Virginia overachieved a bit in 2011, finishing 8-5, but the Cavs underachieved last season on their way to a 4-8 record. The talent appears to be on hand for a winning season this fall, assuming the coaches can find a quarterback.
Virginia owns one of the nation's longest draft streaks, as the school has had at least one player selected every year since 1984. However, after having a combined seven selections in the 2008 and 2009 drafts, Virginia has had only one player picked in each of the past four drafts. The potential exists for three or four players to be selected in May. Scouts will keep a close eye on senior offensive tackle Morgan Moses, and there is a handful of underclassmen worth watching, too.
Coach Mike London is 16-21 in his three seasons and is feeling some heat, so he has new coordinators on both sides of the ball. His hire of Jon Tenuta as the defensive coordinator should spice up that unit. Tenuta loves to blitz -- on any down, anywhere on the field, from all angles. He has some young talent with which to work, so the Cavs' defense should be fun to watch.
Top senior prospects
OT Morgan Moses: He will be a four-year starter for the Cavs. This will be his first season as the left tackle, though, as he spent the past three on the right side. Moses (6-foot-6, 335 pounds) is a big man who can be a road-grader. He's surprisingly nimble as a run blocker, but he must show he has the quick feet necessary to play left tackle. Pass protection definitely is a concern. He might be best-suited for the right side at the next level. Moses originally signed with Virginia out of high school in 2009, but had academic issues and attended a prep school that fall before re-signing with the Cavs in 2010.
DT Brent Urban: Urban (6-7, 295), a Canadian, started for the first time last season and finished with 20 tackles. While he has good size, he lacks bulk, can be pushed around and still looks mighty raw at times. Urban has good athleticism -- he played for a top-flight junior hockey team in Canada -- and some upside.
DE Eli Harold: He was a consensus national top-100 prospect out of high school in Virginia Beach, Va., and had a good true freshman campaign last fall. He made 36 tackles, recording seven tackles for loss and two sacks. Harold (6-4, 230) is a good athlete who is far more advanced as a pass rusher than he is against the run -- he needs to gain weight and add bulk. But he should thrive in Tenuta's new scheme, which likely will turn him loose as frequently as possible.
C Jackson Matteo: He redshirted as a true freshman last season, then had a strong spring and enters fall camp as the starting center. Matteo (6-5, 290) was a relatively lightly regarded offensive tackle in high school who has gained 20 pounds since enrolling with the Cavs. He's strong with a high upside.
TE Jake McGee: If the Cavs can find a consistent quarterback, McGee could have a 50-catch season. McGee (6-6, 250) has shared time each of the past two seasons after redshirting as a true freshman in 2010. He has good speed and hands, and has the ability to get deep. He tied for the team lead with five TD receptions last season. McGee is farther along as a receiver than he is as a blocker. McGee was a high school quarterback at Richmond (Va.) Collegiate, the same prep alma mater as Russell Wilson.
CB Demetrious Nicholson: He has started every game the past two seasons and was the first true freshman to start a game at corner for the Cavs since 1986. Nicholson (5-11, 185) has been on the field for 97.4 percent of Virginia's defensive plays the past two seasons. He has excellent speed and has two picks and 23 pass breakups in his career. Nicholson is active in run support, too, and plays physically. He has the potential to be the best corner in the ACC this season.
FS Brandon Phelps: Phelps (6-0, 185), a junior, played safety for the first time last season after moving from corner and started all 12 games. He has good speed and covers a lot of ground, but still is learning the fundamentals of the position. He has the speed to play corner at the next level, but instincts could be an issue.
Three must-see games of 2013
Sept. 7 vs. Oregon: The Cavs' defense obviously faces a stern test. Can Harold be productive against the Ducks' spread-option offense? Can Nicholson and Phelps hold up? Oregon likes to blitz, so Moses will be under the gun.
Nov. 2 vs. Clemson: Nicholson vs. Clemson WR Sammy Watkins should be a tremendous matchup. Matteo and Moses should have some good battles against Clemson's veteran defensive line.
Nov. 23 at Miami (Fla.): Can McGee exploit Miami's linebackers? UM has a solid offensive line, so how will Harold and Urban fare? And can the Cavs' secondary stymie QB Stephen Morris and the Hurricanes' passing attack?
Follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.