Georgia Tech Football Opponent Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 17: Wide receiver Joe Reed #2 of the Virginia Cavaliers runs the ball down the sidelines during the first quarter of their game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 17: Wide receiver Joe Reed #2 of the Virginia Cavaliers runs the ball down the sidelines during the first quarter of their game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) /

Today’s Georgia Tech 2019 opponent preview takes a look at the ACC Coastal favorites, the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Virginia Cavaliers enter 2019 with high preseason expectations from just not those around the program and are fans of the Cavaliers but from the media. At this year’s ACC Media Days, the media voted Virginia as the most likely program to win the ACC Coastal and face Clemson in the ACC Championship game.

The Cavaliers are entering year four under Bronco Mendenhall and have made sizeable progressions each season in the right direction. After going 2-10 in Mendenhall’s first season, they improved to 6-7 in year two and 8-5 in year three. In year four, they look to win the ACC Coastal and make a trip to the ACC Atlantic division winners in Charlotte. They’ll also be looking for revenge on the Yellow Jackets from a heartbreaking loss last season that saw Wesley Wells lead the Jackets to 30-27 victory making four field goals in the process.

In 2019, the Cavaliers return quality talent on both sides of the ball and should be a top-25 for the majority, if not all of the 2019 regular season. Last season, the Cavaliers were stellar on defense allowing just 20.1 points per game but their offense lagged behind a bit averaging just 28.5, best for 71st in the country. If they want to take that next step in 2019, the offense will need to take a step forward.


On the offensive side of the ball, the Cavaliers will need to show signs of progression as mentioned above. That being said, they’ll need to do so without two of their top performers from a season ago in wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus and running back Jordan Ellis. Zaccheaus brought in 93 receptions for 1,058-yards and nine touchdowns last season while Ellis rushed 215 carries for 1,026-yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had seven receptions for 69-yards.

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That being said, they do return the most important piece of their offense in quarterback Bryce Perkins. Perkins last season was phenomenal for the Cavaliers, completing 225-of-349 passing attempts for 2,680-yards and 25 touchdowns. He threw just nine interceptions in the process, a solid ratio for any quarterback. He also was able to rush for 923-yards and nine touchdowns over the course of 212-carries, the second-most on the team.

In terms of his weapons for 2019, the Cavaliers will need to figure out who their contributors will be and fast. The backfield picture for them right now is certainly a little blurry with potential starter PK Kier only having 26 carries last season. Ellis was a heavily used running back throughout with the Cavaliers racking up 430 carries over the last two seasons. It will be hard to replicate his production in 2019 but it will be crucial for their offensive success.

At wide receiver, the Cavaliers situation is a little better than it is in the backfield and outside the loss of Zaccheaus, they return two of their top three receivers from last season. Those top two returning receivers are Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed. Dubois entering his senior season had 52 receptions for 578-yards and five touchdowns. Reed, on the other hand, had 25 receptions for 465-yards and seven touchdowns. They’ll be the top two guys that Perkins relies on this season but they also have several other receivers that could be poised for bigger seasons in 2019. One of those is junior Terrell Jana who had 11 receptions for 151-yards and one touchdown.

Of course, the most integral part of any offense is the offensive line. The offensive line last season for Virginia wasn’t great, as Virginia was able to rush just under 150-yards per game last season while allowing 2.46 sacks per game. The offensive line will surely need to improve in 2019 with the Cavaliers.


As previously noted, Virginia last season had one of the countries best defenses and in 2019 they’ll look to find similar if not better success. The Cavaliers were able to shut down opposing offenses through the air, allowing just 183.0 passing yards per game, on the ground they allowed 147 yards per game which isn’t great but not horrible either.

Entering 2019, the Cavaliers will be strong when it comes to the second and third levels of their defense. With a great collection of linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties, opposing offenses will have a hard time across the middle and along the sidelines in 2019. But if they want to take their defense to the next level, they’ll need to find difference makers within their defensive line.

Last season, the defensive line struggled for Virginia in creating big plays behind the line of scrimmage. Now graduated senior linebacker Chris Peace was after all the Cavaliers most disruptive member of their front seven with 10 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks. Besides him, no Cavalier had more than 7.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. With that, it’s amazing the Cavaliers defense was successful as it was without any consistent way to get to the ball carriers early or get to the quarterback.

Another notable departure besides that of Chris Peace is safety Juan Thornhill who was among the best in the country last year, racking up 98 tackles on the season but also six interceptions. An outstanding number for any defensive back to have in a single season. That being said, the Cavaliers secondary should remain strong in 2019 returning plenty of experience and production. Two notable returnees are Joey Blount and Bryce Hall who had 63 and 62 tackles respectively last season as well as two interceptions apiece.

Replacing star linebacker Chris Peace will most likely be massive junior linebacker Charles Snowden who had 62 tackles including 7.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks last season as a sophomore. Snowden is huge for a linebacker, checking in at 6-foot-7 and 225-pounds. He was able to use his long reach last year to his advantage bringing in two interceptions on the season while deflecting eight passes in the process. Linebackers Zane Zandier and Robert Snyder will also have increased roles in 2019 and should see their production rise as a result.

Special Teams:

Junior placekicker Brian Delaney returns for his junior season with the Cavaliers. Delaney was perfect when it came to extra points last year but had his struggles when it came to field goals, hitting 12-of-16 on the season. The Cavaliers when it comes to their punting situation will need to find a new punter as Lester Coleman, who averaged 41.8 yards per punt last season exhausted his eligibility.

In the return game, wide receiver Joe Reed was also the Cavaliers primary kick returner and did great in the role, returning 26 kicks for 707-yards (27.2 average) and one touchdown. Rising sophomore wideout will most likely return as the Cavaliers lead punt returner after returning 13 punts last year for 143-yards.

What to expect on November 9th:

On November 9th, the Yellow Jackets will visit Charlottesville and the Cavaliers will surely be looking for revenge after the Jackets delivered a heartbreaking loss in 2018. If the season goes to plan as most people expect, the Cavaliers should be sizeable. If their defense continues to be strong in 2019, they should matchup extremely well up against the Yellow Jackets. Expect the Cavaliers to most likely come out on top in this battle.

Virginia Season Outlook:

The Cavaliers have a pretty favorable schedule in 2019 that should allow them to have a strong shot at winning the ACC Coastal. They have a rather easy non-conference schedule with William & Mary, Old Dominion, and Liberty as the “cupcakes” but will also have to face playoff contender Notre Dame. By our counts, we have them winning at least eight games including their game over the Yellow Jackets.

That leaves four games against Florida State, Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Virginia Tech as games that could help get them towards that 10-win mark. Florida State is very well a team that the Cavaliers can beat while Notre Dame will provide a tough battle. The matchup against Miami is hard to tell at this point, not knowing which Miami team may turn up this season. That leaves their rivalry game against Virginia Tech which when it comes to rivalries, records don’t matter and anything can happen. If the Cavaliers can find a way to get that ninth and tenth win, they should easily win the Coastal in 2019.