Virginia head coach Mike London's first task when he was hired to replace Al Groh in December was to rebuild his players' fractured psyches.
Now that he's on his way to doing that, he must figure out how to get them to perform on the field.
Many of the same problems that plagued Groh's final two years (when he went 8-16) showed up for London's team in Virginia's spring game.
The defense appeared solid, but the offense, in particular the quarterback play, was dismal.
Senior quarterback Marc Verica finished 8-for-23 for 83 yards and two interceptions in the spring game, but London said that's not indicative of Verica's spring.
He said Verica's introduction to new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor should help his confidence and his performance.
"In December, there were fragile egos, a dark cloud hanging over the guys, woe-is-me type of thing," London said. "And then change occurs. Sometimes when that happens, they get a new lease on life. You introduce them to new people in their life who say, 'You can do this.'"
The Cavaliers will likely need Verica to be their leader. His backup is redshirt freshman Ross Metheny. The offensive line still hasn't stabilized, either. That's why London is hoping his defense can carry the team until the offense is up to speed.
"I think we've got a chance to be pretty decent on defense," London said.NOTES, QUOTES
--The entire Virginia team participated in a bone marrow drive during spring practice. It inspired many to donate bone marrow themselves. Head coach Mike London said that's indicative of the type of community-based program he wants to run.
--Virginia first-year head coach Mike London isn't just changing the way his team plays. The Cavaliers introduced new uniforms on April 9. They've received mixed reviews from the fan base.
--Senior QB Marc Verica, senior CB Ras-I Dowling, senior TE Joe Torchia, senior DT John-Kevin Dolce and junior DT Nick Jenkins have been elected as co-captains for the 2010 season.
FB Terence Fells Danzer -- The junior has generated buzz since moving from ILB. Fells-Danzer (6-foot-1, 235 pounds) has dropped 15 pounds and his speed was shown on a 26-yard reception in the spring game. Fells-Danzer received the Rock Weir Award for offense from the coaching staff. The award is presented to the most improved offense and defensive players each spring.
ILB Aaron Taliaferro -- The junior was presented the Rock Weir Award for defense, which is presented to the most improved player each spring. Taliaferro said Virginia's transition to the 4-3 defense has helped. He said he's better suited for it than the 3-4 defense that former head coach Al Groh used.
QB Ross Metheny -- The redshirt freshman may or may not get a chance to earn the starting job over senior Marc Verica. But he's been the most impressive QB this spring. Metheny was sharp in the spring game, going 6-for-10 for 140 yards and a touchdown. However, he played against the second-string defense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Those guys they're blocking against are pretty good. But we need to come off the ball, drive and knock people back, and I know we can do that. We need to make sure to develop a toughness and an attitude about doing that...We'll have to address that, but these guys want to play hard, they want to win, they give good effort. I continue to look for the positives and understand we still have a long way to go. We're by no means a complete project." -- Virginia first-year head coach Mike London on his struggling offensive line, which has two new starters.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: When Mike London took over at Richmond, he inherited a winning program stocked with FCS talent. At Virginia, he's inherited a losing program that many would say is stocked with FCS talent. There's one problem: Virginia competes in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Cavaliers have no marquee players with the exception of CB Ras-I Dowling. The defense should keep the Cavaliers competitive, but offensive shortcomings will likely make this a true rebuilding year.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Senior QB Marc Verica was a turnover machine whenever he played in the past. He started nine games as a sophomore when he threw nine touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He'll likely earn the starting job because his backups are freshmen. His offensive line is shaky with two new starters, but true freshman tackle Morgan Moses could help that unit. Virginia has a stable of talented, but unproven RBs. Look for redshirt freshman Dominique Wallace, who is coming off a season-ending foot injury, to become a factor in the backfield. The WR corps is similar to the RBs because it's also a talented, but untested group.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Virginia returns several key performers from a unit that finished sixth in the ACC last year. The defensive line and the secondary are expected to lead the way. Second-team all-ACC CB Ras-I Dowling headlines a secondary that also includes up-and-coming safety Rodney McLeod. With Cam Johnson's move from OLB to DE, the line should be able to generate more pressure. An unproven group of OLBs appears to be the only glaring weakness among this unit. Sophomore ILB Steve Greer led the team in tackles as a freshman last season.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Junior K Robert Randolph enjoyed a breakthrough season last year. Randolph made 17-of-19 field goal attempts. The Cavaliers are looking for a new holder since the dependable and versatile Vic Hall graduated. It may sound like a small issue, but there were problems with holds during the spring game. Virginia kickers went 2-for-6 in that contest. P Jimmy Howell was seventh in the ACC (40.1 yards per punt) last year, but was benched part of the season by former head coach Al Groh. The return game is seeking a new PR in Hall's absence. WR Javaris Brown is a potential replacement but he missed spring practice for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. Brown rejoined the team for the spring game, but didn't participate.
--LB Steve Greer (ankle), DT Matt Conrath (foot), DE Brent Urban (knee), S Corey Mosley (shoulder), TE Joe Torchia (shoulder) and RB Dominique Wallace (foot) sat out of the spring game. With the possible exception of Urban all should be ready for fall practice.
--WR Javaris Brown and DE Tory Allen-Ford rejoined the team for the spring game, but didn't play in it. Brown and Allen-Ford were suspended for the first 13 practices for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. Brown had seven catches for 136 yards last season and could help the WR unit. The missed practice could make it difficult for Allen-Ford to earn playing time.
--WR Quintin Hunter is back at the position he began his Virginia career at. Hunter was a standout QB in high school. He asked coach Mike London for a chance to play QB. London granted Hunter his wish, but the experiment lasted just two weeks. Hunter would've been Virginia's No. 4 QB, but he'll have a chance to earn play time as a WR.
--Junior Matt Conrath has made the transition from DE to DT. The Cavaliers need a DT to play alongside standout Nick Jenkins because they've switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Conrath's move opens up a starting position for Zane Parr, who played well at DE when Conrath missed games due to injury last year.
Previous Report: 04/11/2010