Five Potential Breakout Stars for Virginia Football in 2010
There certainly hasn't been a whole to cheer about the past few seasons for the Virginia Cavaliers.
Now that coach Mike London is the new sheriff in town, the boys of Charlottesville look to turn things around in the ACC.
Granted, with so many question marks heading into next season, this will not be a simple fix. However, the new coach and the new system mixed with experience and talent should provide some light in an otherwise grim and gloomy forecast for the 2010 season.
The following is a look at five players who have the potential to break out this season and help Virginia surprise a team or two along the way. They plan to make a name for themselves and, in the process, bring respectability and pride back to the Cavaliers.
Parks comes in as perhaps the prize of the class of 2010, looking to make an immediate impact to the Cavalier backfield.
The running back from West Rowan High in North Carolina was a Parade All-American and with good reason. His 3,794 rushing yards is a state record and he helped bring home two Class 3A State Championships.
Parks has a great deal of speed, something that has sorely been lacking in the Virginia offense these past few years. However, he also has a toughness that impresses people.
Without a doubt, this young man has the talent to become an instant leader for a unit in need of stability and confidence.
However, Parks will need to keep out of trouble off the field. Questions have begun to surface after a run-in with police this spring.
If the running back makes the field, he has the chance to become an instant playmaker.
Smith came in with few expectations.
As a true freshman, many expected the wide receiver to sit on the bench in 2009. Instead, Smith became a home run threat whose speed made him an instant fan favorite.
Smith had a 69-yard bomb against Southern Miss, the longest pass play of the year. Despite just 15 receptions, he had over 200 yards and tied the team lead in touchdowns.
Indeed, Smith's biggest problem has been having a quarterback good enough to get him the ball consistently.
Heir apparent to the quarterback throne, Marc Verica, may not be the best decision maker, but he does have a good arm. Hopefully, he can overcome some of the past failures on his resume.
Smith has a year of experience under his belt and enters spring training as a potential star in the making. He has grown quite a bit having to line up against potential first-round draft pick Ras-I Dowling at cornerback.
Dowling has pushed Smith and that will make him a better player come September.
If Virginia wants to have an offense worth talking about it, it will need Smith to provide some fancy footwork.
If it's one thing we have learned about Virginia football, it's that the Cavaliers can produce high quality tight ends.
Obviously, everyone knows about the success of current Steelers tight end Heath Miller. However, his successors Jon Stupar, Tom Santi, and Patrick Estes are all in the NFL.
If Torchia wants to join that list, he will need a breakout season in 2010.
Torchia was placed in a bad situation to start 2009. The move to the spread offense hurt his opportunities to get on the field, let alone make plays.
The failure of Brandon's system allowed Virginia to return to its pro-style sets and Torchia began to find his niche. Fifteen receptions and 150 yards is not spectacular, but it bodes well for the future.
Unfortunately, injuries sidelined him during the spring and he will have to make the most of his practices in August.
Torchia has great size and good hands. He has also proven to be a fairly good blocker.
However, this year seems to be the time for him to shine.
Virginia's offense will need to use short passing plays to move the chains.
With an improved offensive line, Torchia will have more opportunities to run routes and make big plays.
Torchia makes the perfect safety valve. Enough to make him a breakout star in the making.
The change from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a 4-3 has resulted in shifting many roles on the team.
Perhaps none of the moves are more intriguing than putting Reynolds into the linebacking corps.
Reynolds, who spent last year fighting for time in the crowded secondary, brings speed and athleticism up front. He has the mindset to charge forward like a speeding bullet, something this scheme will allow him to do.
Coach London and company have charged Reynolds with the role of being a difference maker. He is there to create havoc, cause turnovers, and act pretty much like a wild man.
So far, so good.
Reynolds impressed everyone this spring and earned the starting spot. Whether he can translate that to success in the Fall remains to be seen.
I wouldn't bet against him though, he looks like a guy who holds grudges.
Now I know that Chase Minnifield is not exactly a no-namer.
The "other" cornerback at Virginia has established quite the litany of accomplishments.
However, this rising junior is poised to make a big-time impact this time around.
Why is Minnifield a potential breakout ACC player?
Let me count the ways.
With Ras-I Dowling by his side, Minnifield will almost always get the No. 2 option on the field. He not only has the talent to shut these guys down, but to make big plays.
If Dowling plays to his potential, quarterbacks will be looking Minnifield's way. So expect him to improve upon his two interceptions last season.
Second, the 4-3 defensive scheme should put more pressure on the quarterback. That leads to more pressure on the ball and opportunities for Minnifield.
Third, Chris Cook graduated, which means more playing time.
Fourth, Minnifield is also a kick returner, a position where a big play is just a few blocks away.
Minnifield has great teammates, a good coaching staff, experience, and a nose for making big plays.
Virginia needs more players like him.
Fortunately, he should give Cavalier fans something to be proud of next season. Even if the win-loss record will not.