Third year (12-13 at U.Va.; 36-18 overall in coaching career)
He's the maniac who used to head-butt players with their helmets on when he was U.Va.'s defensive coordinator. He's the guy who fell to his knees on the Scott Stadium sideline with tears streaming down his face in 2010 after U.Va. upset No. 22 Miami in his first season as the Cavaliers' coach. He's the otherwise mild-mannered man who has a rep for being not nearly so hushed in the living rooms of recruits. U.Va.'s brass apparently believes last season's 8-5 record is a sign of better things to come with London, who earned ACC coach of the year honors. On the eve of last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl, U.Va. rewarded the Bethel High graduate with a two-year contract extension (through 2016) and a $400,000 annual raise (to $2.1 million annually). A 3-4 record against ranked teams in his two full seasons at U.Va. is promising, but two of those losses came against Virginia Tech. That's going to have to change if he hopes to get more rear ends in many of the still-vacant Scott Stadium seats.
Sr. | 5-8 | 185 | RB
He's the strongest pound-for-pound player on U.Va.'s roster, and has a shot at becoming the Cavaliers first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004 when Alvin Pearman had 1,037 yards. Not bad considering Jones had just three Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers coming out of Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake.
Sr. | 6-2 | 225 | LB
Coming off January surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Greer insists he's at full strength. Of course, he's the kind of tough guy who wouldn't tell you otherwise even if he was hurting. He led the team last season with 103 tackles from his middle linebacker spot.
Sr. | 6-6 | 310 | OT
Though the NFL draft advisory committee projected him to be a late first-round or early second-round pick if he had come out early for the April draft, Aboushi chose to return for his senior season. At left tackle, he forms one half of one of the nation's most daunting tackle duos along with Morgan Moses.
BUILDING ON SUCCESS
With its first bowl appearance in four years under its belt, Virginia will go for back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2005. A defense that features no returning proven pass rush ability and a three-quarters re-tooled secondary doesn't necessarily bode well for that goal considering the cruiserweight-to-heavyweight foes on the September slate. If U.Va. can get out of its first five games with a winning record, there's a good shot the Cavaliers will pick up at least seven wins for a second straight season. Falling below .500 heading into October will mean U.Va. will have to surprise at least one team along the way to finish with a winning record, which won't be easy since the November schedule includes three games where U.Va could be underdogs — at North Carolina State, North Carolina (even though it's in Charlottesville) and at Virginia Tech.
FIGURE OUT WHO'S YOUR MAN
By the time this season preview gets consumed by voracious readers, U.Va.'s coaching staff will almost certainly have settled on a starting quarterback for its season-opener against Richmond. Now, what happens beyond that game (or maybe even in that game) is anybody's guess. With so much talent at the quarterback spot — incumbent starter Michael Rocco, promising transfer Phillip Sims, improved passer David Watford, hot-shot incoming freshman Greyson Lambert — how long will the initial starter be given to figure things out if he flounders? Will U.Va. employ a multi-quarterback system like it did for the first seven games last season with Rocco and Watford? A prediction: even if Rocco earns the starting job and succeeds early on, the temptation to see what they have with Sims will be too much for U.Va.'s coaching staff to resist. He'll play. The kid didn't come to Charlottesville to sit.
GET THE BALL TO THE SPEED GUYS
Last season, wide receivers Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell came to campus with big reputations for being guys with blinding speed and game-breaking ability. After playing quarterback in high school, both guys learned the receiver position on the fly, but they didn't get much chance to do so in games — combining for just 28 catches. Of course, that's a little more understandable when you consider U.Va. had the second-best pass-catcher in school history on its roster, but receiver Kris Burd is gone now. It's time to get Jennings and Terrell more involved. There's no question Perry Jones will be a big factor in the passing game after leading all ACC running backs with 48 catches last season, and receiver Tim Smith (33 catches last season) likely will be the first-read on many plays, but Jennings and Terrell both need to be incorporated in larger slices of the offensive distribution.
Sept. 1 | Richmond | 3 p.m.
London hung a 34-13 loss on his alma mater and previous employer in U.Va.'s 2010 season-opener, which was also London's first game as the Cavaliers' coach. Richmond, which isn't as talented as it was two seasons ago, will be fortunate to keep it within three touchdowns this time around.
Sept. 8 | Penn State | noon
Before last fall, this game looked like a noteworthy non-conference game that might draw attention from a few unaffiliated folks. Now, it's a much more interesting game for awful reasons, and the nation could be watching. Given Penn State's transfer losses, U.Va. has to feel good about its chances.
Sept. 15 | at Georgia Tech | 3:30 p.m.
Upsetting No. 12 Georgia Tech last October in Charlottesville helped U.Va. get its season headed in the right direction. Both teams likely will be unranked this time, but a win for U.Va. would be just as important as it was last season given the difficulty of the Cavaliers' early season schedule.
Sept. 22 | at Texas Christian
A brutal spot for this road trip after what surely will be a taxing two weeks for U.Va. New Big 12 member TCU has a slew of athletes at both running back (three returning players that each had 702 to 875 yards rushing last season) and wide receiver who will test U.Va.'s endurance.
Sept. 29 | Louisiana Tech
While Louisiana Tech doesn't carry much name recognition, there's talent in Ruston. Louisiana Tech went 8-5 and won the WAC last year. It gave TCU fits in the Poinsettia Bowl, losing 31-24 to the Horned Frogs. With eight offensive starters back and a typically talented defensive line, Louisiana Tech could be even better this season.
Oct. 6 | at Duke
After losing three in a row to Duke from 2009-11, U.Va. finally figured out how to beat the Blue Devils last season. In U.Va.'s last trip to Durham in the '10 season, Duke won a crazy 55-48 contest. Don't expect the same offensive fireworks in this one.
Oct. 13 | Maryland
With a promising crop of freshmen, there's a good chance the Terrapins can improve (2-10 last season), but it's going to take time for significant strides to be made. U.Va., which won at Maryland last season, should handle the Terrapins better than it did the last time the teams met in Charlottesville (a 42-23 Maryland win in 2010).
Oct. 20 | Wake Forest
In a continuation of what should be a redemptive month of October after September's gauntlet, U.Va. meets a Wake Forest team coming off three consecutive losing seasons and returning just four starters on offense. It should be the last relative break on the schedule for U.Va.
Nov. 3 | at North Carolina State
U.Va. better hope it has its shaky secondary issues worked out by this point, because no quarterback other than Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas will challenge U.Va.'s pass defense more than N.C. State's Mike Glennon. N.C. State will be going for its first three-game winning streak against U.Va. since 1992-94.
Nov. 10 | Miami
Speaking of three-game winning streaks, U.Va. has a chance to get its third straight against Miami. Just three years ago, it would've been absurd to suggest U.Va. had more speed at its skill positions from experienced players than Miami. That day may have arrived.
Nov. 15 | North Carolina | 7:30 p.m.
Before a 44-10 loss to UNC in 2010, U.Va. had dominated the Tar Heels in Charlottesville unlike any other opponent, winning 14 consecutive home games. Now, in keeping with the theme of threes, U.Va. will try to avoid its first three-game losing streak to UNC since 1980-82.
Nov. 24 | at Virginia Tech
The last time U.Va. won in Blacksburg it had more than a week to prepare (two weeks in 1998 prior to a 36-32 win). Then again, extra time before the Tech game in 2007 didn't help U.Va. (a 33-21 loss in Charlottesville with two weeks to get ready). Nine days of prep may not be enough.
After an easy win against Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, and with nearly every significant skill player returning, Clemson will challenge perennial Atlantic Division favorite Florida State for the top spot in that division. Of course, Clemson would rather forget how last season's Orange Bowl turned out (70-33 loss to West Virginia). FSU should have one of the nation's best defenses (especially on the line), as well as one of the most productive quarterbacks in EJ Manuel. Georgia Tech, which has starting quarterback Tevin Washington and two of its three starting running backs returning, and UNC present the biggest hurdles to Virginia Tech in the Hokies' quest to win a sixth Coastal Division crown. With N.C. State, U.Va. and possibly Miami in the mix, the ACC should have at least seven bowl-eligible teams, which, of course, doesn't include NCAA probation-saddled UNC.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun