December 31, 2007

These five are the focus for the Red Raiders

The 2008 Virginia Cavaliers are a classic blue collar football team, even though they represent one of the most blue-blooded and gentile universities in the United States. With the exception of one very prominent and well-pedigreed player, the Cavs are basically a group of no-name grunts.

That does not mean, however, that Virginia is bereft of talent or that there aren't individual players on the roster who are more than capable of causing the Texas Tech Red Raiders grief.

CHRIS LONG: The one player who towers above all others in Charlottesville, Virginia is unanimous All America defensive end, Chris Long. And not only is he the best player on the Cavalier roster, he is probably the best player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The stats alone are impressive enough: 75 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, an interception, seven pass breakups, 22 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. He is the nation's third leading sacker, is the fourth leading tackler among defensive linemen, and is fifth among defensive linemen in passes defended.

In addition to gaining unanimous All America status, those numbers helped ensure that his jersey number got retired, and have put him on the finalist list for just about every defensive award in college football.

Perhaps the chief concern with Long is that he will get multiple cracks at sacking the quarterback against Tech, which will probably throw the ball upwards of 50 times. Long is capable of single-handedly short-circuiting the Red Raider passing attack. Making certain that he fails in that effort will be the primary key for Tech's offense.

CLINT SINTIM: Compounding the difficulty of containing Long is the presence of
outside linebacker Clint Sintim. Naturally, playing in the front seven along with Long makes Sintim's job easier, but there is still no denying the linebacker's productivity. Sintim, a junior, has started every game of his college career.

A key reason he is hard to get off the field is his pass rushing ability, which complements that of Long. In 2007 he logged eight sacks, 17 quarterback hurries and 76 tackles. If the Red Raiders become too obsessed with controlling Long-an understandable error!-Sintim is very capable of making them pay.

CEDRIC PEERMAN: If there is a dark horse candidate to rain on the Red Raiders'
Gator Bowl parade it is running back Cedric Peerman. The Virginia offense plays a distant second fiddle to their defense, but Peerman is capable of elevating that offense. The five-foot-ten 210-pound junior led the Cavs with 585 rushing yards despite playing in only six games.

Peerman averaged an impressive 5.2 yards per carry despite getting very little help from Virginia's passing game. With the Red Raiders' run defense still a question mark, expect to see a heavy dose of Peerman until Tech proves they can stop him.

JEFFREY FITZGERALD: The third triumvir in Virginia's trio of pass rushing specialists is sophomore defensive end, Jeffrey Fitzgerald. He was a first team Freshman All America as voted by the Football Writers' Association, and has had a solid sophomore season as well.

The Richmond, Virginia native registered 65 tackles on the season along with 10 tackles for a loss, six sacks and 14 quarterback hurries. Dealing with Long, Sintim and Fitzgerald on a down-to-down basis will be an all-day job for the Red Raiders.

JAMEEL SEWELL Sewell makes it onto this list simply because the quarterback is the most important position on the field and he occupies that position. Statistically, however, Sewell has been mediocre. Coming into the Gator Bowl, the sophomore has completed 59% of his passes, and has thrown 11 touchdowns as against nine interceptions-not exactly a sterling ratio.

Sewell averages 175 passing yards per contest. He is a bit of a running threat having picked up 241 rushing yards on the season. Sewell has also been sacked 30 times, however. If the Red Raiders can frustrate Sewell, an already anemic offense will be rendered still more punchless.

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