An Offseason Look: Virginia

After no one stood out during spring practice, junior Marques Hagans enters the fall as the No. 1 quarterback. And he no longer has legal impediments in his way.

Hagans and teammate Brandon Lee were arrested April 29 and charged with disorderly conduct, after police said he failed to leave a crime scene -- former teammate Jamaine Winborne, a starting defensive back last season, had been shot in the leg during an apparent dispute with another UVa student, a non-football player.

But on June 1, both current Cavs were acquitted of the misdemeanor charges.

Now, the focus can get back to whether Hagans can capably replace ultra-accurate Matt Schaub, the school's all-time passing leader, who has graduated to the NFL.

"As with most teams, it's probably going to be a little while before Virginia has a quarterback who is going to complete 70 percent of his passes," Groh said. "I think there's been only two quarterbacks in the country over the past two years who have strung that together.

"That, in itself, would say that we probably wouldn't throw as many passes as we did last year."

Hagans threw a pair of interceptions in Virginia's annual spring game, which became low scoring. The only touchdown was an option pass from running back Wali Lundy.

"There's so much room for improvement," Hagans said.

If Virginia can get this position stabilize, the offense has a chance to succeed. The Cavaliers return much of their offensive line and have tailbacks like Lundy and Alvin Pearman who can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Preseason Predictions: Ranked 21st by Lindy's; 14th by Street & Smith's; 25th by Athlon. TE Heath Miller, 1st team All-America by Lindy's and Athlon; 2nd team by Street & Smith's. OG Elton Brown, 2nd team All-America by Lindy's. PK Connor Hughes, 3rd team All-America by Athlon. Offensive line ranked fourth nationally by Athlon, 10th by Lindy's. Linebackers ranked first by Athlon, third by Lindy's. Running backs ranked ninth by Athlon.

Key Game: Oct. 7 vs. Clemson -- It's a Thursday night game, the last of four consecutive home games, after opening the season at Temple. Based on the early schedule (Temple, North Carolina, Akron, Syracuse), the Cavaliers figure to be 4-0 heading into this game. It's huge for both teams, but Virginia could take a wave of momentum into the following game, Oct. 16 at Florida State, by winning this one.

The Mindset: Expectations have been raised in Charlottesville. No longer is being competitive acceptable. People want this team to win an ACC title, but that will be difficult this year with a new quarterback. The Cavs really converted their offense last year in a short time. The trick will be doing it again. Look for greater emphasis on a running game, featuring Alvin Pearman and Wali Lundy. Virginia was able to get back into more of a comfortable mode for Al Groh, who likes to play field position, get his defense a chance to make a big play and capitalize on scoring chances.

Big Shoes to Fill: QB Matt Schaub. In reality, he can't be replaced. Schaub broke virtually all of Virginia's passing records and gave this team a chance in nearly every game. He was a player everyone on Virginia's team admired and respected. The hope is that junior Marques Hagans can provide a multi-threat dimension to make up for his lack of experience and passing arm. If Virginia had someone capable of stepping in at quarterback, the season could be special.

Quote to Note: "I wish it was the NFL Draft. Maybe then we could have gotten a signing bonus." -- Virginia QB Marques Hagans, speaking about coach Al Groh's decision to pick squads for the spring game like an NFL Draft.

Projected Offensive Stars: TE Heath Miller -- He led all tight ends nationally with 70 catches for 835 yards last season, setting school records in both categories. Miller will be a preseason All-America.

OG Elton Brown -- One of the top guards in the nation. Named a third team All-America by one publication and will be a third-year starter.

Projected Defensive Stars: DE Chris Canty -- Named a defensive captain for next season. Canty led ACC defensive linemen in tackles last year with 7.8 per game. His selection as second-team All-ACC made him the first Virginia defensive lineman in five years to earn that high of a selection.

LB Ahmad Brooks -- Though he had some freshman mistakes, sometimes playing with too much emotion, Brooks lived up to his prep acclaim last year and should become part of an excellent linebacking force. Top Stories