On Saturday, April 18th, the Virginia football team will take to Scott Stadium for its annual spring game. Coming off a 5-7 record in the 2014 season, the Wahoos face plenty of questions about coaching uncertainty, personnel losses, and potential new stars. With a fan base desperate for a season with more ups than downs, here are some specific things fans are looking to see at this year's spring game:
- Experienced quarterbacks that play like experienced quarterbacks - Considering the recent lack of quarterback development on this team (and recent lack of keeping QB's on the roster), one of the biggest advantages this team has this year is the talent and experience at the position. Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns both showed flashes of great play last year at times, but in order for this team to make it to a bowl game we're going to need to see demonstrated improvement - particularly from Lambert, who should settle into the starting role. Gone are any excuses of youth or inexperience. At the spring game, Virginia fans will be looking for sharp passes, good timing, and - for the love all that is orange and blue - some DEEP throws.
- Who steps up to replace the talent on the defensive line? - Last year's defense kept the Wahoos in most of their games, particularly due to their talented pass rush. Most casual observers would name the strength of that team as "beating the crap out of the other team's quarterback." This year, however, the Hoos are missing all-world DE Eli Harold and his pass rush buddy Max Valles, both of whom left early for the NFL. In order to keep the rush as a strength for the team, Mike Moore, Kwontie Moore (no relation), and some new faces (hello Andrew Brown) will need to step up in a big way.
- Will Smoke Mizzell take the next step? - Following the departure of eight-year starter Kevin Parks, the door is wide open for UVa's former 5 star tailback recruit to show off his talents as a starter this year. Mizzell possess great talent and speed, but has had little to show for it so far on the field. Much of that can be blamed on the crowded depth chart, however, so this year is his chance to claim the featured spot in UVa's backfield. This isn't to say there aren't other talented guys on the roster, but if Mizzell doesn't turn into the guy this year, it would be an extreme disappointment. At the spring game, look for Mizzell to look the part.
- Who lines up next to Quin Blanding? - With new-favorite-player Blanding handling half of the safety positions and Ant Harris off to play professionally, who steps up into the other starting spot? Wil Wahee? Malcolm Cook? Mason Thomas? Sam Spears? The answer seems to be former-CB Maurice Canady, who certainly is a great player...but what will he look like in a new role? Hopefully we'll see good things Saturday.