2011 Record: 8-5 Overall, 5-3 ACC Coastal
2011 Bowl Result: Lost Chick-Fil-A Bowl 43-24 to Auburn
Head Coach: Mike London
Odds to Win ACC Coastal and ACC: 17/2 Coastal, 18/1 ACC
Over/Under Regular Season Wins: Under -6 1/2 -125 / Over -105
All Odds Courtesy of Bovada
The Virginia Cavaliers were one of the biggest surprises last year, the second under coach Mike London. After a 4 win season in 2010, no one really expected much from the Cavaliers. However, they ended up going 8-5 last year. Virginia actually had a chance to win the ACC Coastal Division had they beaten rival Virginia Tech in the last game of the regular season. The Cavaliers were crushed 38-0 in that game and had to settle for a berth in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl where Auburn beat them 43-24.
Those two blowout losses didn’t put a damper on what was a very successful season for the Cavaliers. In addition to the losses to Virginia Tech and Auburn, Virginia lost to North Carolina, Southern Miss, and North Carolina St, all bowl teams from a year ago. The Cavaliers also had upset wins over Georgia Tech, Miami, and Florida St. The Cavaliers were 5-1 in one possession games last season.
Certainly, Virginia overachieved last year, and lot of experts expect a backslide this year. I don’t know about that. London has proven himself to be a good coach, and the schedule is favorable. The Cavs could make another run to the division title.
Virginia runs a pro style attack under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. The offense was fourth in the ACC in total offense, but ninth in scoring. The main problem was a lack of big play receivers.
Junior quarterback Michael Rocco was serviceable. He completed 60.7% of his passes for 2,671 yards with 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also had 2 rushing touchdowns and was sacked 14 times. Virginia brought in quarterback David Watford for a couple of series in each game during the first half of the season. He threw for 346 yards, 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The Cavalier coaches realized it was affecting Rocco’s confidence so they stopped bringing in Watford. Rocco is expected to be the starter, but he will face competition from Watford and Alabama transfer Phillip Sims who is eligible to play immediately.
The running game should be a strength led by the Swiss Army knife-like Perry Jones. Jones had 184 carries, 915 yards, and 5 touchdowns. He also caught 48 passes for 506 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Jones was the third leaving receiver for the Cavaliers. He also returned 8 punts last year and even threw a touchdown pass. Sophomores Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson also return. Parks had 152 carries, 709 yards, and 9 touchdown runs last year, along with 11 catches and a touchdown. Richardson had 72 carries, 366 yards, and 2 touchdowns, and caught a touchdown pass as well. Sophomore Khalek Shepherd was impressive in the spring.
The Cavaliers must replace leading receiver Kris Burd, who had 66 catches, 913 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Junior Tim Smith should be the go-to receiver. He had 33 catches, 565 yards, and 3 touchdowns last year. Sophomore Darius Jennings had 20 catches, 238 yards, and a touchdown. Dominique Terrell caught only 8 passes last year, but is expected to get more targets, as will true freshman Canaan Severin. Because of the depth at running back Jones could play more receiver if the group doesn’t live up to its potential. Tight ends Paul Freedman and Jeremiah Mathis will also get some targets. Mathis caught 2 touchdowns last year despite having only 6 catches.
The offensive line must replace three players with a combined 88 games starting experience. However, three players with a combined 58 games experience do return led by second team All-ACC tackle Oday Aboushi and right tackle Morgan Moses. The line should be solid.
The Cavaliers switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 in 2010 when London took over and brought in defensive coordinator Jim Reid. The defense was much improved last year after a shaky transition in 2010.
However, Virginia loses a lot of talent from last year, so the defense could regress from last year. The defensive line must replace tackles Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins. Will Hill and Justin Renfrow will be the new starters at tackle, and looked good during the spring. The ends should be some combination of Jake Snyder, Bill Schautz, and Brent Urban. All had playing experience last year, so there shouldn’t be too much of a drop off.
The linebackers will be led by middle linebacker Steve Greer and weakside LaRoy Reynolds. Ausar Walcott, Henry Coley and freshman Kwontie Moore add depth to a strong unit.
The secondary will miss cornerback Chase Minnifield who had 3 interceptions and 7 tackles for loss. The unit must also replace both starting safeties. The only sure thing is sophomore Demetrious Nicholson who had 2 interceptions, 8 pass break-ups, and 51.5 tackles. Brandon Phelps, Drequan Hoskey, Anthony Harris, and Pablo Alvarez all have potential but are untested for the most part. The secondary could struggle this year.
Redshirt freshman Ian Frye takes over at kicker from the erratic Robert Randolph. Frye has a strong leg and will handle both placekicking and kickoffs.
Sophomore Alec Vozenilek will likely take over as the punter from Jimmy Howell. Junior Drew Jarrett could also challenge for both the kicker and punter jobs. Jarrett hasn’t kicked in a game since 2009, as he took last year off from football. In 2009, he handled kickoffs and extra points for the Cavs.
Though Jones returned a few punts last year, Virginia hasn’t announced who will be the full time returner for either kicks or punts. Running back Shepherd returned 16 kicks last year, and averaged 26 yards per return. He also had two returns of 48 yards. He is the favorite to at least return kicks, but the punt returner job is still open as of this writing. The return game struggled last year.
The schedule isn’t too difficult. Virginia opens with home games against Richmond and a reeling Penn St team. The Cavaliers then travel to Georgia Tech and TCU. Virginia then hosts Louisiana Tech before opening conference play at Duke. The Cavs then host Maryland and Wake Forest, before traveling to North Carolina St. Virginia hosts Miami and North Carolina before closing at rival Virginia Tech.
With so many questions at receiver, in the secondary, and on special teams, Virginia will be hard pressed to match their 8 win total from last year. However, they do avoid Florida St and Clemson. I think Virginia goes 7-5 though and returns to another bowl game.
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