The Virginia Cavaliers had a rough go in 2013, only winning two games and being shout out of the win column in conference play. Head coach Mike London enters this season needing to turn things around, or he may find himself out of a job come December.
London has had one winning season since replacing Al Groh in 2010. He must make giant strides forward to avoid the questions about his job status all season long. This won’t be an easy task considering the schedule for the Cavs in 2014. The good news is there is a mix of potential and experience that, if coached properly, could see success during the fall.
Last season, the keys to the offense were given to David Watford, and the quarterback threw only eight touchdowns against 15 picks. That’s not good by any standard and if the Cavaliers get that kind of quarterback play again, they could be in for a long season. Enter redshirt sophomore Greyson Lambert.
Lambert is a former four-star recruit out of Georgia and was a huge recruiting coup back in 2012 for London, who won the battle for the QB over schools like the Clemson and Georgia. Lambert has a lot of potential, and he will need to live up to it this season for the Cavaliers to have success.
Luckily, he will have the luxury of handing off to a guy like Kevin Parks, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He should be the focal point of the offense with Lambert growing into the position and little proven production from the wide receiver position. If Virginia can solidify the offensive line after the departure of third-round pick Morgan Moses, the Cavaliers could see dramatic improvement on offense.
The Cavaliers were in the bottom half of the league in total defense a year ago, giving up 404 yards per game and 36 points per game. That won’t cut it in 2014. They need to improve dramatically on both of those numbers during the fall. The good news is that there was some youth on that defense a year ago, which means there are quite a few returning starters in 2014. With another year of experience, there is bound to be improvement.
Included in those returners are leading tackler Henry Coley, sack leader Eli Harold and All-American S Anthony Harris, who lead the nation in interceptions last season. That leaves an impact player on the defensive line, linebacker corp and secondary, which bodes will for the Cavs in 2014.
But, with the production of those three last year, Virginia still finished towards the bottom of the barrel as a team. There is still much left to prove, and the cast around them will need to improve dramatically.
The schedule, more than anything, could be the undoing of the Cavaliers in 2014. With a tough non-conference slate and their hardest conference games away from Charlottesville, it will be an uphill battle to make a bowl game. Only the non-conference games against Kent State and Richmond look winnable. The others against UCLA and BYU will be a struggle.
The Cavs must also go on the road against Florida State, Duke and Virginia Tech, which will be tough games to win. This isn’t a favorable schedule, and the Cavaliers will need to pull off some serious upsets along the way.
Toughest Games: Aug. 30 vs. UCLA, Sept. 13 vs. Louisville, Sept. 20 at BYU, Oct. 18 at Duke, Nov. 8 at Florida State, and Nov. 28 at Virginia Tech.
All six of those could be losses, and it’s unlikely Virginia will be favored in any of them. To guarantee a bowl game, the Cavs need to find a way to run the table in the other six, or it could be another disappointing season for Virginia fans.