Virginia offensive line has shown dramatic improvement in recent weeks
After allowing 15 sacks in its first five games, Virginia has allowed two sacks in its three games since. In fact, the Cavaliers have not allowed a sack since the second quarter of their Oct. 16 game against North Carolina.
Given the shuffling Virginia's offensive line has undergone in recent weeks due to a hand injury to junior offensive tackle Landon Bradley, the Cavaliers' ability of late to keep fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica upright has been impressive.
For the past three weeks, sophomore Oday Aboushi -- typically the starter at right tackle -- has filled in for Bradley at left tackle, and true freshman Morgan Moses has slid into the right tackle spot. Facing a Miami defense last Saturday that has spent a lot of time in opposing backfields this season, the Cavaliers did not allow a single sack.
Moses, in particular, did a solid job protecting against Miami defensive end Allen Bailey, who is tied for third in the ACC with 5.5 sacks. Virginia Coach Mike London said Monday that, for the most part, Moses held his own against Bailey, who is a senior.
Bailey "is probably going to be a first-round draft pick, all-ACC performer," London said. "Morgan's football is way ahead of him. The weight room, all the things he'll learn to match that massive side will catch him up to being a really good player himself.
"Morgan, I tell you what, he's a confident guy. When you talk to him, I mean, he's like, ‘Coach, I got him on lock; don't worry about it.’ Okay, Morgan. I don't know on lock. But he is a very confident player. He's going to be something special here."
Junior left guard Austin Pasztor attributed the offensive line's recent advancement to a renewed emphasis on film study, as well as improved effort in practice.
"I think those have paid dividends in the last couple games we've played," said Pasztor, who has helped reaquaint Aboushi with playing on the left side of the line.
As for Bradley, he was active and dressed for the second straight game Saturday, though he did not enter the game. His right hand was wrapped into a giant ball, which meant he had no gripping ability with that hand.
London said Bradley will continue to regain his form and endurance during practice this week, but said it was too early to say in what capacity Bradley will be available for Saturday's game at Duke.
"What you take into account is the fact that when you're out for a while, whatever body part may be injured or hurt, arm, leg, whatever, that first you're at a level of conditioning that you can go in a game and play," London said. "If you're not ready for that through practice and demonstrated performance in practice, you probably would be more in an 'I'm going to play you, but you're going to be in a backup role,' as Landon has been the last couple of games in emergency situations.
"It will be interesting to see this week with conditioning, running, nine-on-seven, what level of conditioning that he has. Our strength and conditioning guys do a great job. If you come to our practices, if a player is not practicing, then they are over on the side doing some really strange things to stay in shape. It makes you want to practice and stay away from (strength and conditioning coach) Brandon Hourigan."