It's suffice to say that last season did not go the way Virginia Cavalier fans hoped it would.
Even the bread and butter of Al Groh's career— defense—was noticeably shaky, as the Cavaliers recorded their worst season in more than 25 years.
The Cavaliers had the second-worst rush defense in the ACC and were 10th in sacks. Worse yet, the leader on the defensive line, Nate Collins, is graduating.
So why is there reason to be optimistic next season?
Matt Conrath, ladies and gentlemen. The rising junior is one of the most experienced linemen around, having started all 12 games as a redshirt freshman.
His shining moment came against East Carolina, when his sack and forced fumble set up the game-winning touchdown—and led to a small resurgence by the Cavaliers after a woeful September in 2008.
Last season, Conrath finished with 45 tackles, while his partner in crime, Nick Jenkins, finished with 41.
Considering the inconsistency of play last season from the Cavaliers, the defensive line was probably one of the most reliable positions—though never the most glamorous.
Groh's 3-4 scheme is usually meant to accentuate the linebackers of his team. Although Chris Long, Chris Canty, and Jeffrey Fitzgerald made names for themselves on the line, it is not easy getting recognition in the system.
Yet these young men are constantly making plays that go unrecognized. They are some of the most physical and aggressive players on the team, and as the unit jells, they can become big names for the Cavaliers.
With a new coach and a new attitude in Mike London, look out for Conrath and Jenkins to make a few more headlines, as Virginia will boast its best defensive line in quite some time.
The Cavaliers have a fair amount of depth, with Jake Snyder, John-Kevin Dolce, and Zane Parr all expected to get some playing time next season.
Transitioning to a new system may be difficult, but the Cavaliers have playmakers—and a change in culture may be just the thing to unleash the beasts in 2010.