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Football SP12: Offense

Today officially begins Spring Practice for the Football team and Mike London will be logging in those travel miles. What started as a media relation blitz last year, holding practice outside of Charlottesville, has now turned into a cross state tour this year, culminating in the Spring Game April 14th. But before we get there, let’s look at what to expect from these practices. Today we will look at the offense that will be on display to the public and preview the team the Hoos will field this coming year.

*-Grey Shirt, **-Prep School, %-Injured for Spring

Quarterback

Returning: Michael Rocco (Jr.), David Watford (So.), Greyson Lambert (*Fr.)

Incoming: Matt Johns

What To Look For

After last year’s 4 way try out for the starting role, this year will be a lot more subdued. Rocco emerged as the starter and, half way through the season, he ended up being the exclusive starter. While it took a little while to get into a rhythm, his use of the intermediate passing game allowed him to have a very productive year. Now in his 3rd year, he is the clear cut favorite to return to that role, now that Metheny and Strauss opted to transfer. David Watford is the incumbent backup and saw time on the field last year, which gives the Hoos a serviceable backup with playing experience for the first time in a number of years. Also showing up this spring is early enrollee Greyson Lambert, who held some impressive offers coming out of high school (Alabama, Georgia).

What We Need to Figure Out

Rocco is #1. What will be interesting to see is how Greyson Lambert does early on. Watford will be pegged as the #2, but Lambert is a drop back gunslinger. If he can translate high school success to the college game, he might not redshirt and could end up in the mix for the backup role. It seems that as long as Lazor is in town, this team will go the way of the Big Ten style drop back passer, which could accelerate Greyson up the ladder.

X Factors

Matt Johns is no slouch himself. He will have his shot in the fall to impress Lazor and work his way into the mix. But even if he (or Lambert) redshirts, he will give a little separation to the QB lineage, especially with another field general in the mix for 2013.

Prediction

Not shocking to say that Rocco will start, with Watford backing him up. I gave a ton of credit to David for enrolling early last year and it panned out for him. Lambert could follow that trend, but with Watford already used to the speed of the college game, he should sow up the backup slot. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t see the field in year 1 for some mop up time, but it is unlikely he jumps ahead of Watford.

Running Back/Fullback

Returning: RB: Perry Jones (Sr.), Kevin Parks (RSo.), Clifton Richardson (So.), Khalek Shepherd (So.); FB: Zachary Swanson (So.)

Incoming: RB: Kye Morgan

What To Look For

The running back depth chart is pretty much written in stone. Jones, Parks, and Richardson will be the constant rotation, with the same amount of carries per person again this year. Jones is Mr. Everything and can run inside, outside, and run the pattern better than anyone, and should end up as the top rusher and in the top 3 in passing yards. Parks is the scat back that can run the ball in pretty much any situation. Richardson found his calling as being the up the middle pounder to relieve the other two, and had a very solid yard per carry last year. And as always Shepherd didn’t see many true RB touches, but was a lone positive in the kick return game last year. True 2nd year Swanson looks like he will be the lone option at fullback with TFD and Max Milien gone.

What We Need To Figure Out

Lazor has a big hole to fill, literally. Milien caused problems for opposing defenses last year, not only blocking for the big 3, but catching the ball out of the backfield. We might not see it in spring practices, but with an inexperienced Swanson in the fullback slot, he might have to tweak some of the plays to get more Ace or Big sets involved in the play calling.

X Factors

Kye Morgan might be the steal of the class. After de-committing from Rutgers and switching to Virginia, he saw his stock rise and was widely considered one of the best running backs in the state of New Jersey. But with the log jam at running back, he might have to start out on special teams or redshirt to unknot the depth chart.

Prediction

#1 Jones, #2 Parks, #3 Richardson, Shepard continues to be a beast on special teams and the rookie gets the shirt. Swanson is used at fullback, but will need a few games to get used to the full time job.

Wide Reciever

Returning: Tim Smith (RJr.), %Bobby Smith (Jr.), Miles Gooch (RSo.), E.J. Scott (RSo.), Dominique Terrell (So.), Darius Jennings (So.)

Incoming: Jamall Brown, Anthony Cooper, Adrian Gamble**, Mario Nixon, Canaan Severin

What To Look For

A lot of production graduated this year. Rocco loved the great route runners who could sit down in a defense and pick up first downs. This year all the incumbents are speedsters who like the outside routes or bubble screens. Tim Smith, Terrell, and Jennings will get the early touches in the spring. Running clean routes will be the focus of the receivers, but it will also come down to Rocco becoming more in touch with the deep and sideline game.

What We Need To Figure Out

Can one of the three receivers mentioned step up this year and take over the role that made Burd and Snyder so productive? Tim should have a leg up, and DT & DJ will be on the two deep, but can players like Gooch and Scott work their way into playing time?

X Factors

The Hoos got a huge class at wide receiver, none bigger than Canaan Severin and Anthony Cooper. Canaan is the pure, tall possession receiver that Virginia has been missing for years. Cooper is another speedy outside receiver as well who should be getting some looks in the fall. Adrian Gamble is another name to watch out for as he has already had a year of prep.

Prediction

Smith and Terrell on one side, Jennings and Scott on the other to start, with Severin in the mix as well. With a dozen WRs in the mix, this one will be played out in the fall.

Tight Ends

Returning: %Colter Phillips (Sr.), Paul Freedman (Sr.), Jeremiah Mathias (Jr.), Jake McGee (So.).

Incoming: Kyle Dockins

What To Look For

Plenty to hope for from this group. All the starters are back, although Phillips is still nursing an injury so he is not available for the spring. Freedman and Mathias started to be productive in the passing game towards the end of the season, but all the TEs were crucial in the blocking game for the running backs. Look for them to see more passes come their way without Burd or Snyder in the mix and the spring will be their opportunity to show off what they can do.

What We Need To Figure Out

Without a returning fullback this year, can Lazor dial up some plays with the tight ends in the backfield or a Big set with three on the field at one time. Just like our preview of the FB race, this will come down to evals in the summer.

X Factors

The former high school quarterback McGee has shown that he can be a pass catching TE and could line up in a two back set going out on the pattern. Dockins is an interesting pickup for the Hoos, as he was a oversized WR in high school, which could mean he would push McGee and the others for time on the field.

Prediction

Look for the rotation of Phillips, Freedman, and Mathias back this year, with Paul and Jeremiah in the redzone. Also look for Mathias to line up in the backfield in short yardage situations

Offensive Line

Returning: T: %Oday Aboushi (Sr.), Morgan Moses (Jr.), Kelby Johnson (So.), Jay Whitmire (RFr.); G: %Luke Bowanko (RJr.), %Sean Cascarano (RJr.), Conner Davis (RSo.), Cody Wallace (RSo.), Tim Cwalina (RFr.); C: Matt Mihalik (RSr.), John Maghamez (Sr.), Ross Burbank (RFr.).

Incoming: Ryan Doull, Sean Karl, Michael Mooney, Andre Miles-Redmond

What To Look For

Virginia has had a very strong line for years, and the Hoos have been able to fill the two deep slot for years so that turnover has not been a problem. This year Virginia has another strong line anchored by returning starters Aboushi and Moses. With Oday our for the spring, Johnson will have the opportunity to lock in the back up job for the second straight year. Whitmire wore the shirt last year, but was regarded as the top lineman coming into the 2011 class, and will have a shot at backing up MM this year. At tackle, Bowanko and Cascarano are inactive, so look for Wallace and Davis to really step in up in 1st team action. Mihalik returns at center with Maghamez and Burbank fighting it out for backup rolls

What We Need To Figure Out

Not a whole bunch. Just like last year, the Hoos are pretty set at the two deep, with a few tweaks here and there.

X Factors

I really like Andre Miles-Redmond and he could be the Kelby Johnson of the 1st year class, breaking in a one of the guard spots. Also look for Ryan Doull to battle Whitmire for that 2nd team tackle spot.

Prediction

Aboushi, Bowanko, Mihalik, Cascarano, and Moses across the front. Second team up in the air, but look for Johnson, Wallace, and Cwalina to be involved.

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.

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