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Friday, March 13, 2009
Virginia's secondary should be a strength

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There are far more questions than answers for Virginia heading into the spring. The Cavaliers have to replace six starters on offense -- including their leading rusher and receiver. The numerous staff changes will also take some time to adapt to. Three starting linebackers are gone.

There's no guarantee Jameel Sewell will be the starting quarterback, though it's a safe bet. That's due in part to the fact that if cornerback Vic Hall stays in the secondary and keeps his focus there instead of challenging Sewell for the quarterback job, he'll make an already strong unit even stronger.

Hall and Ras-I Dowling return, along with safety Corey Mosley. This unit is reflective of the fact that the talent runs deep in the conference at defensive back, and there are severals schools -- including Duke, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech -- who have significant talent returning.

Virginia ranked 26th nationally in pass defense last year, and Dowling was second in the ACC and 11th nationally in passes defended with 11 pass deflections and three interceptions. Virginia allowed just 183 passing yards per game last year. Florida State, Miami, Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Boston College still finished ranked ahead of the Cavaliers last year though.

Consider, though, that Macho Harris is gone. Michael Hamlin is gone. Alphonso Smith is gone. Paul Anderson is gone. Myron Rolle and Tony Carter are gone.

That leaves Dowling as the ACC's leading returner in passes defended. With Hall keeping him company back there and Mosley continuing to grow and develop, the secondary should be an area of little concern for the Cavaliers and a little troublesome to ACC quarterbacks.