At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Virginia left tackle Morgan Moses is impossible to miss. That’s a good thing, because he’s going to be the face of the offensive line this fall. UVa returns four starters up front, experience the program will need as it gets acclimated to first-year offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild. Moses’ decision to return to school instead of leaving early for the NFL was a big boost to the program and the offense. He started 11 games last year and helped the Hoos rack up over 500 yards of total offense multiple times in a season for the first time since 2004. I spoke with Moses recently to get his take on the offense and his decision to return. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
How do you think your role is going to change? Do you have to be more of a leader this year?
Morgan Moses: Definitely. Me being a four-year starter and a guy who played every game last year on the offensive line, I know there are a lot of people looking up to me and I just have to help the team as a leader and push them forward.
What was really the driving force that made you decide to come back?
MM: Just being able to play with these guys for my last year, having those guys call me over break and tell me they wanted me to be a part of the team. Just sitting down with Coach London, and all of the changes we had with the coaching staff. I felt comfortable with the coaches, and of course, the schedule we’re playing. I always talk to Coach London about it. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best, so it’s set up for a great senior year. I love to be back here.
Who called you to try to convince you to stay?
Sometimes that just doesn’t really resonate with guys. Why did what they say have such an impact on you like that?
MM: Just because these guys, I’ve been with them for the last three years. They know what I went through, I know what they went through. Just being able to finish out my last year here, plus to graduate with a degree from the University of Virginia, you can’t get any better than that.
What’s your degree going to be in?
Anthropology? What are you going to do with anthropology? What have those classes been like?
MM: It’s been really good being able to learn about the culture of people. I really don’t know what I want to do with that after football, but I have some plans.
It never fails that offensive linemen are among the most interesting interviews I have. So tell me a little more about the staff changes. You said you sat down with Mike London. What was that conversation like and what did he tell you about the guys he brought in?
MM: Through that whole situation about coming back to school for my senior year, Coach London was really helpful. He was beside me 100 percent on any decision that I made. Just being able to have coaches like Coach O’Brien, who’s been around for a long time – he’s been a head coach, he’s coached offensive line, he’s a high-energy guy. To have those guys and Coach Fairchild brings a great opportunity for me and the offense as a team.
How is the offensive line looking this year? With four starters back you guys should be a pretty strong group this year, right? How excited are you about the experience returning?
MM: I’m excited. Right now we’re learning a new offense and trying to get everyone on the same page. We’ve got a lot of young guys we’re bringing along that haven’t really played games yet, but they have some opportunities to have some playing time this year. Us older guys who have been around know what’s expected from the coaches. We’re trying to take them under our wings as we move forward.
You don’t come back to school to be 6-6 or not go back to a bowl game. What encouraging signs did you see on the field that led you to believe you can have the kind of season you did in 2011?
MM: You just think about it: Offense and defense, we didn’t really lose that many players. Of course you lose a stud tackle like Oday [Aboushi] and a great running back like Perry Jones, but we got a lot of guys, a lot of quarterbacks, running backs … we’ve got the pieces, it’s about putting them together and putting them in the right places.
So who filled in for Oday this spring and what has the competition been like there?
MM: I moved over to left tackle, and they are battling at right tackle.
What’s that change been like for you?
MM: It’s been interesting. I’ve been wanting to play left tackle since the first day I stepped on campus. Just being able to switch from right to left and being able to play guard my first year has really helped me learn the offense. I know what every position is doing.
No kidding. Now you’re on the blindside. What’s that like?
MM: It’s great to be there. I played a little bit last year, switching with Oday, so I have some experience at it, and I know the quarterbacks feel way comfortable to have me at left tackle knowing they’ve got the big guy on their back side.
Ya think? I could play quarterback if you’re watching my back. Tell me more about the quarterback competition. I know you mentioned Watford. What’s going on there?
MM: It’s a competition. David Watford, he brings so much to the table with his running ability and his throwing ability. Same with Phil. He’s able to move around in the pocket, and then we have Greyson [Lambert], who has a helluva arm. He can make any throw. He’s not as mobile as the other two, but he’s definitely making strides. They’re all good. I’m pleased with their work ethic and whoever is back there, I’m going to fight for them regardless.
What are you looking forward to most this fall, your last year?
MM: It came so fast, too. I was just talking about it the other day. But just being able to compete with these guys. We’re playing BYU, Oregon and these great teams we have on the schedule. Being able to have those guys in Scott Stadium, and you never hear about eight home guys. I’m excited to just get out there with the guys and compete.