#72 Virginia Football Preview

Virginia Cavaliers

Overall Rank: #72
#10 Atlantic Coast Conference

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2010 Record: (4-8, 1-7)
2010 Bowl: None
Coach: Mike London (4-8 at Virginia, 28-13 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bill Lazor
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Reid

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Perry Jones, RB, 646 yards
Passing: Ross Metheny, QB, 171 yards
Receiving: Kris Burd, WR, 799 yards
Tackles: LaRoy Reynolds, LB, 66
Sacks: Cam Johnson, DE, 6.5
Interceptions: Chase Minnifield, CB, 6

Other Key Returnees: OT Oday Aboushi, DT Matt Conrath, LB Steve Greer, DT Nick Jenkins, S Rodney McLeod, C Anthony Mihota, S Corey Mosley, G Austin Pasztor

Key Losses: CB Ras-I Dowling, WR Dontrelle Inman, RB Keith Payne, QB Marc Verica, LB Ausar Walcott

Optimism is definitely building in Charlottesville heading into the second season of the Mike London era. Virginia took its lumps last year, but an excellent recruiting class and some quality holdover talent have the Cavaliers believing that they will go bowling again after a three-year hiatus.

Coach London spent much of 2010 just getting to know his players. That learning process should pay off this season, as eight starters return on offense and nine on defense. The experience is most evident on both lines. The offensive front brings back four starters, which should benefit running back Perry Jones as he takes over the lead ball-carrying duties following Keith Payne’s graduation. Payne’s 14 touchdowns will be hard to replace, but Jones brings a lot to the table with his explosiveness and pass-catching skills. When the Cavaliers put the ball in the air, they have one of the ACC’s top targets in wide receiver Kris Burd, who had 799 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2010. Virginia’s potential is even greater on defense. The unit struggled badly last season while adjusting to a new 4-3 front – the Cavs’ rushing defense and scoring defense both ranked near the bottom of the conference. But with three starters back on the line, look for significant improvement in those categories. Meanwhile, a staple of recent Virginia teams – strong pass defense – should continue thanks to three returning senior starters, led by Chase Minnifield, one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.

Virginia’s high hopes for the 2011 campaign could come crashing down if the Cavaliers do not find a suitable replacement for departed quarterback Marc Verica. While Verica did not make anyone forget former UVa signal-caller Matt Schaub, he did guide the Cavaliers to the third-best passing attack in the conference. If spring practice was any indication, quarterback could be a major weakness this year. In fairness to the passers, they are not surrounded by much in the way of game-breakers. Jones and Burd are good but probably not all-conference material, and behind them there is a lot of young talent that might be too green to contribute much this season. Defensively, most of the same players who were trampled to the tune of 203 yards per game on the ground last year are back. Will an increased familiarity with the 4-3 defense really make that much of a difference?

The Bottom Line:
If Verica were back behind center, it would be easy to pencil in Virginia for a winning record and a bowl game. But the huge uncertainty at the game’s most important position, coupled with lingering concerns over the defense’s ability to stop the run, make it hard to imagine the Cavaliers being more than a .500 team. Brighter days are coming to UVa, but probably not until the calendar turns to 2012.

Projected Bowl: None

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 139.33 (77th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 265.50 (25, 3)
Total Offense: 404.83 (37, 3)
Scoring Offense: 25.33 (75, 7)
Rushing Defense: 203.67 (106, 11)
Pass Defense: 192.42 (25, 3)
Total Defense: 396.08 (78, 10)
Scoring Defense: 28.25 (70, 10)
Turnover Margin: -.58 (101, 10)
Sacks: 1.58 (88, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.92 (62, 5)

Madness 2012 NFL Draft Rankings
#95 Chase Minnifield

Madness 2011 Recruit Rankings
#62 Demetrious Nicholson
#131 Darius Jennings
#147 Clifton Richardson
#164 Dominique Terrell

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