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Pressure on Darius Jennings to Lead Passing Attack for Virginia Cavaliers

darius jennings

Rafael Suanes – USA TODAY Sports

As Mike London prepares the Virginia Cavaliers for the 2013 season, pressure is building for this roster to perform. There are numerous questions at multiple positions after a somewhat rocky offseason that saw the team’s two most experienced quarterbacks leave the program. That puts the onus on some of the veterans on this team to step up their game next seasons, and nobody has more on their shoulders than receiver Darius Jennings in the passing game.

Jennings returns to the Cavs for his junior season after leading the team in receiving yards in 2012. He finished his sophomore year with 48 catches for 568 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. He’s the leader of a receiving corps that boasts excellent depth as one of four wide receivers coming back in 2013 who had at least 20 catches a year ago. Their ranks are also boosted by tight end Jake McGee, who had 28 catches last season for 374 yards and five touchdowns.

That experience at receiver will be a major boost to the wavering quarterback situation. David Watford and Greyson Lambert are the front runners after both redshirting during the 2012 season. Watford last played back in 2011 when he saw action in 10 games but completed just 40.5 percent of his passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions as a freshman. Lambert, meanwhile, has yet to take a snap in a college football game.

Whoever wins out will have to lean on Jennings and the rest of the receivers to help expand the passing game next season. While Virginia had seven pass catchers that caught 20 passes or more, two of them were running backs and it was actually running back Perry Jones who led the team with 49 receptions. He gained just 397 yards, averaging 8.1 yards per catch and scored zero touchdowns, so most of his work was in dump offs. Dinking and dunking isn’t going to get Virginia’s offense rolling, however, in 2013.

That puts the pressure on Jennings to emerge as a leader and keep the passing game focused on big plays down the field. If the passing offense is allowed to sputter once again, the Cavaliers have no shot of turning things around in 2013.

You can follow me on Twitter @Teeblerone and Rant Sports @RantSports

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There's No Longer Any Reason To Believe In UVA

Two weeks ago, the Virginia Cavaliers stood at 4-2, 2-0 in the ACC. Given how bad the rest of the Coastal Division seemed to be, there was optimism that UVA would at least finish above .500 on the season, perhaps make a bowl game, and if everything broke right, stay in contention for the Coastal Division title and a berth in the ACC Championship Game.

However, a 20-13 loss at Duke last week slowed that momentum, and Saturday’s 28-27 home loss to North Carolina not only ended any optimism, but it squarely turns the heat back up on head coach Mike London and his coaching staff.

Virginia wasn’t drastically outplayed today, and actually led the game 24-21 at halftime; however, as was the case for much of the second half — and several times over the last few years — a simple mistake cost the Cavaliers big time. With 1:17 to play and exiting a timeout, North Carolina lined up for a field goal that would have made it 31-27, leaving UVA at least a chance to win.

Instead, Virginia came out of the break with 12 men on the field. Carolina got a first down on the penalty and subsequently ran out the clock.

Such mistakes are the type you see when teams are led by rookie coaches, and while London is young, he isn’t a rookie. As fans streamed out of Scott Stadium in the final minute, with Virginia resigned to the type of befuddling loss that the Cavaliers seem to suffer at least twice a season, it became clear that this isn’t going to change.

The 8-5 season in 2011 was a mirage. Other than that, London is now 14-30 in Charlottesville. Despite his well-earned reputation as a top recruiter, he and his coaching staff either don’t use their talent properly, or don’t manage the fine points of the game that can cause a team to win or lose.

The penalty for too many men on the game’s most crucial play proves that the more things change, the more things they stay the same in Charlottesville. And with games left against Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, finding a reason to believe is going to be difficult for Virginia fans moving forward — if they pay attention at all.

Ed Morgans is an ACC Basketball Writer for Follow him on Twitter @writered21 and add him to your network on Google.

Virginia football's failings can no longer be hidden after home loss to UNC.

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