By David Teel
4:11 PM EDT, August 3, 2012
Virginia received nine points in the preseason USA Today college football coaches poll, a far cry from the top 25. Those points could have come from nine coaches voting the Cavaliers No. 25, one voting them No. 17, or any combination in between. But none of them came from their coach.
“I did not vote for our team to be in the top 25,” Mike London said at Friday’s preseason media gathering at John Paul Jones Arena. “We have to earn that.”
London, among 59 coaches on the panel, could have played this two ways: Rank the Cavaliers, 8-5 last season, to show how much faith he has in them, or, make them prove their chops.
He chose the latter, though like many, he is encouraged by last season and his program’s incoming talent.
“Our feeling is, it’s an exciting year for us,” London said. “We’re not going to sneak up on anybody. …
“The mindset is, you can’t … be satisfied for what just happened. You’ve got to hunger for more. We have to start all over, that’s our approach. We have to start over creating the desire and attitude that we have to prove ourselves again.
“We have to do well on the road. … We have to play well at home, win the games we’re supposed to. There’s no delusions of grandeur about who we are, what we are.”
For what it’s worth, Virginia is 13th among the teams “also receiving votes.” Translation: 38th.
From the ACC, Florida State is 7th, Clemson 14th, Virginia Tech 20th. Also receiving votes: Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, both ahead of UVa. North Carolina likely would have been ahead of Virginia as well, but the Tar Heels are ineligible for the coaches poll due to NCAA sanctions.
Were I voting, I would have passed on the Cavaliers as well, due to questions about their defense. But if the answers there are positive, the offense should be plenty good enough, regardless of the quarterback, to vault Virginia into the top 25.
The Cavaliers cracked the polls last year – 24th AP, 25th coaches – after their 14-13 road upset of Florida State improved their record to 8-3. But season-ending losses to Virginia Tech (38-0 at home) and Auburn (43-24 in theChick-fil-A Bowl) denied the program its first year-end rank since 2004 (23rd in both polls).
More nuggets from Friday’s gabfest:
* As you would expect, junior quarterback Michael Rocco, the incumbent starter, said all the right things about incoming Alabama transfer Phillip Sims of Chesapeake’s Oscar Smith High.
“I believe it’s my job to lose,” Rocco said, “and I’m not going to lose it.”
Much more on Rocco coming in Sunday’s Daily Press.
* Virginia ranked 90th nationally in sacks last season with 20, and its two best pass-rushers, Cam Johnson and Matt Conrath, were seniors.
Might freshman end Eli Harold, an All-American last season (16 sacks) at Virginia Beach’s Ocean Lakes High, be the answer?
“I don’t want to rely on an incoming freshman to be the guy, to be that hope,” London said. “What I am excited about is that Billy Schautz is back. … He’s stronger, he’s faster, he’s ready to go.”
A fifth-year senior, Schautz broke his left leg in two places last season against Florida State. He did not participate in spring practices.
* London said reserve defensive tackle Marco Jones, a redshirt freshman, is the only player not expected at Monday’s opening practice. He has a “lower extremity” injury.
“We should be about as 100 percent (healthy) as we have been in a long time,” London said.
* Whether Rocco, Sims or sophomore David Watford of Hampton High, Virginia’s quarterback will be surrounded by skill people who range from proven to promising: tailbacks Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson of Menchville High; receivers Tim Smith, Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings.
“The onus comes on the coaches now,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “How do you get all those guys in the right situations? So I feel a real responsibility to make sure the ball gets in certain guys' hands a number of times.”
* Offensive tackle Morgan Moses sported LeBron-like, just-for-fashion eyewear, and a beard that, given some time, could reach James Harden level.
“The man’s got swag,” Parks said of Moses. “He’s got style.”
Moses, all 6-foot-6, 323 pounds of him, fancies himself a running back or wide receiver. He attended all of Virginia’s 7-on-7 offseason drills during the offseason, itching for some action.
“It’s amazing,” Parks said of Moses’ athleticism. “It’s a thing of beauty to see him run.”
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