Finding the face of the program is not always an easy task.
Last year, Virginia was trying to come to grips with living in a post-Chris Long existence.
They needed someone else to take up the mantle and become the difference maker for the Cavaliers.
Last year, I chronicled four potential impact players for Virginia in 2008.
Cedric Peerman surpassed the expectations of almost all Virginia fans with tremendous performances in October to save Virginia from a completely humiliating season. He was the leading scorer on the team and a terrific ambassador for the team.
Eugene Monroe bullied ACC defensive linemen to the point of hearing his name called in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Clint Sintim was a tremendous linebacker who helped lead the team with 70 tackles, 13 of them for a loss. He continued to put the “crush” in Virginia’s “Orange Crush” defense.
Well now the time has come to see what new faces may emerge as the impact players of the 2009 season.
RB Mikell Simpson
Simpson made the list last year, but was hampered by injuries that severely limited his playing time.
However, even though his junior year was a disappointment, the stars appear to be aligned for a special senior campaign.
Simpson is almost the unquestioned leader at the running back position and his speed makes him tailor-made for the new spread system that will soon be employed by the Cavaliers.
Starting his sophomore year fourth on the depth chart, Simpson finished the year second on the team in rushing and was also the leading receiver with 43 receptions.
His 271-yard performance against Maryland is still one of the best individual performances in school history.
If Simpson stays healthy, you can expect similar numbers as his ability to run and catch will make him the favored target of whoever is throwing the pigskin come September.
QB Vic Hall
He is without a doubt the most dynamic player on the Virginia roster.
After spending three years at cornerback, Hall is getting the opportunity to return to the quarterback position. As the signal-caller at Gretna High, Hall rewrote the VHSL record books while amassing enough career total yards to make him fifth best nationally.
Hall showed just a glimpse of what he could do in Blacksburg, VA against Orange Bowl Champions Virginia Tech.
With only a week of practice, Hall ran through one of the toughest defenses in the nation en route to two touchdowns and made a major scare in the ACC.
Considering that the Hokies knew exactly what was coming (Hall threw one pass the entire game), this bodes well that the diminutive quarterback may surprise many people this season.
Hall enters training camp first on the depth chart but that is because of his amazing versatility. His speed makes him a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands.
If Virginia is to be anywhere close to successful, look for Hall to be the reason why.
CB Ras-I Dowling
Dowling enters the season as one of Virginia’s most talented and experienced players on the field.
The junior cornerback led the team in interceptions last season and has 23 games under his belt.
Dowling is the leader of the most experienced secondary unit at Virginia since the days of Ronde Barber and Anthony Poindexter. With coach Al Groh breaking in a new group of linebackers this season, the pressure will be on the corners to keep a tight leash on opposing receivers this season.
Dowling has earned acclaim, being named a second-team All-ACC member and a second-team All-American sophomore team by Collegefootballnews.com. However, his challenge this season will be becoming a vocal leader.
Dowling, along with senior Chris Cook, must help guide a young squad that is dealing with its fourth different defensive coordinator in five years. Fortunately, one new name to that staff is secondary coach Anthony Poindexter.
With his tutelage, expect big things from Dowling.
WR Jared Green
Virginia fans are hoping that greatness runs in the blood of Jared Green.
The son of the Hall-of-Fame Redskin Darrell Green, Jared was thrust upon the national stage when he introduced his father into Canton, Ohio.
Granted it’s not the same as being rushed by head-hunting safeties but that is definitely pressure to perform in front of a big audience.
Green is a rising sophomore and, with the loss of Kevin Ogletree, is the leading receiver for the Cavaliers coming into the 2009 season.
Green still remains a bit of a mystery since Virginia did not throw the ball much last season.
Green’s 12 receptions for 144 yards is pretty pedestrian, but it does not mean he cannot bust out this season if he is given the opportunity.
After all, if Virginia is going to use the spread offense, someone has to catch the ball.
Green is the fastest receiver on the team and at 6’2" is a good target for any of Virginia’s quarterbacks to be aiming towards.
His work ethic and attitude has made him a fan favorite and a favored player of Groh, so expect to see Green to be used early and often throughout the season.
He may be the biggest question heading into the season but his production would go a long way in Virginia making quite the impact on the ACC in 2009.
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