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2007 Virginia Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 10, 2007


Preview 2007 Virginia Cavaliers Offense

Virginia Cavaliers

Preview 2007 - Offense


- 2007 Virginia Preview | 2007 Virginia Defense Preview
-
2007 Virginia Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Virginia Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
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 Maurice Covington
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 ends
Weakness of the offense:
Consistent passer, wide receiver

Quarterbacks

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 be developed.
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.
Rating: 7


Running Backs

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.
Rating: 6


Receivers

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 dangerous.
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 confidence.
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.
Rating: 5.5

Offensive Linemen

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
D'Brickashaw 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.
Rating: 7

  

Related Stories
2007 Virginia Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 10, 2007
2007 Virginia Preivew - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 10, 2007
2007 Virginia Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 10, 2007








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