CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Mike London’s fourth season at Virginia feels a lot like his first one.
The coach made sweeping changes to his staff after stumbling to a 4-8 record a year ago, bringing in new coordinators for offense, defense and special teams and an associate head coach for offense.
The young Cavaliers will debut their new look in their opener today against Brigham Young. The Cougars are coming off an 8-5 season and a school-record fourth consecutive bowl win.
Virginia’s two most noticeable changes come at quarterback, where redshirt sophomore David Watford takes over, and on defense, where new coordinator Jon Tenuta likes to bring constant pressure.
Watford, who played as a freshman, then redshirted last season as Michael Rocco (transferred to Richmond) and Phillip Sims (dismissed from school) shared the job, is something of an unknown. He’s heralded as a dual threat with breakaway speed, but he never really has had a chance to show it. He will in Steve Fairchild’s pro-style offense.
“We’re not going to ask him to do more than what he’s capable of doing,” London said. “Obviously he’s a gifted and talented young man, but if he does what’s being asked of him to do in distributing the ball and using his legs and his arm and his brain, then I think that’s going to be critical to our success.”
So will the play of his offensive line, which has two freshmen on the depth chart and will be going against a defense that finished third in the country last season, then had to replace six starters.
London said BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy is “one of the best players out there.”
Virginia likely will bring a lot of defensive pressure to slow down BYU’s offense, which is led by Taysom Hill. The sophomore quarterback will utilize 6-foot-4-inch wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who is closing in on school records for receptions, yards and touchdown catches, and a stable of running backs led by Jamaal Williams.
The Cougars plan to play fast and use a lot of players.
“I think when you play as many plays as we play, being a starter might be noticeable for a few plays, but then it’s going to be a flurry of players coming in,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said.