2011 Virginia Preview
Virginia RB Perry Jones
Virginia RB Perry Jones
Posted Jun 29, 2011

Virginia might have died down the stretch losing its final four games in a rough 4-8 campaign, but head coach Mike London is starting to put the pieces together. The defense should be better and the offense has some nice parts, like RB Perry Jones, but it'll take a few big upsets to make some noise in ACC play. Check out the CFN 2011 Virginia Preview.

Virginia Cavaliers

Preview 2011

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Mike London
2nd year: 4-8
Returning Lettermen
Off. 19, Def. 20, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Virginia Players
1. CB Chase Minnifield, Sr.
2. DE Cam Johnson, Sr.
3. WR Kris Burd, Sr.
4. OL Morgan Moses, Soph.
5. RB Perry Jones, Jr.
6. LB LaRoy Reynolds, Jr.
7. LB Steve Greer, Jr.
8. OG Austin Pasztor, Sr.
9. S Rodney McLeod, Sr.
10. DT Nick Jenkins, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sept. 3 William & Mary
Sept. 10 at Indiana
Sept. 17 at North Carolina
Sept. 24 Southern Miss
Oct. 1 Idaho
Oct. 15 Georgia Tech
Oct. 22 NC State
Oct. 27 at Miami
Nov. 5 at Maryland
Nov. 12 Duke
Nov. 19 at Florida State
Nov. 26 Virginia Tech

Don't read too much into last season's 4-8 record. Second-year head coach Mike London has Virginia gradually moving in the right direction.

There's a general feeling around Charlottesville that London was an ideal hire to turn the program around … regardless of how many games the 2010 edition won. Of course, it also helped to have been the successor to Al Groh, who'd become wildly unpopular at the end of his tenure. Bringing a fresh energy to a struggling program, London's biggest impact to date has been on the recruiting trail, assembling one of the ACC's top-rated classes in February.

The Cavaliers will remain a step behind the league's contenders in overall talent, but especially on offense. The defense, on the other hand, has a chance to be sneaky-good. Not only is it London's area of expertise, but the unit is rich in starting experience, including next-level CB Chase Minnifield and DE Cam Johnson. Plus, the learning curve for Jim Reid's 4-3 alignment figures to be much flatter than it was a year ago, when everything was new.

The offense, which showed intermittent flashes in 2010, is going to be Virginia's biggest stumbling block this fall. While the staff used the spring to sort out a messy quarterback situation, no starter has been named. Sophomores Ross Metheny and Michael Rocco built some separation in a four-man race, but neither has any practical experience at this level. And whoever wins the job in the summer will have access to a decent supporting cast, but not one that'll elevate the play of the untested passers.

Patience is the company line around Virginia these days, and for good reason. Having finished below .500 the last three seasons, the Cavs are still rebuilding. However, with the right staff and a higher level of talent on the way, there's blooming optimism that brighter days are ahead for the program.

What to look for on offense: Holy Moses. From the same school that sent Elton Brown, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Branden Albert, and Eugene Monroe to the NFL since 2005 comes Moses. An enormous talent—literally—the 6-6, 350-pounder is about to carve out his own path to stardom. Mike London's first key signee as the head coach cracked the lineup last October and instantly upgraded the performance of the entire front wall. The only question about his immediate future is where he'll line up. The sophomore can play multiple positions, showing up on the post-spring depth chart at both right tackle and right guard.

What to look for on defense: Blame it on Rijo. With all-star CB Chase Minnifield being avoided at all costs by opposing quarterbacks, the pressure will be on sophomore Rijo Walker to handle the demands of being targeted on the other side of the field. He's the lone projected starter who's not a senior and a sure-fire marked man in 2011. The Cavaliers are out to improve the overall play of a pass defense that failed to deliver enough game-changing plays a year ago.

This team will be much better if… the offense does a better job of extending drives. The Virginia defense is tough, but it's even stibut head coach Mike Longier when it's not on the field all day. After ranking 83rd or lower in third down conversions the last two seasons, the Cavaliers must convert on a more consistent basis. If the team can control the clock a little more than in recent years, everyone in Charlottesville is going to benefit.

The Schedule: The Cavaliers get a couple of warm-ups against William & Mary and Indiana before diving into ACC play at North Carolina in a key Coastal matchup. Southern Miss and Idaho need to be must wins at home before getting a week off to prepare for Georgia Tech. With the way the slate works out, Virginia doesn't play a road game for six weeks before travelling to Miami. The Virginia Tech game is at home, but facing Florida State and Maryland from the Atlantic is a problem. Making things even harder, the date with the Seminoles comes at the end of a run of three road games in four weeks.

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Kris Burd. Burd returns with his sights set on leading the Cavaliers in receiving for a third consecutive year. He's coming off his most complete season in blue and orange, making 58 receptions for 799 yards and five touchdowns. Showing nice quickness in space, he also has the fundamentals and long speed to give Virginia the field-stretcher in the passing game it desperately needs.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Chase Minnifield. Minnifield will begin the 2011 season as one of the country's premier cornerbacks. An early contender to be chosen high in next April's NFL Draft, he broke through last fall with 48 tackles, three stops for loss, and a team-best six interceptions. The son of former Pro Bowl CB Frank Minnifield possesses the pedigree, instincts, and ball skills to shut down one side of the field for opposing quarterbacks.

Key player to a successful season: The starting quarterback. Yet to be determined, it appears as if one of two sophomores will get the nod, Ross Metheny or Michael Rocco. Rocco is the more heralded of the two, but hasn't been anointed by the staff. Neither has much experience, which has everyone around the program a little skittish. While the eventual winner won't have to be prolific, he will need to spread the ball around with as few unforced errors as possible.

The season will be a success if ... the Cavaliers bowl for the first time since 2007. Garnering a postseason game would be a sign of tangible progress in Mike London's second season on the job. If Virginia can milk more production from the offense, the 2011 schedule could have six or more wins on it. The team plays seven games at Scott Stadium, and the non-conference slate is comprised of dates with William & Mary, Indiana, Southern Mississippi, and Idaho. Trips to Miami and Florida State may be tall orders, but the other 10 games should not be out of reach.

Key game: Nov. 26 vs. Virginia Tech. This will be a key litmus test for Virginia, which has lost seven straight in the rivalry, including last November's 37-7 thumping in Blacksburg. One of coach Mike London's many goals with the Cavaliers is to narrow the in-state divide with the Hokies, which has widened over the past couple of seasons. More than any game on the 2011 schedule, an upset here would signal that UVa is truly turning the corner and headed north.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Average yards per rush: Virginia 4.0 – Opponents 5.1
- Passing yards per game: Virginia 265.5 – Opponents 192.4
- Third down%: Virginia 37% - Opponents 42%

- 2011 Virginia Preview | 2011 Virginia Offense
- 2011 Virginia Defense | 2011 Virginia Depth Chart
- Virginia Previews 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006