Virginia on the rise; FSU may be slipping

Virginia is on the rise and Texas will be in the championship hunt, while Florida State's talent level is down and Notre Dame has a terrific duo on defense.

Updated: June 5, 2003, 3:01 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. |
Q: Do you think Virginia has a chance to become a perennial top-15 program in the next few years? -- Jermaine Grafton, Virginia
Matt Schaub
Matt Schaub and the Cavaliers are looking for a breakthrough season in 2003.
Virginia is definitely a program on the rise, and with the talent head coach Al Groh has been recruiting, it has the opportunity to continue that rise and become a player on the national scene.

This year's sophomore class is one of the best in the nation, and Darryl Blackstock is the top sophomore linebacker in the country heading into the 2003 season. Kwakou Robinson is also in that group and has a chance to be a heck of a defensive lineman for the Cavaliers, while D'Brickashaw Furgeson at tackle and Heath Miller at tight end are among the nation's best second-year players on the offensive line, blocking for a great sophomore runner in Wali Lundy.

But the key player for UVA is senior quarterback Matt Schaub. He came on last year and was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, leading the conference in passing efficiency (147.46), touchdown passes (28) and completion percentage (68.9). And even without the graduated Billy McMullen, he still has quality targets in seniors Michael McGrew and Ryan Sawyer and junior Ottowa Anderson.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst
Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.