Preview 2007 - Offense
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2006 CFN Virginia
What you need to know:
Until the receivers prove they can
play, it'll be run, run and run some more with mobile
quarterback Jameel Sewell and decent backs Cedric Peerman and
Keith Payne working behind a much improved, veteran line. The
tight ends are excellent, but the receiving corps suffered a
nasty blow when it lost leading receiver Kevin Ogletree with a
knee injury. Now it'll be up to Sewell, a rising star but an
inconsistent passer, to make everyone around him better. Don't
expect anything flashy for a while.
Passing: Jameel Sewell
143-247, 1,342 yds, 5 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Jameel Sewell
95 carries, 200 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Tom Santi
29 catches, 253 yds, 1 TD
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Jameel Sewell
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior WR
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB Keith Payne
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Eugene Monroe
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sewell, 2) Monroe, 3)
OG Branden Albert
Strength of the offense: Left side of the line, tight
Weakness of the offense:
Consistent passer, wide receiver
Projected Starter: Not only
did sophomore Jameel Sewell have a fantastic first
season, breathing life and hope into the program, no matter what
the stats might say, completing 58% of his passes for 1,342
yards and five touchdowns with six interceptions. He had moments
when he looked like a difference maker to revolve the program
around, particularly with his running skills, finishing second
on the team with 200 yards and four scores. While he was hardly
consistent, he has good passing touch and should grow into a
better thrower with more work. At 6-3 and 219 pounds, he's a big
presence who can command an offense. The problem? He missed a
large part of spring ball getting screws in his left wrist, his
throwing hand, worked on.
Projected Top Reserves: It's Sewell's show, but
his absence in spring ball was a blessing in disguise, allowing
the backups to see plenty of work. 6-2, 190-pound redshirt
freshman Marc Verica is a good passer, but not a special
touch to give Sewell any sort of a battle, while 6-3, 216-pound
junior Scott Deke is a big, smart passer who knows the
offense. With a big arm, he can make throws Verica can't, and
can also run.
Verica and Deke can play, but they might be battling for the
number three job once hot-shot freshman Peter Lalich
figures out what he's doing. At 6-5 and 235 pounds, he's a big
bomber who was considered by many as one of the nation's top
passing prospect. Not much of a runner, he's a pure pro-style
quarterback who might give Sewell a bit of a push.
Watch Out For ... Lalich. He didn't come to
Virginia to sit. He's good enough to start early on, but in a
perfect world, he redshirts and has four years left when Sewell
is a junior.
Strength: Prospects. Virginia almost always gets good
quarterback play, and while there might not be steady play from
any of the four options, all are great prospects with talent to
Weakness: Sewell's left wrist. The last thing the passing game
needed was Sewell to not get all the practice time possible this
off-season to improve his accuracy. If his wrist isn't right,
the coaching staff might have to go to Plan B.
Outlook: If Sewell is fine, he'll lead the offense
to more big plays than bad ones. The offense will have to live
through his mistakes, but there's too much upside to not let him
play through any problems. He'll play better than his
statistics. Lalich has tremendous talent, while Verica and Deke
are good passers.
Projected Starters: Junior
Cedric Peerman is finally going to be the main man after
playing second fiddle for the last few years. Third on the team
in rushing with just 153 yards, he's made his biggest impact
averaging a whopping 27.3 yards per try. At 5-10 and 205 pounds
with excellent quickness, he has to show he can be a steady
runner and be some sort of a workhorse. He has the power and
strength to become one.
Linebacker Rashawn Jackson made eight tackles, and also
saw work as a short-yardage blocker on offense. Now the
sophomore will be a full-time tailback using his 6-1, 254-pound
size and good quickness to be a physical, slamming blocker for
the ground game. He won't see too many, if any, carries his way.
Projected Top Reserves: Peerman might get the
start, but 6-3, 243-pound redshirt freshman Keith Payne
is an intriguing option. Along with his tremendous size, he's
extremely quick and will be more than just a power back. Even
so, he adds more pop than Peerman and could grow into a
battering ram to revolve the running game around.
Playing behind Jackson will be 6-0, 213-pound senior Josh
Zidenberg, who isn't a star blocker and isn't used as a
runner, but he's a great special teamer and has experience. He's
one of the team's best players on coverage teams.
Watch Out For ... Payne. Peerman hasn't done
anything yet to show that he's an every down back who can carry
the offense, and he'll need help. If Payne puts all his skills
together, he could be fantastic in a backup role.
Strength: Potential. Peerman is extremely quick, as is
possible backup Raynard Horne, while Payne is quick and
big. This could become a better corps than many will expect.
Weakness: Proven production. If quarterback Jameel Sewell leads
the team in rushing, there will be major problems.
Outlook: Peerman and Payne could form a tough 1-2
rushing punch, but each has to complement the other. There isn't
a 20-carry-a-game, every game back, but all the pieces put
together should produce a good attack. Jackson will grow into a
killer of a fullback.
Projected Starters: With top
receiver Kevin Ogletree getting knocked out for the year
with a knee injury this off-season, that means it's time for
6-4, 215-pound junior Maurice Covington to finally grow
into a top target. There were several good players in front of
him, but he didn't quite develop as well as expected over his
first two years, with just six catches for 45 yards last season.
He has the size and the potential, now he has to become a star.
Tulane transfer Cary Koch is a good route runner and
showed tremendous promise as a freshman for the Green Wave
making 23 catches for 308 yards and two scores as a freshman.
The 6-0, 198-pound junior isn't exactly go-to guy material, but
he should grow into a nice role as a second or third receiver
who makes teams pay from time to time for forgetting about him.
The team's leading returning receiver is 6-5, 250-pound junior
Tom Santi, a tough, physical blocker who has been a
strong receiver from day one. While he's not a Heath Miller, and
wasn't a deep threat last year after averaging 18.8 yards per
catch in 2005, he's a nice route runner with sure hands.
Projected Top Reserves: Needing to play a big role
right away are two redshirt freshmen who'll be thrown into the
mix. 6-0, 177-pound Slaton Jobe will be a quick receiver
who runs nice routes and should develop quickly behind Jobe, but
the real rising star is Chris Dalton. A 6-2, 172-pound
flash of lightning, he was a North Carolina high school track
star as a sprinter, hurdler and triple jumper. Not just a track
star playing football, he caught 64 passes for 945 yards and 14
touchdowns as a senior.
While Santi is the starting tight end, Virginia has two others
who would start for several other teams. 6-3, 254-pound junior
Jonathan Stupar is a slightly less talented receiver than
Santi, who's shaken the injury bug to be a major factor over the
last two years with 39 catches for 431 yards with a touchdown.
He always finds a way to keep drives going.
Also in the mix will be 6-6, 257-pound sophomore John
Phillips, a weight room superstar who caught two passes for
65 yards thanks to a 44-yard catch against Miami. With his
strength, he's mostly a blocker.
Watch Out For ... Dalton. The receiving corps is
in desperate need of someone, anyone who can throw a scare into
opposing secondaries. Koch and Covington won't register much
more than a yawn, but Dalton has the potential to become
Strength: Tight end. The trio of Santi, Stupar and Phillips is
almost good enough to carry the receiving corps and give the
Cavs some semblance of a passing game. Almost.
Weakness: Players. With Ogletree's injury, Virginia will be
without its top four wide receivers from last year. There are
way too many unknowns to start the year with any sort of
Outlook: It's not like the new receivers are total
stiffs, they are D-I athletes, but there isn't anyone
who's established. That could quickly change, as Virginia always
seems to find productive receivers from out of nowhere. This
year, the help could come from former defensive back Chris
Gorham, the running backs, and the tight ends to keep spreading
things around. Several true freshmen will be thrown to the
wolves right away.
Projected Starters: A major
problem last year, the line should be better with all five starters
returning. The veteran of the bunch is 6-7, 315-pound junior Branden
Albert at left guard, who has the size and talent to get the NFL
scouts interested. Surprisingly quick for his size, he was the best of
an inconsistent lot, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors. His only
major problem so far was his schoolwork last year before spring ball,
but all is fine now.
Next to Albert on the left side will be 6-6, 315-pound junior Eugene
Moore, who had problems last year with a dislocated kneecap suffered
in spring ball but still played in every game. He had the impossible
task of replacing
Ferguson, and expectedly struggled. With his size and upside, he should
grow into the job and be a far better pass protector.
One of the line's most versatile blockers is 6-3, 290-pound junior
Ian-Yates Cunningham, a tough veteran who can play either guard or
center. He's one of the team's most dependable and durable linemen, even
though he struggled two years ago with a back problem. Now he's a rock
to build around at right guard.
Back at right tackle will be 6-7, 306-pound sophomore Will Barker,
who had a rocky first season as he was learning how to be a starter, and
to play at a bigger weight after bulking up big-time. He has the frame
and the potential to be a mainstay for the next three years. Once he's more comfortable, he'll be a good on.
In the middle will be 6-3, 280-pound Jordy Lipsey after getting
better as last year went on. A solid pass protector who handles himself
well against quick interior speed rushers, now he has to do more to
pound away in the running game. While he's not all that big, he's tough.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-6, 298-pound junior
Zak Stair is a great reserve and a solid spot starter at either
tackle spot. He'll be the main backup at both tackle spots after seeing
starting time in seven games when Monroe couldn't go. He's a smart,
tough athlete who'll see more than his share of action as the first
lineman off the bench.
At 6-6 and 300 pounds, redshirt freshman B.J. Cabbell is a bigger
guard option than Cunningham. A great tackle prospect coming out of high
school, he's far better suited for the inside where he can use his bulk
to pound away.
Watch Out For ... Monroe. Considered by many to be
among the nation's top offensive lineman prospects a few years ago, now
is when he should take his game to another level and use his size,
experience, talent and health to become special.
Strength: Experience. With all the starters returning, the line
that took its lumps last year should be far more consistent.
Weakness: Depth. Stair is a great one to rotate in, but that's
it as far as experience. It'll be a trial by fire for several backups,
and there could be big problems if injuries strike.
Outlook: Call last year a step back to take a
major leap forward. Monroe's health is a big part of the equation. If
he's right, he joins Albert to make the right side special. The right
side will be fine, but it'll be the other side the offense works behind.
Still growing, this should be one of the best lines in the ACC in 2008.
For now, it'll grow into a strength.