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Two arrested in connection with attack at Alford home

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Sports Today for Aug. 28, 2014 / August 27, 2014
It does not take a college football genius to figure out one critical area things might go seriously wrong early for Virginia in its 2014 opener against no. 7 UCLA.

The Cavaliers have a pro-style offensive scheme, but the depth chart, working from tackle to tackle, lays out a major potential trouble area for the Cavaliers, collectively trying to save head coach Mike London’s job.

Virginia released its depth chart this week. The top two performers at left tackle, listed in order, are sophomores Michael Mooney and Jackson Matteo. The top performers at right tackle are sophomores Eric Smith and Sean Karl. The left guard spots feature sophomore Ryan Doull, listed at no. 1, and senior Cody Wallace. The right guards are senior Conner Davis listed as the starter and red-shirt freshman Jack McDonald.

Junior Ross Burbank is listed as the starter at center, with sophomore Eric Tetlow listed as the backup.

Davis has 18 starts at left guard, while Wallace has one there. Burbank has four and Matteo one at starter. Davis has two starts at right guard, while Wallace also has two. Smith has eight starts at right tackle.

With Jay Whitmire’s injury issues keeping him out of the lineup, Virginia has only 36 career started combined entering the season on the 0-line.

Among all FBS schools, Virginia has the 14th most inexperienced O-line.

That unit has the primary responsibility to protect untested sophomore Greyson Lambert, help Kevin Parks and the rest of the Cavalier offense generate consistency and efficiency, especially in the red zone. The Cavaliers hope to keep the U.Va. offense off the field long enough to try and blunt UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, who might be the second best college quarterback in the land.

Oh yes, Virginia, with a loaded schedule, also has to face last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, FSU’s Jameis Winston, in Tallahassee, later in the season.

Virginia can call for help from its tight ends, led by senior Zachary Swanson and junior Rob Burns, but that option also limits the overall effectiveness of that duo.

London said of the top performers on the o-line, “they’re the five healthiest starters we have at this point. We have gone through some injuries we’ve had to deal with. Some players have been out and we’ve had to make the best of making changes and moving guys in different positions, but the five indicated right now are the ones that are healthiest and in the best position to help us win a football game.”

Burbank played center in 2013, London said. “Connor Davis has been a guard, but he started out playing left tackle for us, and he’s a guy that’s on the right side, right guard. He’s a guy that you look at the position and he’s the guy that protects the quarterback’s throwing hand on short passes. And Connor at that position is important to us. Probably one of the unsung heroes in camp has been Michael Mooney, who has done a really good job of playing left tackle,” said London.

These five are the healthiest and “give us the best opportunity to play against the UCLA defense,” London insisted.

We’ll see how the Cavaliers handle the multiple challenges presented by UCLA.

UCLA has plenty of firepower with Hundley, now on the Maxwell, Camp and O’Brien Watch lists. Hundley has run or thrown for a touchdown in all 27 consecutive starts.

U.Va. really has concerns across the board facing UCLA, with big play athleticism and star power on both sides of the ball.

Sophomore Miles Jack, one of the most versatile players in recent college football, had 75 tackles last year, the most ever for a Bruin true freshman.

Jack, now in his second season of mayhem at UCLA, became the first player in conference history to be named both offensive and defensive freshman of the year by the Pac-12 coaches.

There’s senior linebacker Eric Kendricks, listed on the Bednarik, Butkus, Nagurski, Lott and Lombardi watch lists. He has more than 100 tackles each of the last two years.

Virginia was injury-challenged in preseason camp on the o-line. But London argued, “the ones that have taken a lot of reps and snaps are the guys that are healthy and are guys we’re going to count on to play against a very good defense.”

“We feel confident about whom we have and that is the main point right now. They all know what they’re doing. They understand the concepts and the plays, and now we have to perform on the field,” said London.

Keep in mind Virginia has some reason for optimism this season, with 18 returning starters (seven on offense, 10 on defense and one on special teams.

London said of the UCLA defense, “they’re a very, very fast defense. They’re an athletic defense. They don’t pressure much of first or second down, but their MO, if they get you in third and long situations, they’re a multiple front defense that will just get after it, and they have the different pass rushers.”

The bottom line here is that Virginia’s offensive line appears to be in a state of flux.

That could be a tremendous problem for Virginia trying to contain those rapacious West Coast bears howling around Charlottesville this weekend.

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