Fiu, Cirminiello, Mitchell on TV - Campus Insiders | Buy College Football Tickets

2007 Virginia Cavaliers
Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Virginia Cavaliers Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

Virginia Cavaliers

Recap: The Cardiac Cavs unexpectedly manufactured nine victories, winning an NCAA-record five games by two points or fewer, and nearly copping the ACC Coastal Division.  With no stars beyond DE Chris Long and limited resources on offense, Virginia persevered behind the play of the defense and special teams, and that knack for pulling out close games.  Considering the Cavaliers began the season with a 23-3 loss at Wyoming, head coach Al Groh and his staff did a remarkable job of guiding this group to the Gator Bowl.             

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Mikell Simpson

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Chris Long

Biggest Surprise: Much of the season was a surprise, but none more than on Nov. 10, when Virginia destroyed Miami, 48-0, the ‘Canes’ worst home loss since 1944.  The fact that the city was giving a celebratory farewell to the Orange Bowl made the final score even more incredible.   

Biggest Disappointment: The Cavaliers were on the brink of capping their amazing 2007 campaign with a New Year’s Day bowl win before the bottom fell out against Texas Tech.  Presumably safe at 28-14 late in the fourth quarter, Virginia uncharacteristically yielded 17 points in the final four minutes for a stunning 31-28 defeat. 

Looking Ahead: Even without Long, the Cavaliers should again be formidable on defense in 2008.  The offense, however, is a different story.  While it’ll help to get RB Cedric Peerman and WR Kevin Ogletree back from injuries, Virginia needs to determine if Jameel Sewell is truly a quarterback it can build around the next two seasons.      

- 2007 Virginia Preview
2006 Virginia Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-6
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 at Wyoming L 23-3
Sept. 8 Duke W 24-13
Sept. 15 at No Carolina W 22-20
Sept. 22 Georgia Tech W 28-23
Sept. 29 Pitt W 44-14
Oct. 6
at Middle Tenn W 23-21
Oct. 13 Connecticut W 17-16
Oct. 20 at Maryland W 18-17
Oct. 27 at NC State L 29-24
Nov. 3
Wake Forest W 17-16
Nov. 10 at Miami W 48-0
Nov. 24 Virginia Tech L 33-21
Gator Bowl
Jan. 1 Texas Tech L 31-28

Jan. 1
2008 Gator Bowl
Texas Tech 31 ... Virginia 28

Virginia appeared to have control of the game with a 96-yard Mikell Simpson touchdown run and an 11-yard scoring grab leading the way to a 28-14 fourth quarter lead, but Texas Tech scored 17 unanswered points in the final 3:31 to pull off the win. Michael Crabtree toed the line on a 20-yard touchdown grab, and following a Rajon Henry forced fumble of Virginia backup QB Peter Lalich, Aaron Crawford tied it up on a four-yard run. Texas Tech got one last shot and went 30 yards in seven plays leading to a 41-yard Alex Trlica field goal with two seconds to play.
Offensive Player of the Game: Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell completed 44 of 69 passes for 407 yards and three touchdowns
Defensive Player of the Game: Texas Tech DT Rajon Henry made seven tackles and forced the fumble that led to the game-tying touchdown

Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 14-23, 78 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Mikell Simpson, 20-170, 1 TD. Receiving: Mikell Simpson, 5-36, 1 TD
Texas Tech - Passing: Graham Harrell, 44-69, 407 yds, 3 TD
Kobey Lewis, 8-33. Receiving: Michael Crabtree, 9-101, 1 TD

Thoughts & Notes ... 5 Thoughts on the Gator Bowl ... Virginia got pressure early on the Texas Tech passing game and forced several mistakes and misfired. Star WR Michael Crabtree didn't get the ball enough, and there were few long drives. And then the attack woke up in crunch time and went on a tear. The Virginia defense couldn't do anything to slow down the momentum. ... Virginia didn't have much of a passing game, but Jameel Sewell was effective until he was knocked out of the game. .Peter Lalich was effective for a short spurt, but his fumble proved to be too costly to overcome. ... Mikell Simpson once against established himself as one of the premier overall backs in college football. Just a sophomore, he has size, speed, and great hands to become a national star over the next few seasons. ... Texas Tech converted just nine of 20 third down chances, Virginia converted nine of 18.

Nov. 24
Virginia Tech 33 ... Virginia 21
Virginia Tech got up early on a nine-yard touchdown run from Tyrod Taylor and a 20-yard Jud Dunleavy field goal, but Virginia took the lead on a 27-yard Mikell Simpson run and an eight-yard dash by Jameel Sewell. Eddie Royal, who caught six passes from 147 yards, gave the Hokies the lead for good with a 39-yard touchdown catch. The Cavaliers just only managed a two-yard Sewell scoring run in the second half while Tech got two of Dunlevy's four field goals and a five-yard Taylor run to stay ahead. Each team came up with six sacks.
Player of the game: Virginia Tech RB Branden Ore ran 31 times for 147 yards
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 15-24, 121 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Mikell Simpson, 16-81, 1 TD. Receiving: Mikell Simpson, 6-17
Virginia Tech - Passing: Sean Glennon, 13-19, 260 yds, 1 TD
Branden Ore, 31-147. Receiving: Eddie Royal, 6-147, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Virginia simply got outplayed by a better team. Virginia Tech's offense is playing extremely well and had all the parts working despite a good pass rush from the Cavalier defensive front. The offense moved a little bit, but wasn't consistent enough running the ball and didn't get any big pass plays to loosen things up. While not winning the Coastal will be disappointing, a nine-win season is nothing to dismiss considering the overall youth and the preseason injury issues in the receiving corps.

Nov. 10
Virginia 48 ... Miami 0
Virginia destroyed Miami in the Canes' final game in the Orange Bowl as Mikell Simpson ran for two one-yard scores, Maurice Covington caught a 29-yard touchdown pass, and Chris Gould nailed field goals from 33 and 41 yards out. Miami's offense went nowhere with nine first downs, five turnovers, and a lost fumble to Virginia's Chris Cook, who took it 44 yards for a score. Virginia outgained Miami 418 yards to 189.
Player of the game: Virginia QB Jameel Sewell completed 20 of 25 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran eight times for 28 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 20-25, 288 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mikell Simpson, 22-93, 2 TD. Receiving: John Phillips, 4-77
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 9-21, 94 yds, 3 INT
Javarris James, 15-53. Receiving: Chris Zellner, 2-35

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All the momentum and all the fire was there for Miami to come up with a big game, and Virginia came out and dominated from the word go. The lines were fantastic, giving Jameel Sewell time to operate, and getting to the Miami backfield all game long and screwing things up. At 9-2, this has been an amazing season with a chance to make things truly special against Virginia Tech next week. At this points, it's finally time to realize that this team is for real and is playing at a high level.

Nov. 3
Virginia 17 ... Wake Forest 16
Wake Forest's Sam Swank missed two late field goals including a 47-yarder as time ran out to give Virginia the win. Jameel Sewell connected with Maurice Covington for a 39-yard touchdown pass with ten seconds left in the first half, and Mikell Simpson ran for a one-yard score with 2:18 to play to give the Cavaliers their first lead of the game. Swank nailed field goals from 27, 25 and 31 yards, and Kenneth Moore caught a 13-yard touchdown pass for the Demon Deacons.
Player of the game: Virginia DE Chris Long made ten tackles. a sack and two tackles for loss.
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 20-43, 225 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Jameel Sewell, 9-47. Receiving: Mikell Simpson, 8-77
Wake Forest - Passing: Riley Skinner, 20-26, 175 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Josh Adams, 21-74. Receiving:
Kenneth Moore, 5-59, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about a charmed life. Virginia has now won three games by a total of three points after surviving Wake Forest. The ACC title hopes remain alive with Miami and Virginia Tech ahead, and as long as Jameel Sewell and Mikell Simpson continue to make the offense go just enough to get by, and as long as the defense continues to get timely stops, this could turn into a special year. Eventually all the close games have to come back to bite the Cavs, right? Maybe not. It's happening too many times to be a fluke.

Oct. 27
NC State 29 ... Virginia 24
NC State shocked Virginia with three touchdown passes from Daniel Evans, starting off the scoring with a 40-yard grab, and ending it with a 30-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Virginia had a final shot, but backup quarterback Peter Lalich was sacked on fourth down on the Cavalier 19. The Cavaliers got two touchdowns from Mikell Simpson, and two scoring passes from Jameel Sewell, but he left the game with a leg injury. Mikell Simpson scored twice for the Cavs.
Player of the game: NC State QB Daniel Evans completed 26 of 46 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and WR Donald Bowens caught 11 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 24-43, 260 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Mikell Simpson, 21-81, 1 TD. Receiving: Jonathan Stupar, 5-40
NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 26-46, 347 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jamelle Eugene, 23-112. Receiving: Donald Bowens, 11-202, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Cavaliers were never quite in sync against NC State. The Wolfpack defense had a lot to do with that, coming up with six sacks, but Virginia helped the cause with five fumbles (even though it didn't lose any) and struggles from Peter Lalich when he came in to replace Jameel Sewell. At the moment, the offense is flowing through Mikell Simpson, but the more help he can get from the rest of the running backs, the better. This might have been a tough loss, but losing at home to Wake Forest next week would hurt even more.

Oct. 20
Virginia 18 ... Maryland 17
Mikell Simpson ran for a one-yard score with 16 seconds to play to cap off a 90-yard, 15-play drive to pull off the win. Simpson also cranked out a 44-yard touchdown run to keep the Cavaliers in the game, and then they got in range late in the third with a Chris Long sack for a safety. Maryland got its touchdowns in the first half on short runs from Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball, but only managed a field goal in the second half. The Terps finished with just 233 yards of total offense to Virginia's 439.
Player of the game: Virginia RB Mikell Simpson ran 16 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and caught 13 passes for 152 yards
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 22-35, 243 yds
Rushing: Mikell Simpson, 16-119, 2 TD. Receiving: Mikell Simpson, 13-152
Maryland - Passing: Chris Turner, 13-19, 103 yds
Lance Ball, 17-72, 1 TD. Receiving: Darrius Heyward-Bey, 4-52

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It might not always be a thing of beauty, and it's occasionally done with smoke and mirrors, but Virginia keeps on winning. Now on a seven-game streak, and winning the last three games by a total of five points, the defense is doing its part time and again, while the offense is doing just enough to get by. This week, it was Mikell Simpson doing a little bit of everything. Winning next week at NC State is a must with Wake Forest, at Miami and Virginia Tech to close things out.

Oct. 13
Virginia 17 ... Connecticut 16
Virginia  got a 19-yard Chris Gould field goal with just over three minutes to play, and survived a late UConn drive, helped by an errant snap and a false start penalty, to hang on for the win. The Huskies got three Tony Ciaravino field goals and a six-yard Steve Brouse touchdown catch, while Virginia got a one-yard Keith Payne touchdown run and an eight-yard John Phillips scoring grab.
Player of the game: In a losing cause, Connecticut LB Lawrence Wilson made 17 tackles and three tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 14-24, 149 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jameel Sewell, 16-66. Receiving: Chris Gorham, 3-76
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 17-33, 176 yds, 1 TD
Andre Dixon, 14-63. Receiving:
Terence Jeffers, 5-60
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Cavs haven't exactly been pretty, but they just keep on winning. It took some big errors by Connecticut to come away with the win, but the defense, for the most part, did its job all game long. The offense put the D in some tough spots, and the Cavs bent, but rarely broke. As nice as the 6-1 start has been, the offense will soon have to crank things up a few notches with a trip to Maryland ahead. Win that, and then things get interesting with winnable games against NC State and Wake Forest to follow.

Oct. 6
Virginia 23 ... Middle Tennessee 21
Virginia survived with Chris Gould nailing a 34-yard field goal with eight seconds to go. Middle Tennessee got two first half touchdown passes from Dwight Dasher for a 14-7 lead, and got up 21-20 after converting an interception into a one-yard DeMarco McNair touchdown run midway through the fourth. The Cavalier offense got two touchdwons from Andrew Pearman and a 20-yard John Phillips touchdown catch, but had to go 63 yards in eight plays to pull get Gould in a position to win.
Player of the game: Virginia RB Andrew Pearman ran five times for 45 yards and two touchdowns, while catching five passes for 56 yards.
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 22-37, 223 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Keith Payne, 18-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Tom Santi, 5-82
Middle Tennessee - Passing: Dwight Dasher, 17-33, 181 yds, 2 TDs
Dwight Dasher, 17-63. Receiving: Jonathan Grigsby, 3-39

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Call the close call against Middle Tennessee a case of not paying attention in the middle of the year, but it also went to show just how average the offense can be. After exploding on Pitt, there wasn't much pop, and there needed to be some late heroics to get out alive, but Jameel Sewell made the throws he needed to, and now the team might be even stronger and might have even more confidence. Unbeaten Connecticut is rested and ready, and the Cavaliers had better be sharp.

Sept. 29
Virginia 44 ... Pitt 14
Virginia scored the first 30 points of the game, all in the first half, as Jameel Sewell connected with Jonathan Stupar, Tom Santi, and Rashawn Jackson for touchdowns, and Cedric Peerman got the first of his two touchdown runs. Pitt pushed its way into the game with a LeSean McCoy one-yard touchdown run and a two-yard Oderick Turner two-yard scoring grab, but Peerman scored from 13 yards out and Vic Hall put it well out of reach with a four-yard scoring dash.
Player of the game: Virginia RB Cedric Peerman ran 24 times for 87 yards and two scores and caught four passes for 44 yards
Stat Leaders: Virginia
- Passing: Jameel Sewell, 16-31-169 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 24-87, 2 TD. Receiving: Cedric Peerman, 4-44
- Passing: Pat Bostick, 18-31, 181 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: LeSean McCoy, 19-86, 1 TD. Receiving: T.J. Porter, 5-55
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It wasn't necessarily a statement game, blowing out Pitt by 30, but with the way the Cavaliers moved the ball with ease in the first half, and with the way they answered when it started to get closer in the second half, the team is playing extremely well. Cedric Peerman is carrying the load on offense, while Jameel Sewell is throwing well, despite not having any receivers. Now there can't be a lack of focus. With winnable games against Middle Tennessee and Connecticut ahead before diving back into ACC play, this could be the stunning team of the ACC season.

Sept. 22
Virginia 28 ... Georgia Tech 23
Virginia answered a 66-yard Demaryius Thomas touchdown catch with 21 straight first quarter points on four-yard runs from Cedric Peerman and Jameel Sewell, and a 25-yard Jeffrey Fitzgerald interception return for a touchdown. Georgia Tech came back with 16 straight points, with a 21-yard Jonathan Dwyer scoring run and three Travis Bell field goals on the way to a 23-21 lead, but the Cavaliers took the lead for good on a 26-yard Stanton Jobe touchdown catch. The Yellow Jackets had one last shot, but the drive stalled thanks to two holding penalties. 
Player of the game: Virginia DE Chris Long made nine tackles, a sack, and two broken up passes
Stat Leaders: Virginia
- Passing: Jameel Sewell, 16-25, 177 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 28-138, 1 TD. Receiving: Jonathan Stupar, 6-48
Georgia Tech
- Passing: Taylor Bennett, 17-40, 230 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jonathan Dwyer, 15-75, 1 TD. Receiving: Greg Smith, 5-79
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Don't look now, but Virginia is all of a sudden 3-0 in ACC play. Beating Duke and North Carolina was one thing, but coming up with a win over Georgia Tech is another. Now the Cavaliers have to actually be considered as a threat in the ACC race, and could continue on a great run with winnable games against Pitt, Middle Tennessee and Connecticut again. To win those, the quarterback situation has to be settled with Jameel Sewell needing to take the job by the horns. If the offensive line plays as well as it did against the Yellow Jackets, the Cavs should be able to get to 6-1 before facing Maryland.

Sept. 15
Virginia 22 ... North Carolina 20
Virginia held on as North Carolina's two-point conversion attempt after a two-yard touchdown catch to Richard Quinn got the Tar Heels close. Cedric Peerman ran for a one-yard score, and was the workhorse all game long. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, several drives ended in field goals instead of touchdowns, with Chris Gould connecting from 51, 28, 37, 48 and 32 yards out. North Carolina stayed alive on the combination of T.J. Yates to Hakeem Nicks, with the two hooking up for a four-yard score in the final seconds of the first half, and Nicks taking a short pass and weaving and bruising his way to a 53-yard score.
Player of the game: Virginia RB Cedric Peerman ran for 186 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, and had three receptions for 37 yards.
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 11-17, 96 yds
Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 30-186, 1 TD. Receiving: Maurice Covington, 4-40
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 25-38, 339 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Johnny White, 16-60. Receiving: Brooks Foster, 7-139

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The offense is still not a finely tuned machine by any stretch, but at least it moved the ball a bit against North Carolina on the ground. There's still no help for the passing game from the receivers, and too many drives stalled and led to field goals, but this was still an important road win for the struggling team. To have a shot against the better teams ahead, there has to be at least the threw of a deep pass, and there can't be any mistakes. The Cavs can't beat Georgia Tech next week if they commit ten penalties again.

Sept. 8
Virginia 24 ... Duke 13
Virginia might have had major problems with snaps on special teams, including one that sailed through the end zone for a Duke safety, but Tom Santi and Cedric Peerman helped overcome the problems. Peerman tore off a 58-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Santi made a seven-yard scoring grab from Jameel Sewell in the first quarter, and a four-yard grab from Peter Lalich in the fourth. Duke got all its offensive points in the third quarter on a 16-yard Jomar Wright catch and a 21-yard field goal, but the attack sputtered in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Virginia RB Cedric Peerman ran for 137 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and had one reception for a yard.
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 14-30, 137 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tielor Robinson, 9-31. Receiving: Erron Riley, 4-25
Virginia - Passing: Peter Lalich, 13-18, 131 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 19-137, 1 TD. Receiving: Tom Santi, 6-54, 2 TDs
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
It's not like Virginia didn't do everything possible, at least on special teams, to give the game to Duke. The offense was inefficient, the running game, outside of a big run from Cedric Peerman, didn't do nearly enough, and there's a concern at quarterback with Jameel Sewell struggling, and Peter Lalich looking better when he got his chances. The lack of a top number one receiver will be a problem all year long. Right now it's tight end Tom Santi, and a prayer for someone else to produce.

Sept. 1
Wyoming 23 ... Virginia 3
Wyoming's defense embarrassed Virginia, holding the Cavalier offense to 110 yards of total offense and only allowing a 42-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Billy Vinnedge nailed field goals from 48, 40 and 39 yards for the Cowboys, Karsten Sween threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Greg Bolling, and Devin Moore all but sealed it with a 49-yard scoring dash midway through the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers were outgained 218 yards to seven on the ground.
Player of the game ... Wyoming RB Devin Moore ran for 125 yards and a score on 18 carries, and added three catches for 47 yards.
Stat Leaders: Virginia- Passing: Jameel Sewell, 11-23, 87 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 7-18  Receiving: Maurice Covington, 4-20
Wyoming - Passing: Karsten Sween, 25-34, 253 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Devin Moore, 18-125, 1 TD  Receiving: Greg Bolling, 5-43, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... How could the offense go in the tank so quickly against Wyoming? It's not like this was the USC defense the Cavaliers were facing, but it might as well have been. The offensive line has too much talent to be so awful and do so little against the Cowboy defensive front, while Jameel Sewell was awful throwing the ball. Against Duke next week, someone had better start making plays on offense or this will be a long, long season that'll lead to a new regime next year at this time. At this point, the defense has to start giving the offense good field position and has to force turnovers.

Sept. 1 – at Wyoming
Offense: The offense wasn't consistent and did nothing against the good teams (averaging 8.5 points against Boise State, New Mexico, TCU and BYU), but there's plenty of hope for a big turnaround with a good pair of backs in powerful Wynel Seldon and speedy Devin Moore, a strong receiving corps with Michael Ford, Hoost Marsh, and emerging deep threat Greg Bolling, and a great quarterback situation with three possible starters led by rising star Karsten Sween. The one issue could be the offensive line that returns just two starters and has question marks at guard.
Defense: The Cowboys had a terrific, unnoticed defensive season finishing ninth in the nation in total defense. However, it struggled at the end of year, for the second straight season, and now it has some holes to fill. The linebacking corps, with four great starters and a slew of good reserves for the 3-4, will be among the best in the league, and while there aren't any returning starters up front, they're big. Corners Julius Stinson and Michael Medina should be excellent, but the star safeties of last year have to be replaced.

Sept. 8 - Duke
Offense: Eleven starters return to an offense that lived through the growing pains of a youth movement in an attempt to take a giant leap forward. New offensive coordinator Peter Vaas, who comes over from Notre Dame, should help make quarterback Thaddeus Lewis more consistent. Helping the overall cause even more is a veteran line that needs to be far better after doing next to nothing well throughout last year. It'll be tailback by committee with several different options to see carries, while the overall strength will be at receiver with several young, big, good-looking targets for Lewis to use to push the ball deeper.
Defense: The defense is still not going to be a rock, but there's promise with several good young players to revolve around. Top prospects Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk are rising stars on the line, while Patrick Bailey is a playmaker who'll be one of the ACC's better pass rushers. Michael Tauiliili is a playmaker at middle linebacker, but the outside linebackers are question marks. Safeties Chris Davis and Adrian Aye-Darko are good, and they'll need to be with major concerns at corner.

Sept. 15 – at North Carolina
Offense: The offense only cranked out 293 yards and 18 points per game with fits of wild inconsistency. Expect a bit more of the same with a young team still trying to figure out who the starters are going to be, but the overall production should be better. Step one is to determine who the quarterback will be to handle the passing game that'll run three and four wide sets. T.J. Yates was the star of spring ball, but he'll have to hold off star freshman Mike Paulus. There are plenty of good, inexperienced running backs to work with, and Hakeem Nicks is a potential star number one receiver. However, there aren't any certainties in the depth chart quite yet. The line will be serviceable, but nothing special.
It might take a year to turn things around after a disastrous 2006, but the young talent is there to get really, really excited. The defensive line has a slew of great prospects to work with, while the back seven has athleticism and quickness by design with a smallish linebacking corps. The return of Trimaine Goddard at safety will be a big help for the secondary, while the hopeful emergence of more pass rushing help for end Hilee Taylor should help the coaching staff implement it's attacking, aggressive style.

Sept. 22 - Georgia Tech
Offense: Is it possible an offense can lose the offensive coordinator, a sure-fire NFL superstar and a four-year starting quarterback and be better? Absolutely. Calvin Johnson's departure will sting, but the passing game should be even better with Taylor Bennett (or any one of a slew of terrific prospects) taking over for Reggie Ball. Patrick Nix left to take over the Miami offense, but John Bond is a veteran who did a good job with the Northern Illinois program for the last three years. James Johnson will be a decent number one target, and now someone else has to quickly emerge to take the heat off and give Bennett more options. Tashard Choice is an All-ACC caliber back leading a deep and talented group of runners working behind a fantastic line loaded with experience and
Defense: The defense had two lousy games against Clemson and West Virginia and was solid against everyone else. With just about everyone returning, expect another great year holding almost everyone to under 300 yards and around 20 points. The defensive line will be one of the team's strengths with one of the best groups of ends in America. MLB Philip Wheeler deserves All-America attention while the safety tandem of Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones will be one of the ACC's best. The corners are a bit suspect and the proven linebacker depth is a bit thin, but those aren't glaring problems.

Sept. 29 - Pitt
Offense: The graduation of Tyler Palko leaves a gaping hole on the Panther offense that’ll be filled by either junior Bill Stull or hot-shot rookie Pat Bostick.  Whoever gets the ball will enjoy an outstanding supporting cast that includes junior running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation and the program’s best front wall since Dave Wannstedt arrived.  Wannstedt and Matt Cavanaugh want to establish a more physical ground game, but if the new hurler is up to the challenge, the ensuing balance will make this a very dangerous offense.   
Defense: Last year’s defense had big names, like H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis, with poor results.  This year’s defense is devoid of stars, but might wind up being statistically better.  The key will be stopping the run, something that vexed the Panthers throughout the second half of the 2006 season.  The difference this fall will be a defensive line that’ll be much deeper than last year, and capable of creating inside-outside pressure with junior tackle Gus Mustakas and senior end Joe Clermond.  Although replacing Revis won’t be a snap, the secondary is busting with potential from future all-Big East players, like sophomores Aaron Berry and Elijah Fields.

Oct. 6 – at Middle Tennessee
Offense: The offense was strange last year finishing sixth in the league in total yards but first in scoring. In other words, the O took advantage of almost every opportunity despite not being all that good scoring on 33 of 36 chances in the red zone. Even without long-time starting quarterback Clint Marks, the passing game can't help but better whether it's Joe Craddock, or one of three other options under center. The receiving corps is experienced, but unless Bobby Williams plays up to his talent, it won't be much better. The running game will be the strength with DeMarco McNair and speedsters Desmond Gee and Phillip Tanner running behind a massive line.
Defense: This should be one of the Sun Belt's best defenses in time, but only if the back seven can fill all the holes. The front four will be regulars in the backfield with three all-conference caliber ends in Erik Walden, Sean Mosley and Tavares Jones along with nose tackle Trevor Jenkins. The linebackers are a big problem needing to replace all three starters, but they aren't the problem the cornerbacks are. Bradley Robinson is an all-star, but there's no depth and a concern at the second spot. Damon Nickson will carry things for a while at safety.

Oct. 13 - Connecticut
Offense: For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully inept, particularly in the passing game.  Tyler Lorenzen was recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically address that vertical shortcoming.  His arrival pushed D.J. Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with sophomore Dennis Brown that’ll resume in August.  While quarterback is a question mark, running back is not.  Sophomore Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700 yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish the season.  With a bunch of linemen back, he’s poised for a monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up the pass.
Defense: The bend-but-don’t-break Huskies snapped like a toothpick in 2006.  The main culprit was a run defense that couldn’t slow down anyone not named Rhode Island.  Things don’t get any easier this year, as the unit will be looking for ways to replace both of last year’s starting tackles.  Uh-oh.  Led by senior linebacker Danny Lansanah and junior corner Darius Butler, the back seven will be picking up a lot of the slack on Saturdays.  Expect the pass rush that produced only 11 sacks in the final eight games to get a spark from the returns of junior Cody Brown and sophomore Lindsey Witten, disruptive ends that’ll be on the line together for the first time in September.

Oct. 20 – at Maryland
Offense: It's all there for the Terps to be steady, explosive and very, very productive as long as everyone plays as well as they should. This will be one of the four best offenses in the league as long as injuries don't strike up front. The line is full of veterans and should be a rock, but there's no depth. The receiving corps might be the fastest in the ACC and Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore form a tremendous 1-2 rushing punch. It's all there for a big season, but that's what everyone said last year and the Terps were merely average.
The defense didn't exactly work last season, but it didn't seem to matter. No one stopped the run, the secondary was average, there weren't enough takeaways, and the 3-4 that was supposed to generate a serious pass rush wasn't even close. The Terps still won nine games helped be the defense coming through when it absolutely had to. This year's group won't be so fortunate and has to be better. The defensive line should be better with end Jeremy Navarre and tackle Dre Moore good enough to hope for All-ACC honors. Erin Henderson leads an athletic linebacking corps that needs experience, but should be good in time. The secondary is a concern, especially the corners hoping for Isaiah Gardner to become a shut-down defender after returning from a shoulder injury.

Oct. 27 – at NC State
Offense: This won't be a bombs away attack under Dana Bible, but it could be with a big, fast, experienced receiving corps that should be able to spread the field. The trio of running backs, Toney Baker, Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene, should be a major plus, but the line has to be far better and needs to replace the starting tackles. It'll be a three-man race for the starting quarterback job between Daniel Evans, Nebraska transfer Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke, with the one of them needing to be able to move the offense consistently, something that wasn't done this spring. This will be a running offense that will eventually grow into a 50/50 balance.
Defense: This will be a solid defense, but it won't be spectacular. It could be fantastic in 2008 when all the promising young prospects are ready to shine, but for now, this will be a good, sound D that should be far more consistent than last year. Demario Pressley and Martrel Brown lead a strong line that should be the strength, while three senior linebackers will keep the mistakes to a minimum. The secondary has to come up with more big plays after helping the Pack pick off just seven passes.

Nov. 3 - Wake Forest
Offense: Wake Forest will never come out and outbomb anyone, but it'll run effectively behind a veteran offensive line, get the timely passes when needed, and won't screw up. The attack only averaged 21.6 points per game and was 96th in the nation in offense, but there were only 15 giveaways. QB Riley Skinner is back after helping the offense lead the ACC in passing efficiency, but everything will revolve around the ground game with several good runners and four starters returning up front. The receiving corps will be an issue needing to move 2006's leading rusher, Kenneth Moore, back to his natural receiver position.
Defense: The D could be even better than last year when it was solid at bending but rarely breaking finishing 12th in the nation in scoring defense. There's not a Jon Abbate to rely on, and a few key defensive backs need to be replaced, but there's plenty of experience everywhere and lots of speed and athleticism in the secondary. There needs to be more pass rush from the defensive front and there could stand to be fewer big plays allowed against the pass, but the overall production should be solid.

Nov. 10 – at Miami
Offense: After a miserably inconsistent year finishing 87th in the nation in both total and scoring offense, the attack needs to play up to its talent level. The backfield will be amazing with Javarris James and true freshman Graig Cooper each good enough star for just about anyone in the country. The line has potential with two good tackles in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood to work around, and now the passing game has to be far better. The Kyle Wright vs. Kirby Freeman quarterback battle will be an ongoing debate, and the receiving corps has to step up and be better. Lance Leggett emerging as a true number one target would be a start.
Defense: The defense finished seventh in the nation last year despite not getting any help from the offense. The starting 11 should be good enough to shut everyone down, but there will be early concerns with the depth on the defensive line and the secondary. Safety Kenny Phillips and end Calais Campbell might be the two best defensive players in the nation, and everything will revolve around them; they must stay healthy. The linebacking corps might not have name stars, but it'll be a rock against the run with a good rotation of talents.

Nov. 24 - Virginia Tech
Offense: Can Tech win a national title with a mediocre offense? It was 99th in the nation in total offense, but it did a great job of taking advantage of all the breaks generated by the defense. Eight starters return, led by ACC Player of the Year candidate Branden Ore at running back, but he needs the line to be healthy for a full season, and better. The passing game has good pieces, but it has to be far more consistent considering there are four talented senior receivers returning. Quarterback Sean Glennon had a good off-season, and now it has to translate into better production.
For two years in a row, Tech has led the nation in total defense, and last season, was number one in scoring defense allowing 11 points per game. There's no reason the D can't be even better with eight starters returning led by the 1-2 linebacking punch of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Corner Brandon Flowers is emerging as one of the best in the nation, "Macho" Harris is a good defender on the other side, and the line is loaded with size, quickness, depth and experience. As good as things were, and will be, it's not like the D played a who's who of offensive machines, so the overall numbers might be a tad bit overrated, but make no mistake about it; this is a special defense.



Related Stories
Post-Bowl Risers: Offense
 -by  Jan 6, 2008
Under Armour Top 30
 -by  Jan 4, 2008
UA/ESPN; Wed. Notes
 -by  Jan 2, 2008

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > Virginia
[View My HotList]