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2010 NCAA Football Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

2009 Record: 3-9 (2-6 in ACC)
2009 Bowl: None
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Mike London (1st year at Virginia, 24-5 at Richmond)
Non-Conference Schedule: Richmond (9/4), at USC (9/11), VMI (9/25), Eastern Michigan (10/23)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 19.3 points per game (last in ACC, 105th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 99 (11th in ACC, 112th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 170 (11th in ACC, 105th Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 269 (last in ACC, 118th in Nation) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 26.3 points per game (7th in ACC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 173 (11th in ACC)
Passing Yards/Game: 184 (4th in ACC)
Total Yards/Game: 358 (6th in ACC)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.00 per game (7th in ACC)
Penalties: 54 yards per game (10th in ACC)

Returning Starters
Offense: 6
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Marc Verica, Sr (28 of 63 for 156 yds, 1 INT)
Rushing: RB Torrey Mack, Soph (23 carries for 73 yds, 3.1 ypc)
Receiving: WR Kris Burd, Jr (31 rec, 413 yds, 1 TD, 13 yds/rec, 2.6 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Steve Greer, Soph (91)
Sacks: DE Zane Parr, Jr (3.5)
Interceptions: CB Ras-l Dowling, Sr (3)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #81
Pre-Snap Read: #95
Sporting News: #68

2010 Pre-Season ACC Coastal Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #6
Phil Steele: #6

Mike London is moving up from Richmond and taking over what was the worst offense in the ACC last season. In fact, only Washington State and New Mexico State gained less yards on offense per game than Virginia.Virginia is changing schemes on both sides of the football and is in re-building mode. It should be a tough season for the Cavs this year but the future could be bright behind Mike London. We turned to the Virginia Cavalier based blog The and Blair Capps answered some questions for us about the 2010 Cavs.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

Intangibles could be Virginia's biggest strengths this season. The Hoos have a lot of question marks with the players on the field, depth, and specific positions. Also, the fact that a lot of guys are moving positions both on offense and defense leaves a very unclear picture for everyone, including the opponents. The leadership and enthusiasm of guys like Nick Jenkins on the field will do a lot to buoy the team, which lost a lot of heart and hope toward the end of last season's 3-win campaign. New coach Mike London has assembled a staff of smart, capable coaches who have managed to not only redesign the entire offense and defense during the offseason, but in addition they have gotten all the players on board and ready for 2010. So, in short, the Cavaliers may be relying on energy, enthusiasm, and effort to mask some questions.

As far as weaknesses go, I'm having flashbacks to last season when UVa tried to debut a new offense and failed miserably. This offense, designed by offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, has the potential to serve players well, but the players still need the talent and experience to execute. Senior quarterback Marc Verica has been "the guy" since spring, so success depends on his ability to execute and make plays. Verica has struggled with inconsistency in the past, but I believe that if the receivers do their jobs and get open, and the offensive line can protect Verica long enough for him to make a good decision, he will do just fine. Last season, Virginia failed to win more often because the offense failed to make the most of scoring opportunities.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

It's easy to jump to the second game at Southern California, but the very first game against Coach London's former Richmond team will be a very important hurdle for the Cavaliers. Last season, Virginia also opened its season at home against an FCS opponent, and that William & Mary loss set the tone for the rest of the season. If Virginia has an impressive showing against Richmond, it could mean a lot more to the fans who stuck with the team through all of last season. This will be the first game under Coach London, and it will be interesting to see how he gets his team to adapt through changing game situations. One of the more frustrating things about last year's team was the coaching staff's inability to make changes when things obviously weren't going according to plan. A win to start the season, even against an FCS team, will mean the world to this team and this fanbase.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Again, it's easy to throw out USC for this one, but I honestly don't care very much about that game. We're going out west to take on one of college football's premier powerhouse programs, and nobody expects us to win. Don't get me wrong, I would be absolutely ecstatic if the Hoos managed to defeat Lane Kiffin, but even a good showing would be enough to make me happy. Personally, I've always been a little bit in awe of Florida State. There is so much tradition surrounding that program, and I will always remember them as the team that stomped on Virginia Tech's title hopes in 1999. The Seminoles, under first year head coach Jimbo Fisher, are making a trip to Charlottesville this season. FSU is bringing a preseason Heisman candidate who was the best quarterback in the ACC despite missing the last four games of the season, a revamped defense, and a fast, athletic team with a major chip on its shoulder after barely being bowl eligible last year. I believe Florida State is out to make a statement this season.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Last season, punter Jimmy Howell was the very model of consistency. He averaged 40 yards per punt last season ... and punting - unfortunately - was a very large part of the game due to poor offensive production. Punter isn't a very "glamorous" position, but having a consistent guy back there on special teams can be a huge factor.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

A lot of the best offensive producers graduated last season, and this year there are a ton of fresh faces ready to make an impact. Kris Burd led the team in receiving last season, but his numbers weren't stellar (neither were anyone else's, for that matter). There is a lot of room for anyone to step up and be the go-to guy.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Sophomore linebacker Steve Greer led the team in tackles last season as a true freshman. He was named to two Freshman All-American teams and his 92 tackles were a conference-best among freshmen. A lot of people like to talk about Luke Kuechly at Boston College, but Greer as the potential to be one of the best linebackers in the country.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach its full capability?

On offense, Coach Lazor is reincorporating the tight end position into the game plan. Traditionally, Virginia has been a breeding ground for NFL-caliber tight ends, but last season the TE's were underutilized. Senior TE Joe Torchia is an experienced offensive player who should see much more action this year. He needs to step up and make the big catches and big plays when his number is called, because it certainly will be this season.

Senior corner Ras-I Dowling is an athletic member of the secondary with plenty of accolades, but his play last season was not what it could have been. Many times, he allowed players to get behind him and was forced to chase them down. Dowling will need to be more physical at the line of scrimmage this season and be a leader for the secondary.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

The Virginia faithful have been clamoring to see OL recruit Morgan Moses in Hoo colors for a couple of seasons now. Moses spent last year at Fork Union getting eligible to play, and the 6'6" 346-pound lineman will try to make an impact on an offensive line that has been rather mediocre in recent seasons. Moses' imposing size and ability to play either tackle or guard will be most welcome.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

RS freshman Justin Renfrow is an athletic pass rusher who could thrive in a new defensive system. The Hoos need someone to go after the quarterback, and Renfrow is a strong, fast lineman that could see some time this season. Another "new" lineman to keep an eye on is Cameron Johnson - he doesn't fit the freshman, redshirt or JUCO model but he's moving up from linebacker in a 3-4 to play end in the 4-3 and he has the potential to be a big-time playmaker for the Cavaliers.

Gut feeling on the team's final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

After last season, four wins would be an improvement! Win-loss record aside, more consistency, a better attitude, and a more accessible program would put Coach London's first season at the helm miles ahead of where things left off in 2009. He has already accomplished the latter two. London's enthusiasm, frankness, and ability to connect with his players have already changed the face of the Virginia football program for the better. If the Hoos can win games, keep the energy level up, and face challenges proactively, they could finish the season strong. Dare I even hope for bowl eligibility?

Make sure to visit to keep up-to-date with Mike London's debut season at Virginia. 

Previous ACC Previews:
Boston College Eagles
Duke Blue Devils
Florida State Seminoles
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Maryland Terrapins
Virginia Tech Hokies

Next Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Previous Pre-Season Previews
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Independent- Navy Midshipmen
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MWC- BYU Cougars,  Colorado State Rams, UNLV Rebels, Utah Utes
Pac-10- Arizona State Sun Devils, Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, LSU Tigers, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- FIU Golden Panthers, North Texas Mean Green, Troy Trojans
WAC- Boise State Broncos, Fresno State Bulldogs, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, New Mexico State Aggies

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