The lull of the college football offseason is in full swing over the next month. I’ll try to fill that void on the blog by taking a look at all of Virginia Tech’s 2013 opponents and (hopefully) getting some insight from a beat writer who covers each team.
The next team up is Virginia, which serves as Virginia Tech’s regular season finale.
Who: Virginia Cavaliers
When: Saturday, Nov. 30
Where: Scott Stadium in Charlottesville
Series history: Virginia Tech leads 52-37-5 (Last meeting: 2012 in Blacksburg, 17-14 Hokies win)
The coach: Mike London, fourth season, 16-21 at Virginia; 40-26 in five years
Last year’s record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC, 6th Coastal)
How they got there: As much as things came together for the Cavaliers in 2011 under London, they unraveled in 2012. Virginia went from 8-5 to 4-8, stalling any progress London had made from his first to second year in Charlottesville. A quarterback controversy framed the entire season, with high-profile Alabama transfer Phillip Sims‘ immediate eligibility complicating playing time with incumbent Michael Rocco. It was a conflict London never quite solved during the season, which quickly got away from UVa, losers of six straight in the middle of the season. A thrashing of N.C. State and shootout win against Miami went a long ways in preventing the year from being a complete disaster. But a Thursday night letdown at home against North Carolina ended any bowl hopes, and London’s mismanagement of the clock in the final minute of the Virginia Tech game made for a sour end to the season, leading to major overhauls to the Cavaliers’ coaching staff and the eventual departure of both Rocco and Sims.
By the numbers
- Rushing offense: 128.50 ypg (96th nationally, 7th ACC)
- Passing offense: 268.00 ypg (37th, 6th)
- Total offense: 396.50 ypg (62nd, 8th)
- Scoring offense: 22.75 ppg (93rd, 9th)
- Rushing defense: 144.92 ypg (44th, 6th)
- Passing defense: 208.42 ypg (33rd, 4th)
- Total defense: 353.33 ypg (28th, 4th)
- Scoring defense: 28.92 ppg (70th, 8th)
- Turnover margin: -1.17 (110th, 12th)
Offensive starters returning/lost: 6/5
Defensive starters returning/lost: 7/4
Biggest loss: LB Steve Greer. Tough call on this one between Greer and tackle Oday Aboushi, who were both All-ACC selections. Greer was such an integral part of that defense, though, leading the team and finishing second in the ACC with 122 tackles. More difficult than that might be replacing Greer’s leadership. He was a four-year starter.
Team linchpin: OT Morgan Moses. Aboushi might be gone, but Moses, a one-time prep All-American, returned for his senior season. The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder will move from the right to left side for his senior year, increasing his importance on the line, since he’ll be blocking on the blind side. He didn’t have the greatest junior season, failing to earn any kind of All-ACC recognition, but he has the talent to get back to that level this year.
Watch out for: DE Eli Harold. The top recruit in the state in 2012 only started one game as a freshman, but he made an impact nonetheless, finishing with 36 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and two sacks. Keep in mind, 24 of those tackles came in the final six games, when he started to establish himself at the college level. He’s a speed-rusher who should acclimate well to new defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta‘s aggressive scheme. UVa needs him to bolster a pass rush that produced only 17 sacks last year, third fewest in the ACC.
The 2013 schedule
- Aug. 31: vs. BYU
- Sept. 7: vs. Oregon
- Sept. 21: vs. VMI
- Sept. 28: at Pittsburgh
- Oct. 5: vs. Ball State
- Oct. 12: at Maryland
- Oct. 19: vs. Duke
- Oct. 26: vs. Georgia Tech
- Nov. 2: vs. Clemson
- Nov. 9: at North Carolina
- Nov. 23: at Miami
- Nov. 30: vs. Virginia Tech
The buzz: The administration didn’t necessarily show a ton of faith in London’s game-managing ability, forcing him to make significant coaching changes and bringing in former UVa offensive coordinator and former Boston College and N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien to serve as a sort of sideline consigliere. Here’s guessing O’Brien won’t allow London to keep two timeouts in his pocket with the clock running down anytime this year. With two new coordinators – Steve Fairchild replacing the NFL-bound Bill Lazor on offense and Tenuta on defense — there’s plenty of change in Charlottesville. It might be hard to judge just how effective that turnover is because the schedule is so darn brutal. Non-conference games against BYU and Oregon start things off (and Ball State is no gimme this year). The ACC schedule doesn’t get any easier. The ‘Hoos close the year with Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech, so they might have to get their work done early if they intend to get back to a bowl game following a year’s absence.
Why they should be excited: The offense has plenty of pieces back, including four starters on an offensive line that has Moses and center Luke Bowanko, a group of veteran receivers in Tim Smith, Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell who combined for 106 catches, 1,448 yards and nine touchdowns and perhaps the best receiving tight end in the league in Jake McGee, who tied for the team lead with five receiving touchdowns. Kevin Parks, who led the team with 735 yards last year, is also back, giving the Cavaliers plenty of weapons around whoever emerges as the starting quarterback between David Watford and Greyson Lambert. Given how much the ground game struggled last year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see top recruit Taquan Mizzell make an immediate impact. Defensively, Tenuta has a lot to work with, particularly a secondary that returns all four starters, including cornerback Demetrious Nicholson, an All-ACC honorable mention. On the line, Jake Snyder and Brent Urban are both solid veterans who should complement Harold well.
Why they should worry: UVa’s expected losses hurt. Aboushi, running back Perry Jones, Greer and fellow linebacker LeRoy Reynolds were all big parts of London finding quicker-than-expected success in his second year, and all four are gone now. But it was the unexpected losses that hurt more. Tired of the QB soap opera, Rocco split town in the winter, not knowing that Sims would wear out his welcome less than a year after arriving and get booted. Defensive tackle Chris Brathwaite was an academic casualty and once-heralded running back recruit Clifton Richardson announced he would transfer. That’s quite a bit of turnover on the roster, not even including the coaching carousel. Amazingly, considering how many bodies UVa had there last year, the biggest question mark is at quarterback, where the Cavaliers go from a Rocco-Sims combination to Watford-Lambert. The former duo threw for nearly 6,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2011-12. The latter pair has 346 yards and three touchdowns in their careers, all by Watford, so it’s a significant change. Defensively, losing Greer and Reynolds also means the Cavaliers lose 212 tackles from last year’s group. Somebody will have to step up to fill that tackling void.
The more you know: Four of Virginia’s new coaching hires — O’Brien, Tenuta, Fairchild and special teams coordinator/running backs coach Larry Lewis – have a combined 135 years of coaching experience.
- Alabama: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Western Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- East Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Marshall: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Georgia Tech: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- North Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Pittsburgh: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Duke: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Boston College: Team overview
- Miami: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Maryland: Team overview