99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff

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Virginia football rising sophomore safety Joey Blount delivered some good news via Twitter on Thursday (July 26).

Blount, whose father Tony was a standout safety for the Cavaliers from 1976-79, played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman. Although he did see playing time in the defensive backfield, the bulk of his damage came on special teams, where he totaled a team-best 15 tackles.

By all accounts Blount was having a productive offseason before he went down with the injury. Now that he is back, he adds depth to what is perhaps Virginia’s deepest and best position heading into the 2018 season. His injury and return got me thinking, though. What are the positions and who are the players Virginia has to avoid injury to in order to have a successful 2018? I explore this topic in the latest “99 Thoughts” entry.

99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: No. 39 – Please Stay Healthy!

The Cavaliers are still in the early stages of rebuilding, so we know the team can ill afford to have many injuries at all. In order from the position the Hoos can least afford injury, here are my “can’t lose” players for 2018.

Rising redshirt junior Eli Hanback is a player Virginia needs to stay healty this season.

DL – Whether it’s at defensive end or nose tackle, Eli Hanback has been a model of consistency since stepping onto the field as a redshirt freshman in 2016. The Richmond (VA) native has started 24 games the past two seasons, including all 13 contests last year at nose tackle. Virginia really needs the rock-solid Hanback in the lineup – for production but also because this is the thinnest unit on the team.

QB – Junior college transfer Bryce Perkins gives the offense the extra dimension – and extra playmaking – it needs. None of the players on Virginia’s quarterback depth chart, including Perkins, are proven on the FBS level, but there is excitement surrounding the Chandler (AZ) native and what he can do for Virginia in the run-game and the pass-game.

ILB – All-American Micah Kiser is gone, leaving Jordan Mack as the only proven playmaker returning at inside linebacker. As of the spring, the Hoos were still figuring who might start beside Mack, who figures to be an essential player on this Cavalier defense.

WR – Olamide Zaccheaus has to have a huge role for the offense to be successful. Replacing him would prove difficult to overcome. An underrated selection here is Evan Butts. The tight end is a tremendously consistent receiver.

OL – Senior Jake Fieler is coming off his best season as a Cavalier. He is also proven to be a quality player at multiple positions, especially guard and center. Of all of Virginia’s offensive lineman, he is the one the Hoos can’t afford to lose.

DB – As mentioned, Blount’s return adds to what appears to be Virginia’s deepest position heading into 2018. Still, Juan Thornhill’s potential at safety and his versatility to play (and play well) either safety or corner make him a player Virginia needs to stay healthy.

Special Teams – Obviously Joe Reed is a key weapon on kick returns, but my pick is 2017 All-ACC Second Team performer Lester Coleman. There may be a viable replacement at punter (Brian Delaney is a scholarship punter), but Coleman was outstanding last year.

RB – Running back is another position with solid depth. Jordan Ellis’ leadership and toughness could be tough to replace if he were to go down, though.

The “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series has discussed much more. The previous articles are below. Click away.

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1 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Bronco already mentioned that he only had about 30 ACC type players on his squad and hoped to increase that by about 10 this year. To be a contender you need to be at least 2 and hopefully 3 deep at every position to be in the running so that is between 44 – 66 deep. The good news is that his secondary is already better than what he had at BYU and last year their secondary in terms of yards given up to passing was one of the top three in the ACC.

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