Know Your Enemy: Virginia Season Preview

We continue our season preview series with the Virginia Cavaliers.

UVA season preview

We continue our season preview series with Virginia. Virginia went 2-10 last season with their only wins coming against BYU and Virginia Military Institute. The Cavaliers went 0-8 in ACC play and lost by an average score of 34.5 to 16.5. Throw in embarrassing losses to both Oregon and Ball State, and it was a year to forget for Mike London.

Florida State and Virginia last played in 2011 when Dustin Hopkins missed a last second field goal and the Cavaliers beat Florida State in Tallahassee. Since then both programs have gone in the exact opposite direction. Florida State has the most wins in college football over the last two seasons, while Virginia has managed six wins total.


Win Shares

Aug. 30 UCLA


Sept. 6 Richmond


Sept. 13 Louisville


Sept. 20 at BYU


Sept. 27 Kent State


Oct. 4 PITT


Oct. 18 at Duke


Oct. 25 North Carolina


Nov. 1 at Georgia Tech


Nov. 8 at Florida State


Nov. 22 Miami


Nov. 28 at Virginia Tech



5.0 wins

The Simplified Football formula predicts a moderate improvement from the Cavaliers. The UVA athletic director must dislike London, as the nonconference schedule continues to do the program no favors, with the Cavaliers opening the season with seventh-ranked UCLA. The game is at home, but the Cavaliers should be completely outmatched across the board. Throw in a road game against BYU, and that’s two likely losses on the nonconference slate. If UVA had simply taken the NC State route, they’d have a good shot at a bowl this year. Instead, London will be fighting for his job.

The bottom line is that UVAis only favored against cupcakes Richmond and Kent State, but they are good enough up front to compete in—but lose—most of their other games. November is where it will get really bad for the Cavaliers, with Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Virginia Tech all on the road and Miami at home before the Virginia Tech game.

Another bad season will cost head coach Mike London his job, but it is hard to see that the Cavaliers have any other option with this schedule. There’s actually more talent on this roster than many appreciate, but the lack of consistency at quarterback and poor scheduling will likely doom London’s chances.


Projected Starters


Greyson Lambert

Running Back

Kevin Parks

Full Back

Connor Wingo-Reeves

Wide Receiver

Darius Jennings

Wide Receiver

Keeon Johnson

Tight End

Zachary Swanson

Left Tackle

Jay Whitmere

Left Guard

Connor Davis


Eric Tetlow

Right Guard

Ross Burbank

Right Tackle

Eric Smith

Key Players

QB Greyson Lambert: Despite the return of 2013 leading passer David Watford, Virginia has named sophomore Greyson Lambert as the starting quarterback. Lambert appeared in seven games last season and completed just 44-percent of his passes with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. He nevertheless won the job during spring practice and has held on to it so far during fall camp. Lambert possesses prototypical size at 6’5, 235, but whether he can bring any sort of consistency to a position that has been a mess since 2011 is an open question.

RB Kevin Parks: Parks was the lone bright spot on offense last year and was Virginia’s leading rusher, rushed 227 times for 1031 yards and 11 TDs last season. He also had 38 receptions for 329 yards and a touchdown. A physical runner with good vision, any improvement at the QB position would only make his life easier.

TE Zachary Swanson: Swanson has big shoes to fill as last years starting tight end, Jake McGee, transferred to Florida. McGee had a team leading 43 receptions and 395 yards with 2 touchdowns. Swanson played in 10 games and had 19 receptions with 173 yards last season and will need to prove that he can be a reliable outlet for Lambert.

Question Marks

Wide Receivers: Last year’s leading receiver, Tim Smith, has graduated. But Smith only had 389 yards on the year, illustrating just how ugly things were in the passing game. Senior Darius Jennings returns as the team’s leading receiver with 340 yards and also led the team in touchdown receptions with 3. Sophomore Keeon Johnson may be the spark in this unit for the Cavaliers. He only played in eight games, but he had 20 receptions and 282 yards with 1 touchdown. There don’t appear to be any real playmakers here, but it’s been hard to tell with the QB position in shambles.

The Offensive Line: Despite terrible QB play, UVA’s offensive line only allowed 24 sacks in 12 games last season, good for 60th in the country. They lost their starting left tackle and center to graduation and moved their right guard into the starting left tackle position. Going against eight and nine man fronts, they did allow 7 tackles for loss per game in 2013, 103rd in the country. Everything in football starts up front, and Virginia will only go as far as their offensive line will take them.


This offense was one of the worst in all of college football last year ranking 108th in offensive F/+, ranking above only Kansas and Purdue among Power-5 conference teams. They will again depend on Kevin Parks to carry this offense, but teams will be stacking the box and testing Lambert’s ability to throw the football. Without major improvement there, London is doomed.


Projected Starters

Defensive End

Eli Harold

Defensive Tackle

David Dean

Defensive Tackle

Chris Brathwaite

Defensive End

Mike Moore

Outside Linebacker

Max Valles

Middle Linebacker

Henry Coley

Outside Linebacker

Daquan Romero


Brandon Phelps

Strong Safety

Anthony Harris

Free Safety

Quin Blanding


Maurice Canady

Key Players

DE Eli Harold: Former 5-star DE Eli Harold was the best player on the Virginia front seven last year. He had 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season. At 6-foot-4, 250-pounds Harold gets off the ball extremely well and has great instincts. He also plays the run very well.

SS Anthony Harris: Ballhawk. The three-year starter led the conference with 8 interceptions and was third on the team in tackles with 80 last year.

FS Quin Blanding: Five-star freshman Quin Blanding is expected start at the free safety position. Florida State recruited Blanding hard and was one of his two finalists before he decided on the Cavaliers.

DT Andrew Brown: Brown is the other half of what saved London’s job last season. Another 5-star recruit, Brown had Florida State in his final three before committing to Virginia. Brown was expected to start over Brathwaite, but he is nursing a toe injury that has kept him out for most of fall camp. Either way, his addition on the interior should help immensely.

Question Marks

Corner: Demetrius Nicholson was slated to start at one of the corner positions, but a toe injury has kept him from being able to participate much during fall camp. Senior Brandon Phelps has moved to corner from safety and is now expected to start week one opposite of Maurice Canady. Canady started last season for the Cavaliers, and while he is a solid player, he lacks playmaking ability. Phelps is relatively unknown and is new to the position so the learning curve in his senior season may be difficult to overcome.

Overall: Defense

Last years defense was surprisingly good for the Cavaliers. Despite playing opposite a putrid offense, they finished the season ranked 39th in defensive F/+, ahead of teams like Ohio State and North Carolina. This is actually a talented defense with a solid front seven. The entire linebacker group returns and were solid players. They have two excellent athletes at the safety position and their defensive line should be improved from last season. Look for a lot of low scoring games this season.

Special Teams

Projected Starters


Ian Frye


Alec Vozenilek

Punt Returner

Dominique Terrell

Kick Returner

Darius Jennings

Tiquan Mizzell

Question Marks

Kicker: Frye is taking back the starting job after missing the last eight games of the 2013 season due to a leg injury. He was three for four, but did make a 53 yard field goal in the opening game of the season.

Punter: Alec Vozenilek returns as the punter from last season. He was also the one who replaced Frye as the kicker. Vozenilek punted 85 times last year with an average of 41.2 yards per punt.

Returns: Terrell was the starting punt returner last season and will continue in that role this season. He had 18 returns for 182 yards. Darius Jennings and Tiquan Mizzell were the main kickoff returners from last season. They combined for 869 return yards on 45 returns.

How They Match Up With FSU

They don’t. There is good reason they only have a one-percent chance of beating FSU in our projections. They simply don’t have any difference-makers on offense, and you’ve got to score to beat FSU. Couple that with the attacking style of defense that Florida State plays, which puts a ton of pressure on the offensive line and the quarterback, and you have a recipe for disaster for the Virginia offense. Parks will carry the ball quite a bit in an effort to slow the game down, but running against this defense is almost as hard as throwing against it and Florida State should force a lot of three and outs.

Their defense, while solid, won’t be able to sustain against one of the top offenses in the country, particularly at the corner position, where they’re overmatched. Their defensive line, however, may wind up being one of the two best FSU plays all regular season. In the end the firepower on the Florida State side and complete lack of it on the other should lead to a lopsided game.

Wayne’s prediction: 59-3 (Win Probability: 99.9%)

Jason’s Prediction: 41–6 (Win Probability: 98%)

Nole Digest Top Stories