UVa’s starting offensive line has 91 collective starts.
The members of the Virginia offensive line have something to prove. There’s no doubt this unit can pass block. The ‘Hoos allowed the fewest sacks in the ACC over the last two seasons and that’s on a pass-oriented team. At the same time, UVa finished seventh in the conference in rushing offense in 2002 and eighth in 2003. Yet this group of linemen is intent on creating running room this year.
“The offensive line has to concentrate on getting better every day, especially in the run game,” said junior right tackle Brad Butler. “That’s become a bigger part of the team this year with Matt Schaub gone. The offensive line is a veteran group and we have to step it up and perform better in the run game.”
Veteran is the word. For the Cavaliers, 2004 means the return of seven players on the line that over the last three years have combined for 112 starts. The starting five includes four players – Butler, senior right guard Elton Brown, junior left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and senior center Zac Yarbrough – who have a collective 90 starts, and sophomore left guard Ron Darden, who played in all 13 games last season with one starting assignment. Ian-Yates Cunningham , who started five games as a true freshman, is rehabbing from a back injury, but junior Brian Barthelmes provides depth at several positions.
Yarbrough says the goal for 2004 is to lead the ACC in rushing.
“We all know the offense so well,” he said. “A lot of us feel like veterans. We know what each other are going to do and we know the defenses that we’re going to run against. I think our off-the-field relationships come into effect. We’re great friends off the field, we hang out a lot and it just makes everything a lot easier on the field.”
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