Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 68 Virginia Cavaliers
There were some new additions added to the ACC this season, in the form of two new members, but the league was not the only ones who made some new additions. Virginia added some new blood to their program, specifically with new coordinators on both sides of the ball.
The head coach, Mike London, is entering his fourth season at the helm and it could be his last if he is unable to improve on their 4-8 record from a season ago. He had to overhaul his coaching staff after finishing the 2012 season by losing six of their last eight games but he brought in some coordinators with plenty of experience and success to help him turn things around. Steve Fairchild (Offensive Coordinator), Tom O’Brien (Associate Head Coach) and Jon Tenuta (Defensive Coordinator) have a combined 135 years of coaching experience and were brought in to help London take that next step.
Offense: The scheme on offense will not change under Fairchild, as the Cavs will continue to rely on their pro-style attack, but he hopes to greatly improve its production. Most of the success that the offense will or will not have is reliant on the play up front. Without an effective offensive line no team can have much success but it is particularly true for the Cavaliers. However, this year it could be different with four returning starters including standout Morgan Moses who almost jumped ship to the NFL but instead decided he needed another year to improve his draft stock.
With an improved offensive line the group that could benefit the most is the running backs and Virginia is stock-piled with some quality talent. Leading the way is Kevin Parks, who finished sixth in the conference last year in rushing, and he has the potential to be one of the best backs in the ACC once again in 2013. Their top recruit from this year’s class is five-star prospect Taquan Mizzell and he can potentially have an impact in his freshman year with the transfer of Clifton Richardson opening up some playing time.
Virginia, again, has a major question mark at quarterback. Phillip Sims would seem to be the clear choice, being the only guy on the roster who played last season in the wake of Michael Rocco’s transfer out of the program, but it’s not that simple. David Watford, who rotated with Rocco in 2011 before redshirting last year, has a chance to start along with redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert.
There is some quality experience amongst the receiving corps with senior Tim Smith and juniors Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell all returning.
Defense: The defense also has a new coordinator running the show and Tenuta plans to be aggressive from the get-go. That will immediately help defensive end Eli Harold blossom into the star he is capable of becoming after a head-turning freshman campaign. Tackle Brent Urban will anchor down the middle of the defensive line after coming on late in 2012.
After losing their top two linebackers from last season Tenuta will have to rely on younger guys to step up. Daquan Romero is the leading returning tackler amongst the linebacking corps and he figures to be their top backer in 2013 along with fellow junior Henry Coley.
With the type of defense that Tenuta likes to run it often leaves the cornerbacks on an island but luckily for the Cavs the strength of their defense relies in the secondary. Demetrius Nicholson and DreQuan Hokey hold down the corners while Anthony Harris, their leading returning tackler, and Brandon Phelps will anchor the middle of the secondary. The group figures to be one of the better units in the ACC in 2013.
Schedule: The Cavs have a very tough non-conference schedule with BYU and Oregon as their first two games. Fortunately, both of those games come at home, a place where they secured three of their four wins last season. The Cavaliers better try and notch some early season conference wins because once they reach December it is hard to see them winning a game with a Clemson, at NC State, at Miami and Virginia Tech finish. From the looks of it a 4-8 season seems about right for Virginia in 2013, something that would not bode well for London’s job security.