University of Virginia Football Preview for 2008

John GilmerContributor IFebruary 18, 2008

I am a fan of the University of Virginia Cavalier football team, and as such am wondering how our 2008 team will compare with their 2007 counterpart. 

Here are the people from the two-deep we are losing and an analysis of each position group.

Defensive Line:

Billyk is a serviceable nose tackle, but with Collins and Jenkins returning, we shouldn’t be losing too much there.

Obviously Chris Long will be our biggest loss, though Fitzgerald will be another year older and we’ve heard enough good things about Gottschalk and Fields that we should be able to cope here.

But overall, a step down without Long. 

If the rumors are true that Fitz won’t be on the team because of academic issues, there will be a huge drop in the defensive line.


Jamaal Jackson and Nate Lyles are both serviceable safeties. They are good in run support, but not quick enough to cover the field in pass coverage.

Lyles is (or at least was) known as a big hitter, but I’d trade that for someone who disallows more passes and stops the long bombs that have been plaguing us.

He’s started a lot of games in his career and only has three picks. 

Our biggest loss will be Chris Cook, who is off the team for the time being because of academic issues. However, he missed several games in 2007 from injuries and Dowling (whom anyone can see has talent) filled in nicely.

I am not sold on Vic Hall at CB, so I’m hoping that he might get moved back to offense and Brown will live up to his four-star recruiting hype at the position.

Because everyone else will have another year experience and we have some talented young guys coming up the pike, I hope our secondary is about the same next year, though that’s probably a bit optimistic.


Dias is a serviceable LB, but hasn’t lived up to his hype coming out of high school in an injury-plagued career.

Because everyone else will have another year experience and we have some talented young guys working up through the system, our LB corps should definitely be better next year.

We’re also losing Darnell Carter to academics, but he probably wasn’t going to be on the two-deep.


We’re not losing anyone (except Gorham who hasn’t done much and Dalton, but he wasn’t going to be on the two-deep anyways), so we should be better here.  Plus we'll have Ogletree back, who was out last year with a knee injury, and he has all-ACC potential.

Tight End:

We’re losing Santi and Stupar, who are both very good. 

With Phillips and Torchia stepping up, I think we’ll be solid, but not as good as this year. 

It’s too bad Phillips didn’t redshirt, as he’ll only have one year as a starter, and I think he potentially has All-ACC talent.


This is the hardest position to predict. 

I was hoping that Sewell's return next year as a third-year starter would really shine. 

Then we heard the devastating news that he was one of the players who won’t be around for academic reasons. 

The presumed starter will be Lalich, in his second year in the program, but a superstar in high school. 

I have high hopes that he’ll end up a very talented QB in the future. 

However, this will be his first year starting, notwithstanding a few series he played this past season.

So I would guess that this position will be a step down. 

On the other hand, Sewell never seemed to be that great of a passer, so it could be a step up, though we’ll obviously miss his running ability.

It appears that our coaches seem perfectly comfortable recruiting and playing either a pocket passer or a running QB, and if Lalich starts, he’ll be our first traditional pocket QB since Schaub.

Most fans would agree that our offense was better under Schaub than the ensuing years, so maybe it’ll return to those glory days—though maybe not this year.

Running Back:

We’re not losing anyone, so we should be better here. 

Sort of.

Of course, much of the running back production is based on OL performance, so even though we might be loaded with talent here, I would expect a bit of a drop in productivity.

Offensive Line:

This is area that worries me the most. 

We are losing a couple of guys with a lot of experience, and probably more than any other position, it’s important for OL guys to play together to have good cohesion and coordination.

We are losing Lipsey, who is having a great year, and Cunningham, who is quite solid. 

As I predicted before the season, Albert, our best OL, is going pro a year early, which puts us in a lot of trouble because of our lack of OL depth. 

We’ll have to see how Shields will do at center next year, given that he switched to OL from TE less than a year ago. 

Reports are that Cabbell is doing well, so I would expect him to replace Cunningham. 

Sammis is a career backup and won’t be a huge loss.

The word on the street is that Slebonic will take Albert’s place, though I suppose Stair could make a case.

Let’s hope that Hugene Monroe is completely healthy and lives up to his recruiting hype coming out of high school, which would only be possible with an All-America season. 

Overall, definitely a step down here.

Special Teams:

This is an area of worry. 

We got spoiled with Connor Hugh’s consistency and then struggled in 2006 after he left. 

Since we are losing Gould and Weigand after this year (both of whom really got their acts together this past year), next year could be bad. 

We are also losing Zidenberg, who has always done an admirable job with his hustle. 

We’ll probably have a true freshman at punter and red-shirt freshman at kicker, so I’d definitely expect a step down.


This one is hard to predict. 

All Hoo fans were dismayed to see our defensive coordinator, Mike London, leaving, because the defense has been much better since he took over duties a couple years ago. 

Then we recently found out that Pruett was being hired to replace him, which gives us hope. 

He has an awesome resume as a DC, though I don’t know if he’s ever run a 3-4 defense.

I am hoping that Mike Groh, who has been less than impressive, might finally start to figure things out in his third year as offensive coordinator. 


I think we will be a small step down in terms of overall talent and production next year. 

A lot of football success starts in the trenches, and we’ll have issues at OL and really miss Chris Long’s dominating play (always getting double-teamed and still making plays).

We won so many close games last year, that the 9-3 regular season easily could have been 4-8 if a few balls had bounced the other way. 

That sort of “luck” doesn’t give me confidence that it will carry over for the next year. 

Plus we are playing USC, so I would predict 7-5 for next year.


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