Five questions: Daily Progress’ Andrew Ramspacher on Virginia

UCLA is just two days away from its season opener, which means it’s time to check in with opposing beat writers again for some perspective on the Bruins’ opponents. First up is Andrew Ramspacher of the Daily Progress, who gives his take on a Virginia team that is coming off a 5-7 season.

(Also, here are the questions I answered for the Daily Progress about UCLA.)

1. It seems like Mike London’s job security is perennially under scrutiny. Is this finally the do-or-die season for the sixth-year head coach, or is the seat at about the same temperature it was last fall?

A buzzword around UVa and Mike London’s situation entering 2014 was “improvement.” What did London have to do to stick around for 2015? Show great improvement from the dismal 2-10 campaign. And, well, that’s kind of exactly what the Cavaliers did last season. Sure, they went 5-7, but five of those losses came by eight points or less. With a more appropriate schedule, they’re easily into a bowl game.

As for this season, I think it’s more than safe to say it’s finally do or die. London has two years left on his contract. A popular thought is he either does enough to stay and Virginia extends him or he falls short and is let go. (It would be REALLY hard to recruit with one year left on a contract). What’s a reasonable expectation to have him back in 2016? A bowl game appearance in the least. Something else to consider is attendance. Virginia had a 15 percent decrease in Scott Stadium seat fillers last year. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech coming to Charlottesville should give this year’s numbers a decent bump, but it’ll be interesting to see how administration factors everything in.

2. London said in spring that the quarterback competition wasn’t close, but Greyson Lambert is now the starter at Georgia. Is Matt Johns really that much better, or is there any thought that UVa picked the wrong guy?

Lambert, although he wasn’t always healthy, had a full season to prove he was the right guy for Virginia in 2014. His numbers — 10 touchdowns to 11 interceptions — proved Johns, who made occasional appearances last year, still had a chance in the competition.

Coaches were adamant they charted all of the QB throws in spring practice and, as London noted, Johns beat out Lambert by a significant margin. On the flip-side, Virginia offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said the QB battle was a “fluid situation” and the post-spring depth chart simply reflected if the Cavaliers were playing a game that day. That head coach-offensive coordinator disconnect perhaps is symbolic of the way Virginia’s handled quarterbacks since London’s hire. It’s been a non-stop carousel that’s directly related to London’s 23-38 record. Continue reading “Five questions: Daily Progress’ Andrew Ramspacher on Virginia” »

First look: No. 13 UCLA vs. Virginia

No. 13 UCLA Bruins vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Saturday, Sept. 5, 12:35 p.m., Rose Bowl
TV: FOX (Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Kris Budden)
Radio: AM 570 (Bill Roth, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Scouting report: The Cavaliers only had 17 sacks in 2012. Since defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta arrived the following year, they’ve totaled 61. When he was a linebackers coach at North Carolina State (2010-12), the Wolfpack averaged more than 38 per season. … Virginia linebackers Daquan Romero, Henry Coley and Max Valles totaled 33 tackles for loss and 18 sacks. All three are gone this season. … None of the team’s starting quarterbacks have finished a season completing more than 61 percent of their passes since 2008. … Mike London has gone 23-38 as head coach, hitting .500 just once in five seasons. His contract runs through Dec. 7, 2016.

Key players:

QB Matt Johns, Jr., 6-5, 210 — 89/162, 1,109 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT, 107 rush yards, 1 TD
– Only saw significant action in five games last season, but won the starting job in spring and forced incumbent starter Greyson Lambert to transfer. His best game remains his career debut: a 154-yard, two-touchdown performance against UCLA a year ago.

RB Taquan Mizzell, Jr., 5-10, 200 — 64 carries, 280 yards, 2 TD, 39 catches, 271 yards
– Nicknamed “Smoke,” which is still sort of appropriate given that Mizzell has been nearly nonexistent through two college seasons. Still, despite not having topped 500 career rushing yards, the former five-star recruit is the most proven member of the Virginia backfield. Continue reading “First look: No. 13 UCLA vs. Virginia” »

UCLA football 2015 season preview: Virginia Cavaliers

By now, most of you are probably jonesing for the start of college football season. Fret not — it’s the perfect time to start looking at each of UCLA’s upcoming opponents. Let’s start with the Virginia.

UCLA Bruins vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Saturday, Sept. 5 | Rose Bowl
12:30 p.m. PT, FOX

The skinny: Virginia is not known for a deep, proud football tradition. While the program has been closer to mediocre than truly bad over the last decade, this remains a team that has not won a bowl game since 2005, and one that has not won its conference since 1995.

Can Mike London, a perennial coaching hot-seater, finally notch his second winning season in Charlottesville? The 54-year-old has some very interesting bullet points on his resume, but his recent coaching career hasn’t offered him much to brag about.

London peaked early, debuting as Richmond’s head coach in 2008 by winning 13 games and the FCS Championship. He put the Spiders back in the quarterfinals the following year, after which Virginia poached him to replace Al Groh. He won four games, then broke through in 2011 with eight wins and an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He won ACC Coach of the Year, and earned a five-year extension.

The Cavaliers haven’t fared well since, slipping back to four, two, and five wins in the last three seasons. Continue reading “UCLA football 2015 season preview: Virginia Cavaliers” »

First look: Virginia Cavaliers

No. 7 UCLA Bruins vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Kickoff: 9 a.m. PT, Scott Stadium (University of Virginia)
Radio: AM 570

Coach: Mike London is 18-31 through four seasons in Charlottesville, and has taken the Cavaliers to just one bowl game: a 43-24 blowout by Auburn in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl. He hired four new assistants in 2013, which only resulted in a 2-10 record — the program’s worst mark since 1981. Very popular on hot-seat lists.

Key players: Continue reading “First look: Virginia Cavaliers” »