UVA football: 7 observations heading into 2018 opener
Kurt Benkert is competing for an NFL job, so, obvs, he’s a stud at QB. But the new starter, Bryce Perkins, is the kind of quarterback that Robert Anae has in mind when he schemes up game plans. Opponents will have to account for Perkins on the read-option, and he should be a beast on the perimeter either throwing on the run or tucking it in and taking off. If only he can stay healthy, because the options behind him: not good.
2. The weapons: More productive?
Olamide Zacchaeus had 85 catches a year ago, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be at least that productive in 2018. Tailback Jordan Ellis averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2017, but with Perkins drawing attention of DEs on read-options, there should be more bursts. Speed on the outside with Joe Reed and Hasise Dubois. Size in the middle of the route tree with tight end Evan Butts. If the O line can block, you should see a more productive offense in 2018.
3. About that O line
If the O line can block: dangerous observation. Jake Fieler is listed at #1 on the depth chart for the opener at right guard, so good news there. R.J. Proctor is not on the depth chart, which, ugh, not good. Injuries depleted the line down the stretch in 2017, which is why the offense finished out being shut out at home against Virginia Tech, and did nothing in the bowl loss at Navy.
4. About that D line
Remember when Andrew Brown was eating up blockers in 2017? Probably not, because you don’t tend to remember guys who get double-teamed and don’t put up huge numbers, but that’s how a 3-4 works. The big uglies beast up on the opponent’s O line, draw double-teams, and the linebackers and secondary wreak havoc behind them. There’s no Andrew Brown on this D line, which is noticeably thin talent-wise.
5. Joey Blount?
Kid must be good, to beat out the ACC Newcomer of the Year on defense, Brenton Nelson, at free safety. Must be good, or better be good. Not sure what’s going on there.
6. What’s Richmond got?
This isn’t the Richmond team that came into Scott Stadium in 2016 and beat the holy hell out of Bronco Mendenhall’s first UVA team. UR was picked to finish seventh in the CAA this season, after stumbling to a 6-5 finish in 2017. And that was with Kyle Lauletta, who, thank god, is in the NFL now. Not that, when Lauletta was throwing for a million yards to beat UVA in 2016, that wasn’t still inexcusable, but UVA losing to this group could crank up hot-seat talk.
7. How many people show up?
It’s been so long since UVA football has had anything even close to a full house at Scott Stadium. Over-under for Saturday’s opener: 40,000.