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2010 Virginia Preview
Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling
Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling
Posted Jul 22, 2010 2010 Preview - Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia Cavaliers

Preview 2010

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Mike London
First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 21, Def. 17, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Virginia Players
1. CB Ras-I Dowling, Sr.
2. DE Matt Conrath, Jr.
3. LB Steve Greer, Soph.
4. S Rodney McLeod, Jr.
5. PK Robert Randolph, Jr.
6. TE Joe Torchia, Sr.
7. WR Tim Smith, Soph.
8. RB Dominique Wallace, RFr.
9. G B.J. Cabbell, Sr.
10. DT Nick Jenkins, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Richmond
Sept. 11 at USC
Sept. 18 OPEN DATE
Sept. 25 VMI
Oct. 2 Florida State
Oct. 9 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 16 North Carolina
Oct. 23 Eastern Michigan
Oct. 30 Miami
Nov. 6 at Duke
Nov. 13 Maryland
Nov. 20 at Boston Coll
Nov. 27 at Virginia Tech

The up-and-down tenure of Al Groh has finally ended at Virginia. Now, London’s calling.

The Cavaliers went back to a familiar face to solve their recent slump, hiring former defensive coordinator Mike London to help turn things around. On so many levels, from his previous success in Charlottesville to his national championship as the head coach of Richmond, this move appears to be a no-brainer. His first task will be to eradicate a cycle of losing that had seeped into the program. Only at that point will he be able to begin turning things around on the field. It won’t happen quickly, but folks around here are prepared to be patient.

Virginia is a sound program that annually attracts quality players from the talent-rich region. It certainly has a higher ceiling than the last four seasons, three of which ended without bowl eligibility. The main culprit during that stretch has been a feeble offense that’s been unable to mount consistent drives or reach the end zone with any regularity. London will maximize the defensive talent he inherited, some of which he recruited. That’s in his DNA. Until he can develop a quality quarterback and get more from the offense, however, the ‘Hoos will continue to have problems getting above .500.

The expectations are predictably tempered in London’s first season, especially with the persistent uncertainty at quarterback and along the offensive line. Mindful of the short-term limitations, the new staff will be content to install new systems on both sides of the ball and begin changing that culture of mediocrity that was hard to miss in Groh’s final years. If anything more can be achieved this quickly and with this little star power, it’ll push the fast forward button on the rebuilding plans.

What to look for on offense: The young playmakers. You’re not going to know it based on last year’s numbers, but Virginia is quietly harboring some exciting underclassmen with high ceilings. While they’ll need more support from the passing game and blockers, backs Dominique Wallace and Perry Jones and receivers Tim Smith and Javaris Brown are game-changers in the right setting. It’s up to the coaching staff to put them in a situation that allows them to make blossom to their fullest potential. Wallace and Smith, in particular, have the locals buzzing about their long-term prospects.

What to look for on defense: The move to a 4-3 to mean more pressure. Not only are the Cavaliers determined to generate more of a pass rush than a year ago, but they’ve actually got four quality starters up front. On the outside, Cam Johnson has the moves of a converted linebacker and Zane Parr is a 6-6, 275-pound bull rusher. On the inside, Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins form a quick and energetic tandem. Virginia has the combination of size and speed on the front wall that’s going to equal problems for opposing offensive lines this fall.

This team will be much better if… if the offense improves on its two key efficiency ratios. A year ago, Virginia was 98th nationally on third down conversions and 93rd on red zone touchdowns. That’s just not going to cut it going forward. Somehow, some way, the Cavaliers have got to find a way to extend drives and score six, which will also take a heap of pressure off an overworked defense. They were also 112th in time of possession, which isn’t good for anyone on the team.

The Schedule: With the lightest and fluffiest non-conference schedule in the ACC, outside of a lambs-for-the-slaughter date at USC. there's no schedule excuse to not finish with six wins. However, it's going to take seven to get to a bowl game after scheduling Richmond (who isn't exactly a pushover from the FCS ranks) and VMI. (Remember, Kansas State got burned last year by going 6-6 with two FCS teams on the slate.) The wins might have to come early before a bear of a second half of the slate to handle facing Miami and three road games in the final four. If the Cavs can't beat Duke on the road it'll be uh-oh time with dates at Boston College and Virginia Tech still to deal with. But if the team makes a big comeback this year then the chances are there to make some Coastal noise getting Miami and North Carolina at home as part of a run of five home games in six weeks.

Best Offensive Player: Junior PK Robert Randolph. This should send a clear signal that not only did Randolph enjoy a breakout year in 2009, but also that Virginia is painfully light on offensive sure-things. In his debut as the regular kicker, he was the Cavs’ best weapon, earning national recognition by connecting on 17-of-19 field goal attempts. For his career, he’s missed just three times, and with limited experience in football, figures to keep getting better over time.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Ras-I Dowling. After three solid seasons as a starter and back-to-back appearances on the All-ACC second team, Dowling has joined the country’s elite cornerback. Not only does he have the cover skills of someone who’ll play on Sundays, but at 6-2 and 205 pounds, is built like a safety. He’s a big reason why nine of last year’s 12 opponents were held below their season average through the air.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Marc Verica. It’s been years since the Cavaliers felt good about their situation behind center, the single biggest reason for a 22-27 mark since 2006. No one is banking on Verica morphing into the second coming of Shawn Moore, but if Virginia is going to make any tangible strides in 2010, it needs a competent point guard to distribute the ball to an underrated collection of backs and receivers.

The season will be a success if ... the product on the field looks better than it did the last two seasons. Forget for now wins and losses. Virginia will probably win four or five games thanks to a non-conference schedule that includes Eastern Michigan and two FCS opponents. However, a successful year will be better measured by how well the Cavaliers perform and whether or not a pulse can be located on offense.

Key game: Oct. 9 at Georgia Tech. Maybe it’s not so much of a pivotal game as an interesting one. It’ll pit the Cavaliers against former head coach Al Groh, who now coordinates the defense for the Yellow Jackets. As if the Cavaliers don’t already have enough hurdles to clear on offense, they’ll be facing a man with something to prove and an intimate knowledge of their personnel.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Average yards per rush: Virginia 2.9 – Opponents 4.2
- Time of possession: Virginia 27:14 – Opponents 32:46
- Sacks: Virginia 22 - Opponents 41

- 2010 Virginia Preview | 2010 Virginia Offense
- 2010 Virginia Defense | 2010 Virginia Depth Chart
- Virginia Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006