With training camp now over SC goes into full prep mode for their opener against Virgina on Saturday. There are still a lot of questions for SC as we head into the season. The obvious questions about the health of Mark Sanchez, the strength off the offensive line and which receiver will step up. But the great thing about SC is that because of the amount of talent we have it makes it a little easier for SC to adjust.
The same cannot be said for Virgina.
There was something magical about Virginia's football team last season, scoring one close victory after another, sneaking into the top 20 like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
But magic can be elusive. Just ask the Cavaliers' coach."This isn't Shangri-La," Al Groh said. "Things happen in life."Could they have picked a tougher start?
The star defensive end turns pro. The starting quarterback goes on academic suspension. A young linebacker runs afoul of the law.
The Virginia team that faces third-ranked USC in the season opener Saturday must replace 14 starters and find an identity. In other words, the Cavaliers need to conjure some new tricks.
Asked that question at a recent media day, Groh offered two words in response: "Clearly not."
With these games being scheduled years in advance you never know just how good a or bad a team is going to be its simply a crap shoot.
With the departure of Chris Long to the NFL, the academic suspension of QB Jameel Sewell and LB J'Courtney Williams leaving the team after some legal troubles so UVA has some personell issues of their own.
After the Stanford game it's hard not to always approach upcoming games, especially against an unknown like UVA, with some concern. I think SC will win but I do not think it will be a rout because as I mentioned above SC has some issues of their own.
What UVA does have going for them is a quality coach in Al Groh, though I am still not happy as to how he left the New York Jets but that is a Jets fan's cross to bear. Groh is a pretty good recruiter and has sent UVA to 5 bowl games while he has been there so he has kept things on the positive side of the ledger in C'ville.
He is not above some trickeration when it come to preparation either...
Coach Groh has been around a long time," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "He's been in the [Bill] Parcells, [Bill] Belichick style of play. . . . I know we've battled him in the NFL for years at different times and they've turned out really good teams."
Virginia features a trio of seasoned linebackers, a strong receiving corps and proven running backs in Cedric Peerman and the speedy Mikell Simpson.
Groh has employed various tricks in preparing them for the opener, not the least of which was blasting the USC fight song over loudspeakers during spring practice. "I may be able to hum it," Sintim deadpanned.
Nice touch with the fight song.
I am not going to attempt to break down UVA. Its hard to really get a feel for a program through just a few snapshots and others have done a far better job than I could so I will send you their way. Here is a brief take from Trojan Empire.
The offensive unit averaged 24.4 last season, but lacked any true playmakers. Academics have driven QB Jameel Sewell out of football for 2008, leaving behind a battle, with only Peter Lalich having any game time experience. Scott Deke and Mark Verika spent the fall competing for the starting job, and at the time of this publication, Groh has yet to declare a winner. The expectation will be for Lalich to open behind center, but he will have few weapons surrounding him. In terms of yardage, Virginia’s top receiver in 2007 was Tom Santi (418), who is no longer in the program. The leader in receptions was running back Mikell Simpson (43). Those numbers indicate that either the receivers weren't very good or the passing game was strictly conservative to a point of nonexistence.
Also, head over to USC Trojans Football for Scott's write-up. Now that he is back from his time in Iraq I look forward to reading his very detailed team break downs.
More later on today!