2010 NCAA Football Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 3-9, 2-6
Bowl Game: None
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 6th ACC Coastal
Offensive rank: 118
Defensive rank: 52

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Rashawn Jackson, 461 yards, 2 TD; Mikell Simpson, 386 yards, 5 TD
Passing: Jameel Sewell, 1,848 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT
Receiving: Greg Little, 724 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Steve Greer, 92 total tackles
Sacks: Nate Collins, 6 sacks (6 solo)
Interceptions: Chris Cook, 4 interceptions (1 touchdown)

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 4 vs. Richmond: Mike London's first game as the UVA head coach comes against a team he coached less than a year ago. This matchup won't have the splendor of taking on the Trojans the next week, but the Cavaliers can ill-afford to drop another season opener in what should be a gimme to start the season. Last year's opening week loss to William & Mary set the tone for a very disappointing season.

September 11 @ USC: Down year, probation, forfeited victories. Doesn't matter. The Cavaliers will be pumped for this one out in sunny Los Angeles. The 52-7 stomping they took back in 2008 can't sit well with the program. USC is still strong, and just challenging and staying with the Trojans to salvage a moral victory would be nice.

November 6 @ Duke:Again, this one won't have the same splendor of playing Miami the week before or Boston College or Virginia Tech a few weeks later, but Virginia is rebuilding and grabbing wins against their softer opponents is important in adding to the win column to gradually work their way up to another 9-4 season like they had in 2007. I'm not saying it will happen this season or even the next, but nothing kills a program's spirit like 2-10, 1-11 or worse…

Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)


Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Jameel Sewell, QB; Rashawn Jackson, FB; Mikell Simpson, RB; Vic Hall, WR; Will Barker, OT; Jack Shields, C; Nate Collins, NG; Denzell Burrell, LB; Darren Childs, LB; Chris Cook, CB

Key Returning Players

Marc Verica, QB; Kris Burd, WR; Matt Conrath, DE; Steve Greer, LB; Ras-I Dowling, CB

Offensive Overview

Last year's offense finished ranked ahead of just two schools: Washington State and New Mexico State. Improvement is a must for an offense that put up less total yardage and fewer touchdowns than 12 quarterbacks managed by themselves in 2009. Quarterback Marc Verica will lead the offense this season after backing up Jameel Sewell in 2009. Verica was the starting quarterback for most of the 2008 season with Sewell academically ineligible, but struggled in the backup role last season after Sewell returned. Ross Metheny and Michael Strauss competed in spring practice, but neither has attempted a collegiate pass and will likely start the season as Verica's backups.

In addition to losing their leading passer from a season ago, Virginia also loses its four leading rushers (Rashawn Jackson, MIkell Simpson, Sewell and Vic Hall). It's looking as though Verica must produce if the offense hopes to go anywhere this season with the running game in question. Torrey Mack is the team's leading returning rusher with 73 yards in his freshman season, but is not listed at either #1 or #2 on the post-spring depth chart. The O-line is also worrisome, having let up an average of 3.68 sacks per game last season (ranked 115 in the nation), although Oday Aboushi has been impressive in the spring and could fill a hole at the tackle position.

With few proven playmakers and with a number of starters graduated, there will be opportunities for the Cavaliers' freshmen to see some playing time.

Defensive Overview

The switch to a 4-3 defense has several players at new positions in 2010. LaRoy Reynolds, Ausar Walcott and LaVonte Battle move from defensive back to linebacker. Cam Johnson moves from linebacker to defensive end, and Matt Conrath moves from defensive end to defensive tackle. The defense wasn't terrible last season. They ranked in the upper half of teams in terms of total defense, but their 26 points allowed per game average has to come down. The Cavaliers let up 34 points or more five times last season with four of those games against ranked opponents.

Cornerback Ras-I Dowling was named to the Nagurski Trophy Watch List. He recorded 58 tackles and three interceptions last season and will be one of the leaders of the Virginia defense once again. He's also a name to watch for next April's draft. The defensive line will be replacing nose guard Nate Collins, who led the team with six sacks and was second with 77 tackles. The new four man line will be challenged to get pressure on the quarterback with Zane Parr, Cam Johnson, Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins on the line.

Special Teams Overview

Virginia is hoping that a kicker emerges that can handle all kicking duties. Drew Jarrett made all of his 17 extra point attempts, but did not attempt a single field goal. Meanwhile, Robert Randolph was 17 of 19 for field goals; he hit on all six of his extra point attempts. Chris Hinkebein did not attempt a field goal or extra point, but handled kickoff duties. Jimmy Howell handled punting duties, averaging just over 40 yards on 66 attempts.

Head Coach: Mike London

Mike London was named FCS Coach of the Year in 2008 after leading the Richmond Spiders, for whom he played defensive back in the late seventies and early eighties, to the FCS National Championship. He takes over at Virginia for Al Groh after two stints as an assistant with the Cavaliers. He was on the Houston Texans coaching staff a defensive lines coach in 2005.

With the Cavaliers, London will install a 4-3 defense and intends on getting faster at key positions on defense. He's also put an emphasis on recruiting and has reportedly reached out to high school coaches around the state. A quick fun fact taken from his profile on the Virginia Athletic Department's website: London served "as a detective for the street crimes unit from November of 1984 to July of 1989."

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Joe Torchia, TE; Ras-I Dowling, CB

Season Prediction

6th ACC Coastal

A lot of Cavalier fans are happy to see Mike London take over for Al Groh and many expect him to take the Cavaliers back to the bowl season sooner rather than later, but as for 2010, Virginia could be looking at another last place finish in the ACC Coastal unless a few players can overachieve a bit. If London is able succeed in his goal of improving recruiting in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers will be on the right track. It just might take a couple of years before his success in living rooms translates into success on the field.

Virginia does have a few promising recruits coming in this year including running back Kevin Parks, who could see some time at running back this season with depth at the position pretty thin, and Morgan Moses, a four star offensive tackle who originally committed to Virginia last year when Al Groh was still head coach, but attended Fork Union Military Academy in 2009. The Cavaliers have already received 14 verbal commits for the 2011 class and are well on their way to rebuilding their program. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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