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Posted April 12, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Fauber: Spring practice offers a fresh start

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Brad Fauber

The 2013 college football season is still months away, but teams all over the country are several weeks deep into their respective spring practices.

For many schools, the spring offers a chance for a fresh start and a renewed optimism for the season to come, while other schools use it as a chance to reload after strong seasons the year before.

The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech find themselves in the former, as each school is coming off rather disappointing seasons in 2012. Both teams made notable changes to their coaching staffs in the offseason, and the spring has been an interesting one for both schools as several coaches are getting settled into their new roles.

U.Va. head coach Mike London is under a lot of pressure to win in 2013 after the Cavaliers stumbled to a 4-8 season, including a 2-6 mark in ACC play, last year in his third season at the helm.

London's job could be in jeopardy should U.Va. struggle again this season, and London was forced to make sweeping changes to his staff in the offseason in an attempt to turn the program around. As a result, the Cavaliers welcome in new coordinators for offense, defense and special teams this season.

Former San Diego Chargers offensive assistant Steve Fairchild has been brought in as the Cavaliers' new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and he will have the tough task of turning around an offense that has struggled to find consistency at quarterback in recent history.

The quarterback situation remains a big question mark for the Cavaliers this year, as there is still no clear-cut favorite to win the starting job as U.Va.'s spring practice draws to a close. Last year's passing leader Michael Rocco transferred to the University of Richmond, leaving the position battle up for grabs between the trio of David Watford, Greyson Lambert and Phillip Sims.

Watford is currently listed at No. 1 on the depth chart, although that doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot at this point. There is still plenty of time for more competition between the three prospective quarterbacks when camp picks back up in August, and either one of the three could begin the season as the Cavaliers' signal-caller.

Lambert had the most impressive performance among the quarterbacks in last weekend's Orange-Blue spring game, as the redshirt freshman completed 21 of 36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Sims, who split time with Rocco last season, was 8 for 18 for 89 yards, and Watford threw for 55 yards on five completions in the scrimmage.

Another thing that U.Va. fans should keep an eye on is the Cavaliers' defense, which ranked 28th in the country in total defense last season. New defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta has made it clear that he wants the Cavaliers to be more aggressive defensively. Tenuta's style was on display in the spring game, as the first- and second-team defense combined for 14 sacks, and it will be interesting to see how his style translates onto the field in the regular season.

Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer made some coaching changes of his own this offseason, with the most notable being the hiring of Scot Loeffler as the Hokies' new offensive coordinator.

Loeffler's offensive scheme will be a refreshing change of pace for Hokie fans, as creativity has been lacking in Virginia Tech's offense for quite some time. Loeffler's style was on display during the Hokies' open scrimmage on Monday, and it is clear that the new Virginia Tech offense will have a new look.

During Monday's scrimmage, Virginia Tech lined up in several formations that included placing running backs in wide receiver slots, receivers in the backfield and tight ends at various positions on the field.

The idea of something new from the Hokies' offense is an exciting concept, but Virginia Tech still has question marks, including the tailback position. No one player emerged as the go-to guy at running back last season, and the Hokies will use the remainder of the spring to try to get a better feel for who will get the nod in 2013.

Sophomores J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes have been used primarily with the first team so far this spring, and both figure to be the top contenders for the starting job. Redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds is also in the mix.

Senior quarterback Logan Thomas is also someone to keep an eye on this spring, as Virginia Tech's success this season may largely hinge on his ability to improve his accuracy and become a more consistent passer.

The spring has offered and will continue to offer plenty of exciting storylines in college football over the next few weeks, and although U.Va. and Virginia Tech have their share of question marks, the addition of some fresh faces certainly provides some intrigue for the coming season.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com


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