For a team that went 3-8 last season, there sure is a lot of excitement buzzing around Wahoo Nation for the upcoming football season. The ACC's Media Days officially kicked off this past weekend, and while expectations are at perhaps an all-time low for Virginia, the coming of the London Era brings new energy and, according to senior quarterback Marc Verica, "renewed optimism" for the organization.
The 6’3", 210 pound quarterback is getting the starter nod, after starting most of the 2008 season but playing backup to Sewell last year.
"I’m very excited," Verica said about his return to the field. "It’s been a really humbling experience, my career at UVA. It’s also one that’s taught me to be resilient. You have to have a tremendous amount of resolve to play this game, and I think I’ve been able to develop that throughout my career.""
The ACC media pre-season poll came out just today, and as expected, Virginia is picked to finish dead last in the Coastal race – below those pesky Blue Devils that apparently have our number. Having finished last season with the third-worst offense in the country, and losing our offensive playmakers like Vic Hall, Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson, and even QB Jameel Sewell, I can’t say I blame the media for how their ballots looked.
But last season? Fuggedaboudit. Verica points to a number of reasons that the Cavaliers are going to look a lot sharper next year.
"I think that the primary thing that will make us better is that this year we will have more of an identity," Verica said. "Last year, I don’t think we knew who we were or what we were, what our strengths were. It was just completely ambiguous, it was kind of like an offense that would mold and shape week to week. It was never a consistent identity, so it’s hard to really latch on to something and take ownership of something when you don’t know who you are. So going into this season, I think we’re more prepared to establish some kind of identity and grow from there."
The entire atmosphere within the Virginia Football organization has witnessed a shift from last season, a season that started with a complete revamp of an offensive system that had grown stagnant, a season that opened with a shocking loss to FCS William & Mary, and a season that progressed with more and more clarity as to former head coach Al Groh’s future at Virginia.
"Things are a just little more relaxed," Verica said. "I think everybody’s just a little more comfortable. That’s the kind of environment that is most conducive to breeding success. Because when everybody’s on edge all the time, and everyone’s all tense and worried about making mistakes, it’s like a crippling, paralyzing thing."
Now, he says, it’s easier to perform to the best of each players’ ability on the field.
As for what we can expect to see next year, Verica placed a heavy emphasis on Virginia football becoming a fast, physical game.
"They’ve been preaching to us that it’s very important for us to be physical at the line of scrimmage, offensively and defensively. But it’s also important to fly around and not be afraid to make mistakes. So if you are going to make a mistake, you’d better make it doing full speed."
Verica outlined three major parts of the offensive game, each of which will complement each other and each of which is vital to a successful offense this year: the passing game, the running game, and the physicality of the offensive line.
What needs to be tweaked before opening kickoff on September 4?
"Tweaking things here and there implies that we have a finished product, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near that yet. We have a whole camp, pretty much a solid month, a lot of work to do to refine what we learned in the spring and to establish a lot of things. We’ll think about tweaking things here and there maybe the week before [Richmond]."
"Ultimately we have to put out a good product on the field."