalties accepted against the ‘Hoos per game which has totaled 141.8 yards per outing. Again, not great.
Add that in to the special teams concerns with Brendan Farrell’s three missed field goals, Billy Kemp’s punt return fumble which resulted in a touchdown, and Syracuse’s big return to open last Friday’s loss which put UVA on the back foot right away are all examples of special teams being a hindrance for this team.
Maybe I’m being nit-picky, but piling these problems together makes it hard to win games. Hopefully, some of that is Tony Elliott learning how to be a head coach and that this team will put together cleaner performances as the ‘Hoos get deeper in ACC play.
Let us know what you think in the comments down below! Do you agree/disagree with us? Did we miss something?