Virginia 4-8, (3-5) in the ACC
Replacing Mike London: After six seasons as the head coach of the Cavaliers, Mike London resigned on Sunday. London was universally loved by his players and was a very good recruiter, but that never translated to on field success as Virginia went only 27-46 during his tenure. He led the Cavaliers to only one bowl appearance in 2011 and went 0-6 against in-state rival Virginia Tech. That's just not good enough for a Power 5 program.
Though London was given an extension at the end of last season, his fate was really sealed when the 2014 team failed to reach a bowl. That was the best team he had since 2011. With the loss of players like running backs Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd and their three best pass rushers from last season Max Valles, Henry Coley and Eli Harold, it was hard to see how this team could have a better season than last year's squad. If that was the expectation, London did not stand a chance.
The Virginia job offers coaches a Power 5 job in a winnable division, but it also carries certain challenges that other jobs do not. There is a certain standard to which coaches are expected to adhere to when it comes to academics and discipline. If Virginia could find a coach to win eight games every year while graduating most of its players and without any major disciplinary or NCAA issues, I think most Cavalier fans would accept that. That makes the job a little different from others. Finding a new coach, therefore, is about finding the right fit, not just the best candidate available.
According to one report, Mark Richt is set to interview for the job. If athletics director Craig Littlepage can get Richt, that wouldn't be a home run, it would be a grand slam.
Not only was Richt a great coach at Georgia, but the strict discipline with which he ran the program would fall in line with the type of coach UVa is looking for. He was run out of town for winning 9 games a year and dismissing players with discipline issues. That made him persona non grata in the SEC, it would make him the perfect fit at UVa.
The problem for Virginia is that Richt is arguably the best coach on the market and there will be a lot of schools trying to get him. Just how UVa stacks up comparatively to those other programs in Richt's eyes remains to be seen.
In the news
Four Virginia players named to 2015 All-ACC teams: Linebacker Micah Kiser and safety Quin Blanding were named to the first team defense in the All-ACC team selections released on Monday. Both players led the conference in tackles with 117 and 115 respectively. In addition, receiver Canaan Severin was named to the second team offense and running back Taquan Mizzell was named to the third team offense. Ross Burbank, David Dean and Nicholas Conte were named as honorable mentions.
Canady to Senior Bowl: Cornerback Maurice Canady has accepted an invitation to play in this year's Senior Bowl. He had 39 tackles on the season and six pass breakups. He also had a punt return for a touchdown.
Last week's game: 23-20 loss to Virginia Tech
The Hoos and Hokies traded punches in a back-and-forth battle, but once again Virginia fell just short of reclaiming the Commonwealth Cup. The first half of this game was hard to watch as both teams were held out of the end zone, but the game broke open in the second half with both teams trading touchdowns. After taking a 23-20 lead late, Virginia Tech sealed the deal when Matt Johns was hit on a throw and intercepted by Chuck Clark.
This game was Virginia's for the taking, but every time the Cavaliers tried to take control, Virginia Tech was able to answer right back. Up 6-3 late in the first half, a failed fake punt gave Virginia Tech the ball in UVa territory and set up the tying field goal. When Albert Reid finally broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, the Hokies answered back with a 71-yard catch and run by Ryan Malleck. A touchdown grab by Canaan Severin was matched by an Isaiah Ford touchdown on the next drive.
After shutting the Virginia Tech offense down all game long, Virginia suddenly couldn't hang on to take control of the game.
Offensive MVP: Taquan Mizzell
The offense became completely dependent on Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell in the latter half of the season as he was called upon to establish both the rush and pass attack. Not only did he lead the team in rushing yards, he also led in receptions. The plan going into the season was for T.J. Thorpe to spread the field and allow more room for Canaan Severin. That didn't work. An early-season injury kept Thorpe out the first three games and when he did return, he still was not able to draw away defenders as mush as hoped. Instead, the team began using short passes to Mizzell to try to open up deeper passes. The team's offensive struggles are more of a reflection on the team's lack of weapons than on Mizzell.
Defensive MVP: Michah Kiser
With the loss of their three best pass rushers from last season, someone needed to step up in the pass rush and Micah Kiser did. He led the team with 7.5 sacks on the season. He also led the conference in tackles with 117. In a season in which Virginia struggled to generate any turnovers at all, Kiser also had a forced fumble against a North Carolina team that was very good at protecting the football.
Best win: 42-34 win over Duke
The Syracuse win was thrilling, but considering how bad Syracuse is, its hard to put that win as the team's best of the year. The win over Duke was the most complete game of the season. A late surge by the Blue Devils made it close, but for three quarters the Cavaliers dominated against a pretty good Duke team.
Worst loss: 34-27 loss to Notre Dame
Unfortunately there's no shortage of candidates for this one. The Boise State loss was a complete beat down by a team that didn't turn out to be as good as the Boise State teams of the past, but there was nothing more deflating than the way Virginia lost to Notre Dame. Just ask this guy. A coach and a program in desperate need of a signature win came tantalizingly against the Irish. No one in Charlottesville would have cared that it came against Notre Dame's backup quarterback. Instead, it didn't come at all as Will Fuller got behind the defense for a late touchdown to steal it away from the Hoos.
Coach prediction: Mike Sanford
It's hard to see Virginia somehow managing to snag the best coach on the market in Richt, especially with the Miami job open. Virginia would be a much better fit than Miami, but a call from one's alma mater can be hard to ignore. Besides Richt, Sanford looks to be the best fit and, considering he was born in Virginia, I think there could be some interest. I also believe, however, that Sanford has higher aspirations and as the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, there's no need to reach for a job like UVa if he doesn't want it. He can afford to wait for the right job to come along. If he's not interested, then we are looking at someone like Greg Schiano who would beg a solid hire even if he's an unpopular one. If Mack Brown emerges as a serious candidate, then things have really gone bad in the coaching search, but I don't expect them to get that far or that desperate.
MORE VIRGINIA NEWS: Virginia knocks off Ohio State 64-58