2014 ACC Wish Lists: Virginia And Louisville
Virginia and Louisville enter 2014 as teams in two different places. The Cavaliers will try to climb out of the ACC's basement while Louisville tries to translate their AAC success into results in the ACC.
Virginia must improve its offense in every way. The Cavaliers averaged only 3.8 yards per rush in 2013, a number that will have to improve in order to make Virginia a more balanced offense and to take pressure off the passing game. Overall, the Cavaliers only averaged 4.4 yards per play in 2013. Virginia also must turn over the ball less frequently. Quarterback David Watford threw 15 interceptions to only eight touchdowns. Virginia is going to hope that the experience their young team gained in 2013 turns into results in 2014 with players including Watford, tailbacks Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd, tight end Jake McGee and a number of wide receivers returning.
On defense Virginia must improve their secondary as opponents averaged 14.3 yards per catch. Overall, the Cavaliers defense gave up an average of 521.2 all purpose yards per game and was gutted for more than 400 yards seven times in 2013. Virginia fielded at least an OK rushing defense, but they must now replace two starters from their defensive line in 2014. Like the offense, Virginia's defense returns a number of players Virginia hopes the experience pays off.
Louisville is entering its first year of ACC play with a new quarterback after Teddy Bridgewater decided to enter the NFL Draft. His backup Will Gardner returns as well as a number of young quarterbacks who will fight for the chance to lead the Cardinals into the ACC. The major question is whether or not Bobby Petrino will want Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson, who was ranked by one agency as the third-ranked JUCO quarterback in the nation in 2012, to lead the Cardinals in 2015. Ferguson must sit out in 2014, but if Petrino wants him under center in 2015, that could be a major factor in who starts at quarterback in 2014. Many other starters from 2013's offense like DeVante Parker and Dominique Brown are returning in 2014, which will give whomever the quarterback is plenty of weapons to utilize as the Cardinals start ACC play.
Louisville must replace some key players on defense including defensive linemen Brandon Dunn, Marcus Smith and Roy Philon who were part of a group who held opponents to fewer than three yards per rush in 2013. Defensive end Lorenzo Mautin is the top returning defensive linemen and will be expected to be a leader on the line. The Cardinals must also replace leading tackler Preston Brown, Champ Lee and George Durant at linebacker. Thankfully for the Cardinals, James Burgess, the team's third-leading tackler, and Keith Kelsey both return at that position. Louisville also loses two key safeties in Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith, so players like Gerod Holliman will be expected to step up in the secondary.