Hoo Preview ’08: EDGE Take – Offense

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Through the course of 10 days, TheSabre.com is bringing you news from every angle on your Virginia football team. But what kind of feelings are the fans having with a little more than two weeks to go to kickoff? This year, the 10-Day Hoo Preview adds a new element with the “EDGE take” where an EDGE subscriber checks in with views on the Hoos. HooDoggy is up first with a look at the Cavaliers’ offense.

Cedric Peerman ‘s running style is easy to cheer for because he runs so hard and refuses to go down.

The most exciting thing to me about the offense is … the number of talented and explosive players Virginia has at numerous positions. The Hoos return a bruising workhorse in Cedric Peerman , who was leading the ACC in rushing before his injury last year. Peerman has the desire and work ethic to be one of the elite rushers in the conference, and if he can return to form, I don’t see any reason why he won’t be right at the top of the ACC in 2008. He breaks tackles and generally refuses to go down, and this running style makes him easy to cheer for. If I were participating in an ACC fantasy football league, Peerman would be my first pick. That’s not to exclude Mikell Simpson , who showed some serious speed and elusiveness last year. He can run the shovel pass to perfection, and has great hands for a tailback. The one-two punch of Peerman and Simpson is sure to be a formidable duo to most opposing defenses.

At the wide receiver position, Kevin Ogletree returns from knee surgery and looks to get back in the thick of things. He quietly put together an impressive campaign in the 2006 season, and very good things are expected from Mr. Ogletree. Even after his surgery, I’ve heard he’s perhaps the fastest player on the roster. Combine that with his route running and ability to make tough catches, and I think a number of teams will have to double-team Ogletree unless they want to get burned. Maurice Covington started to come into his own last year, making some nice grabs at opportune times. I think we’ll see even more improvement from Covington in 2008, and he could be the go-to receiver on the plays when Ogletree is drawing more attention.

One thing I’d like to see more of this year is … the deep pass. Perhaps we didn’t have the right personnel for deep routes and passes the last few years, but I hope coach Mike Groh puts in some more sets where we take shots downfield. It opens up the offense for routes over the middle, which in turn gets our talented tight ends more chances to make plays. There are legitimate questions about our offensive line this year, so unless we want opposing defenses to crowd the line and blitz mercilessly, we need to complete some deep passes, and force the defense to back up and cover.

I’d also like to see more “scripted plays” at the beginning of the first and third quarters. When Virginia is confident in a sequence of plays, the team seems to execute those plays with very good precision. Our most efficient drives last year were typically at the start of each half, and I hope we can continue that pattern of success.

One thing I’d like to see less of this year is … flip-flopping at the QB position. Not that we had a full-blown quarterback controversy in 2007, but a few games into the season, there were questions about who would get the starting nod. I’m not a strong proponent of the dual quarterback system. Though different quarterbacks have different strengths and abilities, I don’t necessarily think that’s an offensive advantage. The reason being is that while one quarterback may be a good pocket passer, and another is a roll-out runner, that adds a lot of complexity and formations to the playbook. Virginia seems to perform better on offense at scripted, practiced plays. Therefore, I’m hoping we go into the first game with one chosen quarterback and a good grasp of the playbook options.

While my gut tells me Peter Lalich wins the starting job this year, my hope is that whoever it is takes charge of the position early, and leaves no doubt they are the best man for the job. The offense needs a leader, both on and off the field, and the QB position is typically the one that steps up into this position.

Can Jared Green make a suprise impact this season?

One player I can’t wait to watch play is … big Eugene Monroe . Already starting to become a dominant force in 2007, by all reports Eugene will be even better this year. Guys on the line don’t often get the amount of attention that the skill players do, but Eugene should be an exception this year. He piles up the knockdown blocks, and doesn’t let his man get to the QB. He’s one of the cogs that will help this offense be proficient, and if he continues to improve and progress, he will extend the streak of Hoos drafted into the NFL.

One player I think might surprise us is … Jared Green . Maybe it’s because of his genes, but I can’t help but be excited about having the son of one the greatest NFL players in history on the Virginia squad. Maybe it’s because we just graduated another NFL legacy that turned out to be one of the most talented and driven players the Hoos have ever had. I’ve got to believe that Green’s passion and preparation will lead to on-the-field results. There are no numbers to back it up, since Jared redshirted last year, but it’s just a hunch that Jared will contribute something special to the team in 2008.

In the end, I think the offense’s season … will be more proficient than we’ve seen in quite some time. Yes, there are question marks on the offensive line. No, we don’t know who the starting quarterback will be when the Song Girls make their way onto the field on Aug. 30. But we’ve got a cast of characters on offense that have already proven they have what it takes to be All-ACC players. When you add a year of training and experience to the equation, there is reason to think this year’s offense will be a marked improvement over the 2007 squad.

On paper, Virginia has some legitimate offensive weapons. A lot of years, we wonder where the production will come from. In 2008, I think we know where a lot of it will come from, and I see this translating into more points on the scoreboard.

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