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2008 CFN Virginia Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


Virginia didn't come up with all nine of its wins by the skin of its teeth, it just seems that way. Now, Clint Sintim and the Cavaliers have some major rebuilding to do, and while no one will give them much of a shot in the ACC Coastal, they could surprise yet again. Check out the CFN Virginia Preview.

Virginia Cavaliers

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

Interested in blogging about ACC football?  Let us know

- 2008 CFN Virginia Preview | 2008 Virginia Offense

- 2008 Virginia Defense | 2008 Virginia Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Virginia Preview | 2006 CFN Virginia Preview 

Head coach: Al Groh
8th year: 51-37
14th year overall: 77-77
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 14, Def. 16, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Cavalier Players
1. LT Eugene Monroe, Sr.
2. LB Clint Sintim, Sr.
3. LB Jon Copper, Sr.
4. LB Antonio Appleby, Sr.
5. WR Kevin Ogletree, Jr.
6. RB Cedric Peerman, Sr.
7. RB Mikell Simpson, Jr.
8. S Byron Glaspy, Sr.
9. TE John Phillips, Sr.
10. RT Will Barker, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 USC
Sept. 6 Richmond
Sept. 13 at Connecticut
Sept. 20  OPEN DATE
Sept. 27 at Duke
Oct. 4 Maryland
Oct. 11 East Carolina
Oct. 18 North Carolina
Oct. 25 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 1 Miami
Nov. 8 at Wake Forest
Nov. 15  OPEN DATE
Nov. 22 Clemson
Nov. 29 at Virginia Tech

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-6
2007 Record:
9-4

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

The Cavaliers and their fans enjoyed a special run last year, squeezing into the Top 25 and playing on New Year’s Day, but the good times came to a screeching halt with the collapse against Texas Tech in the 31-28 Gator Bowl loss, and the hits are going to keep on coming.

While just about everything went right for head coach Al Groh, it’s not as if Virginia was destroying opponents en route to an unexpected 9-4 mark. So, when the program that won five games by two points or fewer gets ravaged by graduation and a spate of off-field problems, logic dictates that those close games will begin going the other way. Basically, you don’t get the same big breaks twice, and inexperienced teams don’t tend to win the close ones. 

The conventional wisdom is that the Cavs overachieved last year with a few great players, a solid kicking game, and an average overall supporting cast. With DE Chris Long and G Branden Albert headed to the NFL, the lines lose two special players. Making matters worse, this was supposed to be QB Jameel Sewell’s breakout year, but he and a few other starters have been declared academically ineligible. 

With a schedule that begins with USC and ends with Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers will be hard-pressed to win seven games. With so many underclassmen filling important spots in the two-deep, this season will be about laying a foundation for much better results in 2009.

But is it really all gloom and doom? Raise your hands if you thought the Cavs would win nine last year. No, this won’t be a world-beater, but the ACC isn’t the SEC this season and Groh has done more with less. The program has cranked out five winning seasons in the last six and has seemingly always been able to surprise. That’ll have to be the case again.

What to look for on offense: Things open up a little bit. Virginia won’t be channeling Texas Tech any time soon, but some of the program’s coaches did spend time in Lubbock in the offseason trying to pick the complex brain of Red Raider head coach Mike Leach. While the attack will still strive for balance, new quarterback Peter Lalich gives the offense a young hurler with the live arm needed to distribute the ball to an improving receiving corps.  

What to look for on defense
: The secondary will struggle against quality passing teams. Yes, there’s talent in the defensive backfield, but most of it is young and prone to making mistakes in coverage. The Cavs were helped immensely last year by the pressure generated by Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald, but both are gone meaning opposing quarterbacks will get an extra second or two. That’s troubling news for a defensive backfield breaking in three new starters.

This team will be much better if
… the offensive line adjusts on the fly to having three new starters on the inside. If the Cavaliers are stout up front, it’ll mean Lalich can grow at a reasonable pace and the offense can control the tempo of games with the running of Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson.  

The Schedule: The tone could be set for the season in the opener against USC, but no one will be expecting a win. A non-conference road trip to Connecticut will also be tough, and East Carolina isn't going to be
a layup. In ACC play the Cavaliers have to deal with Wake Forest and Clemson from the Atlantic, while road trips Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will likely decide whether or not they're really Coastal Division contenders.

Best Offensive Player
: Senior LT Eugene Monroe. Monroe is on target to make it three straight years that a Cavalier offensive lineman gets selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, following in the footsteps of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Branden Albert. A nimble 6-6 and 315-pound blocker, he continues to improve his overall game, sealing off all pass rushers he faced in 2007.  The sky’s the limit this fall, with national honors within reach now that he’s finally the team’s signature blocker.    

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Clint Sintim. Sintim is exactly what Al Groh and Virginia need in a 3-4 linebacker, someone who’s tough in run defense and a beast as a pass rusher. At 6-3 and 254 pounds, he sheds blockers effortlessly, racking up 77 tackles, 17 quarterback hurries, and nine sacks last season. NFL scouts have already labeled him a slam dunk draft choice next April. 

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman PK Chris Hinkebein. Considering how many nail-biters Virginia participated in last year, Chris Gould wound up being instrumental in the program’s nine-win season. He’s gone, so it’ll be up to Hinkebein to send the ‘Hoo fans home happy when the school gets embroiled in more close games this fall.  

The season will be a success if ... Virginia bowls. If Groh and his staff can milk seven wins out of a transitioning team that has an inexperienced starting quarterback and uncertainty on both lines, it’ll qualify as a head of steam for the following year. There’s enough talent to get it done, especially if the Cavs show as much grit and resiliency in tight games as they did a year ago.

Key game: Oct. 4 vs. Maryland. The Cavs will be kicking off an important three-game home stand against a similarly ranked ACC opponent. This will be a huge game for both schools in the race to reach bowl eligibility. Virginia has owned Maryland of late in Charlottesville, with the trend needing to continue in order to remain in the black in the race for the postseason.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Virginia 125 – Opponents 62
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 57 – Virginia 19
- Sacks: Virginia 43 for 291 yards – Opponents 33 for 212 yards