10-Day Hoo Preview ’07: WCAV Roundtable

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1. Other than Jameel Sewell , who are you most excited to watch on UVa’s offense this season? Why?

Virginia’s need for wide receiver production has placed a lot of eyes on Maurice Covington .

Dave: Maurice Covington . Being on the most inexperienced and unproven wide receiving unit in the ACC, Covington has no other choice than to be a playmaker, and I think he will. His size (6’4″, one of the tallest in the conference) and his athleticism (rumored 38″ vertical) makes him an easy target for Jameel Sewell . He has the potential to be a “bail-out”receiver: put the ball up in the air, and he’ll come down with it. Hopefully some “oohs”and “aahs”will come along as well.

Kris: It’s obvious that the biggest question around this football team on offense is with the wide receivers. With Kevin Ogletree likely out for the season, there is a big hole at the wideouts slot. I think it will be interesting to see how that affects the tight ends. I’m excited to see how they will use Tom Santi and if they will move him around on a few plays.

Marc: Maurice Covington . His role has changed dramatically since last season. With Deyon Williams , Fontel Mines , and Emmanuel Byers all gone plus the loss of Kevin Ogletree to injury, Covington will be looked to as the number one receiver. Last season, he only caught six passes for 45 yards and no touchdowns. Jameel Sewell has said that he feels their chemistry is good so look for that connection to be a key in the Cavaliers’ offense this season.

J.W.: I think the easy answer to this would be Cedric Peerman , but I’m going go with wide receiver Maurice Covington . Jameel Sewell is going to sling it every so often and the man running the hot routes will without a doubt be Covington. Mo has only made 11 receptions in his two previous seasons, which means he’s bound to breakout. He’s a former high school basketball star so he will be ready to finally use his 6’4″frame to make some primetime catches down the sidelines. While the rest of the receiving core has a lot to prove and may be considered no names, Maurice is one name you’ll be hearing soon.

2. Other than Chris Long , who are you most excited to watch on UVa’s defense this season? Why?

J.W.: Anybody that has talked to me knows how high I am on junior cornerback Chris Cook . I absolutely love his size (6’2″, 201). He was among the team leaders in tackles and recorded 12 of them versus Wyoming last season. Chris is involved in so many plays on defense, something that is not the norm for cornerbacks. Cook had 46 solo tackles last season. Compare that to the 39 by Jon Copper and 22 by Clint Sintim . I think you get my point.

Dave: Nate Lyles . One of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen in person was that vicious hit Nate took in the 2005 Georgia Tech game. No one was sure if he would ever WALK again, and now he’s back putting his body on the line on the football field. I love his animal instinct and hard-hitting style. Let’s be honest, based on looks alone, he’s probably the least intimidating player on the Orange Crush Defense. But if you get in his way, you’ll be checking to make sure all of your body parts are still attached after he hits you.

Kris: Nate Lyles . For a player to take off his coveted orange jersey without coaches telling him to says a lot about his character. Lyles said he took off the jersey because he was making small mental errors, and he felt like he didn’t deserve to wear it. Anyone who has that much respect for his team and the starter jersey deserves some credit.

Marc: Jeffrey Fitzgerald . He had a phenomenal freshman season, ranking third on the team with 64 tackles, the most by any Cavalier defensive lineman. He also forced one fumble and came away with two interceptions. He also led Virginia with 11 tackles for loss, and five and a half sacks. Teams focused on shutting down Chris Long last season, allowing Fitzgerald to emerge. With both of them back and hungry, look for that combo to lead an already solid defense.

3. Which redshirt freshman, if any, will make the biggest impact for the Cavs this season? Why?

Keith Payne will get a chance to make some plays at running back.

Marc: With Jason Snelling gone at running back, look for Keith Payne to make an impact. Snelling leaves big shoes to fill in the Cavalier running game because he led the team in rushing in 2006 and scored seven of the eight touchdowns scored by running backs. While Cedric Peerman appears to be the prime candidate to replace Snelling, Payne will still get some significant minutes. Don’t be surprised if you see Payne starting by season’s end.

J.W.: On raw potential, it should be Keith Payne . It appears his academic problems are behind him. Keith is a stand-up guy, he has admitted his mistakes, and is grateful for a second chance from Coach Al Groh. Keith is built like a NFL running back already. When he’s coming at defenders, they had better be ready to tackle him at the hips and leg areas, arm tackles up top are not going to phase him. Keith played lacrosse in high school. Defenders should be glad he doesn’t run with a stick.

Dave: Staton Jobe . While the wide receivers are a bunch of no-names right now, I think one name that you’ll start hearing a lot is Staton Jobe . Currently, Jobe is at the top of the depth chart in Kevin Ogletree ‘s old spot even though he joined the team as a walk-on. He will not only be responsible for making plays, but also helping along the true freshmen as they get comfortable in the system. There’s no doubt that the learning curve of the young wide receivers is critical to the Cavaliers’ productivity this season, and I think Jobe could be the catalyst.

Kris: Welcome back Keith Payne . I think with his size and perhaps some valuable lessons he’s learned while suspended, Payne could have an impact this season.

4. Which true freshman, if any, will make an impact for the Cavs this season? Why?

Kris: With the open hole at wide receivers, Jared Green will get a chance to make his mark. And not just because of his famous father, but because the boy can run! When asked about Green, Groh just responded with “very fast”.

Peter Lalich will have an impact on the 2007 season whether he plays or not.

Marc: Depending on the production of Jameel Sewell , we may see Peter Lalich get his shot under center before the end of the season. Lalich comes in as one of the top high school quarterback prospects in the country, completing 68 percent of his passes during his senior season and tossing
33 touchdowns. Lalich also threw eight touchdowns in one game and led the DC metro area in passing. If Al Groh sees Sewell struggling, he may hand the responsibilities to this true freshman before the end of the season.

J.W.: The “true” answer here is that true freshmen usually don’t make impacts in the Al Groh setting. As Al likes to point out, his players must earn “pelts.” One player that may have no choice will be quarterback Peter Lalich . Lalich, who is just one serious Jameel Sewell injury away from being the Cavaliers’ starting quarterback. Lalich has to prepare like he will see game action each week. In an ideal setting, the program would like to see Lalich grow and learn behind Sewell (not so much for him to emulate Jameel’s style because the two are completely different quarterbacks) to learn how to be a leader. Peter will make an impact soon, just not this season.

Dave: Peter Lalich . As long as Jameel Sewell is healthy, Peter Lalich will NOT be a starting quarterback in 2007. But how will he make an impact if he doesn’t play? Just him being here makes Sewell a better QB. There isn’t anyone on the team who knows about the hype surrounding Lalich more than Sewell. From newspaper articles to TheSabre.com message board posts, there have been doubts about Sewell’s ability and suggestions to usher in the future a year early with Lalich. That will only make Sewell study more tape, practice more passing, and elevate himself to team leader … all what the Cavaliers need to succeed.

5. Which game is the most important one on the schedule? What’s your prediction for this season?

Dave: Wyoming. In my two years here in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers have yet to prove to me that they can win on the road. The numbers speak for themselves: 2-9 record (1-7 ACC). If you take out those two wins against Syracuse and Duke, the Cavs were outscored 248-113. I want to see this Cavalier team go thousands of miles away (and thousands of feet high) to a hostile environment and strike early and often. A win at Wyoming tells me the Cavs can certainly win all of their non-conference games; a win also tells me the Cavs can certainly win road games at UNC and NCST … that would mean the Cavs are already bowling. Add in a Duke win, and a GT/WF win, and the Cavaliers finish 8-4. If the Cavs lose at Wyoming … pack your bags for Boise, or make some other winter vacation plans.

Kris: I’m going to go out on a limb on this one, but I say Middle Tennessee St. (I know, I know) OK, it’s maybe not the biggest, but it will be very important at that point in the season. Here’s why: By the time Oct. 6 comes around, the Cavs could very easily be 5-0. If you can start out the season 6-0, it will mean a lot more in the standings when Miami and Virginia Tech come around. I don’t think this road game will be as easy as people think.

Marc: Anybody will tell you that the second half of the season will be tougher then the first. However, the most important game on the schedule comes in week four against Georgia Tech at Scott Stadium. Last season, the Yellow Jackets handed the Cavs a loss in Atlanta in week four, dropping Virginia’s record to 1-3. This time around, the Wahoos have a favorable schedule leading up to Georgia Tech in Wyoming, Duke, and North Carolina. A win against the Yellow Jackets this season could very well put them at 4-0 with Pittsburgh coming to town the next weekend. Without winning this key early season ACC game, it may not matter how well the Cavs do down the stretch. My prediction for the season is a cautious 6-6. The offense need to show that it can average more than 15.1 points per game.

J.W.: Mark your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 22 versus GEORGIA TECH. In the past I would have said the game against Pittsburgh, but I think Georgia Tech will be a game that could see the Cavaliers move to a perfect 4-0 on the season. The Yellow Jackets will present the most talent UVa will have faced to that point in the season. A win to move to 4-0 would see the Cavs needing just two more to become bowl eligible. Even if they go 7-0 to start the season, Virginia still has 5 ACC games, in which 4 will be very difficult to win. My prediction for the season: Cavaliers 7-5 (3-5). I think Virginia wins all of its non-conference games, but drops four of their last five games. There may be an Emerald Bowl bid in San Francisco waiting. Let me end by saying, I hope my crystal ball is wrong, I want to see Virginia do well. THEY ARE DUE!

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