Our series looking back at the highlights of summer camp for each team in the ACC continues today with Virginia:
Coach Mike London’s mantra regarding his highly touted recruiting class has been “they came here to play.” So expect several true freshmen to play this fall. London threw Demetrious Nicholson right into the mix with the first team this month, and he has a good chance to start opposite Chase Minnifield at cornerback. In the past, there have always been one or two impressive freshmen at Virginia, but this month, there have been about nine or 10 whose talent could be an immediate help to the team’s depth.
The return of receiver Tim Smith from injury has really helped the offense offset the loss of production from Dontrelle Inman. Smith’s speed and sure hands will help whomever is named the team’s starting quarterback. All of the receivers as a group are not only healthier, but haven’t dropped as many balls this summer. It’s now a matter of getting some of the younger players to run the right routes.
Many have wondered how the team is going to replace Keith Payne, as Virginia returns only three rushing touchdowns from a year ago, including one from the kicker. Running back Perry Jones has looked stronger and faster and has shown he can explode through holes. Kevin Parks, although undersized, has been efficient in some goal-line situations, and the staff has liked what it has seen from fullback Max Milien.
Defensively, the Hoos have been visibly more comfortable now that they’re entering their second season in the 4-3 system.
London hasn’t named a starting quarterback, but Michael Rocco has been getting most of the first-team reps. The bigger question might be whether London uses true freshman David Watford. If he thinks Watford can help them win, he’ll play. In the most recent scrimmage, Rocco got most of the first-team snaps and always played behind the first-team offensive line. Watford, though, was the second quarterback in, and he showed a lot of athleticism and brings another dimension. London is just looking for a quarterback who can manage the game -- not win it alone.
Ausar Walcott was reinstated to the team at the bottom of the depth chart at defensive end, but he has since moved back to linebacker. As a player with starting experience, he’ll no doubt help the depth as a backup.