UCLA opens up this expectation filled season on Saturday in Charlottsville. Coming in as a preseason top 10 team, the Bruins are heavy favorites on the road against a Virginia program that can't seem to get out of first gear. After a promising second season at Virginia, head coach Mike London's teams have regressed, and last year's Cavalier squad ended the year with a 9 game losing streak and without a conference win.
Mike London is in his 5th year as Virginia's head coach. He posts a career record at Virginia of 18-31, and he is squarely on the hot seat. In fact, London might be out of a job had he not recruited so well this past offseason, where he was able to keep Virginia's top prospects in state.
Prior to coming to being named head coach at Virginia, London was very successful at Richmond, where he went 24-5 in two seasons. London's background is on the defensive side of the ball, where he has experience coaching all three levels of the defense as a position coach in both the college and pro ranks, and experience as a defensive coordinator. For whatever reason, London's prior success simply has not translated to Virginia, and he's facing a make or break season.
Offensively, Steve Fairchild enters his second season as offensive coordinator. Fairchild has coordinated offenses in college at Colorado State, and in the NFL with the Rams and Bills. He runs a pass first scheme, but Virginia lacked a quarterback able to run his offense last year. The Cav's offense only managed 54% completion percentage last year and a meager 5 yards per attempt. They did manage over 150 yards per game on the ground on 40 attempts per game, and our defense will have to respect the run.
John Tenuta coordinates the defense, and is also in his second season. Tenuta has been around the college game seemingly forever, with stints at Ohio State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and NC State prior to Virginia. He is one of the most aggressive coordinators around, and he's generally effective. Last year, his defense held opponents to 16 points or fewer four times (unfortunately they went 2-2 in those games). Opponents only completed a shade over 50% of their passes, but did find itself susceptible to the big play. The Cavaliers were 39th in allowing 174 gains of 10+ yards but were 100th in allowing 69 gains of 20+ yards and 115th in allowing 39 gains of 30+ yards.
Alex Vozenilek will handle punting and place kicking duties. He made 12/15 field goals last year, and averaged nearly 42 yards per punt.
In the return game, Virginia averaged about 18 yards per kick return and 7 yards per punt return, which are both in the bottom half of the national rankings. Virginia needs a strong return game to help out their offense, and it will be interesting to see if Virginia can manage a better showing in the return game this year.
That concludes Part 1 of the Virginia Cavaliers preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments.