<
>

Getting back to a bowl: Virginia

If Virginia doesn’t get to a bowl game this season, the fourth-year seniors on the roster will never have experienced one. That in itself should provide enough motivation for the Cavs in Mike London’s second season.

But is it asking too much, too soon?

Virginia hasn’t seen the postseason since 2007, and the program is still in a rebuilding phase and without a starting quarterback. Some Hoos fans say I’ve made too much out of the quarterback competition, but the position is vital to the success of the team and the program, and if there was one who was that good, he would have been named the starter by now. Instead, no separation has occurred and the competition will continue through the summer. The good news for Virginia is that no other team in the ACC returns more starters (19), and the defense is the real deal, especially the front seven and cornerback Chase Minnifield.

The truth is, London needs more time to recruit. He needs better athletes at every position, and he needs players who fit his system. Here are three things, though, that Virginia can do this season to get ahead of schedule and send the senior class off with a bowl bid:

1. Find a quarterback who can manage the offense without turning it over. This team does not need a superstar. The defense is good enough that it won’t be on the field all day long, can create some turnovers and win with a short field. But the offense must do its part and sustain drives. Last season, Virginia ranked 101 in the country in turnover margin, and 17 of those were interceptions.

2. Stop the run. Virginia ranked 106th in the country last season in rushing defense, allowing 203.67 yards per game. The Cavaliers should be better because they’ll be in the second season in the 4-3 scheme and they return three starters on the defensive line and two linebackers.

3. Quit giving away free yards. As if turnovers weren’t enough, Virginia ranked 116th in the country last season in penalties. They had 98 for a loss of 880 yards. There are fewer yards between Charlottesville and Blacksburg. Game officials helped the Hoos this spring, not only from a mental aspect, but also from a technical standpoint. They instructed the players on what actually constitutes a penalty and what they were doing wrong to incur them, such as hand placement.