CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Steve Fairchild didn't watch much film of last season when he was hired by Virginia, saying he didn't want to develop preconceived notions about any of his players before seeing them on the field.
When the Cavaliers offensive coordinator repeatedly uses words like "toughness" and "attitude" in describing the essentials of an effective running game, however, he might as well have been reviewing where they failed in 2012.
"It's hard to develop a running game when you're not performing," guard Luke Bowanko, the team's center last season, said. "You've got to give the guy a reason to call the run and I think at times last year we didn't give him enough reason."
Bowanko was referring to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who left after the season to become the quarterbacks coach for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, but he expects Fairchild to be no different.
"When it's second-and-7, and you're only getting two yards, three yards, how can you tell him that the run's going to work? The onus is on us. It's always been on us to show that it's going to work," he said.
Kevin Parks led Virginia in rushing and in rushing average last season, getting 4.6 yards per carry, but the Cavaliers finished 98th in the nation with an average of 128.5 rushing yards per game. They averaged just 3.7 yards per carry overall and converted just 36.5 percent of the time on third down.
Those figures won't cut it under Fairchild, once the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.
"Running the football, it's a physical attitude as much as anything, and it's not just up front," he said, and a demonstration of toughness. "It's with backs finishing, the way they go in, accelerating into contact, and receivers blocking and so forth. Eleven guys contribute to the running game."