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Virginia Preview 2006 - Offense
Virginia Cavaliers
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 31, 2006


Virginia Cavaliers Preview 2006 - Cavalier Offense

What you need to know ... While there aren't any obvious stars, this should be a better offense than it'll initially get credit for. It all starts up front with a line that has the potential to be tremendous if several problems like off-field skirmishes, academic issues and injuries turn out to be not that big a deal. Expect more of a pro-style attack with quarterback Christian Olsen a pure passer compared to the starter for the last two years, Marques Hagans. The running game needs the speedy backups to play key roles behind Jason Snelling, while the talented receiving corps needs Olsen to be steady.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Christian Olsen
7-11, 71 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Jason Snelling
58 carries, 325 yds, 2 TD
Receiving:
Deyon Williams
58 catches, 767 yds, 7 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Deyon Williams
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Christian Olsen
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Branden Albert
Best pro prospect: Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams, 2) TE Tom Santi, 3) TE Jonathan Stupar
Strength of the offense: Tight end, receiving corps
Weakness of the offense:
Proven quarterback, running game

Quarterbacks
Marques Hagans might not have been the ideal quarterback for Virginia because of his lack of height and style of play, but he was a smart, tough leader who made things happen. Now it's back to the pro-style passers with Christian Olsen and Kevin McCabe likely to get the most work this year. Olsen is more than ready to be the starter, but he appears to be a stopgap between Hagans and whenever Jameel Sewell is ready. Sewell is a bigger version of Hagans and will be the main man in the future.
The key to the unit: With Olsen not a threat to run like Hagans, the stress will be placed on passing efficiency and limiting mistakes.
Quarterback Rating: 6

Projected Starter
- Christian Olsen, Sr. - 7-11, 64%, 71 yds, 1 INT
The former Notre Dame transfer fits more of the traditional Virginia quarterback mold. He's 6-3 and 216 pounds with a nice arm and good accuracy, but he's not going to bring the mobile element to the game that Marques Hagans provided. He saw a little bit of time in three games and didn't get too many meaningful throws in, so he's still a bit of an unknown going into the year. It might take a game or two of live action before he becomes the true leader of the offense.

Top Backups
- Kevin McCabe, Jr. - 3-5, 60%, 31 yds
A big-time recruit a few years ago, McCabe is a pure pro-style quarterback with good passing skills. He hasn't been able to get out of the bottom of the depth chart until this year when he'll be the number two man early on, but he'll have to battle with the multi-talented Jameel Sewell as the season goes on and for next year's starting spot.

- Jameel Sewell, RFr.
Call Sewell the X factor in the quarterback mix. He's an athletic left-handed passer with excellent quickness and enough passing talent to grow into a possible starter. While he has far more upside than Christian Olsen or Kevin McCabe, he appears to be a year away from being a serious challenger for the starting job.

Running Backs
Leading rusher Wali Lundy is gone as is rushing quarterback Marques Hagans, so the onus will be on this group to produce at a higher level. Fullback Jason Snelling will start out as the team's top tailback, but speedsters Michael Johnson and Cedric Peerman needs to play a major role to add more dash. The backs will have to do more in the passing game needing to turn short passes into big gains.
The key to the unit: Johnson has to stay healthy. Snelling is a nice back who'll move the chains and will always go forward, but Johnson and Peerman have to shine to make the offense potentially special.
Running Back Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- Jason Snelling, Sr. - 58 carries, 325 yds, 5.6 ypc, 2 TD, 19 catches, 358 yds, 18.8 ypc, 2 TD
Part fullback, part tailback, the 233-pound senior is a serviceable power runner who was the main man over the final stretch of the regular season highlighted by a 126-yard, one touchdown day against Temple. There's no wow factor with him with little dash, but he's a steady producer with good hands in the receiving corps and is a solid blocker.

- Fullback Josh Zidenberg, Jr.
One of the team's top special teams performers, Zidenberg will expand his role and become more of a fullback this season allowing Jason Snelling to play more tailback. While he's physical, he's not all that big at 6-0 and 212 pounds.

Top Backups
- Michael Johnson, Sr. - 50 carries, 267 yds, 5.3 ypc, 2 TD, 9 catches, 87 yds, 9.7 ypc
There's no question the 5-9, 199-pound senior has talent and there's no question that he could grow into a dangerous weapon, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy having problems with a sports hernia a few years ago and was limited by a foot problem last season. If he's not the team's fastest player, he's second with too much upside not to keep on the field. He showed off a little of that speed with a 70-yard touchdown run against Syracuse, and now he needs to make more big plays.
- Cedric Peerman, Soph. - 70 carries, 237 yds, 3.4 ypc, 3 TD, 3 catches, 14 yds, 4.7 ypc, 1 TD
Peerman had a nice first half of last season getting almost all of his yards in the first five games, and then he was all but out of the mix. He's quick enough to be used as a kickoff returner and has speed and hands to become a dangerous receiver.
- Fullback Kevin Bradley, Jr. - 1 catch, 3 yds
Josh Zidenberg won the starting fullback job coming out of spring ball, but he's not all that big. The 230-pound Bradley is a much stronger, much more versatile option who'll see more than his share of work. He's a physical player who can catch a little bit.

Receivers
This will turn into one of the ACC's better receiving corps now that there will be more passing in the pro-style offense. Deyon Williams is a next-level talent who should have an all-star season with steady Fontel Mines and a terrific tight end tandem of Tom Santi and Jonathan Stupar to take the heat off. Kevin Ogletree is on the verge of stardom, while Emmanuel Byers and Andrew Pearman are speedy reserves who should play big roles.
The key to the unit: More touchdowns have to come from someone other than Williams. The passes will be spread around and everyone has to take advantage of the work.
Receiver Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Deyon Williams, Sr. - 58 catches, 767 yds, 13.2 ypc, 7 TD
The clear number one man, the 6-3, 185-pound senior has tremendous speed and All-ACC talent. He earned honorable mention honors last season after turning into a good scorer, and now he should shine with more of a passing attack implemented for this year. He was a steady target over the first two-and-a-half seasons, and then he blew up against Georgia Tech catching ten passes for 107 yards and a touchdown sparking a great end of the year.

- Fontel Mines, Sr. - 28 catches, 345 yds, 12.3 ypc, 2 TD
A pure possession receiver, the 6-4, 217-pound senior has enough speed to stretch the field a bit and become more of a deep threat, but his role will be to make the tough catches in traffic and use his size to create matchup problems. Expect him to be a solid number two man who takes the heat off Deyon Williams.

- Tight end Tom Santi, Jr. - 19 catches, 358 yds, 18.8 ypc, 2 TD
While he's not the second coming of Heath Miller, the 6-5, 238-pound junior is a tremendous route runner with good deep speed. After a steady  year, he finished with a tremendous  128-yard day in the bowl win over Minnesota. He's a good blocker who can be used as a fullback if needed, but his receiving skills make him too valuable to keep out of the passing mix.

Top Backups
- Emmanuel Byers, Jr. - 21 catches, 219 yds, 10.4 ypc
Byers grew into a strong backup who grew into more of a role late in the year highlighted by a 90-yard touchdown pass to Deyon Williams against Miami. He's a smaller, quicker option than Fontel Mines at one of the receiver spots with the hands to become one of the team's most dependable targets. He can be used as a punt returner if needed.
- Kevin Ogletree, Soph. - 7 catches, 27 yds, 3.9 ypc
On the verge of breaking out, Ogletree has the measurables to become a star. He's 6-2 and 184 pounds with fantastic speed, toughness and athleticism. He saw a little bit of time last year doing most of his work in the blowout over Temple.
- Andrew Pearman, Soph.
He's only 5-10 and 166 pounds, but he can flat-out fly. While he might be a year away from growing into a full-time role, he has too much speed to be kept off the field. He'll see a few carries to get the ball in his hands.

- Tight end Jonathan Stupar, Jr. - 24 catches, 319 yds, 13.3 ypc, 1 TD
Stupar stayed healthy and had a huge year finishing third on the team in receiving. While the 245-pound junior isn't quite the overall talent that Tom Santi is, he'll see more than his share of starting time and will see plenty of passes come his way.

Offensive Linemen
There are a lot of ifs. If all is clear and fine for tackles Eddie Pinigis and Zak Stair after some off-the-field issues, and if projected starting tackle Eugene Monroe is fine after suffering a dislocated knee, and if rising star guard Branden Albert gets everything straight academically, this has the potential to be a very, very good line despite losing three starters including D'Brickashaw Ferguson. The concern will be the depth with inexperience and size a major issue. If the front five can stay together all season long, watch for this to be a great group.

The key to the unit: Without Marques Hagans to scramble around and buy time, the line will have to be tighter in pass protection after allowing 33 sacks last year.
Offensive Line Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- OT Eugene Monroe, Soph.
Monroe will get the first shot at trying to replace D'Brickashaw Ferguson on the left side, but he'll have to return healthy after having problems with a dislocated kneecap this spring. While he's not close to being Ferguson, he's bigger at 6-6 and 318 pounds and should grow into being a decent all-around blocker over the next few years.
- OG Branden Albert, Soph.
Can he get into the classroom enough to be the main man last year on the left side? The 6-7, 306-pound Albert had a great true freshman season and has the size and athleticism to eventually become an All-ACC performer and a first day draft pick, but he has to stay eligible and he won't have D'Brickashaw Ferguson playing next to him.
- C Ian Yates-Cunningham, Jr.
Able to play guard or center, Cunningham wasn't quite able to be his typical self after having problems recovering a back injury. The 291-pound junior saw most of last year at guard and will now get the initial look at center with more size than the other option, the 268-pound Jordy Lipsey.
- OG Marshal Ausberry, Jr.
Back at right guard after doing a good job of replacing All-American Elton Brown, the 6-5, 309-pound junior had the look this spring of a blocker about to take another step up. He's one of the team's bigger linemen and should be one of the most reliable run blockers.
- OT Eddie Pinigis, Jr.
Most of his news this off-season was made after getting into trouble with the law after being connected to a fight in a frat house. The 6-7, 292-pound junior is expected to be cleared of the charges and still be on the team as a much-needed big body at right tackle.

Top Backups
-
G Gordie Sammis, Sr.
The 6-4, 290-pound senior was the main man at left guard this spring with Branden Albert dealing with his studies. He's not nearly the talent that Albert is, but he has been around long enough to be a competent fill in if needed.
- C Jordy Lipsey, Jr.
Can Lipsey get any bigger? He's a talented blocker with good athleticism, but he's only 268 pounds and would have to be part of a rotation if he can't add a little more bulk and strength.
- T Zak Stair, Soph.
Along with Eddie Pinigis, Stair was connected to an off-the-field incident at a fraternity. Assuming all turns out to be fine, the 294-pound sophomore will be a key reserve on the left side with starter Eugene Monroe having problems with a knee injury.

Related Stories
Virginia Preview 2006
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Virginia Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Virginia Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006








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