Five questions that must be answered during the Virginia football team's preseason camp:
1. Will the Cavaliers find a playmaker at wide receiver?
Virginia struggled while throwing downfield last season, and tight end Heath Miller is gone after leaving for the NFL draft. Junior Deyon Williams (Suitland High) is the team's top returning wide receiver with 19 catches in 2004. The return of senior Ottowa Anderson from a one-year suspension could bolster the receiving corps, but younger players such as Thierren Davis and Kevin Ogletree will have to produce big plays.
2. Can Wali Lundy carry the load in the backfield?
The Cavaliers will have a hard time replacing the production of Alvin Pearman, who had 21 or more carries in four of the last six games of 2004. Lundy is a tough runner who has scored 41 career touchdowns, but his penchant for fumbling and missing blitzes has irked Coach Al Groh on several occasions. Lundy will get help from speedy Michael Johnson and redshirt freshman Cedric Peerman.
3. Who is going to replace Elton Brown and Zac Yarbrough in the middle of the offensive line?
How valuable was Brown last season? In a 37-16 victory at Duke, the Cavaliers ran behind him on nine consecutive plays. The top candidates to replace Brown and Yarbrough are coming off injuries. Sophomore Marshal Ausberry (West Springfield High), the projected starter at right guard, missed most of spring practice because of a foot injury. Sophomore Ian-Yates Cunningham, who moves from left guard to center, missed all of the 2004 season following back surgery.
4. Who is going to provide the pass rush?
Linebackers produced 221/2 of the team's 34 quarterback sacks last season, and Darryl Blackstock, who left for the NFL, had 101/2. Sophomores Chris Long and Chris Johnson will have to produce some big plays at defensive end if Virginia's pass rush is going to improve. Long, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, is stronger after battling mononucleosis last year. Also, all-ACC linebacker Ahmad Brooks (Hylton High), who had eight sacks last year, had offseason surgery to regenerate bone growth in one of his knees and might not be ready for the start of camp.
5. Will the punting game improve?
The Cavaliers ranked next-to-last in Division I-A in net punting last season, averaging only 29.9 yards. Sophomore Chris Gould punted well when he was forced into action late last season, but he'll have to hold off Ryan Weigand, a transfer from Pasadena City (Calif.) Community College.
-- Mark Schlabach