UVa’s Offensive Line: Redemption or Renewal?

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UVa’s offensive line will play a key role — as always — in the offense’s success.

Go ahead, call me a brave man.

Following Virginia’s opening game last season against Western Michigan, I asked what I thought was a well-crafted but pointed question about any concerns coach Al Groh may have had over the play of his offensive line.

The curt response questioned my ego (which is pretty large) and anyone else who wasn’t just satisfied with a win. It was fodder for the message boards, talking heads, and call-in shows.

“If you’re pooh-pahing around and looking for what’s wrong, this and that, was it perfect? Nope, it wasn’t perfect,” Groh replied. “Can we do some things better? We better do some things better. But I’m real happy about it. I’m not going to let my ego or the ego of the team get in the way.”

Groh never answered the question. As the season wore on, the Virginia offensive line proved not to be the dominant unit it had been in 2004, when seven linemen who had combined for 112 starts in three years returned. During that time, Virginia had not become the dominant running machine envisioned by Groh. In both 2002 and 2003, the Cavaliers finished 82nd nationally in rushing offense. 2004 was supposed to be the year the power running game arrived. It did.

With an average of 243 yards on the ground, the Hoos finished ninth in the nation in rushing offense and led the ACC. Virginia was held below 200 yards rushing only twice (by FSU and Virginia Tech). For the majority of 2004, the offensive line overpowered opponents, producing phenomenal numbers in the running game even against the more difficult teams on the schedule.