Virginia cornerback Chase Minnifield during football practice in August. (Ricky Carioti/WASHINGTON POST)

↑Offensive Line

The Cavaliers return four starters from last year’s line, including 6-foot-6, 335-pound sophomore right tackle Morgan Moses. After giving up 17 sacks in its first six games last season, Virginia allowed six in its final six games. That bodes well for an inexperienced starting quarterback.

↑ Defensive Backs

First-team all-ACC cornerback Chase Minnifield ranked No. 2 in the conference with six interceptions in 2010. Safeties Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley have combined for 41 career starts. Freshman cornerback Demetrius Nicholson has run with the first-team defense since the first day of training camp.

↑ Tight Ends

Virginia returns three tight ends who caught touchdown passes last season. Junior Colter Phillips led the unit with 18 catches and three touchdown receptions. Redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Mathis, a converted defensive end, also might be used out of the backfield.


Missed tackles and poor run defense doomed Virginia last season, and while the linebackers shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame, significant improvement by LaRoy Reynolds and Aaron Taliaferro would go a long way toward shoring up the Cavaliers’ defense.

↓ Wide Receivers

The coaches know what to expect out of fifth-year senior Kris Burd, who led the team with 58 receptions in 2010. But other than Burd, Matt Snyder is a former walk-on, Tim Smith is returning from major ankle surgery and freshmen Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell are unproven.


Sophomore Michael Rocco saw sparse action in six contests last season. That is the extent of his collegiate game experience. And while he appeared to be the favorite to win a four-player quarterback battle since early in training camp, he wasn’t announced as the starter until five days before the season opener.