Virginia Cavaliers Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Virginia season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Virginia Cavaliers Preview
Head Coach: Tony Elliott, 0-0, 1st year at Virginia
2021 Preview: Overall: 6-6, Conference: 4-4
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Virginia Top 10 Players | Virginia Schedule & Analysis
Virginia Cavaliers Preview 2022
Well that was weird.
Bronco Mendenhall was one of those coaches who was able to take whatever he had and make something great happen, but after going to the ACC Championship and the Orange Bowl in 2009, the program went 11-11, pretty much forgot how to play defense last year, and lost its last four games in the midst of the greatest offensive season in team history.
Enter Tony Elliott, a first time head coach who was way overdue to get a shot after years as a key assistant in the Clemson machine. He’s young, he knows how to coach up running backs, he knows how to recruit, and like all first time head coaches who get a shot, he knows how to bring the energy.
This is an interesting team with funky parts. Everything is still in place from the nation’s second-best passing game, but running backs have to emerge, the offensive line is all but starting over, and the defense that has a slew of good tacklers and experience has to figure out how to get into the backfield, come up with stops, and … play defense.
Not discounting that it wasn’t all that long ago that Virginia went from 2012 to 2017 without a winning season, a bowl appearance has to be a given with this team and this schedule.
Also a given is fun. If all else fails, start throwing again, and throw some more. This turned into a must-watch team in 2021, and now it should be a must-watch team that starts winning more in 2022.
Virginia Cavaliers Preview 2022: Offense, Defense NEXT
Virginia Cavaliers Preview 2022: Offense
The offense changed up in a big, big, big way.
The attack that was relatively balanced and got to 300 passing yards jeer once against FBS teams in 2020 was one of the nation’s most exciting high-octane fun shows finishing third in the nation with the No. 2 passing attack that averaged close to 400 yards per game.
Now it’s up to new offensive coordinator Des Kitchings – who comes in after handling the running backs for the Atlanta Falcons – to try keeping the passing production going, all while balancing things out a wee bit more. Combined with a head coach in Tony Elliott who spent the last several years coaching up the Clemson O, and this should be dangerous. However …
The line needs a total overhaul. Center Olusengun Oluwatimi (Michigan), left tackle Bobby Haskins (USC), right tackle Ryan Swoboda (UCF), and left guard Logan Taylor (SMU) are all off living their best lives elsewhere. It’s not that there isn’t talent up front, but it’s going to take a while to come together after struggling in pass protection and not doing enough for the ground game.
The passing numbers aren’t going to be so astronomical, but the pieces are there to blow up again. Getting back star QB Brennan Armstrong – who threw for close to 4,500 yards with 31 touchdowns despite getting banged up for a few games – was massive.
The receiving corps of Dontayvion Wicks, Billy Kemp, Malachi Fields and do-it-all former quarterback Keytaon Thompson was dangerous enough, and soon it’ll get back big-time deep threat Lavel Davis from a knee injury.
A ground game will show up this year. Leading rusher Wayne Taulapapa is done, but he only gained 324 yards. Armstrong ran for nine scores, and Thompson can handle the ball, but backs have to emerge. There will be a rotation around junior Mike Hollins, the ran for 213 yards and two scores.
The offensive will be fine, but …
Virginia Cavaliers Top 10 Players: College Football Preview 2022
Virginia Cavaliers Preview 2022: Defense
The defense has to hold up its end of the bargain.
New defensive coordinator John Rudzinski has to figure out something to do with the nation’s 121st-ranked defense that didn’t generate a lick of pressure into the backfield, was awful against the run, and struggled against just about everyone’s passing game. The D just has to hold serve after allowing 466 yards and 32 points per game.
There’s experience, but there has to be production. It starts on the line – the transfer portal is playing a huge role – where Miami University’s Kam Butler has to breathe life into the pass rush. Jahmeer Carter is a nice nose tackle and versatile 283-pound Aaron Faumui can play inside or out.
Disruptive linebacker Noah Taylor took off for North Carolina, but leading tackler Nick Jackson in back in the middle after coming up with 117 tackles, and Hunter Stewart is a decent veteran on the outside. The rotation here will be fine.
Losing safety Joey Blount stings, and more big plays have to come from all the spots, but safeties Coen King and Antonio Clary can tackles and the corner combination of Darrius Bratton and Anthony Johnson is experienced.
Virginia Cavaliers: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT
Virginia Cavaliers: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats
Virginia Cavaliers: Key To The 2022 Offense
The offensive line has to pass protect.
Four Cavalier offensive linemen are now key starters for big teams, but can this new group do more to keep defenses out of the backfield? That, and the line will be asked to do more for the ground game that should get more work.
Here’s the weird part about the Virginia offense – it was loaded with talent on the line, but it gave up a ton of sacks. To be fair, this was an all-passing attack that threw it 553 times, but the O allowed over three sacks per game.
That was a problem after star QB Brennan Armstrong got hurt.
Only 14 teams gave up more sacks per game, and now the Cavaliers have to tighten up all while figuring out the right combination.
Virginia Cavaliers: Key To The 2022 Defense
Start doing more to get into the backfield.
The defense got rocked, the secondary got ripped apart, and the run D was the worst in the ACC. Just about everything has to be fixed under defensive coordinator John Rudzinski, and that all starts with getting behind the line.
The Cavaliers managed just 18 sacks, and seven of them came in the last two games. That was coming off a 2020 with 32 sacks in just ten games. The 52 tackles for loss were among the fewest in the nation with the 4.3 per game ranking 114th.
More third down stops, more control, more takeaways – that starts with generating more pressure.
Virginia Cavaliers: Key Player To The 2022 Season
OT Logan Taylor, Soph.
The entire offensive line needs reworking and tweaking, and it starts with coming up with finding a starter in place of new Michigan Wolverine Olusegun Oluwatimi at center, and replacing new USC Trojan Bobby Haskins at left tackle.
Pass protection was a big, big problem, and now the pressure is on Taylor, a 6-7, 332-pound strong recruit who has a great frame and the right upside to grow into the job. He saw a little bit of time late last year, and now he’s about to be thrown into the fire.
Virginia Cavaliers: Key Transfer
DE Kam Butler, Sr.
One of the best players in the MAC, the three-time All-MAC star is exactly what the team needs – a pass rusher.
The 6-3, 250-pound hybrid playmaker made 114 tackles with 16 sacks and 31 tackles for loss over the last three seasons, and now it’s his job to be a game-wrecker for one of the worst defenses in college football.
If he does for the Cavaliers what he did for the RedHawks, everything should change around fast.
Virginia Key Game To The 2022 Season
at Virginia Tech, Nov. 26
Sometimes there are early statement games, and sometimes there are games a team has to win to have a shot at a truly huge season. And sometimes there are games that need to be won, just because.
Coach Elliott, this is the game you have to win – as if he isn’t being told that 136 times a day.
The importance of rivalry games might be overblown, but in the first season of a new coaching era at Virginia, and the first season in a new coaching era at Virginia Tech, this is even more of a huge deal than normal.
The Cavaliers have lost two straight in the series and 17 of the last 18.
Virginia Cavaliers: 2021 Fun Stats
– Sacks: Opponents 40 for 232 yards – Virginia 19 for 115 yards
– On-side Kicks: Opponents 2-for-2 – Virginia 0-for-0
– Points Per Game: Virginia 34.6 – Opponents 31.8
Virginia Cavaliers Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT
Virginia Cavaliers Season Prediction, What Will Happen
There’s so much reworking going on that this will be one of the true X factor teams in the ACC.
If there can be just a wee more balance, and a lot more defense, and if the offensive line can be rebuilt fast and if everyone can stay relatively healthy and if the coaching staff can get into a groove right away …
There’s no reason to not go bowling and come up with a winning season, especially with a schedule that’s just not all that bad.
Set The Virginia Cavaliers Regular Season Win Total At … 7
Start with this: there’s no Clemson and no NC State – those might be the two best teams in the ACC. There’s no Wake Forest – who went to the ACC Championship last year – missing Boston College and Florida State is a plus, and Notre Dame doesn’t come up this time around.
Not to team-shame, but three of the four ACC road games are against the relative lightweights – Duke, Georgia Tech, and Syracuse didn’t go bowling last year – and the fourth is just down the road at Virginia Tech.
Pitt, North Carolina, and Miami are all home games during a wonderful second half stretch – the Cavaliers don’t leave Virginia after October 20th and have just one date outside the state after October 1st.
However, there are way too many 50/50 games for a team with so many things going on.
Oklahoma State is a problem – even at home – going to Illinois will be difficult, and all those games against good ACC teams at home and mediocre ACC teams on the road are hardly sure things.
Throw in tough home dates against Louisville and Coastal Carolina, and a six-win season is an easy goal, seven is a must with all the decent breaks, and anything more would be wonderful.