To complement my “Better Know an Opponent” series, I’ve enlisted the help of some knowledgeable beat writers around the country who can help give a little more perspective about the teams the Hokies will be playing in 2013.
If you missed the first part of my look at Virginia, you can get to it here.
Now to the questions …
AB: Virginia has gone from Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims at quarterback to David Watford and Greyson Lambert. How would you handicap the quarterback race this season? Can the Cavs avoid a repeat of last year’s soap opera?
DD: UVa attempted 473 passes last season that were thrown by players no longer with the program: Rocco (266), Sims (203) and running back Perry Jones (four).
Watford attempted 74 passes the previous season, when he was the backup to Rocco and before he was redshirted last year. As a redshirt sophomore, Watford is likely to start the opener against Brigham Young but who will be the quarterback by the end of the year is maybe a bigger question.
Lambert, a 6-foot-5, 215 redshirt freshman, arguably is the most heavily recruited quarterback ever to sign with Virginia. If Watford isn’t getting the job done early — and it’s likely he’ll be challenged by BYU and Oregon — UVa easily could find itself with a quarterback controversy.
AB: How different will this offense look under new coordinator Steve Fairchild? Will it continue down the air-it-out trend that last year’s team seemed to be heading or is there going to be a renewed focus on the run?
DD: Fairchild has an NFL background, most recently as an offensive assistant with Norv Turner in San Diego. Another of his mentors is Mike Martz, who masterminded the “Greatest Show on Turf” when Fairchild was one of his assistants in St. Louis.
Fairchild replaces Bill Lazor, another NFL product whose Virginia teams passed for 3,000 yards in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. Fairchild’s offense is likely to incorporate many of the same elements.
AB: Fairchild isn’t the only new coordinator on the staff. Former Georgia Tech and Notre Dame defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is in charge of UVa’s crew now. What are the big differences he brings to the table from Jim Reid?
DD: Tenuta has a reputation for aggressive defense that spans a lengthy career at some of the nation’s premier programs – Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and N.C. State, to name a few.
Last year, without a name pass rusher, N.C. State had 33 sacks in 13 games and ranked 27th in FBS. Virginia, with 17 sacks in 12 games, ranked 98th out of 120 teams. In 2011, the Wolfpack had 40 sacks and UVa had 20.
The numbers don’t lie.
AB: UVa lost a pair of linebackers in Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds, but there are plenty of pieces back on defense. Is there more excitement about a defensive backfield that returns all four starters or a defensive line with some returning parts that could see Eli Harold start to come into his own?
DD: Virginia intercepted four passes all of last season, the first time the Cavaliers had fewer than seven interceptions in a season since 1946, also the first year for which the school has complete records. Three of those interceptions came in one game – at N.C. State, then coached by UVa associate head coach Tom O’Brien.
Almost all of the excitement surrounds Harold, who had one of the four picks last year, and fifth-year sidekick Brent Urban, a 6-7, 280-pounder who seems to have found a home at D-tackle.
AB: The Cavaliers made some significant staff changes last year to aid Mike London in building this program. Do you think that will have a major impact on a team that went from 8-5 in 2011 to 4-8 last year? With the kind of schedule that UVa has, is it too much to expect a big turnaround?
DD: With O’Brien on staff, look for the Cavaliers to demonstrate better in-game decision-making. London’s strengths are as a motivator but fans will remember the regular-season finale at Virginia Tech and questions raised by UVa’s late-game management of its final timeout.
The schedule is tough but the Cavaliers will play eight games at home for the first time in history. Home losses last year to Louisiana Tech, Maryland and Wake Forest point to an erosion of the home-field advantage UVa enjoyed for many years. Now would be an opportune time for it to return.
- 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
- Virginia: Team overview