NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Virginia Prospects

Oday Aboushi Took a Step Back Last Season, But Is Still Slated to Be Picked This Weekend

Oday Aboushi Took a Step Back Last Season, But Is Still Slated to Be Picked This Weekend

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Virginia‘s program is loaded with young talent, but lucky for them, most of it is still on-campus. For the few departing Hoos, however, there will be plenty of uncertainty at the pro level. Several players could be drafted this weekend, but where they go is mostly a mystery. As Mike London’s image continues to form for the UVa football team, this draft is giving us the final remnants of Al Groh’s talent pool — with some returns greater than others.

Oday Aboushi, OT, Senior (Projected: Fourth Round)

Aboushi’s strength lies primarily in his size (6’6″ and 308 pounds), which he uses to his advantage against smaller defenders. As far as athleticism, however, scouts have knocked him for not being overly fast (5.45 40-yard dash time) or quick with his hands or feet. As SB Nation’s Streaking the Lawn has also noted, he can find himself a bit outmatched with NFL-caliber talent and struggles with secondary moves from relentless defenders. He’s both a competent pass- and run-blocker, but ideally, his driving ability makes him more of a major asset in the running game. Obviously, the rough year for UVa and its running game didn’t help Aboushi’s stock, though he’s still doing well on many boards around the league due to the aforementioned size as well as his aggressive style.

Steve Greer, ILB, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)

Undersized at 6’2″ and 230 pounds, Greer projects as a ‘tweener at the next level — failing to really fit the mold of any one position. He’s not large enough to be a pro linebacker and not fast enough (5.04 40-yard dash) or experienced enough in coverage to transition to the secondary. But that said, he’s still a tenacious defender who’s garnered a reputation as an effective run-stopper with a knack for making solid first contact. Starting out as a special-teamer in camp this summer, he’ll have ample opportunities to make a roster, and eventually work himself into special packages on defense, too.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia's 2012 Season Was About as Tumultuous as They Come; But Is There Hope on the Horizon?

Virginia’s 2012 Season Was About as Tumultuous as They Come; But Is There Hope on the Horizon?

Team: Virginia Cavaliers

W-L: 4-8 (2-6)

Postseason: None

Top Offensive Performer: Oday Aboushi, OT

Top Defensive Performer: Steve Greer, LB

Coming off a breakout 2011 season, and another big recruiting class, Mike London’s Virginia team was poised to take the leap in 2012; or so many thought. Rather than progression, what the Hoos saw this past fall was a severe regression. Not only was the team’s win total cut in half when compared to the year before, but a squad that appeared built on continuity was suddenly in a tumultuous state. The Cavaliers’ secondary — as young as expected, took nearly two months to truly get their acts together. The running game, a formidable two-back system, was suddenly as unproductive as they come. And most glaring was the quarterback issue which would shape every narrative for Virginia, from August, all the way through the final, excruciating loss.

One would assume the thought process when bringing in Alabama QB transfer Phillip Sims was that he’d sit this season before taking the reigns in 2013. With returning starter Michael Rocco at the helm, that route seemed to make the most sense — until Sims was granted a waiver allowing him to suit up this season. With a quarterback controversy brewing, Rocco held onto the job, but never quite stopped looking over his shoulder, and the results were mostly hazardous. Thought the UVA passing game would finish a very respectable 37th in the FBS (in terms of yardage), it sorely lacked for efficiency or success. Rocco and Sims combined for 15 interceptions on the season (93rd in the country) and both passers’ accuracy turned out a staggered curve of inconsistency. For each game Rocco would have like the 41-40 upset of Miami (in which he threw for four scores), he’d have another like the 27-7 loss to TCU (126 passing yards, 2 INTs). And with so much riding on quarterback play, the ground game suffered as well. Regularly faced with dire straits, or simply two quarterbacks splitting snaps for the same job, their strong run game was suddenly pass-first. UVA was 98th in the country in both overall carries (417) and yards per game (128.5), and this with two highly skilled backs in Kevin Parks and Perry Jones. While no one would call them a high-flying group in 2011 (23.8 points per game), 2012 was absolutely dreadful from a scoring standpoint (22.8 points per game) — especially without a strong defense to bail them out.

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ACC Football Player of the Week, Week 2: Tanner Price, Wake Forest

Wake Forest QB Tanner Price Is This Week’s ACC Player of the Week

Each week, we’ll be identifying the best ACC player from that weekend’s games. As always, it’s a completely arbitrary award with no specific criteria beyond the vague concept of “excellence.” No, we don’t take write-ins.

ACC Player of the Week, Week Two: Tanner Price, QB/Wake Forest

Bouncing back from a subpar first week, Price was a guiding force in Wake’s big victory over North Carolina on Saturday. The junior completed 71 percent of his passes for 327 yards, and also managed to run for two touchdowns. His career-highs now have his team at 2-0 as they head into a consistently interesting matchup with Florida State next week. Despite all the concerns about the Demon Deacons’ offense this season, as long as Price is under center, it appears they’ll be just fine. Again, that theory will get put to the test against the most extreme test this week, as he goes up against the Seminoles’ pass rush.

Honorable Mention:

Steve Greer, LB/Virginia (15 tackles, 2 sacks)

Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (19/23 passing, 229 yards, 3 TD)

Michael Campanaro, WR/Wake Forest (13 receptions, 164 yards)

Earl Wolff, S/NC State (5 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery)

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ACC Football Preview 2012: Preseason Defensive Unit Rankings

North Carolina Hopes a Transition to the 4-2-5 Defense Helps Kevin Reddick Become a True Star

We’re literally one day (and some hours) away from the start of the 2012 season, so obviously, we’re rolling out tons of arbitrarily ranked lists to peruse before kickoff. The focus of this particular list? Every ACC defense. Along with the ranked list, we’ll provide some background to legitimize said arbitrary ranking. Don’t agree with us? Voice your opinion in the comment section.

Want more lists? Be sure to check out our offensive unit rankings earlier today, and the coaching ranks later on.

ACC Defense Unit Rankings (Preseason)

1. Florida State Seminoles: FSU will possess one of the most frightening pass-rushes in all of college football. And return nine starters from the fourth-best scoring defense in the country last year. And be the guiding force behind a resurgent season back in the BCS spotlight for the Seminoles.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies: Aggressive and ball-hawking, the Hokies’ defense will be leaned on quite a bit this season, and I give them credit as a group capable of carrying that heavy burden. If they continue to force turnovers with pressure as they have in the past, they’ll be one of the country’s most impressive units yet again.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: The new 4-2-5 scheme should have this group looking like an unconventional version of the two teams ahead of them on this list. Agile and focused on pressure and turnovers, senior leader Kevin Reddick should excel here, as will his defensive cohorts who’ve all waited a long time to be let loose in a set like this.

4. NC State Wolfpack: Some may murmur about linebacker concerns, but the focus for the Wolfpack will be on the talented secondary. David Amerson and Earl Wolff should run things as they have in the past, with Amerson gunning to add to his record-setting total of picks from last year.

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

Does Michael Rocco Have What It Takes to Lead Virginia, or Will He Lose the QB Battle to Phillip Sims?

Team: Virginia Cavaliers

2011 W-L: 8-5 (5-3)

Head Coach: Mike London (12-13; third season)

Returning Starters: 12 (7 Offense, 5 Defense)

Mike London’s Virginia team surprised the conference last year, winning eight games on the backs of a veteran defense that ranked in the top five (in the ACC) against both the run and pass. Now, the question begs how they’re going to top that. So far this offseason, it appears they’re well on their way. Landing Alabama QB transfer Phillip Sims was huge, and getting him eligibility for this season was enormous (despite the ensuing/ongoing drama as a result). The biggest coup, however, may be what Mike London’s done in the recruiting game. As of last night, the Hoos are in uncharted waters — pulling down a top-20 class — and continuing to make waves. But will that momentum reflect at all on the field this year? That’s still up for debate.

For all the good will surrounding the program coming off last year’s over-achievement, there are still tons of question marks to be addressed. And of course, they start at quarterback. Last year, starter Michael Rocco was efficient enough, throwing for 2,600 yards and 13 touchdowns. Without Sims, he’s firmly entrenched as a team leader and returning starter. But with him, there’s a lingering doubt that he’ll be able to get things done. If you look at his game-by-game progression from last year, you see a quarterback that grew into his role and delivered consistent — though average — numbers, with upward spikes for a few impressive performances. What’s alarming, though, is his performance against quicker, more blitz-heavy defenses. In those games (I count five), the team went 1-4, with Rocco four TDs to six interceptions. At the collegiate level, Sims may not be a proven commodity, but in high school, the quarterback made a living under pressure and while not a “running QB,” he does know how to move his feet. Sims may not know the offense yet, but once he does, there may be a greater conversation to be had here, all dependent on Rocco’s results.

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ACC Preseason Top 25 Players of 2012: #14, Steve Greer

Virginia’s Steve Greer is #14 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 25 Players for 2012

As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

No. 14, Steve Greer, LB/Virginia

Despite an offense that at times seemed anemic in 2011, the Virginia Cavaliers still managed to win a surprising eight games on the backs of their stable and experienced defensive unit. While six of those 11 players are now departed, one of the most important pieces — senior linebacker Steve Greer — remains, and will be the catalyst for the Hoos’ D in 2012.

Playing an aggressive middle linebacker spot, Greer obviously functions as a spearhead for all activity on the field, leading both pass rushes and coverage schemes alike. In 12 game last year, he recorded 103 tackles — including two sacks — making him one of the best defenders in the conference in that category (seventh overall in terms of average tackles per game). Decisive and quick, the 6’2″, 235-pounder moves across the field in leaps and bounds, and has shown himself more adept at reading defenses as the season wears on. After starting last year with just nine tackles in the first two games, he’d end up tallying 56 over the next five. Most notable about Greer is also how much the team felt his absence in a 43-24 Chick-fil-a Bowl defeat against Auburn, a game they struggled to truly get a firm grasp on from the beginning.

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ACC Football 2012 Standout Seniors Recap & Full List

Clemson Running Back Andre Ellington is One of Many Standout Senior Players in the ACC for 2012

On Monday, we reached the end of our “Standout Seniors” list, which highlighted 14 of the ACC’s best football players entering their final year of school. As mentioned, these were not always the teams’ star attractions, but the player deemed to have the most impact on the 2012 season, regardless of how quietly it came about.

Disagree with any of these picks? Let us know in the comments who you would have chosen instead. And as you’ll see immediately below, we’re going to need a new selection for BC.

Boston College: Montel Harris, RB (yes, we did start this list a while ago)

Clemson: Andre Ellington, RB

Duke: Sean Renfree, QB

Florida State: E.J. Manuel, QB

Georgia Tech: Tevin Washington, QB

Maryland: Joe Vellano, DT

Miami (FL): Mike James, RB

NC State: Mike Glennon, QB

North Carolina: Erik Highsmith, WR

Pittsburgh: Ray Graham, RB

Syracuse: Ryan Nassib, QB

Virginia: Steve Greer, LB

Virginia Tech: Bruce Taylor, LB

Wake Forest: Scott Betros, LB

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