The Collegian
Saturday, July 04, 2020

Richmond at Virginia Football Game Preview

    Storylines:

1) Rocco's first game at the helm- New head coach Danny Rocco is coming into what seems to be a revolving door position. Saturday is his first chance to show Spider football nation he can bring this program some stability. He said he needed to see his team respond in a poised, competitive manner with some focus and execution against the highly favored Cavaliers.

2) Cavalier Connections- With Charlottesville driving distance away from Richmond, it's no surprise to see some strong connections uniting these two teams. For one, UVA's head coach Mike London is Richmond's old head coach, the last one to hold the position for longer than one season. UVA's starting quarterback, Michael Rocco, is Danny Rocco's nephew. This game will also serve as a return for UR backup quarterback Michael Strauss, who transferred from UVA last spring.

3) The unwanted streak- Despite the coaching staff and starting units looking decidedly different, the Richmond football team still carries over its eight-game losing streak from last season. Until the Spiders can pick up a "W," the streak will continue to weigh on the team.

    What to Look For:

1) Laub passes- For the first time in his career, fifth-year senior John Laub enters the season as Richmond's starting quarterback after beating out Strauss in the offseason. Laub will need to show he can make some special plays, whether with his arm or legs, to keep the distance between him and Strauss. Laub said he was looking forward to the pressure associated with the position.

2) The O-Line- This was a group that was criticized heavily last season for its inability to protect former starting QB Aaron Corp. That group was young due to a few significant injuries. Now that group is year older, but still not overly experienced. Rocco said how well this group came together and developed would be a very telling part of the season. As it stands, the starting line will all be back for 2013 - Nick Ritcher (So.), Austin Gund (So.), Jacob Ruby (So.), Sedale Young (Fr.) and Mark Speir (Jr.). Also worth noting, Rocco said he recently switched Ruby from left to right tackle and Ritcher from right to left.

3) The D-Line- They're healthy...so far. This group was hit the hardest by injuries last season and, as a result, should be a deeper unit this fall. As it stands, the starting quartet of Kerry Wynn, BJ Scott, Evan Kelly and Jacob Pierce should be a strength of this team, though Kelly warned not to jinx it. Kelly also said he believed the team could come out with a win if they remained physical up front.

    Bold Predictions:

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1) Eric Wright leads all players in tackles- The sophomore linebacker is going to get his first chance at significant playing time this season, and he's already made an impression in the offseason, being touted as the next in line of great linebackers named Eric to play at Richmond (following Eric McBride and Eric Johnson). He was all over the field during Tuesday's scrimmage and was named Most Improved Defensive Player of Spring Training.

2) Spiders held below seven points in the first half- Some fans believe the Cavaliers might come out a little flat, underestimating their FCS opponents, but London has historically gotten his players ready for every game. Don't be surprised to see a few three-and-outs from the Spider offense early on, as growing pains are typically associated with a new system such as the one Rocco has been teaching this offseason.

3) Jacobi Green establishes himself as the No. 2 back- The true freshman running back made an impression this offseason, a big enough impression for Rocco to declare him one of the only first-year players he definitely will not redshirt. The team has an established bruiser in the backfield with senior Kendall Gaskins, but it's missing the change-of-pace guy. If Richmond gets behind big early, look for Green to get a few carries and make the most of them. His change-of-direction ability and acceleration could make him a special player for the Spiders sooner rather than later.

    Spider Injuries (according to Rocco):

Cooper Taylor- DB (doubtful), Jimmy Speros- OL (probable), Darius McMillan- LB (doubtful), Daryl Hamilton- DB (probable)

Final Score Prediction: UVA-34, UR-13

Contact staff writer David Weissman at david.weissman@richmond.edu

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