There are still 100 days left until the start of the college football season, but programs from
The state's two biggest programs —
In keeping with the pervasive nationwide theme of our-toys-are-better-than-your-toys among Bowl Subdivision power conferences, U.Va. and Tech will both put shiny new wares on display.
U.Va. already opened a $13-million indoor practice facility named for former coach George Welsh. In Blacksburg, Tech is set to unveil a new scoreboard and video board in Lane Stadium that will be 48.2 feet tall and 108.2 feet wide, making it one of the 10 largest in the nation.
The new indoor facility at U.Va. is open just in time for hotshot freshman running back Taquan Mizzell, while Tech looks forward to beaming the image of coveted freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller all over its new video board. Mizzell was rated one of the nation's top 20 running backs in the class of 2013 by most recruiting analysts, and Fuller was considered one of the top five cornerbacks in the class.
New infrastructure and highly-anticipated new players to show off at both of the
That seems like a good place to start, as we take a look at 10 reasons to anticipate the start of the season:
Staff shakeups: Several staffs throughout the Commonwealth surpassed their respective expiration dates simultaneously.
Everyone's a little different. For instance,
New faces are everywhere. New offensive coordinators at Virginia Tech (Scott Loeffler), Virginia (Steve Fairchild) and
Tom O'Brien delayed extended family and beach time when he agreed to serve as wing man for
Ex-Hampton U. standout Cordell Taylor returns to coach the
Upward mobility: One ponderable around these parts the past couple of seasons: How might ODU's go-go offense and quarterback Taylor Heinicke fare against FBS defenses? We'll finally get an answer as the Monarchs face five upper-division opponents in their transition to FBS and Conference USA.
ODU opens at
When ODU resurrected the program, Wilder had no desire to play FBS "money" games. He wanted the program to gain footing at the FCS level. Thanks to early success, conference realignment and accelerated ambition, the Monarchs are full go, ready or not.
Quarterback carousel: The over-under on the number of quarterbacks at each school to play significant snaps last season in our little corner of the world was about 2.5. Can we expect a repeat?
The Tilt-A-Whirl was particularly full at Hampton and Christopher Newport, each of which used four quarterbacks. The Pirates' season-ending starter, Brian Swain, was a recruited walk-on from Texas.
William and Mary used three, due to a combination of injury and inconsistency — all of whom return next season. Perhaps the most gifted of the trio, Raphael Ortiz, is coming off of shoulder surgery and won't be able to execute Rogers' teachings until summer camp.
Virginia rotated quarterbacks Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims so deftly that Rocco chose to transfer, with just one year of eligibility remaining. The Cavaliers listed four starting "starting" quarterbacks coming out of the spring: Sims, Hampton product
London said that the staff would determine a pecking order pretty quickly, once preseason camp starts. That would be wise, given the Cavs' ambitious early schedule.
Logan Thomas: There's no such carousel in Blacksburg, where Thomas' development under Loeffler provides a fascinating subplot.
Does the massive LT3 (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) progress from the player who showed such promise as a multi-dimensional wrecking ball two years ago? Or is he the young man whose completion percentage dropped last season and who routinely alternated good and bad plays?
Granted, Thomas didn't have nearly the skill position talent around him in 2012 that he did in 2011. But a 7-6 record didn't cut it, prompting Beamer to pink slip QB coach Mike O'Cain and Newsome and reassign OC Bryan Stinespring. Enter Loeffler, who tutored future pros
Thomas' three picks in the spring game produced massive gastric distress, but there were mitigating factors: simplified scheme; bad routes; potentially excellent defense across from him; high pollen count; satellite interference with signals.
Speaking of defenses, Thomas will see an awfully good one out of the chute at the
Big-time visitors: Virginia's first two guests — BYU and Oregon — are long on intrigue and entertainment, but not conducive to job security for a guy with a sub-.500 record and a retooled staff. But London said he welcomes the competition and exposure. He'll get it.
BYU had one of the nation's better defenses last season and features a great linebacker — remember the name Kyle Van Noy, kids. The Cavs will see a bunch of him Aug. 31.
The University of Phil Knight is a premier program. Though Quack Attack architect
Oregon's speed and ability to spread the field, combined with Tenuta's reputation for blitzing and attacking, remind us of a Kelly quote: "The thing that happens when you blitz, the band is gonna play. And hopefully, it's gonna be our band playing, not theirs."
We'll see whose band plays most Sept. 7 in Charlottesville.
New members: It's 100 days until the start of the ACC season (actually, 98 before North Carolina-South Carolina), and 184 days until traditional ACC rivals Pittsburgh and
Yup, the Panthers and Orangemen come on board this season. Next year,
Anyway, Syracuse nostalgically closes the season against Pitt and BC, while the Panthers get the 'Cuse and
ACC credibility: We say this every year, but the conference has a chance to be viewed as more than the
CAA redux: The conference that produced three national champions, three national finalists and 11 semifinalists in an eight-year span took a dip in 2012.
Just three teams made the FCS playoffs, and the only team to win a postseason game, Old Dominion, bid sayonara to the league and the subdivision.
William and Mary is coming off of consecutive sub-standard seasons. Mickey Matthews shuffled his staff at
Towson was as good as any team in the CAA, but torched its playoff chances by scheduling not one, but two games, against FBS programs. Danny Rocco quickly brought Richmond back to the brink of playoff discussion.
The CAA added Stony Brook and Albany, quality programs that made postseason in their previous leagues. No telling if they can replace the ghosts of
Level playing field: Hampton U. expects to be out of APR jail and back on equal footing with its FCS brethren.
The Pirates went 3-7 last season, the program's worst record since elevating to Division I in the mid-1990s. The dismal season was a direct result of a young team limited to four practices per week — the punishment due to chronic under-performance on the
For a team that started as many as 18 freshmen and redshirt freshmen, and installed a new offensive system, missing a total of 16 practice days through the course of the season was a nearly insurmountable hurdle.
Head coach and favorite son Donovan Rose was given another year. He shook up his staff and aims to make amends.
Captains tradition: Christopher Newport football extends the longest farewell tour since Cher.
The USA South allows the Captains to continue to compete in football because their new league, the Capital Athletic Conference, doesn't field enough teams. USA South officials are working back channels to get a couple of middle schools in Maryland and a truck-driving institute in Delaware certified so that they may be rid of the Captains in all sports forever.
CNU made its ninth NCAA appearance in the program's 12 years last season. Though backing into the playoffs after losing the season finale, and a subsequent wax job at D-III national champ Mount Union, don't seem like rewards.