Virginia Cavaliers 2009 NCAA Football Preview

Virginia Cavaliers

Atlantic Coast Conference


2008 Record: (5-7, 3-5)

2008 Bowl: none

Coach: Al Groh (56-44 at Virginia, 82-84 overall)

Offensive Coordinator: Gregg Brandon

Defensive Coordinator: Al Groh


Returning Leaders

Rushing: Mikell Simpson, RB, 262 yards

Passing: Marc Verica, QB, 2,037 yards

Receiving: Rashawn Jackson, FB, 79 yards

Tackles: Vic Hall, CB, 59

Sacks: John-Kevin Dolce, DT, 4.0

Interceptions: Ras-I Dowling, CB, 3


Other Key Returnees: OT Will Barker, LB Denzel Burrell, DT Nate Collins, DE Matt Conrath, G B.J. Cabbell, DT Nick Jenkins, S Corey Mosley, G Austin Pasztor, C Jack Shields

Key Losses: LB Antonio Appleby, LB Jon Cooper, WR Maurice Covington, DE Alex Field, S Byron Glaspy, WR Cary Koch, OT Eugene Monroe, WR Kevin Ogletree, RB Cedric Peerman, TE John Phillips, LB Clint Sintim


Coach Al Groh has been at Virginia for eight years now and the results have been relatively mixed. Despite the consistency of the headman on the sidelines, this year will look a lot different. There are a whole slew of new assistant coaches, most notably former Bowling Green head coach Gregg Brandon and Kansas State’s Ron Prince. And all those coaches will have their hands full if they expect the Cavaliers to reach a bowl game.



By the numbers the defense was not that spectacular last year, but there are plenty of pieces to build around. The front four did a solid job getting into the opposition’s backfield and Nick Jenkins, Nate Collins and John-Kevin Dolce are good pieces to build around in the middle of the line and end Matt Conrath is back after tallying three sacks as a freshman and could turn into the next great pass rusher to come out of Virginia. If the front three can manage to get into the backfield, the secondary will have a much easier time shutting down the passing game. Cornerback Ras-I Dowling is probably the best player on the team and fellow corner Vic Hall is the team’s leading returning tackler. Even sophomore safety Corey Mosley showed signs of brilliance as a freshman.



The problem on defense is the linebackers. In the 3-4 system it is extremely important to have some quality, athletic linebackers. Virginia certainly had some of those last year with Antonio Appleby, Jon Cooper and Clint Sintim. Now those three are gone, Sintim will be playing in the NFL and the Cavaliers have three huge holes to fill. Junior Denzel Burrell is the lone returning starter and he will have to emerge as the leader of the unit while the coaching staff figures out who to plug in around him. It gets worse on the other side of the ball. The offense continually struggled last year and that was with Eugene Monroe, one of the best offensive tackles in the nation, anchoring the line. Most of the receivers are gone and so is running back Cedric Peerman. There is a lot of rebuilding to be done.


The Bottom Line:

The good news is running back Mikell Simpson is back from injury and quarterback Jameel Sewell should be back in the quarterback mix after missing last year due to academic reasons. Sewell did a decent job back in 2007 as the starter, but Marc Verica was the starter last season and the job is his to lose. And considering the fact that Verica threw 16 interceptions and just eight touchdowns a year ago, it will not be surprising if he does lose it. The wildcard in the quarterback battle is Hall. The cornerback actually started a game under center during 2008 and if Sewell is not ready to take the team back over and Verica does not improve, Hall could spend a lot more time under center.


2008 Team Stats:

Rushing Offense: 96.58 (108th in nation, 12th in conference)

Passing Offense: 203.17 (69, 4)

Total Offense: 299.75 (105, 12)

Scoring Offense: 16.08 (114, 12)

Rushing Defense: 149.58 (72, 10)

Pass Defense: 183.67 (26, 7)

Total Defense: 333.25 (42, 8)

Scoring Defense: 21.67 (38, 8)

Turnover Margin: -.58 (94, 10)

Sacks: 2.42 (33, 5)

Sacks Allowed: 1.33 (24, 1)