{FSMETA} College Football: Rivals.com - College Football

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January 19, 2008

Top 25 Countdown: No. 14 Virginia

Head coach: Brian O'Connor
Last season: 45-16, 19-9 in ACC
Postseason: After putting together another impressive regular season campaign, the Cavaliers were awarded a Regional. There, they defeated Oregon State in the first meeting, but the Beavers won two-straight contests to advance.
2008 breakdown: Probable starters | Overview | Offense | Starting pitching | Bullpen | Outlook

Overview

Virginia is in familiar territory.

The Cavaliers have a plethora of talent, experience and motivation. But when the dust settles, they must rise to the occasion when it matters the most during the postseason.

Even with the departures of a few key offensive contributors, the Cavaliers are in good shape with middle infielders Greg Miclat and David Adams leading the charge.

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
Junior shortstop Greg Miclat battled injuries last season, but is back in business.

Probable Starting Lineup
C Ryan Smith
1B Jeremy Farrell
2B David Adams
SS Greg Miclat
3B Tyler Cannon
OF Phil Gosselin/John Barr
OF Jarrett Parker/Dan Grovatt
OF David Coleman
DH Patrick Wingfield
SP Jacob Thompson
SP Pat McAnaney
SP Matt Packer

Virginia also believes in its pitching staff.

The Cavaliers welcome back the nation's top pitcher right-hander Jacob Thompson. They also aim for consistency from fellow weekend starters Pat McAnaney and Matt Packer.

With everything needed to make a run at the College World Series, Virginia hopes to change its recent history of bad luck.

Offense

Virginia returns five consistent contributors from last year's team, but no two players are more important than shortstop Greg Miclat and second baseman David Adams.

Miclat battled injuries last season, but managed to hit a team-leading .376 with 34 RBIs. He also had a .488 slugging percentage and a .486 on-base percentage. Additionally, the junior finished 2007 32-for-37 in stolen bases.

Adams also had an impressive campaign. The junior batted .372 with five homers and 43 RBIs. He also slugged .522 and had a .454 on-base percentage.

The Cavaliers will also count on Patrick Wingfield, Tyler Cannon and Jeremy Farrell for more production.

Wingfield finished last season with a .297 batting average, while Cannon hit .279 with a home run and 32 RBIs. In just 86 at bats, Farrell batted .349 with a pair of homers and 16 RBIs.

Starting pitching

The Cavaliers have something to prove beyond Friday, but are still in good shape with Pat McAnaney and Matt Packer at the back end of the weekend rotation.

McAnaney appeared in 12 games as a junior, while Packer made 13 starts last season.

The weekend rotation is highlighted by the nation's best pitcher right-hander Jacob Thompson.

Thompson had a dominating sophomore campaign. The talented righty went a perfect 11-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 114 innings of work. He also struck out 101 and walked 32, while opponents hit him at a .198 clip in 17 total appearances.

Barring a major surprise, Thompson will win 2008 National Pitcher of the Year honors.

Bullpen

Despite losing closer Casey Lambert to the professional ranks, the Cavaliers still have a deep and talented bullpen.

Senior right-hander Michael Schwimer will likely fill Lambert's role. Fellow right-hander Jake Rule could also see time as the team's closer.

Schwimer made 23 appearances last season and had a 2.77 ERA in 39 innings of work. He also struck out 38 and walked 12, while opponents hit him at a .229 clip.

Rule also had impressive numbers last season. The senior made 29 appearances and had a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings of work. He also struck out 43 and walked 19, while opponents hit .275.

The Cavaliers will also rely heavily on Andrew Carraway, Neal Davis and Jeff Lorick.

Carraway made 22 appearances last season and had a 3.60 ERA in 45 innings of work. The junior could end up in the weekend rotation. Davis had a 5.40 ERA in 25 innings of work while Lorick had a 4.13 ERA in 32 2/3 innings of work.

Outlook with postseason forecast
Let's try this again, Cavaliers. Since arriving in Charlottesville, Va., coach Brian O'Connor has attracted some of the nation's top talent. However, when it comes to postseason production the Cavaliers have been anything but impressive. With last season serving as even more motivation, Virginia enters the spring with something to prove. Replacing two-way star Sean Doolittle could be tough, but the Cavaliers have the nation's top pitcher junior right-hander Jacob Thompson. The pitching staff is in good shape while the offense needs to rise to the occasion with infielders David Adams and Greg Miclat leading the charge. The Cavaliers have talent, experience and motivation. Will those factors finally work to their advantage in 2008?

Shoes to Fill

Offensive production is Virginia's most pressing concern this season. Naturally, the biggest shoes to fill are at the plate, where the Cavaliers must replace a few key hitters.

The talented list includes outfielders Brandon Guyer, Brandon Marsh and two-way player Sean Doolittle.

Guyer batted .370 with eight homers and 50 RBIs last season. He also had a .559 slugging percentage and a .440 on-base percentage. Additionally, he finished the year 18-for-19 in stolen bases.

Fellow outfielder Brandon Marsh also had respectable numbers last season. He hit .294 with three homers and 44 RBIs. He also had a .403 slugging percentage and a .392 on-base percentage.

Doolittle could be the toughest loss. The left-hander went 8-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 82 1/3 innings of work last season. At the plate, he batted .301 with seven homers and 53 RBIs.

Must Step Up

Virginia staff ace Jacob Thompson is the nation's best pitcher, but the Cavaliers must rise to the occasion on Fridays and Saturdays.

Thompson was backed up by veteran two-way star Sean Doolittle last season. But with Doolittle now a professional, they will look to left-handers Pat McAnaney and Matt Packer for support.

McAnaney, a senior, made 12 appearances (five starts) last season. He finished the year 2-0 with a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings of work. He also struck out 28 and walked 6, while opponents hit him at a .294 clip. The veteran is slated to start on Saturdays this spring.

Packer is the other weekend starter. The talented sophomore started 13 games last season and had a 4.22 ERA in 64 innings of work. He also struck out 59 and walked 20, while opponents hit him at a .333 clip.

Replacing Doolittle could be tough, but McAnaney and Packer each have the ability to be front-line starters.

Impact Newcomer

With the pitching staff in great shape entering the spring, the Cavaliers have turned their attention to improving the offense.

That's where several newcomers enter the mix.

The Cavaliers are looking for immediate production from Ryan Smith, Phil Gosselin, John Barr, Jarrett Parker, Dan Grovatt and David Coleman.

Smith, a transfer from Notre Dame, is expected to take over for departed catcher Beau Seabury. As a freshman for the Fighting Irish last season, Smith hit .267 with two homers and 23 RBIs. He also slugged .351 and had a .293 on-base percentage.

Most of the outfield is still wide open. Phil Gosselin and John Barr are in the mix in left field, while Jarrett Parker and Dan Grovatt have the inside track in center field.

The only constant is David Coleman in right field. The talented freshman had an exceptional fall and hit .503 in his high school senior season at Trinity Episcopal in Richmond, Va.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at rogersk@yahoo-inc.com.

Rivals.com is counting down our Preseason Top 25. Coming tomorrow: No. 13.