Virginia (4-8, 2-6 ACC)
|Virginia QB Phillip Sims will enter spring practice atop the depth chart. (US Presswire)|
Expectations: The Cavaliers went 8-5 and played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2011. Given a tougher nonconference schedule and losses to graduation, matching that eight-win total seemed a little ambitious this year, but winning six games and getting back to a bowl were not. Virginia fell well short of its goal, and now the program finds itself in a period of uncertainty. Four assistant coaches -- defensive coordinator Jim Reid, defensive line coach Jeff Hanson, running backs coach Mike Faragalli, and tight ends coach Shawn Moore -- were fired after the season and QB Michael Rocco decided to transfer.
What went wrong: Virginia struggled with turnovers all year, finishing last in the ACC in turnover margin at minus-14. The offense was supposed to carry the team, but it disappointed as the Cavaliers finished No. 93 nationally in scoring offense, averaging 22.8 points per game. Rocco and QB Phillip Sims were involved in a quarterback rotation for the majority of the year that did not seem to have any rhyme or reason, but neither was able to play well enough to distinguish himself.
When it went wrong: The Cavaliers started 2-0 with wins over Richmond and Penn State. After that, Virginia lost six in a row, dropping home games to Louisiana Tech, Maryland and Wake Forest. In five of the six losses, the Cavaliers failed to score more than 20 points. Virginia won two in a row after the losing streak, but the damage had already been done.
Biggest overall disappointment: The offensive line featured LT Oday Aboushi and RT Morgan Moses, two players who very well could end up early round picks in future NFL Drafts. Virginia still struggled up front and never could run the ball with consistency which was a major contributor to Virginia's issues on offense. The Cavaliers averaged 128.5 rushing yards per game, ranking No. 96 nationally.
Bright spots: The defense got better as the year progressed, which made the dismissal of Reid such a head scratcher. Four underclassmen started in the secondary, and that unit should make strides next year given the experience it gained this season. True freshman DE Eli Harold came on in the second half of the season, and he looks like he will be an impact player in the near future.
Why it will be better in 2013: Virginia returns a lot of players who played significant roles on this year's team, including most of the offensive skill players. Sims will enter spring practice atop the depth chart and will have a full offseason to better learn offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's system. Defensively, the young players will benefit from an offseason in the weight room, and coach Mike London has put together another solid recruiting class to supplement the young talent he has assembled in his first three years on the job.
Why it might not: Whenever there is mass coaching turnover, there is always uncertainty. With a new defensive coordinator, the players will have to learn a whole new system with potentially all new terminology, and that could stunt some of the progress of the younger players. Sims still has not proven he can lead Virginia to where it wants to be in the ACC hierarchy. He completed 56.2 percent of his passes while throwing nine touchdowns and four interceptions the 12 games in which he appeared this season.
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