New Scattershooting: Lots of questions for UVA’s Elliott heading into ACC Kickoff on Wednesday

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Scattershooting around the ACC on the eve of Virginia football’s appearance at the annual ACC Kickoff event in Charlotte on Wednesday …

What I’m most curious about heading into the UVA portion of the event — and an issue that will pervade throughout the Cavaliers’ upcoming training camp — is what Tony Elliott has done to enhance his offense heading into what is predicted to be a challenging second season at the helm of the program.

When you examine last year’s offensive statistics, Virginia fielded one of the worst offenses in America. The glaring number was points-per-game average. UVA scored an average of 17 points per game, which ranked No. 126 in the FBS. Only five teams in the country finished behind the Cavaliers.

It’s hard to beat anybody by scoring 17 points per game in a modern college football atmosphere, when 40 points might not even be enough to prevail.

While national media attending the Kickoff will likely dwell on last November’s shooting tragedy, because for many of them it will be their first opportunity, Wahoo fans have taken Elliott’s advice. They will respectfully remember those events and the precious lives taken from us, but will also move forward. Moving forward, the Cavaliers have a lot of questions heading into camp:

  1. How good is starting quarterback Tony Muskett, and can he make a strong transition from Monmouth success to Power 5 football?
  2. For the third straight season, UVA has rebuilt its offensive line. How good is this bunch? Can they keep Muskett clean (the Cavaliers gave up 34 sacks in 10 games last season, No. 121 out of 131 teams in the nation)? Can this line open holes for what could be the best collection of running backs Virginia has had since the early days of Al Groh, nearly two decades ago?
  3. How good is this defense? With eight starters back from a unit that was surprisingly good last season, could this be a dominant defense, a defense that can give a less-than-impressive offense a chance to win? Is John Rudzinski the most underrated defensive coordinator in the country? If he can field another strong defense this season, Virginia may have a hard time holding onto him.
  4. What are UVA’s wide receivers going to do? Could they be the key in opening up an otherwise unproductive offense?

All of these questions and more will certainly be asked over the next few days as UVA takes part in the ACC Kickoff and host media in its own event here in Charlottesville on Friday. We’ll be attending both, so stay tuned.

Covering all the bases …

  • Former Virginia basketball standout Trey Murphy III has been named to the 2023 USA Men’s Select team, one of 11 current NBA players and three veterans of the NBA.
  • William & Mary, coached by former Virginia head coach Mike London, was the easy choice as the CAA’s preseason favorite to win the conference. The Tribe picked up 13 of the 15 first-place votes in the league’s preseason poll. W&M plays at Virginia this season.
  • Another UVA opponent, James Madison, was selected to win the East Division of the Sun Belt Conference in the preseason coaches poll, barely beating out Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and Marshall, among others. ODU was voted last in the division. Troy was picked to win the league’s West Division.
  • Former UVA player Zack Gelof, who is off to a great start in his Major League Baseball career with the Oakland A’s, is ranked as one of the 20 fastest players in the big leagues with a sprint speed of 29.5 feet, which we think ranks him No. 11 overall, just ahead of Esteury Ruiz. Gelof had six extra base hits before his 10th career game with the A’s. The last A’s rookie infielder to hit five or more over that same span of games was Scott Spiezio in 1996.
  • Duke football coach Mike Elko, who was one of the finalists for Virginia’s head coaching job, had his contract restructured this week and extended through the 2029 season. Elko was ACC Coach of the year last season, his first with the Blue Devils.
  • Louisville and Miami have announced they will play annually in football for the Schnellenberger Trophy, named for the late Coach Howard Schnellenberger, who was head coach at both schools. The trophy features actual western dress boots, now bronzed, worn by Schnellenberger.
  • Former UVA women’s golfer Elizabeth Szokol claimed her first LPGA win last weekend when she and partner Cheyenne Knight won the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Michigan. It was their third start as partners in the tournament. She collected $326,872 as her share of the win.
  • Former UVA men’s golfer Thomas Walsh finished second Sunday in the AH Championship of the Korn Ferry Tour. Walsh led the event after Saturday’s play and carded his lowest round of the season on Friday with an 8-under 64. In his 16 starts this season, Walsh, a two-time ACC champion, has produced five top-25 finishes.
  • Recent Virginia relief pitcher Jake Berry has signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Guardians.
  • Niko Bundalo, one of UVA’s basketball offers from the Class of ‘25, told On3’s Joe Tipton recently: “I’m trying to go out there every game and kill, just take people’s souls out there. My confidence is high right now. I got that Mamba Mentality.”
  • Top-50 2025 prospect Acaden Lewis, a point guard at Sidwell Friends in D.C., is getting more attention from Virginia. “They started recruiting me at the beginning of my sophomore year,” Lewis told Jake Weingarten of StockRisers. “I went on an unofficial visit and liked it. I’ve built a relationship with Coach (Jason) Williford and they text and call me routinely so they are definitely in the mix.” Lewis is planning visits to Providence and Virginia Tech, and is also being pursued by Ohio State, FSU, Indiana and Georgetown.
  • We have a terrific, 30-minute podcast on the site with former Virginia All-American Ronde Barber, who will be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton in a couple of weeks. If you love Wahoo football, you should take time and give a listen. Same if you’re a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan.