For lack of a better term, last season was unfortunate for Virginia. In 2021, Brennan Armstrong (Virginia’s quarterback) set the world on fire, passing for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. But the Cavs only won 6 games. With such success, it made sense that it would carry over since Armstrong was returning.
Well, that didn’t happen. The Cavs dropped to 3-7 (1-6 ACC), and Armstrong’s play fell off dramatically. He finished with less than half as many passing yards, 7 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions.
Coming into this season, Virginia has a chance to rebuild. They return several starters throughout, including 8 starters on defense (including the whole defensive line and former Tech edge Chico Bennett).
At quarterback, Armstrong is no longer on the team after entering the transfer portal. True freshman Jay Woolfolk saw a few plays last year, but the starter in line is Monmouth transfer QB Tony Muskett. Last season, Muskett completed nearly 65% of his passes for 1,997 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Cavs add another transfer at running back in Kobe Pace from Clemson. Pace played as a reserve for Clemson, but accumulated 793 yards in 28 games across three seasons.
Continuing the trend, the Cavs added Northwestern transfer Malik Washington at receiver. This position group is pretty inexperienced. The receivers generally played poorly last season, but the core of Keytaon Thompson, Dontayvion Wicks, and Billy Kemp were all great in 2021. After having a poor 2022, all three are gone. Washington brings a little bit of experience, but they will probably have some growing pains here.
Speaking of growing pains, let’s talk about UVA’s offensive line. I’m sure you’re wondering how UVA could have been so bad last season after returning a great QB in Armstrong and a solid receiver trio. Well, it’s because they didn’t return a single offensive lineman from the 2021 season. Last season saw five completely new starters on the offensive line, including a true freshman at left tackle.
Once again, UVA’s offensive line will be incredibly inexperienced this season. They lost four players who started along the line. They have a combined 17 total starts returning, which is a marked improvement over the 2022 group.
On defense, things look a little brighter! As I mentioned earlier, the Cavs return 8 starters on their defense, though they do lose linebacker, Nick Jackson, who led the ACC in tackles last season. One of the returning starters is the other linebacker, James Jackson. James Jackson was third on the team in tackles last season with 60.
This defensive line group has a full year of starting experience under its belt and returns its entire two-deep. The clear standout is Chico Bennett. He led the Cavs in TFL with 7.5 and sacks with 7. As Tech fans remember, he is a dynamic pass rusher who will keep opposing QBs on their toes.
In the secondary, the Cavs lose both of their starting corners, Anthony Johnson and Fentrell Cyprus. They combined to break up 26 passes, but Johnson was the only one to get an interception, and he got two. In their stead, UVA adds Iowa State transfer Tayvorn Kyle and Clemson transfer Malcolm Greene. If these two can fill that slot, the secondary should be fine. This group is rounded out with the return of the safety group, Jonas Sanker, Antonio Clary, and Coen King.
The key for Georgia Tech in this game will be how Tech’s offensive line handles a pretty good UVA defensive line. There are a lot of question marks on Tech’s offensive line right now, and if they are not prepared, it could be a long day for whoever is at quarterback for Tech. Given that the game is also in Charlottesville where Tech has had notoriously bad luck, this is a very clear trap game for the Yellow Jackets.
How do you think Georgia Tech will do against UVA this season?