Virginia 2019 Capsule
2018: 8-5 overall, 4-4 ACC, No. 3 in the Coastal Division
2018 Game Result: Virginia Tech 34, UVA 31 (OT)
- Athlon: 9-4 overall, 6-2 ACC, No. 1 in the Coastal
- ACC Media: No. 1 in the Coastal
Returning Offensive Starters: 6
Returning Defensive Starters: 8
Bronco Mendenhall’s tenure in Charlottesville didn’t get off to the best start with a two-win season back in 2016. He followed that with a 6-7 year in 2017, and broke through last year with eight wins and a 28-0 win over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl. Now, expectations are higher than ever for the Cavaliers with a playmaking quarterback and a roster returning most of its key players.
With a weak Coastal Division this year, Virginia has an opportunity to take the next step. Experts all over the country believe this is the year for the Wahoos, projecting them to be the team to face Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. The key to accomplishing that will be to knock off Miami and the Hokies this season.
S&P+ Offense: No. 62
Total Offense: No. 81
One name is creating excitement about this Virginia offense: Bryce Perkins. The dual-threat quarterback came to Charlottesville from Arizona Western Community College after he decided to move on from Arizona State in 2016. He had a fantastic season first season with UVA, with almost 2700 yards through the air and 25 passing touchdowns. On the ground, he almost reached 1,000 yards with nine more touchdowns. He is expected to continue to improve in 2019, the only question is, can he stay healthy?
Perkins’ weapons took a big hit this offseason, losing his top receiver and top running back to graduation. Olamide Zaccheaus had over 1,000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in his senior season and now sits on the Falcons roster.
In the backfield, Jordan Ellis had a huge year last year, breaking 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his career. Ellis and Perkins both had over 200 carries, with no one else eclipsing 30. Junior P.K. Kier seems like the most likely replacement for Ellis, despite having only 80 yards on the ground last season.
The offensive front is returning the entire left side and was expected to get an influx of talent on the right side. Right tackle Alex Gellerstadt joined the team as a grad transfer this offseason, but will miss the season with a knee injury. This line will need to stand up to protect Bryce Perkins, who has suffered serious injuries before. Ryan Swoboda and Bobby Haskins should both be in the mix for the right tackle spot. Whoever is there needs to protect Perkins, who needs to limit the hits he takes to stay healthy.
S&P+ Defense: No. 31
Total Defense: No. 20
The defensive side of the ball is where UVA is going to be dominant this season. The Cavaliers allowed just over 330 yards per games last season and return a lot of key pieces for 2019. One loss that obviously hurts the group is safety Juan Thornhill, who was drafted in the second round by the Chiefs in April. Thornhill finished the season with six interceptions and led the Cavaliers at safety, good enough for a first-team All-ACC selection.
The good news for UVA is that it still has an All-ACC defensive back roaming the back end of the defense. Bryce Hall looks like a draft pick at cornerback and should lock down one half of the field for Virginia this season. Hall led the nation in pass breakups last season with 22 and should only get better as a senior.
The front seven looks strong for the Cavaliers as they return almost the entire unit. The one missing piece is linebacker Chris Peace, who was selected to the third-team All-ACC defense last season. However, sophomore Noah Taylor looks like he could step up in his place after having a year to settle in. Inside, Jordan Mack is healthy and ready to roll for his senior year. He only played nine games last year due to injury and still finished second on the team in tackles and had 2.5 sacks.
Along the line, the Wahoos bring back the entire group, highlighted by senior Eli Hanback. Last year at right end, he totaled 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. The line didn’t come up with massive statistical production last year. However, with another year under their belt playing together, it should only improve in 2019.
Why This Game is Important
Is this section even necessary? The Hokies want the winning streak against Virginia to become old enough to drive, vote, drink, and rent a car. The Cavaliers end every practice with ‘Beat Tech’ and treat this game as their Super Bowl. This is probably the biggest game of the year for both teams and this could be one of the most anticipated matchups in years.