Virginia spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
7:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 5-3 (T-2nd, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 4; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
WR Tim Smith, LT Oday Aboushi, RT Morgan Moses, RG Luke Bowanko, TE Colter Phillips, QB Michael Rocco, RB Perry Jones, DE Jake Snyder, OLB LaRoy Reynolds, MLB Steve Greer, CB Demetrious Nicholson

Key losses
WR Kris Burd, G Austin Pasztor, C Anthony Mihota, FB Max Milien, DT Matt Conrath, DT Nick Jenkins, DE Cam Johnson, OLB Aaron Taliferro, CB Chase Minnifield, SS Rodney McLeod, FS Corey Mosley

Spring answers

1. Ground game should be fine. Three starters are back on the offensive line, and Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson will all be lining up in the backfield again following a campaign that saw the trio combine for 1,990 rushing yards and 21 total touchdowns.

2. Rocco steps up. Michael Rocco beat out three competitors to win the starting quarterback job in 2011. The process has been a whole lot easier this spring, and the junior will look to build off a strong debut season that featured a 60 percent completion rate. Returning starter Tim Smith will likely be Rocco's top target following the departure of Kris Burd.

3. Jake McGee ready to fill tight end role. A converted quarterback, McGee stood out in the spring game, hauling in a pair of passes for 81 yards. He has said that he wants to be the next Heath Miller. Boosting a unit that combined for just 20 catches last season would be a nice start.

Fall questions

1. What to do with Phillip Sims? The former Alabama quarterback announced his transfer to Virginia after the spring season. It remains to be seen whether he will even be eligible for the 2012 season. If he is, however, he could make things interesting if Rocco underperforms this fall.

2. Where will the secondary help come from? Demetrious Nicholson returns at corner after a strong freshman campaign, but the unit loses more than 90 career starts from the other three starters, led by corner Chase Minnifield. Virginia's offense threw for more than 400 yards in the spring game against the re-tooling secondary, which has a long way to go after spring.

3. Can the line get enough pressure to help the secondary? Cam Johnson and two other starters are gone from last year. The Cavaliers gave up 81 points over their final two games of 2011 and lose seven starters. Junior end Jake Snyder is the only returning starter up front.

Matt Fortuna | email

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