Last year, "we lost a lot of games in the second half," says senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling. If there was one recurring theme from the co-captain and CFI pre-season All-American this past weekend at the ACC Media Days Football Kickoff, it was that the Cavaliers will not be giving up this season.
When asked what Wahoo Nation should be expecting from his side of the ball this season, Dowling responded that there will be a noticeably "tough defense."
"Each and every play we come out of, we’re ready to fight and make plays out there," Dowling said in an interview on Sunday. "[We’re going to] take advantage of the opportunity out there and make the play, making it at the right time."
As one of the 2010 co-captains, Dowling knows that his teammates will be looking to him for leadership. While he’s the ambassador at Media Days and there’s been much attention given to him as a Nagursky Trophy candidate, he says that it’s not just up to him.
"I’m ready to step up and I think the team is ready to step up. It’s not really about me stepping up, it’s about the whole team stepping up together, taking one step at a time as a whole unit."
But at the same time, he’s embraced his role and is dedicated to leading by example.
"One thing I really appreciate is just saying, ‘I Believe’ and being assertive.… I can’t be dogging it. I’ll be out there on the practice field or in the weight room or in the classroom; I have to show by example."
It helps that he has good example to follow. He has a lot of respect for the way head coach Mike London carries himself, and says that London is exactly what young men want to see: "A man who loves his family, loves what he does, and [who] just has so much respect for different people."
"Just having a coach like Mike London around is energy. … He’s a very passionate person in what he does and having an impact on individual life."
What can UVa fans expect from our defense next year? Not just a switch to a 4-3 formation, but expect to see a faster, more alert defense.
"[Defensive Coordinator Jim Reid] is an energetic guy. He’s gone one motive: He’s always going fast, and that’s the one thing he teaches us. Just go fast. Don’t worry about mistakes."
As to the players themselves, Dowling says that they’re enjoying the new formation and learning different moves to get to the quarterback. Players are shooting and gashing and corners are playing more man-to-man.
"Everything you see, there’s a whole different energy about the team, and motivation."
When asked what improvements can be made for the upcoming year, Dowling responded the team will "continue to fight through the whole game. We lost a lot of games in the second half; we started out well and [we were] just not finishing. So a lot of things now we just, everybody just buying in. You gotta run to the ball, continue to fight, don’t ever give up. I think with the talent we have, we can really build off of that and have a great season this year."
"We just have to come out there and be ready to fight and give all that we can. We have to come out there and play every game like it’s our last."