The Cavaliers will have a new defense, a new-look stadium and new AstroTurf this season. But they will have to improve in the offensive line to do something different than what the old Cavaliers did best: lose.
Virginia's new defense, a 4-3 pro alignment, switched from a 5-2, is built around senior Stuart Anderson. Anderson has moved to middle linebacker from defensive tackle, a position at which he was honorable mention all-America last season.
Linebacker may be Virginia's best and deepest position. Keith Lee, another converted defensive end, and Bryan Holoman will flank Anderson.
The defense may spend more time on the Scott Stadium (increased capacity to 42,000) carpet than it wants. The Virginia coaches believe they have built a decent receiving corps with the return of flanker Greg Taylor, who was redshirted last season with a hamstring injury, and the addition of freshman Nick Merrick, a Parade Magazine high school all-America. Taylor, who gained more than 900 yards rushing as a junior, also will see some action as a running back.
Split end Henry Johnson and sophomores Bob Sweeney, Gary Phelps and Billy Smith are other receivers who will play a lot and add depth to the receiver positions should the starters falter.
At quarterback, as a starter for the second straight season, will be Robinson High's Todd Kirtley, now a senior. Some Saturdays last season Kirtley was outstanding; on others, he played poorly enough to be removed by Coach Dick Bestwick.
Part of Kirtley's trouble was an inconsistent offensive line, from which only junior Dave Sullivan, a 6-foot-8, 280-pound tackle, returns as a starter.
Bestwick said he has confidence in place-kicker Wayne Morrison, who could be one of the best in the conference. And Pat Chester, the starting free safety, has led the ACC in punt returns the past two seasons.
The Cavaliers, picked to finish fifth by the media and seventh by the coaches in preseason ACC polls, need the defense to play extremely well if the team is to improve last year's 4-7 record.
The key will be the restructured defense. Bestwick says he is convinced Anderson, a 6-3, 245 pounder, can be effective as a linebacker.
"I don't feel there is any question that Stuart will adjust quickly to the new position," Bestwick said. "We have more team speed on defense this year than ever before and we will build that defense around Stuart. He's one of the premier defensive players in the country."