The annual media pilgrimage to Greensboro, N.C. to interrogate Atlantic Coast Conference football coaches and players regarding the coming season is upon us.
For Virginia coach Mike London and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, there's a lot to get ironed out in the next six weeks before the season openers. Here's a sneak peek at five questions London and Beamer may hear Monday when they meet with writers at the ACC Football Kickoff event.
1. Can David Watford still challenge for the starting job, or is it a done deal that Greyson Lambert will start the opener against UCLA?
The gap separating Lambert and Watford didn't seem insurmountable at the end of the spring, but that's not to say it wasn't clear Lambert had better spring practices. Watford, a Hampton High graduate, also must overcome unspecified failure to meet "expectations" in the offseason, which both Watford and coach Mike London cryptically referred to after the spring game. Lambert looks like he'll be difficult to unseat.
2. How much pressure does London and his staff feel heading into this season?
London will certainly talk about staying focused, doing the job one-day-at-a-time and whatnot, but he and Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson both likely feel more heat than any other coaches in the ACC. The 2014 recruiting class was stellar. While that kind of thing may have built up some good will in Charlottesville, now the wins have to come.
3. After going 2-10 last season, what would represent satisfactory improvement in Charlottesville?
That's certainly something that can only be evaluated in the eye of the beholder - the most important set of eyes obviously being U.Va. athletic director Craig Littlepage. A final winning percentage of .500 or better with this schedule would have to be considered a significant step in the right direction. Just one question...which ACC games can U.Va. fans truly feel optimistic about the Cavaliers winning?
4. Just how devastating to U.Va.'s offense was the loss of Jake McGee?
After McGee transferred to Florida, U.Va. didn't just lose a guy who was going to be a valuable wide receiver/tight end/H-back hybrid, it also lost one of its fiercest competitors. It's going to be essential for guys like senior wide receiver Darius Jennings, sophomore receiver Keeon Johnson and sophomore running back Taquan Mizzell to provide some excitement along with senior running back Kevin Parks.
5. With safety Anthony Harris, defensive end Eli Harold, defensive tackle David Dean, cornerbacks Demetrious Nicholson and Maurice Canady and linebackers Henry Coley and Daquan Romero all back, might this defense be able to keep U.Va. in games?
There's no doubt the loss of defensive lineman Brent Urban is going to be felt, but there's emerging talent in the front seven in the form of players like linebacker Max Valles and defensive end Mike Moore, both of whom have pass-rush skills defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will want to employ. Even if U.Va. doesn't win a ton of games, don't be surprised if a lot of its games are close, low-scoring affairs.
1. Is Michael Brewer the odds-on favorite to win the starting quarterback job now...even though none of Tech's coaches or players have seen him in an organized practice yet?
Senior Mark Leal and sophomore Brenden Motley had their chances in spring to win the starting job, and neither one did it. Now, Brewer arrives from Texas Tech at possibly just the right time. At just 6-feet and 202 pounds, he'd be a serious departure from what Tech fans got used to at quarterback with the 6-6, 250-pound Logan Thomas, but Brewer is supposed to have arm strength that belies his lack of size.
2. If Trey Edmunds is indeed healthy, who's the No. 2 running back? Can Phoebus High graduate and incoming freshman Marshawn Williams win that No. 2 job?
All indications are Edmunds is ready to roll and back close to 100 percent after rehabbing a broken leg he suffered last November against Virginia. Williams showed a knack for short yardage and goal line running in the spring. He'll have a legit chance to get a lot of carries this fall, along with J.C. Coleman, Jerome Wright, Joel Caleb, Chris Mangus and maybe incoming freshman Shai McKenzie, if he's fully recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last fall.
3. After an injury-plagued early portion of his career, along with road blocks to a starting role, can Chase Williams finally do the job at middle linebacker?
Williams will need to stay healthy and show progress to hold off redshirt freshman Andrew Motuapuaka. It'll be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Bud Foster encourages even more competition than usual at middle linebacker, considering what Foster came to expect at the position from former players like Jack Tyler.
4. Considering so much is still unsettled in the backfield, might Beamer prefer the trip to Ohio State to come later in the season?
By the end of the second Saturday in September, Beamer will either be brimming with confidence about his quarterback position, or he may have some sleepless nights in his future. Venturing to Columbus, Ohio for a night game in "the Horseshoe" will be a supreme test for Tech not only at quarterback, but on both sides of the ball - a test that would be equally as daunting if it were in the 10th week of the season.
5. With Logan Thomas gone, what are the biggest tweaks coordinator Scot Loeffler will have to make to his offense in his second season in Blacksburg?
Perhaps not as much as one might think, considering Thomas didn't take off on as many designed runs last season as he had in previous seasons. Of course, if Brewer ends up being the man under center, he can allegedly scoot around pretty well, too. At the very least, with the return of wide receivers Joshua Stanford, Willie Byrn and Demitri Knowles and tight ends Kalvin Cline and Ryan Malleck, Tech's quarterback will have plenty of dependable targets. Something must be done to generate better push from the offensive line than it got last season.
Wood can be reached at 757-247-4642Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun