2019 Virginia Football Season Preview
Virginia turned in an impressive 2018 season under Bronco Mendenhall–will they continue to climb the ranks in a heavily-contested ACC?
2018 Record: 8-5 overall, 4-4
Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall, 4th year, 16-22
Quarterback Bryce Perkins was dominant last year and could be considered the best signal caller in the conference not named Trevor Lawrence. Perkins passed for 2,680 yards with 25 TDs and 9 INTs a season ago–but he’s more dangerous with his legs as he rushed for 923 yards and 9 more scores. He will pace this offense.
It is likely the quarterback will lead the team in rushing, especially with the loss of thousand-yard back Jordan Ellis. There will be more of a committee approach this year with mauler PK Kier and versatile Wayne Taulapapa leading the group.
The loss of Ellis hurts the running game, but the loss of Olamide Zaccheaus who caught 93 passes last year could affect the receiving game more. The good news? The Cavs return the top four wideouts behind Zaccheus, including Hasise Dubios who made 52 catches and speedster Joe Reed.
The offensive line returns three starters and the way Perkins scrambles they need to be on their game at all times–he also can save them from missed blocks. Two transfers are expected to take the open positions–Air Force transfer Victor Oluwatimi at center and Penn State transfer Alex Gellerstedt at tackle. Overall, it’s a solid unit.
This defense was great last season and despite losing safety Juan Thornhill and linebacker Chris Peace to the NFL they return eight starters and should be just as good again in 2019.
The defensive line only plays three at a time, but it’s a good one with Eli Hanback who can play on the nose or as a big end, and 6’0, 320-pound Jordan Redmond will be a fixture on the inside and an occasional anchor. They have depth as well with sophomores Aaron Faumui and Tommy Christ spelling the veterans.
With Peace gone Jordan Mack is the main man from the inside and 6’7, 225-pound junior Charles Snowden is a good hybrid edge rusher from a spot on the outside.
Despite the losses in the secondary, the Cavaliers have a shutdown corner in Bryce Hall and a stud safety in Joey Blount. Brenton Nelson replaces Thornhill and while he’s not as talented, he’s still a solid piece, while Darrius Bratton will play on the opposite side of Hall.
The health of Perkins will be key to the Cavaliers success this season–he has a tendency to take big hits and that is not something you want out of your quarterback.
Defensively, the size, depth, and talent are all there on the front three, and the linebacking corps is good enough to be among the ACC’s most effective–add in the talent in the secondary and this is going to be one of the best units in the conference.
The schedule is winnable–they do not have to play Clemson or NC State, but do have a difficult foe on the schedule in Notre Dame–if they win that game this is a potential Top 25 team and one that can win the Coastal division.