Hoo Preview 2010: Defensive Backs

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Ras-I Dowling returns to Charlottesville to take care of unfinished business on the field and in the classroom.

Virginia’s cornerbacks are one of the highlights of this season’s squad. An experienced core group returns, led by “The 757’s Finest” Ras-I Dowling, and the battle for playing time between two talented defensive backs will ensure a high caliber of play across the board. There were some key losses at the position, but, like the shuffle that happened with regard to the defensive line, players from other spots could move in or be converted to fill any holes on the depth chart. Overall, there is strength at the top, room for improvement farther down the roster, and hope for the future.

The biggest issue the defensive backs had last season was their lack of physicality at the line of scrimmage. The DBs, or the defensive calls, seemed to refuse to challenge wide receivers off the line. They often had to play catch-up rather than staying step-for-step with their opponent. All of that will change this year (expect to see more bump-and-run coverage calls), as the corners are looking to make a big statement and play some hard-hitting, physical football.

“Being a corner, you have to fight every play,” senior Ras-I Dowling said. “You’re going to get beat, and you’ve got to keep fighting.”

Any discussion of the Cavalier defensive backs has to begin with Dowling. The Chesapeake native surprised and delighted Wahoo fans with his decision to return to Charlottesville for his senior season. NFL Draft projections have Dowling as a first round pick next April and he would have been a high pick in 2010 as well. For Dowling, however, the lure of a huge signing bonus wasn’t enough to tear him away from UVa and his ultimate goal.

“I came [to Virginia] as a student to get my education,” he said. “I will be the first one in my family to graduate. Coming back to school and getting my degree, and having an opportunity to fulfill my dream, that’s a big thing for me.”