Opponent Breakdown: Virginia Cavaliers

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Special to CardinalSportsZone.com from Andrew Ramspacher.

The following breakdown of the Virginia Cavaliers was sent to me by Andrew Ramspacher, who is the beat writer for the team for the Daily Progress in Charlottesville. Who better to get information from than the guy who covers the team daily? Here you go!

UVa Offense

As of three weeks ago, this was clearly going to be Greyson Lambert’s team. The redshirt sophomore quarterback had been with the first team since day one of spring ball, was named co-captian in April and appeared on the cover of the media guide. He would take over from the brutal David Watford experiment (eight touchdowns, 15 interceptions as the starter in 2013) and was destined to break the on-going QB carousel that defined the Mike London era.

But then came the 2014 season opener in which Lambert was intercepted twice for touchdowns in the second quarter and the UVa staff threw in little-known Matt Johns. All Johns did was immediately lead a touchdown drive and nearly rally the Cavaliers to an upset of the then-No. 7 Bruins.

Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns. Photo: 247 Sports
Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns. Photo: 247 Sports

For the fourth time in London’s five years, Virginia has a quarterback “situation” (he refuses to call it a “controversy”). Johns and Lambert will both play against Louisville, as they did against Richmond last week. I’d expect Lambert to start, but Johns to get in by the end of the first quarter. They’re both 6-foot-5, but Lambert carries more power (almost 240 pounds) and a bigger arm. Johns doesn’t impress you with any specific skill, but he’s a great improvisor and just has a clear feel for the game. The offense seems to move better with him in it.

The offensive line is a weakness as it’s one of the most inexperienced in the country. The unit’s only given up one sack, but it’s struggled to create any holes for a rushing attack. This is a key matchup against Louisville’s stout front seven.

The receivers are a strength. Over the past couple years, Virginia made a move to recruit bigger, more physical receivers as opposed to the short, slot-types it had. 6-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman Andre Levrone and 6-2, 210-pound Canaan Severin are ones to watch, especially when Johns and Lambert go deep.

UVa Defense

It wasn’t long ago when Virginia’s defense only created 12 turnovers and 17 sacks in a one full season. Two years and a coordinator change later, this group has nine takeaways and nine sacks … in two games. This is a credit to DC Jon Tenuta’s aggressive scheme, which features tons of pressure. Trusting his experienced secondary, Tenuta doesn’t mind sending chunks of his front seven at a time.

Players to watch are ends Eil Harold and Max Valles. This duo is long — 6-4, 6-5 — and extremely athletic. They’re ideal fits in Tenuta’s system. Between Henry Coley and Daquan Romero, Virginia can make an argument for having the best linebacker pair in the ACC. The duo has already combined for 42 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception this season. Senior safety Anthony Harris is a reigning All-American.

Eli Harold. AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Andrew Shurtleff
Eli Harold. AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Andrew Shurtleff

There’s not any glaring weaknesses, but I’d say a place Louisville can attack is CB Tim Harris‘ side. With Maurice Canady being a shutdown corner (I believe UCLA only threw twice to his side), teams tend to pick on Harris, a sophomore with good size — 6-2, 200 — but still developing. The Bruins beat Harris on a hitch-and-go for 48 yards on the game’s opening play.

Andrew Ramspacher
University of Virginia athletics beat writer
The Daily Progress
Twitter: @ARamspacher


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