U.Va. hasn't won a game in November since its 48-0 victory at No. 23 Miami in 2007 – a span of 14 games. Though U.Va. plays November games this season at Maryland, at Florida State and against Virginia Tech, Duke also comes Nov. 12 to Charlottesville. The Blue Devils have won three straight against the Cavaliers, but U.Va. won't find a better shot at snapping that frustrating losing streak. Hey, goals need to be modest in Charlottesville for now.
Second year at U.Va. (4-8 at U.Va.; 28-13 overall, including two seasons at Richmond)
The formula for a culture change is in place with London's emphasis on in-state recruiting, particularly in Hampton Roads. It may take a little more time for on-field results to emerge, but the program appears headed in the proper direction under the Bethel High and Richmond graduate. Getting the most out of a bunch of baby faces at key spots on offense, and rebuilding a porous rush defense, will be his biggest obstacles this season.
Sr. | 6-0 | 185 | CB
After picking up first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors last fall with a season that featured six interceptions (fifth in the nation), the expectations for Minnifield are through the roof this season. He's projected by some draft gurus to be first-round pick material, but he may have limited opportunities to prove himself this season. Considering U.Va. may have true freshman Tra Nicholson starting at its other cornerback, Minnifield may not see as many passes come his direction this season.
Sr. | 5-11 | 195 | WR
Though he's not even in the top 15 for career receptions at U.Va., he could catapult as high as second if he gets close to duplicating last season's effort (58 catches for 799 yards; 96 career receptions, which is 48 behind U.Va. career No. 2 Heath Miller's 144). Of course, Burd's production will depend a lot on U.Va.'s stability at quarterback, which is an enormous question mark.
Sr. | 6-4 | 265 | DE
Speaking of mysteries, it's fair to wonder exactly how much U.Va. will get out of Johnson this season. Last month, at the ACC Football Kickoff event, London revealed Johnson suffers from sickle cell trait, which makes it nearly impossible for Johnson to play for long stretches. When he's healthy and energized, Johnson can be a devastating force, as evidenced by his 14.5 tackles for loss last season.
Former U.Va. quarterback Marc Verica completed a ton of passes – often to the wrong team (14 interceptions last season), but he did produce the third-best passing yardage season in school history last year (2,799 yards). With Verica gone, and sophomores Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny, redshirt freshman Michael Strauss and freshman David Watford, a Hampton High graduate, taking over, U.Va. has no established quarterback. This group needs to get settled to complement what should be a solid running game with Perry Jones (646 yards last season) and Kevin Parks.
Last season, U.Va.'s defense flinched when opposing running backs even looked mean in its direction. U.Va. was 106th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 203.7 yards per game – not the most encouraging debut for defensive coordinator Jim Reid's 4-3 scheme. U.Va. has eight defensive starters back, but Ausar Walcott is now backing up Aaron Taliaferro at strongside linebacker, and Johnson has health-related endurance issues. Linebackers LaRoy Reynolds, Steve Greer and Taliaferro, plus tackles Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins, need to produce.
STAY HEALTHY UP FRONT
While London is encouraged by having four returning starters on the offensive line, including right tackle Morgan Moses, left tackle Oday Aboushi, left guard Austin Pasztor and center Anthony Mihota, there isn't much depth behind his first group. Tackle Landon Bradley's career may be over due to shoulder and knee injuries. No center other than Mihota has taken a college snap. London likes what he's seeing out of backups Sean Cascarano and true freshman Kelby Johnson at tackle, and Cody Wallace at center.
TALIAFERRO'S FINAL YEAR
It has been quite a ride for Taliaferro, who came out of Gloucester High in '07 considered by most recruiting analysts to be among the nation's top 100 linebacker prospects. He started the first six games last season at middle linebacker, but lost the starting gig to Darnell Carter. Now, Taliaferro is set to start at strong-side linebacker as a senior. He's still somewhat of an unknown next to Greer and Reynolds, who are projected starters at middle linebacker and weakside linebacker, respectively, and Taliaferro could be pushed by Walcott.
A big part of the pitch in London's successful first full year of recruiting was the opportunity to come in and play right away. He doesn't appear to have fibbed to signees. Nicholson is already destined to be a starter. Wide receivers Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell both could be starters early on. Watford, Phoebus High product Daquan Romero at linebacker and Menchville High graduate Clifton Richardon at running back may all factor in to plans.
Sept. 3 | vs. William & Mary | 6 p.m.
Two years ago, this game marked the beginning of the end for former U.Va. coach Al Groh, as W&M claimed a season-opening 26-14 win in Charlottesville for its first win since 1986 against the Cavaliers.
Sept. 10 | at Indiana | 7 p.m.
U.Va. cruised to a 47-7 home win in '09 against Indiana, which has a new coach, a new starting quarterback and three new starters in its secondary this season.
Sept. 17 | at North Carolina | 3:30 p.m.
UNC got its first win in Charlottesville last season since 1981, but the Cavaliers have still won 10 of the last 13 meetings home and away.
Sept. 24 | vs. Southern Mississippi | TBA
Another rematch from '09, when Southern Miss defeated U.Va. 37-34 in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Golden Eagles should come in 3-0.
Oct. 1 | vs. Idaho | TBA
It'll be the first-ever meeting of these teams, and the first game against an ACC opponent for Idaho, which has just four starters back on offense from last season's 6-7 squad.
Oct. 15 | vs. Georgia Tech | TBA
If Reid can't crack the triple option (Georgia Tech ran for 477 yards last season), the Yellow Jackets will get their first three-game winning streak against the Cavaliers since the '76, '82 and '83 seasons.
Oct. 22 | vs. N.C. State | TBA
U.Va. has won five consecutive games at home against N.C. State, a team that will enter the post-Russell Wilson era with promising talent Mike Glennon at quarterback.
Oct. 27 | at Miami | 8 p.m.
By this point, so many quality Hurricanes players could be suspended due to pending NCAA issues, visiting teams might have a bigger challenge playing at South Florida high school power Northwestern.
Nov. 5 | at Maryland | TBA
The last time U.Va. faced a Randy Edsall-coached team it lost 45-10 in '08 at Connecticut, but Maryland may need some time to adapt to Edsall's style.
Nov. 12 | vs. Duke | TBA
No offense in the ACC may feature a more potent passing game than Duke, but the Blue Devils could struggle on defense with just three starters in their front seven returning.
Nov. 19 | at Florida State | TBA
If U.Va. has bowl aspirations, it better hope it has already reached the six-win mark by this stage, because FSU could be the first of back-to-back top 10 nationally ranked opponents U.Va. will face.
Nov. 26 | vs. Virginia Tech | TBA
If you entered kindergarten in '99, you're probably going into your senior year of high school this fall and you've only seen U.Va. beat Tech once ('03) in your grade school lifetime - just something to think about from a recruit's perspective.
After trudging through losing seasons in four of the last five years, U.Va. may finally have something to be optimistic about this season. The non-conference slate is workable, but the ACC schedule figures to present a lot of stern challenges. It may be a lot to ask of a team that will depend on several young skill players. U.Va. takes another step forward this season, but falls just short of bowl eligibility with a 5-7 record.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times