2007 ACC Preview: Virginia

Virginia has a very strong defensive front with ends Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald returning. Long is the son of Howie Long and had 9.5 tackles for loss last year, while Fitzgerald had 11 tackles for loss.

2006 RECORD: 5-7 overall, 4-4 ACC (3rd in Coastal Division).

HEAD COACH: Al Groh 42-33 over all in six seasons at Virgina.

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense: 6; Defense: 10.

KEY SIGNEES: LB J'Courtney Williams, TE Andrew Devlin, QB Peter Lalich, DL Nick Jenksin, LB Aaron Taliaferro, OL Lamar Milstead.

KEY LOSSES: RB Jason Snelling, CB Marcus Hamilton, DB Tony Franklin, WR Fontel Mines, DT Keenan Carter

OFFENSE: Only two seniors started on offense last year, which means this year's unit is more experienced. And that bodes well for the Cavaliers, who struggled at times with freshman quarterback Jameel Sewell at the helm. By the end of the season, he started playing better, and thus, so did the team. Sewell played most of last year with a broken wrist on his throwing hand and during the off-season, he had two screws inserted. But it forced him to miss almost all of the spring. The offensive line, which struggled to open up holes with any consistency, looks to be better this season. Left guard Branden Albert and monstrous left tackle Eugene Monroe is back from a dislocated knee that hindered him last year. Also back are redshirt seniors Jordy Lipsey and Ian-Yates Cunningham, who play at center and right guard respectively. Running back looks to be OK with junior Cedric Peerman and Keith Payne ready to assume the duties vacated by Jason Snelling. Receiver is a massive concern with the top three from last year gone. Returnee Kevin Ogletree tore his ACL during spring and is unlikely to return. That means Maurice Covington, who had six receptions, the team's top returner.

DEFENSE: Only one starter is gone from last year and the unit looks to be much improved. Virginia has a very strong defensive front with ends Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald returning. Long is the son of Howie Long and had 9.5 tackles for loss last year, while Fitzgerald had 11 tackles for loss. Together, they combined for 10 sacks, too. Nose tackles Allen Billyk is the anchor in the middle. The four linebackers are a group of unknowns, but junior John Cooper is back after leading the team with 81 tackles. Antonio Appleby is also back, as is Clint Sintim, who missed spring practice with shoulder surgery. The secondary has stars in the making in cornerbacks Chris Cook and Mike Brown. The big problem is at the safety positions, despite the return of three safeties. Stopping the pass was a major problem for all three of them last season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 243 – Number of pounds weighed by highly regarded running back Keith Payne.


DE Chris Long



Al Groh


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