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All-Decade Team: Virginia Football

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Hoo makes the squad?!

NCAA Football: Virginia at Georgia Tech Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

While 2019 has already passed and historical retrospectives are no longer “en vogue,” we’re getting nostalgic one last time to reflect on the past decade of Virginia football and put together an All-Decade team. A special shoutout to my friend Alex Kent who spent about 90 minutes in person and an additional ~150 text messages discussing these selections with me.

Before we dive into who made the team however, we need to establish a few ground rules:

  1. We’re putting this team together with the idea that they’ll actually have to play a game and make sense on the field. Imagine every school got to pick their best players from the past decade and there was going to be a massive tournament, this is the team we’re entering.
  2. Only production from the 2010-2011 season through this past season counts. So for someone like Kris Burd his 124 catches and 1,712 yards in 2010-11 count but his 38 catches and 478 yards pre-2010 do not.
  3. Only production while at UVa matters. NFL career isn’t important and any production before/after transferring to/from UVa doesn’t matter.
  4. The team will be coached by Bronco Mendenhall and his current staff. So on offense we’re going to go with 11 personnel (1 RB/1 TE/3 WR) and on defense we’re playing a 3-4. We’ll have to project over players from Mike London’s 4-3 scheme accordingly.
  5. You will disagree with a lot of these selections, that doesn’t make them wrong. Here we go.

Offense

Quarterback: Bryce Perkins

Others Considered: No one

Let’s start with the easiest pick. Despite playing only two seasons Perkins holds the school record for most single-season passing yards and ranks third in UVa history in career passing TDs and yards. That doesn’t even factor in his running ability, that he became the first QB since Schaub to beat Virginia Tech, and led UVa to its first ever ACC Title Game and Orange Bowl...you get the picture.

Running Back: Kevin Parks

Others Considered: Perry Jones, Taquan Mizzell

Parks is the boring choice but the correct one. He’s Virginia’s version of Frank Gore, an under the radar workhorse gaining four yards per carry every time, lulling you to sleep until you look up at the record book and see him near the top. Parks is one of only six Cavaliers with more than 3,000 career rushing yards and with almost 800 receiving yards he was a better pass-catcher than you remember. Not to mention he did all this on some truly terrible offensive teams. Parks may not have been as flashy or as big of a home-run threat as Jones or Mizzell but he was a better pure runner than both and his consistency gets him the nod.

Wide Receivers: Olamide Zaccheaus, Hasise Dubois, Kris Burd

Others Considered: Canaan Severin, Doni Dowling

Zaccheaus is the simplest choice, he’s the leading pass-catcher in Cavalier history by an outrageous 40 catch margin and carried the UVa offense for two seasons, he’ll fit perfectly as our slot receiver. Dubois gets the second spot for being the best receiver on the best Virginia team of the past decade. His 2019 season is not talked about enough, with the second most single-season receiving yards (1,062) in school history behind only Herman Moore. Dubois has great hands and his Orange Bowl catch proved his worth as a great jump-ball receiver, he starts on the outside.

The final spot is a tough one between Burd and Severin, but we’re going with Burd. Here’s the list of UVa receivers with consecutive 800 yard seasons: Zaccheaus, Billy McMullen, Kris Burd. That’s it, and Burd did it with Marc Verica and Mike Rocco so he should get an extra 200 yards each for that. He starts on the outside opposite Dubois.

Tight End: Jake McGee

Others Considered: Evan Butts

I really wanted to give this spot to Evan Butts, after all he finished his career in Charlottesville while McGee went to Gainesville (who knows who he cheered for during the Orange Bowl). McGee and Butts actually have fairly similar career stats. Both had 71 catches at UVa, McGee led in yards 769-635 and Butts led in TDs 8-7. However, McGee did all that in two years while Butts took four. Also I can’t blame anyone for leaving a Mike London team.

Offensive Line: Oday Aboushi, Morgan Moses, Austin Pasztor, Eric Smith, Luke Bowanko

Others Considered: RJ Proctor, Anthony Mihota, Ross Burbank, others?

I’m not going to pretend that I understand how to accurately evaluate offensive linemen, that Paul Wiley’s job. We’re less concerned about positions here and just getting the best five guys so Aboushi, Moses, and Pasztor are easy choices. Not only are they probably the only three linemen your casual UVa fan can name from this decade, but they’re the only three that made an All-ACC team. To round out the line we’ll go with Smith and Bowanko, two incredibly consistent linemen who were three year starters and had multi-year NFL careers. I know I said that last bit wouldn’t matter but they’re my rules and I’ll bend them when convenient.

Defense

Defensive Line: Cam Johnson, David Dean, Mike Moore

Others Considered: Andrew Brown, Brent Urban, Donte Wilkins, Eli Hanback

The 3-4 defense definitely makes this tricky. Great 4-3 ends such as Eli Harold and Max Valles are better suited as outside linebackers in a 3-4 so we’ll consider them in the next group. A 3-4 starts with a dominant nose tackle and we’re going to use David Dean, with apologies to Wilkins and Hanback. Dean was a monster inside during his career totaling 137 tackles and 10.5 sacks and at 6’1, 290 pounds he has the size we need.

On the ends we have Cam Johnson and Mike Moore. Johnson only had two seasons post-2010 but they were excellent with 25.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Also if you don’t remember his strip-sack/recovery against Indiana go look it up, it’s all you need to see. Moore versus Brown at the other end is basically a coin flip and I understand anyone who prefers Brown. Moore gets the nod from me because his best season (2015) was justslightly better than Brown’s best season (2016) and when consistency is similar I’ll take the better peak.

Linebackers: Micah Kiser, Eli Harold, Charles Snowden, LaRoy Reynolds

Others Considered: Chris Peace, Henry Coley, Steve Greer, Max Valles

With the exception of maybe Clemson I’d put this group up against any other ACC team’s linebackers over the past decade. Kiser is the first player to make the cut here, he’s fifth all time at UVa in tackles (411) and he did that in basically three years. No UVa player at any position over the past decade was more consistent than him and he’s the captain of our defense. The second spot goes to Eli Harold. Harold was Virginia’s best pass rusher of the past decade and he’s 12th all-time in sacks. He’s perfectly suited as an outside linebacker in our 3-4 defense.

The last two choices get very difficult. Coley and Greer were incredibly reliable and always in the right place but Kiser makes them a bit redundant so they’re out. Valles had an incredible peak season (2014: 55 tackles, 9 sacks) but he lacks enough longevity to stand out here.

So with three people left for two spots, Reynolds nabs one for his versatility. He has the speed and athleticism to cover the pass while remaining an incredibly sure tackler (250 career tackles and 24.5 tackles for loss) and his presence will enable Mendenhall and Nick Howell to get really creative. The last linebacker on the team is Snowden. Peace has better numbers and is certainly deserving but Snowden’s no slouch and his length is such an incredible asset. Plus it’d feel wrong to not have anyone in the front seven from this past year’s amazing defense.

Safeties: Anthony Harris, Juan Thornhill

Others Considered: Quin Blanding

I have no doubt that for anyone who read this far leaving Blanding off the team is an unforgivable sin so let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. Quin Blanding is UVa’s all-time leader in tackles. He has the fourth most tackles of any player in NCAA history. If this were a list of great tacklers he’d be here. But for all his tackles (which he got because he played behind a front seven that was AWFUL), Blanding was not great in coverage. It’s why he never made the NFL. He’s an incredibly smart football player and reliable but he’s not a great pass defender and with the front seven we just put together we need safeties that can defend the pass.

Harris and Thornhill are those guys. Both were slow starters in their Virginia careers but they each had highly productive third/fourth years, finished top 10 at UVa in interceptions and are absolute ballhawks in this secondary. Their NFL success isn’t why they’re on this team but it does help to reinforce the point. I’m sorry Quin.

Cornerback: Bryce Hall, Chase Minnifield

Others Considered: Maurice Canady, Demetrious Nicholson

This is actually fairly straightforward. Hall is UVa’s best pure corner of the decade. His interception numbers aren’t high but teams rarely threw at him for 1.5 seasons and his career was cut short because he was inexplicably playing as a punt gunner (forever indefensible). While Hall was the best corner, Minnifield was the most productive with 13 interceptions (sixth all-time). He may not have prototypical size but he was always around the ball and he gets bonus points for trash-talking David Cutcliffe.

Special Teams

Let’s keep these short:

Punter: Lester Coleman

Otherwise Caroline won’t let me publish this (Editor’s Note: this is true).

Kicker: Brian Delaney

He made that unbelievably clutch 48 yarder against Tech. Nothing else matters.

Kick Returner: Joe Reed

Yep. Next.

Punt Returner: Khalek Shepherd

For the sake of unintentional comedy

I didn’t get anything wrong but please feel free to agree with me and praise my selections below.