Well the votes are in, and around Hooville, if the 3-9 season still seems like a bad dream, then the 126 votes that the Cavaliers received on ACC Media Day seems like a nightmare. Immediately, the boards were buzzing with the sounds of “it’s just preseason” and “what do these clowns know”, and “when is soccer season again?” And while I put as much stock in ACC preseason votes as I put in my old AIG portfolio, I do believe there is some truth behind the numbers.
And why not? Outside of 2006, when the voters picked Wake Forrest last in the Atlantic Division and then the Demon Deacons ended up winning the ACC Championship, there really hasn’t been any glaring errors. Now that’s not to say that teams won’t over-preform or under-preform; that is the best part of watching football. The ACC preseason vote is just a jumping off point for discussion based on past performance and future expectations.
So why was Virginia picked last? Well several obvious reasons:
- Past Performance. When you go 3-9 the season before with a loss to William & Mary, there just isn’t a lot going for you. Groh left the offensive in shambles and not very well stocked. With London coming in he is converting the offensive back to the pro style that worked while he was at UVa in 2002 and 2007, but that might be a few years out.
- The Afore Mentioned Coaching Change. Groh out and London in. Short of Bill Belichick coming in, you will always take a hit with reporters your first season.
- Quarterback. There is a very short list of quarterbacks at UVa with playing experience that will take the field on game day. They are Marc Verica and Shawn Moore. Unfortunately, Moore used all his eligibility up in the early 1990s so he’s out. So it is now Verica’s team, and while he has a good arm and will throw some touchdowns, he throws more interceptions. Also there is still no clearcut #2 behind him. Metheny has the edge, but Strauss could be another option if needed.
- Running Back. Another interesting battle this off season will be who starts in the back field. A lot of choices from players who either show a lot of promise or who have not yet shown their potential. Jones (So.) and Panye (Sr.) will battle until Wallace (RFr.) gets healthy and Parks (Fr.) gets to camp. Just need one.
- The Switch to the 4-3. When Groh left, the 3-4 defensive alignment went as well. And while most people around Charlottesville like the change, it’s hard to adjust the first couple of years as you don’t have as many defensive linemen on your roster. A lot of outside linebackers are converting to down linemen, and that is significant change.
That will pretty much do it for why they are last. But as I am an alum of Virginia, I am contractually obligated to say a few good things about the upcoming season. So here are a few reasons why they could be better than advertised.
- Secondary. The one good thing about Groh was that every talented ATH he recruited became a either a CB or S. Ras-I Dowling is a Top-20 NFL Draft pick and the rest of the secondary is fast and tall, and have been playing together for 2 years. Depth is not an issue either.
- WRs and the return of the TE. Well while the Cavs aren’t stocked, they will have more options to throw to this year than in years past. Smith, Burd, Inman, and Green will definitely bring some speed to the vertical game. Also bringing back the TE as a passing option (and in general) will be something that we have missed since the days of Heath Miller, Chris Luzar, Patrick Estes, and Billy Baber (all of who went on to the NFL). Senior Joe Torchia will anchor this position.
- O-Line. The starting five is an upperclassman laden group. Add Morgan Moses, who was a Top-5 national recruit from 2008, and they should give Verica a little more time in the pocket.
- Linebackers. While most of the OLB will be DEs in the 4-3, there is still plenty of young talent that saw the field a lot last year (they were not the reason for the 3-9 season, see: Offense).
- Coaching Change. Although the results might not show up this year, the culture has changed in the past months since he was hired, from changing the uniform to moving practices off grounds. But the kids know who their coach is going to be next year and the year after that, and that has them motivated.
Overall it is not going to be the Hoos year. . .again. But any signs of improvement under London can quickly turn the tide in Charlottesville.
– Column courtesy of LambethField.com