August 16, 2016

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Virginia wide receivers coach Marques Hagans is hoping for big seasons from his guys in the Cavaliers' new ''Air Raid'' offense, and he hopes some of those contributions come from juniors Andre Levrone and Doni Dowling.

Both are coming back from injuries that turned last season into a washout.

''I look at everybody the same, but I guess I'm personally hoping those guys can stay healthy because last year they weren't,'' Hagans said. ''I'm a little more pulling for those guys because they missed last year.''

As a freshman, Levrone demonstrated a knack for leaping in traffic to make the catch and had several highlight reel grabs among his 15 receptions, including two for touchdowns. Dowling was less flashy, but had 18 catches and seemed on his way to a productive career at Virginia.

Then, last season, Levrone said over-training was to blame for a fractured vertebrae in his lower back. He caught two passes in the season opener at UCLA, and then the injury got worse the season wore on. Eventually, he had surgery.

Dowling tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a non-football activity over the winter, also requiring surgery. He appeared in eight games last season, but was not near full speed, and his one reception was for minus 1 yard.

With new offensive coordinator Robert Anae planning to shuttle in receivers on a regular basis this season, trying to keep them fresh, the return of Levrone and Dowling could be a huge bonus for the Virginia quarterback.

Levrone is ''a guy that, when the ball's there, you know he's going to compete for it, and those are the kind of guys you want. Doni's the same way, so it will be a lot of fun getting back to throwing to them,'' incumbent Matt Johns, who is battling fellow senior Connor Brewer and transfer Kurt Benkert for the job, said during camp.

Levrone has been battling a left leg injury in camp, but first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn't expect it to affect his ability to play this season, when the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder is eager to help the Cavaliers turn the corner. Virginia hasn't played in a bowl game since 2011, but the players expect that drought to end.

It's part of the mindset Mendenhall and his staff have worked to instill since he replaced Mike London after last season.

''I feel like in the past, we've had a lot of false hype,'' Levrone said. ''We'd come out here and it's a new season, new beginnings, but when you do the same methods, you're going to get the same results, so that's kind of just the false hype that we've had in the past. Now that we've changed, we have an honestly new program, new tradition, new methods - everything is different. Everybody's bought in way more. You can see it. It's genuine.''

Dowling, too, is eager to make his mark during a new day for Virginia football.

''We will not have a year like we did last year,'' he said. ''We will be in a bowl game and I can just testify based on how hard we've worked.''


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