Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Running to Glory

Anyone who has watched even parts of Virginia football under Coach Al Groh know one thing....he likes to run...alot.

The running game last year was explosive early on. Wali Lundy with his quick moves and finesse, Alvin Pearman with his hard-nosed, gritty running style that was crucial on many of Virginia's first downs. The thing is....something happened. Well two things happened. Alvin Pearman graduated and Wali Lundy went down. So now the Virginia running game has a bit of a makeover.

In door number one is Cedric Peerman, the redshirt freshman running back who looks almost like a clone to his similarly-named, recently-graduated counterpart. While the talent is there, experience is certainly not. Peerman may be solid now, but can he keep it up for a whole year?

In door two is the fullback Jason Snelling. This guy is tough, and certainly can catch flat passes as well. The pro is he runs like Jerome Bettis. The con is he runs like Jerome Bettis. He will never outrun a defender, he may pummel them to the ground but that's not really a running back's job. So the question is, how much can Snelling be incorporated into this offense?

I saved Michael Johnson and door number three for last because it is the most perplexing. On one hand you have a natural runner. The redshirt junior showed flashes of brilliance his freshman year, he even showed it last Saturday with a 71-yard scamper to the endzone. When he gets past a defender is gone in record time. The problem is toughness. Not to imply Johnson is "soft" because he certainly is not, but he has almost no chance at breaking tackles. Johnson cannot work out those hard 2 or 3 yards, he is simply not built that way. When it's 3rd and 3 Johnson literally is door number three to Al Groh and his squad. He make big plays, but can he act big and push some defenders to the turf?

With Johnson it is feast or famine, as the first two games of this season demonstrated. Two turnovers against Western Michigan certainly cost him some playing time. Big punt returns and runs against Syracuse put him back in the driver's seat.

With Lundy gone it seems obvious that all three of these men will be used in one form or another. Virginia's success, however, depends heavily on Johnson. When he gets his motor running, the defense (and I mean any defense) will be scrambling. The problem will be how to get it through the garage.


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