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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #40-Virginia

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 5, 2013

2013 Fierce-40 Previews

We will be counting down the preseason top 40 college football teams in our Fierce 40 countdown. We will be releasing 1 preview a day counting down from #40 to #1 which will be revealed just before the college football season begins. Keep coming back every day to see the list and check back throughout the year as we will continually update our Fierce 40 poll.

 

#40 Virginia Cavaliers

 

2012 Recap:

It was a disappointing year for the Cavaliers who finished 4-8 and near the bottom of the ACC standings. Not much was expected from Virginia last season as they were very, very young, but they showed considerable improvement as the season progressed. Looking for an offensive identity and pounding the football is something the Cavaliers seemed to get away from in 2012. The defense gave up a ton of big plays as the secondary looked lost and lacked consistency.

 

Coaching:

Head Coach Mike London is 16-21 in three years at Virginia and this past season he made sweeping changes to the coaching staff. If the Cavaliers suffer another losing season the next sweeping change may be at the head coaching position.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Virginia didn’t look like the Virginia of old last season as the Cavaliers seemed to stray from the power running game and went for a passing attack that relied heavily on timing. The biggest problem we saw was accuracy for quarterbacks Mike Rocco and Phillip Sims. Ill-timed turnovers seemed to plague Virginia and while the offense ranked in the top 40 in overall passing, the consistency and efficiency were noticeably absent. Now Sims and sophomore David Watford seem to be neck-and-neck for the starting job. I personally don’t think it matters who the starter will be because it looks like both quarterbacks will see considerable time on the field in 2013.

Getting back to running the football should be the priority this season and with Kevin Parks and prized recruit Taquan Mizzell, this should be an easy accomplishment. Parks is seasoned and while not a big draft threat for 2015, he catches the ball well out of the backfield and shows blocking prowess. I am excited about Mizzell as the change-of-pace back and he is a player I can see on draft boards in a few years, especially running behind a line at Virginia that is continually landing high ranking and versatile recruits.

Best Draft Prospect: Kevin Parks UFA 2015.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

While the running game looks like the focus, the Cavaliers do have some talent at wide receiver. Junior Darius Jennings is not a threat to turn to the pro ranks for 2014 but with a big year and continued development he looks like a fringe prospect for 2015. Jennings is a slot receiver who runs well after making the catch, unfortunately he didn’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase his talents in 2012 again due to accuracy issues and inconsistent play from his quarterbacks.

Over the years it has been the tight end position that has shown the most promise at the Virginia program and cranked out some players at the next level. This Virginia team seems to be no exception as junior Jake McGee seems like he will garner the most attention in 2015 because he too is not a threat to turn pro at this time. McGee will need to add about 15 pounds to his frame for the next level but he has the hands and route-running ability to play in the NFL as a backup tight end. He is the best red zone threat the Cavaliers have and I look for him to score at least 6 touchdowns in the upcoming season.

Best Draft Prospect: Jake McGee 5th Round 2015.

 

Offensive Line:

Oday Aboushi was the best draft prospect this team had to offer in 2012 (5th round New York Jets) and while he went a little lower than projected he should make an impact with the Jets. This year the Cavaliers best prospect for 2014 is along the line and in the form of 6-6 325 pound tackle Morgan Moses. Moses has long been seen as an NFL caliber lineman but he has yet to deliver on what many believe is 2nd round potential. I currently have Moses graded as a third round prospect but he will have every opportunity to raise that stock in the upcoming season. Virginia is bringing back 3 starters along the line and there is a bevy of talent here lurking in the shadows that look like future NFL material. Youngsters Michael Mooney at tackle and Ryan Doull at guard/center are names we will not see draft eligible for another 2 years but both have the goods to be prospects we see taken during rounds 1-4.

Best Draft Prospect: Morgan Moses 2nd Round 2014.

 

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

The defensive line is the strength of the defense although success seems like it will come as a solid core unit without a big name that is draft worthy for 2014. Jake Snyder leads the group as he has shown to be most effective fighting off blocks as a run defender, getting consistent penetration, and being a legitimate pass rusher. Sophomore Eli Harold is the wild card of the group. Harold plays defensive end, but projects as a linebacker for the NFL, and needs to build off some late season performances where he showed flashes of being a productive leader. Harold has shown he can drop back in coverage and even stick with tight ends while getting into the backfield. The Cavaliers look like they will be turning Harold loose more than they did in 2012, so all eyes will be on him. Harold may surprise and could be the Cavaliers hidden gem but he needs to show consistency and durability, as he played through some nagging injuries in 2012.

Best Draft Prospect: Eli Harold 6th Round 2016.

 

Linebackers:

Virginia looks like they will be relying on speed through mostly unheralded players that will rotate frequently. I expect a few different starting combinations as Virginia will look for the group that yields the most results. I don’t see that one player who looks like he is the unquestioned leader of the unit and I expect this to be the biggest area of concern on defense.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.

 

Secondary:

The secondary had it’s share of problems in 2012 but this season what they do have is experience. All four starters are back from a year ago and the secondary does boast the best draft prospect in cornerback Demetrious Nicholson. Nicholson is a junior but he may declare if he has a campaign where he lands on the All ACC Team. I see Nicholson as a mid round prospect, and for his sake I hope he stays until his senior season. With more seasoning, opponents will not be able to avoid Nicholson as much and he will see more targets than he did a season ago. The other starters for Virginia are all juniors as well and this will be a big season in determining whether the likes of Brandon Phelps, Anthony Harris, DreQuan Hoskey and even backup sophomore Maurice Canady are potentially NFL bound.

Best Draft Prospect: Demetrious Nicholson 3rd round 2015 (Possible Candidate for 2014 early entry).

 

Schedule:

It sure doesn’t start easy for the Cavaliers as BYU and Oregon are the first two teams up before getting a week off. The key to success looks to be having at least 4 wins when the Cavaliers have three home games in a row in the middle of the season (Duke, Georgia Tech, Clemson). If Virginia has some momentum going into this stretch this could be a team that surprises many by winning at least seven games and will be bowl bound.

 

Draft Outlook:

Morgan Moses is a sure draft pick next year. Demetrious Nicholson is a player who could declare and will be on a lot of radars for NFL teams. I expect this to be a team that shows plenty of Draft talent for 2015 and 2016 when the cupboards will not be as bare with top notch talent.

 

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