At the very least, Virginia will look different when it takes the field against Richmond on Saturday.
The team has new blue, orange and white Nike Pro Combat uniforms. They’ll have redesigned, metallic-blue helmets that no longer have an orange stripe across the top. There are new graphic designs in the end zones of Scott Stadium, and there will be new faces on the sidelines as first-year coach Mike London and his staff are in search of new playmakers.
Will there be a new result, though, in Week 1?
The seniors on this roster are still waiting to win their first home opener, and Richmond -- despite being at the FCS level -- is no pushover. Just ask London, who coached his alma mater to the 2008 FCS national title. Richmond also has USC transfer Aaron Corp at quarterback. How Virginia fares against London’s former team will help determine which direction this team is headed, but it’s only the first in a long list of goals toward rebuilding the program.
“The facts are the facts,” London said. “We have not won a home opener in such a long time and that's one of the team goals, one of several goals, but, you know, as you look at this particular season … it's a new opportunity to change the way things have been going for a while, in particular, with these fourth- and fifth-year seniors. That's been a point of emphasis with this game coming up being the first game, but the importance of having a chance to play well on your home opener.”
Virginia suffered one of the ACC’s most embarrassing defeats last year -- a 26-14 loss to William & Mary. The loss was Virginia's first to a FCS school since 1986, when it lost 41-37 to the Tribe. If Virginia is going to have any chance at a bowl game in London’s first season, it’s already in a must-win situation. And it only gets tougher in Week 2 with a trip to USC.
London said it will take about three weeks before he learns more about the identity of this team, which still has some positions undecided on its depth chart.
“You spend so much time against each other in training camp and beating on each other and after a while, you don't know if you're as good as you think you are or you're as bad as you think you are,” he said. “It's just one of those things. When people start playing other people, you have some sort of idea about what you are.
“I think the first three games, because of the test and the degrees of where we are going and traveling and all of that, it's going to be interesting to see coming out of that going into the bye game about where we are and then where we should be.”