Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Virginia.
Spring Practice Starts: March 19
Spring Game: Saturday, April 14
Three things to look for:
1. Plenty of holes to fill on defense. One of the biggest reasons for Virginia's four-win turnaround in Mike London's second season was a dramatic improvement on the defensive side of the ball. The Cavs jumped from finishing 10th to 3rd in the ACC in total defense from 2010 to 2011. The issue moving forward for the Cavs is that seven starters from last year's squad will not return for 2012, including First Team All-ACC selections Matt Conrath and Chase Minnifield. With three open positions along the defensive line and in the secondary up for grabs, Virginia fans are hoping the competition will benefit a unit with high expectations based on the play of their predecessors.
2. New run blockers needed up front. The Cavaliers return both Perry Jones and Kevin Parks at running back, who combined for 1,624 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011. However, those gaudy numbers were also a credit to an offensive line that started the same five players for all 13 games. This spring, Virginia will be looking to replace All-American guard Austin Pasztor and center Anthony Mihota to continue the downhill run game that helped the Cavs dictate the pace in several wins last season. All-ACC second team tackle Oday Abboushi will not be participating in spring practice due to injury.
3. Raised expectations for 2012. Turning around 4-8 to one win away from an ACC Coastal Division title was just one reason Mike London was named ACC Coach of the Year. But repeating that kind of success after graduating 11 starters on most of your specialists will be one of his toughest coaching challenges since arriving in Charlottesville. Excitement is back around Virginia football after the taste of success, and London's staff will beginning filling those holes this spring. One thing working in their favor is a seemingly wide-open Coastal Division this fall. With North Carolina - and possibly Miami, again - ineligible for postseason play; the Cavs just need to take care Duke, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech to earn their first berth to the ACC Championship Game.