Senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling started this season as the beacon of hope for a Virginia team struggling to find identity, stability, and most importantly, wins. He was the one player on the team that fans could look to as someone who's "been there" and "done that." He has been named All-ACC in all three of his previous seasons. Yet due to injuries, he has had little-to-no positive on-the-field impact for a Virginia team still searching for its first FBS win.
Dowling originally missed the season opener against Richmond – as well as the next two games against USC and VMI – due to a lingering hamstring injury. He was rusty, though functional, against Florida State and Georgia Tech, but most recently had to sit out during the loss to North Carolina, having "dinged his knee up a little bit" during practice, according to head coach Mike London.
When asked on Wednesday whether Dowling would be able to play at 100% against Eastern Michigan this week, London did not have a definitive response.
"I don't know about 100% part, but he did practice yesterday. Every day is a day we continue to evaluate our guys as to whether or not they'll be game-speed ready to play. He practiced yesterday and felt pretty good, and we'll practice again today, and we'll keep moving forward until Thursday when we have to report to the ACC what our players that are questionable, doubtful or out, what that status may be. I expect him to practice again today."
Has this been a major factor on Virginia's performance this year?
"He's an All-American," London said. "Any time you lose a significant player on defense, in particular in the back end of things, it's something that you're concerned about."
In fact, Dowling came into 2010 being named to the Nagurski Trophy, Thorpe Award, and Chuck Bednarik Watch Lists, and was named to the Playboy Preseason All-American Team and the CFI Preseason Second-Team All-American.
"Devin Wallace has stepped in and played and as much as how we feel about Ras-I – he's one of our captains, he's not been able to play – the next guy who steps in on the field has got to be able to play and provide us with the opportunity to be competitive and win. So whether Ras-I is 100% ready to go for this game, we have 100% confidence in the next guy up mentality with Devin Wallace."
Wallace and the Cavaliers take on Eastern Michigan this Saturday in Charlottesville, with a 6:00 p.m. kickoff time.