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Brandon brings new look offense to Charlottesville

Offensive coordinator introduces spread attack, aims to add versatility to stagnant system after successful coaching stint at Bowling Green

It has been seven years since Virginia offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon sat in the press box, calling plays from above. That was for a man named Urban Meyer, then coach at Bowling Green, now known for the two national championships he won at the helm of a high-powered Florida offense.\nA lot has happened since then. The Red Sox finally won the Series - twice. Brett Favre has floated in and out of retirement. America has crowned its first king: James - Lebron, that is.\nEven through all of that, Brandon still gets bubbly when he talks about his dynamic spread offense.\n"Getting a chance to be back in a situation to run an offense is very exciting for me," Brandon said. "I'm really up for the challenge."\nBrandon makes it quite clear what his spread offense is designed for: a versatile quarterback who can stretch the defense and scramble out of the pocket to make a play if need be.\n"The offense is built for a quarterback who can run," Brandon said. "[Senior Jameel] Sewell, [senior Vic] Hall - they're all nifty on the perimeter."\nBrandon did throw a bone to Virginia's third potential starting quarterback, junior Mark Verica, praising his ability to "make a guy miss out there and get yards."\nBut even Verica acknowledges his limitations when the pocket closes.\n"In the pocket, two hands on the ball," Verica said. "If you're out scrambling, just throw it away."\nThat does not sound like the appropriate mantra of Brandon's spread offense.\n"The element of the quarterback running - I think that's one of the X-factors of the offense," Brandon said. "'Cause if you line up in the shotgun, a lot of defenses don't account for it - so it's the 12th guy."\nThat formation is certainly reminiscent of Hall's all-time best performance against Virginia Tech last year, during which the quarterback rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns, including a 40-yard breakaway thriller. Hall did not complete a pass in that game, however, which begs a question: Can a guy who has not been a full-time quarterback since high school make smart decisions in the passing game; or, quite simply, can he move the chains with his arm?\n"He's come a long way from the spring," Brandon said. "Just with his footwork, who he's supposed to be looking at on the throws we're asking him to make."\nPerhaps even more importantly, it's unclear whether the 5-foot-9 quarterback can even see over the line of 6-foot-6 giants who protect him from the pass rush. If he does manage to find passing lanes, it will be up to an inexperienced receiving corps to get open and generate first downs.\nThe Cavaliers have lost their top two leading receivers from last season - NFL-bound Kevin Ogletree and graduated senior Maurice Covington - who combined for 1137 receiving yards in 2008, leaving sophomore Jared Green as the only returning wide receiver who grabbed double-digit receptions last year. Green totaled 144 yards on 12 catches while appearing in all 12 games.\n"We're not thin at receiver but we're young there," Brandon said. "Those guys will continue to mature and grow."\nBrandon has a fresh crop of receivers to pick from for his offense, including the speedy redshirt freshman Javaris Brown, an unproven Dontrelle Inman - who played in each game last season but only caught two passes for 22 yards - and sophomore Kris Burd, who nabbed seven receptions for 65 yards a year ago.\nIn addition to the possible holes at wide receiver, Virginia also will have to try to fill the void left by the departure of John Phillips, the last in a long line of Cavalier tight ends to make the jump to the NFL. Heath Miller of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tom Santi of the Indianapolis Colts come to mind. The legacy these powerful offensive anchors have left behind has led many to refer to Virginia as "Tight End-U." Brandon insists he is committed to continuing the trend.\n"We're playing with a tight end and the tight ends are doing a nice job," Brandon said. "It's really about getting the best people on the field and then spreading the field and taking advantages of mismatches that way."\nJunior Joe Torchia, who played in seven contests last season without a single reception, is expected to start the season at tight end. His lack of experience splitting out wide to the perimeter raises questions about Virginia's potential downfield options.\nBe that as it may, Brandon does not seem reluctant to employ a variety of formations.\n"I'd like to see Sewell and Vic out there together," Brandon said. "That's another package that [we are] kind of thinking through a little bit."\nIndeed, the key to Virginia's success on offense this season may be Brandon's ability to manage his trio of quarterbacks in unorthodox ways.\n"If you have a quarterback that can shift into the slot and throw him the ball - I mean that's a whole different deal," Brandon said. "Or you can just use him as kind of a decoy"


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