ACC: Kelby Johnson

Every team has issues to address this offseason, and this week we’re taking a look at the most glaring holes for each ACC team and figuring out where they might find answers between now and the season opener.

Louisville Cardinals

Position to improve: Offensive line.

Why it was a problem: Though the Cardinals returned players who combined to start over 100 games, there was inconsistency up front as the Cards transitioned to a new offensive style, new blocking schemes and a new position coach. Louisville struggled to protect the quarterback, and its ground game was up-and-down all season long. Without any veterans at center, Louisville started former walk-on Tobijah Hughley, who made gradual improvement as the year went on. Later in the year, veteran offensive tackle Ryan Mack was benched. He has since announced he would transfer to Memphis. Louisville tied for No. 114 in the nation in average sacks allowed per game (3.15) and No. 92 in the nation in rushing offense (142.7 yards per game). Though the group was better to end 2014, it still fell short of expectations.

How it can be fixed: Another year in the system should definitely help, because it is different from the old scheme under former coach Charlie Strong. So will consistency at quarterback, which was a problem all year. Louisville was forced to play three different quarterbacks because of injury. Will Gardner and Reggie Bonnafon were both inexperienced and played radically different styles, which does impact the offensive line. But unfortunately for the Cardinals, they are losing their three best, most experienced players in tackle Jamon Brown (All-ACC second team), and All-ACC honorable mention guards Jake Smith and and John Miller.

Early 2015 outlook: Hughley and offensive tackle Aaron Epps are the only starters back next season. Beyond them, there are not many proven players, at least not yet. Center T.C. Klusman, tackle Kelby Johnson and guards Skylar Lacy and Pedro Sibiea all served in backup roles a season ago. Louisville hit offensive line hard on the recruiting trail, and already has signed junior college transfer Khalil Hunter, who could provide immediate relief.
Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco has been able to hold on to his starting job despite competition from Alabama transfer Phillip Sims, coach Mike London announced Monday.

Rocco started all 13 games last season, throwing for 2,671 yards with 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But London opened up the competition once Sims arrived and was granted his immediate eligibility. Rocco, Sims and David Watford were involved in an open quarterback competition during preseason practice, but London always maintained that Rocco had the edge over the other two quarterbacks in the race to win the job.

He confirmed that Monday.

"It just became apparent that Michael has the best grasp of the offense right now," London said during his weekly news conference. "He’s the guy that we feel most comfortable with right now because of what he knows, knowing the system and the schemes and knowing the players he’ll be throwing the ball to or handing the ball off to. He’s done nothing to lose his position. We talked about his leadership, his knowledge of the offense, and so he’s put himself in a position to be the guy right now and I’m quite sure he’ll work hard at it, he takes pride in it. That’s how it worked out."

"I believe that I was the starter throughout the spring and the summer," Rocco said. "It was my job to lose. I root for Phil and David as hard as I can. I would never want anything bad to happen in their career and their life. But I believe I’m here to play quarterback at a high level. I was excited when I heard Coach London was going with me, but in my mind I was preparing to be the starting quarterback. I was excited, but I had a confidence in my mind, too."

London added that he knew it would be a tall order for Sims to overtake Rocco while learning a new offensive system.

"With respect to Phillip, he has a big arm, strong arm, been in college games as well. He’s a guy that’s learning our offense," London said. "To expect him to know our whole offense by the time the season started, I don’t think that would be fair on him. He knows enough of the offense that we understand his situation will be on-the-job training as the season goes on, how much he picks up, the communication, all those things."

London also said he would try to redshirt Watford, who served as the backup to Rocco last season.

"With David, it was a tough call," London said. "David has done everything that we’ve asked and then some. He’s matured tremendously, his physical talents and skills improved greatly. They are three selfless players. They want what’s best for the team. My plan is to try to redshirt him."

A few other UVa notes:

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