Behind enemy lines: Virginia offense

Total Blue Sports spoke with Fox Sports Virginia beat reporter Jacquie Franciulli for an inside look at what BYU can expect from the Cavalier offense this Saturday.

UVA running backs

The Virginia running backs are very talented and will be the workhorses for Virginia. Over the past two seasons, 5-foot-8-inch, 205-pound Kevin Parks has rushed for a total of 1,443 yards. A junior, Parks will be the primary ball-carrier for the Cavalier offense.

"Kevin Parks is a guy that will pound you and will knock you down," said Fox Sports Virginia beat reporter Jacquie Franciulli. "He's a very powerful guy and was a little banged up over spring camp but is healthy now … Last year he was pretty much it and was the guy who primarily ran the ball. What's going to be great for him this year is he has reinforcements."

The Cougar defense will also face four-star recruit Taquan Mizzell, the No. 16 running back in the 2013 class. BYU fans are quite familiar with what true freshmen running backs can do, with Jamaal Williams playing well for the Cougars last year. The 5-foot-10-inch, 185-pound Mizzell passed up on 17 scholarship offers to come to Virginia. That includes passing up on Ohio State, UCLA, Notre Dame, Miami and Clemson, to name a few.

"This year they have Taquan ‘Smoke' Mizzell, who is the highest recruit Coach London's got for a while," said Franciulli. "I mean, obviously he's got two five-star recruits this year in Andrew Brown and Quin Blanding, but Mizzell was the first one since 2000. Mizzell has been doing great and he's really elusive. Whenever you see London talk about Mizzell, he's always smiling, knowing what he's got."

Mizzell is elusive and fast and will challenge BYU's tough linebackers. He was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American bowl game in 2013.

"I believe Mizzell is number two on the depth chart and he's one of the true freshmen they plan on having play at running back," said Franciulli. "He's very shifty and a lot of fun to watch. I also believe they're going to utilize him on special teams too."

UVA fullbacks

The two players at the fullback position will more than likely be 5-foot-9-inch, 220-pound Billy Skrobacz and 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound Vincent Croce.

"The fullback position is kind of interesting," said Franciulli. "There wasn't an outright winner for the starting spot at fullback. Skrobacz, who is a senior, was put on scholarship this year and that was a nice thing by London to do because of all the hard work he had done. Him and a sophomore Vincent Croce, who moved from defensive tackle to fullback, has really proved himself. I think with him and Skrobacz, they'll be the guys to play that fullback position."

UVA receivers

The Virginia receiving corps is talented and experienced.

"There are so many wideouts, it's pretty remarkable," said Franciulli. "Tim Smith [6-0, 195 pounds] is kind of the guy they're looking to more this year. They just hope he can stay healthy. The receiver position is the one area where they got everyone back, so they're hoping this year will be the one where Tim Smith has a breakout season. Last year it wasn't the best year for receivers in regards to health.

"The second guy to look for is Darius Jennings [5-11, 175 pounds] and he's coming back. Last year he was a sophomore and, you know, he started as a true freshman and sophomore, so he has some experience under his belt. He's very quick and can run really good routes.

"The third guy to look out for is Dominique Terrell [5-11, 170-pounds] is another one to look out for. He was a solid third option last year.

"When Tim Smith was injured, the fourth guy was E.J. Scott [5-11, 185 pounds]. He's a remarkable fourth guy to have and did really well coming in and playing for Tim Smith, who was the main guy last year. The fifth guy is Adrian Gamble and he had a really good spring. He's a guy that you can't sleep on and I call him the sleeper. He came in and did some really good things, and you're thinking, 'Wow, he's the fifth guy?' I think he had three touchdowns in the spring game. He's amazing at running deep routes and it was kind of shocking that he didn't get the fourth position."

BYU will play the run first, as always, and try and force Virginia to be a one-dimensional offense. That will mean boundary corner Robertson Daniel will more than likely face the speedy Jennings, with Skye PoVey facing Smith at the boundary position. The key to watch is whether or not quarterback David Watford can get the ball to his receivers downfield.

UVA tight ends

The tight end rotation was a bit of a surprise for Virginia fans, with 6-foot-6-inch, 250-pound projected junior starter Jake McGee not getting the starting nod.

"That is actually the talk of the town actually," said Franciulli. "Jake McGee is someone a lot of Virginia fans know and love and is a really good tight end. The one thing he struggles on is blocking, and so he was someone that everyone was expecting to be the top guy but was moved to third on the depth chart. That could be due to a shoulder injury and that could limit him in blocking."

That has opened the door for 6-foot-6-inch, 255-pound junior Zachary Swanson to be the starter and 6-foot-7-inch, 250-pound sophomore Rob Burns to be the second tight end.

"These are the two guys ahead of Jake McGee, but that doesn't mean that McGee won't play," Franciulli said. "Coach London did say at a press conference that McGee will play and not to look into it. He's one of our best players and will play, but struggled in the blocking area. Zac Swanson and Rob Burns was a big surprise for Coach London. Burns is really tall at 6'7" and has really good hands. He's not the fastest guy out there but he's got decent speed. I think he'll back up Zac Swanson with McGee playing third."

UVA quarterback

Sophomore David Watford got the starting nod to the surprise of many. The 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound quarterback redshirted last year.

"Watford is inexperienced, and so the question is can he get the ball to his receivers," said Franciulli. "He's also very indecisive in the passing game. That's what I've seen, and so that's going to be something to see if Watford can get his receivers the ball. I'm just not sure if the Virginia receivers can showcase what they can really do against BYU. Maybe down the line, but in the first game of the season it's going to be tough to do."

UVA offensive line

The top offensive lineman in the UVA program is left offensive tackle Morgan Moses (6-6, 335-pound senior). In a two-gap technique, either Eathyn Manumaleuna or Remington Peck will face a double team that includes Morgan Moses.

"He is the best guy on the team," said Franciulli. "[Offensive coordinator Steve] Fairchild has said that one thing he wants to do is run the football. If I were running the football, I would run behind Morgan Moses. I don't know if Watford has the experience to start banging out long passes right away. I think they're going to use Morgan Moses and Luke Bowanko to run behind. Where they get their yardage is going to be behind Moses and Bowanko.

Left guard Luke Bowanko is a 6-foot-6-inch, 300-pound senior.

"He's a guy that's played his third position in three years," said Franciulli. "He's still adjusting to the left guard position. He moved from right guard to center to left guard to play next to Morgan Moses. He's a really smart guy and hasn't missed a start in two seasons. He'll be the guy who will be assisting line calls and knows the game. Having him and Moses next to one another is very scary."

At center will be 6-foot-4-inch, 290-pound sophomore Ross Burbank.

"It was one of the more intriguing battles between Ross Burbank and Jackson Matteo," said Franciulli. "I think Matteo may have edged Burbank, but he missed a lot of time due to injury. I think Ross Burbank really proved himself more during fall camp, and the coaches said he's the guy that really worked hard and put forth the effort. He worked really hard over the summer and Coach London said he wouldn't want anyone else at center."

At right guard will be 6-foot-5-inch, 200-pound junior Conner Davis.

"Davis is an interesting one," said Franciulli. "It was going to be Sean Cascarano and it was his position to start, but he had a hip injury that took him out of the season. The right guard position is where they're lacking depth. This is a position where UVA could be very susceptible. The backup is a redshirt freshman in Sean Karl, so him staying healthy is very important."

Finally, the starting right tackle will be 6-foot-6-inch, 300-pound sophomore Jay Whitmire.

"If you talk to the o-line coach Scott Wachenheim, he'll tell you that Jay Whitmire had the best summer of anyone," Franciulli said. "He's a redshirt sophomore and is really a big guy. What they said was, just to prove how confident they are in Whitmire, they would have him go up against Morgan Moses in one-on-one drills … The backup is Cody Wallace, and he played a little bit last year. The positions they've really struggled with are right tackle and right guard. These are the positions they don't have a lot of depth at."

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