Game 3: Virginia Preview

 



July 2, 2014

Virginia Cavaliers

2013 record: 2-10 overall, 0-8 ACC

Returning starters

Offense - Seven (QB David Watford, RB Kevin Parks, TE Zach Swanson, RT Jay Whitmire, LG Conner Davis, LT Eric Smith, WR Keeon Johnson)

Defense - Eight (DE Eli Harold, DE David Dean, LB Henry Coley, LB Daquan Romero, CB DreQuan Hoskey, CB Maurice Canady, S Brandon Phelps, S Anthony Harris)

Returning lettermen: 56

Key Players

Kevin Parks, RB: Parks, a senior, was one of the bright spots for the Cavaliers in 2013. Parks carried 227 times for 1,031 yards as a junior, scoring 11 touchdowns along the way. Far-and-away the Cavs' leading rusher, Parks also finished tied for second on the team with 38 receptions.

Anthony Harris, S: A second-team All-American in 2013, Harris led the team, and the nation, with eight interceptions. An aggressive safety, Harris notched 80 tackles, 3.5 of which for a loss. He also registered a forced fumble and 1.5 sacks.

Henry Coley, LB: Coley led the Cavs in the tackling department, with 91. Starting all 12 games as a junior, Coley totaled 10 tackles for a loss, a sack, and forced a fumble. Coley has started 21 games for Virginia.

Eli Harold, DE: Harold, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound junior, led the team with 8.5 sacks in 2014. Harold totaled 51 tackles, the fifth-highest total on the team, and tallied 15 tackles for a loss.

Overall outlook: The Virginia football program enters 2014 with head coach Mike London in the fifth year of his stint as the Cavaliers' leader. Coming off a 2-10 season, the Cavs are desperate to turn things around in 2014. Virginia struggled in all areas in 2013.

Their two victories came over FCS Virginia Military Institute, and by three points over BYU- their lone FBS win. The Cavaliers do, however, return 15 total starters, and just about all of their key players from last season. The schedule also sets up favorably for the team. The Cavs' trek through the ACC Coastal division will see them welcome Louisville, North Carolina, and Miami to Scott Stadium. Road games against Duke and Florida State loom, but having a tough slate of opponents at home will help. An experienced group of upperclassmen and a desperate climate surrounding Mike London should foster improvement this fall. Since going 8-5 in 2011, London has won just six games over the course of the last two seasons. The returning group of junior and seniors could be playing for their coach's job in 2014.

Offense:
On offense is where Virginia is in most need of improvement. Their 19.8 points-per-game in 2013 ranked No. 109 in the nation, and their average of 368.4 yards-per-game ranked No. 89. Outside of running back Kevin Parks, the Cavaliers struggled to find any playmakers. Fortunately for them, Parks will return to head the ground game in 2014. Spelling Parks in spots will likely be Khalek Shepherd. A senior-to-be, Shepherd carried 51 times last season, gaining 315 yards and scoring a touchdown. Of all the team's needs, quarterback may be the most glaring. Junior David Watford, who started all 12 games last season, returns this season, but there it is still up in the air as to whether or not he will be the starter. Watford struggled last season, tossing 15 interceptions and just eight touchdowns. Greyson Lambert, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, served as Watford's backup last season appearing in seven games, and could claim the job with an impressive camp. The Cavalier receiving corps will look to bump their production this season as well. Given the offense's heavy reliance on Parks, no one receiver posted big numbers last season. No pass-catcher totaled more than 400 yards receiving, or managed to haul in more than three scoring passes. Jake McGee led the Cavs in receptions with 43. Darius Jennings, a senior, led the team with three touchdown catches. Three of five starters return along the offensive line. Junior Jay Whitmire returns at right tackle, senior Conner Davis will start as left guard, and Eric Smith, who started as a freshman in 2013, will start at left tackle. Cody Wallace and Eric Tetlow will likely move into the right guard and center spots, respectively.

Defense:
For the most part, the Virginia defense found themselves in the middle of the pack compared to the national average last season. Their rushing, passing, and total defense ranks were within the country's top-75, but their average of 33.3 points-per-game allowed slotted at No. 98. Half of the defensive line returns with defensive tackle David Dean and potential star Eli Harold. Mike Moore, a junior who tallied 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2013 looks to be the end who could potentially rush the side opposite Harold, while senior Chris Brathwaite is the projected starter at defensive tackle. The linebacking corps will be anchored by returning middle linebacker Henry Coley, whose 91 tackles a season ago were a team high. Daquan Romero, who totaled 89 tackles and four pass breakups, will return to start at outside linebacker. The other outside linebacker spot remains open, but could be filled by a number of experienced players, likely sophomore Max Valles or junior Demeitre Brim. Given its returning depth, the secondary will likely be the strongest unit within the Virginia defense. Four starters return in cornerbacks DreQuan Hoskey and Maurice Canady, and safeties Brandon Phelps and Anthony Harris.


 

 

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