Team preview: Virginia

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(All information as of June 20, 2008)


The magical fairy dust sprinkled all over the 2007 Virginia football season was just settling when the Cavaliers started getting jolted back into reality.

The Cardiac Cavaliers ended the regular season with yet another loss to arch rival Virginia Tech, their fourth in a row and eighth in the last nine seasons, and then a layoff of more than a month until the Gator Bowl seemed to further waylay the Wahoo's wah in a disappointing 31-28 loss to Texas Tech that saw Virginia blow a 14-point fourth-quarter lead.

In the weeks leading up to the bowl game, valuable kick returner Andrew Pearman was sent home because of behavioral issues and emerging star runner Mikell Simpson wasn't cleared to play until the last minute because of an academic problem -- both precursors of problems that would dominate team news in the offseason.

It was enough to take some of the feel-good luster off an amazing year. The Cavaliers, forecast for a fourth-place finish in the ACC, actually finished second in the Coastal Division and set an NCAA record by winning five games by one or two points. It was a testament to resiliency and teamwork, the Cavaliers getting their major star-power and an unparalleled percentage of their big plays from a defensive end, Chris Long.

But Long is now gone -- he was the No. 2 pick in the April NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams -- as is quarterback Jameel Sewell, who started 23 consecutive games and fueled so many of those key late-game drives. Sewell was an academic casualty, gone before spring practices and opening the door on a full-scale quarterback search among three largely unproven commodities.