Thursday, July 31, 2008

Virginia Faces Uncertainty Heading Into 2008

ACC Coastal #5 - Virginia Cavaliers

2007 Season and Offseason:
Al Groh notched an ACC coach of the year award last year after starting off the season on the hot seat in Charlottesville. Groh's club set an NCAA record with 5 wins by 2 points or less. The Cavs had a rough off season after their collapse in the Gator Bowl losing star DE Chris Long and suffering some academic susp. (Jameel Sewell), some defections (Jeffrey Fitzgerald) and a few arrests.

2007 Record: 9-4, 6-2
Returning Starters: 11
Returning Lettermen: 31
Off PPG: 23.5 (5), RYPG: 130.6 (6), 219.6 (6)
Def PPG: 18.9 (3), RYPG: 105.6 (6), 216.8 (4)

Offense (6 Ret Starters, 14 Lettermen)
UVA's offseason troubles centered mostly around the QB position. Last year's starter, Sewell, decided not to enroll for spring semester and is out this season due to academics. Soph Peter Lalich was handed the reins, but had troubles of his own. Hoping to alleviate the problems at QB will be RBs Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson. Peerman was the ACC's leading rusher until he got hurt. Simpson was the 'Hoos leading receiver and Groh wants to use him in a Reggie Bush type role. At receiver, Virginia gets their '06 leading receiver back from injury, Kevin Ogletree. The O-line will be a big question mark this year after losing 3 starters, including 1st round pick Branden Albert. Groh will count upon T Eugene Monroe to live up to his hype.

Defense (5 Ret Starters, 16 Lettermen)
The D-line was without question the strength of this team LY led by #2 pick overall Chris Long. But Long is gone now along with Allen Billyk, and the aforementioned Fitzgerald. The Cavs will have 3 new starters in their 3-4 scheme. But backing them up will be one of the best LB corps in the conference. The Cavs has 3 seniors returning and all are likely to get All ACC consideration. The defensive backfield suffered another academic casualty in CB Chris Cook. Also lost is SS Nate Lyles who started every game LY.

Special Teams
Virginia lost both their kicker and punter from last season. Cedric Pearman could be a best again at KR where he averaged over a 27 a return.

Newcomers of Note:
DL Buddy Ruff should get some snaps on a depleted line. Torrey Mack was a good get, but will likely be redshirted due to the depth at TB.

Schedule:
UVA wanted to have it easy in game 1 so they invited Southern Cal to Charlottesville. Other non-conf foes are Richmond, @UConn, and East Carolina. From the Atlantic, UVA gets vMaryland, @Wake, vClemson. Virginia's final 6 is brutal with trips to GT (road team is 1-12 since 95), Wake, and VT and home against UNC, Miami, and Clemson.

Final Thoughts:
Virginia will fall the hardest of all the ACC teams from last year. They had an unusual number of offseason incidents with key players at key positions. Do not be shocked if Virginia falls behind Duke this year in the standings and Groh will probably be back on the hot seat after this season. If they are going to ride to a bowl game, they will have to do it on Cedric Peerman's back.

Prediction:
Likely Wins: v Richmond
Likely Losses: vUSC, @ Wake, vClemson, @VT
Swing Games: @UConn, @Duke, vMaryland, vECU, vUNC, @GT, vMiami

1-7, 3-9

My Duke and NC State previews in case you missed them.

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