UVA Football: Coach London Cleans House, Four Assistants Fired
Virginia football will have an entirely different look in 2013.
On Saturday, starting quarterback Michael Rocco was granted a transfer after finishing eighth all-time in total yards for a Virginia quarterback.
Not to be outdone, coach Mike London announced Sunday that four assistant coaches are being let go. They include defensive coordinator Jim Reid, defensive line coach Jeff Hanson, tight ends coach Shawn Moore and running backs coach Mike Faragalli.
Anthony Poindexter has also been stripped off his special teams duty but will apparently still be on staff in some capacity.
While most expected a major shake-up, the actual fruition of it has to be noteworthy.
At first blush, the Reid firing may seem confusing. Reid and London have known each other since their days in Richmond when London was an assistant under Reid. Hiring him was one of the first moves for Virginia's newest coach, and yet he was unceremoniously shown the door despite an impressive defensive turnaround this season.
With so many new and inexperienced players, particularly in the secondary, many wanted to give Reid credit for their improved play. Their performance in Blacksburg was commendable, but they also benefited from 20-30 mph winds and inconsistent play from Logan Thomas.
This defense still suffered from sloppy tackling and blown coverages consistently in three seasons.
Reid, along with Hanson on the defensive line, put together a unit that finished 10th, fifth and seventh in the ACC in scoring defense. They also finished 11th in sacks this season and dead last in interceptions.
Which assistant deserved a reprieve?
Progress or not, the defense was the biggest weakness on this team, and Reid's booting shows that the expectations will be much higher for his successor.
Without question, the most justifiable firing would be the one man who was spared the axe entirely. Poindexter's time with the special teams unit was close to an unmitigated disaster.
Virginia struggled mightily finding punt and kick returners that could properly read the field in front of them. The Cavaliers were dead last in kickoff coverage this season, and it was a special teams blunder that cost Virginia a chance for a comeback victory against Louisiana Tech when there were 12 men on the field for a fourth-down attempt by the Bulldogs.
Kickers were inconsistent over these three years going a combined 38-of-58, and penalties kept Virginia losing in the field-position battle.
Yet, Poindexter's legendary status as a player and his knack for recruiting makes his value to the team hard to ignore. Therefore, London made a wise choice in simply reassigning the former All-American safety.
No one knows at this moment what his new role will be, but we do know that past glories as a player was not enough to save Shawn Moore from the pink slip.
Moore, arguably the greatest quarterback in school history, is done after three years on the offensive side of the ball. As a tight ends coach, Moore was in charge of special talents like Jake McGee, whose dramatic catches helped lead Virginia to critical wins over Penn State and Miami.
Moore's name was not high on the list of potential scapegoats as collateral damage for the disastrous season, but his loss makes many wonder what will happen to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
While Lazor has not been named in this release his status is still unclear going forward. The former NFL assistant apparently interviewed last week for the Georgia State position, ultimately losing out.
He has been a good soldier for Coach London and said all the right things, but he has also made it clear the amount of loyalty he has shown for Rocco. He had helped develop the young man from Lynchburg, Virginia, and seemed convinced that he could continue to grow the playbook with him under center.
Yet when Phillip Sims was thrown under center, clearly under the direction of London, the offensive gains of 2011 seemed to stop completely.
What was meant to be the crown jewel of Virginia football grossly disappointed, and Lazor knows he is going to get blame for a decision he was not a part of.
It will be interesting to see if Lazor wants to stick around, let alone if London wants him there. These two both have great potential and could find success once more as they did in 2011.
Yet everyone knows that excuses are going to be at a minimum next season.
These firings, though expected, represent a clear signal from above. London needs to put his house in order, or he will be the next one sent packing.
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