By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE – When Latrell Scott was the wide receivers coach at the University of Richmond, the staff there evaluated Matt Snyder, a star wideout from nearby Deep Run High School.

The Spiders decided not to offer a scholarship to Snyder, and in 2007 he joined the team at UVa as a freshman walk-on.

He has a new receivers coach this year — Scott, who smiled today when asked whether he’d recruited Snyder for UR.

“I knew Matt well,” Scott said at Scott Stadium. “It was just a situation where at that time that wasn’t what we were looking for at Richmond, but obviously in this business you make mistakes. Matt Snyder is a very, very big part of this group. Matt’s kind of the glue that holds this thing together.”

Snyder, a 6-4, 205-pound redshirt sophomore, is still a walk-on, and he’s yet to appear in a college game. But Virginia coach Al Groh said today that he expects Snyder to play a significant role this fall.

“He’s one of those players that through his commitment, his work ethic, his relationship with his teammates, has earned the respect of the players and coaches,” Groh said. “And on top of that he’s made plays. He had two or three real good plays yesterday [in a scrimmage].

“He is one of the most involved and passionate special-teams players on top of all his offensive duties … It might be a little premature to say it because he hasn’t played in a game yet, but he’s just one of these players that’s just a real good football player. He blocks, he catches, he plays special teams, he tackles on special teams, he tries to block kicks on special teams, all the things that football players do, and he does it with a high energy level and a great deal of intensity.

“And he’s a very bright player. He makes very good decisions on his feet, which in the modern game, with all the different situations that come up and the changing circumstances and schemes, the ability of a player to make good, quick decisions on the move is a significant talent.”

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Snyder’s brother, Jake, is one of the Cavaliers’ four first-year defensive ends, along with Will Hill, Brent Urban and Justin Renfrow.

Hill has been working the second team throughout training camp and is likely to play this season. He had a head start on the other three. The 6-4 250-pounder graduated in December from Williamsburg’s Lafayette High, entered UVa in January and went through spring practice with the team.

Nate Collins, now a senior, played on the defensive line for UVa as a true freshman.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Collins said, “but I think [Hill is] taking it on real well. He’s taking coaching real well. He asks a lot of questions. He’s always in his playbook. In the hotel, he’s always knocking on my door, asking questions, things like that.

“I think for him the spring practice helped him out a whole lot. It’s one of the things I always say to him, ‘You’re in a great situation.’ Because I feel like if I was here for the spring practice before I came, it would have done me a lot of justice. But I feel like he’s delivered real well. He has a great work ethic. He probably has the best work ethic on the team, freshman-wise, and on the team, he’s up there. He’s always working out. I think he works out seven times a week. Even when we’re not working out, I always hear about him being in the weight room. Sometimes we have to tell him that he needs to just give his body a rest.

“He’s doing all the right things. Yeah, he’s still making freshman mistakes, but he’s making plays, too.”

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At his news conference today at John Paul Jones Arena, Groh appeared stunned when a TV reporter asked why he’d decided to give cornerback Chris Cook a second chance.

Cook was placed on academic suspension in January 2008 and had to leave UVa for two semesters. He was re-admitted for the second semester in 2008-09.

“There was never any decision,” Groh said. “Chris is one of our guys. That’s what coaching’s about, and that’s particularly what college coaching’s about: developing young people.

“I’ve made plenty of mistakes for which people gave me another chance. And so I’m just trying to give him the same thing that people gave me and that I’ve seen other people give, and if there’s an innate goodness in a person and a willingness to be successful, those are the kind of people you go with.”

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Cook, a fifth-year senior from Lynchburg, was recently named one of the team captains. The others are quarterback Vic Hall and tackle Will Barker on offense and Collins and linebackers Aaron Clark and Denzel Burrell on defense.

Hall was a captain last season, too, and he’s “a great leader,” running back Rashawn Jackson said. “He’s not the most vocal guy every day, but he’s the most vocal guy when it counts.”

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The Wahoos had the first of their two scrimmages yesterday at Scott Stadium. The second comes Saturday, after which the depth chart will become clearer.

“Probably next Sunday will be a day … when we try to put some clarity to some of these situations,” Groh said. “As a result of what we saw yesterday and in grading the tape today, we’re going to perhaps put some players in some other roles — either move one up, move one down or shift a position — to find out whether by next Saturday they can be in the mix or where they should be.

“So that’s a big part of it here during this time frame here. It’s not just about schemes. It’s about, amongst the younger players, which ones look like they might be ready to help the team at some point this year, if not right away then, say, by the fifth or sixth game. There’s certain positions that we can clearly see that the addition of some of these rookie players will be very beneficial at some point.

“While they may not be high enough up on the depth chart for somebody from the outside to say that they’re going to be, we can see that if we can bring this player along by October, maybe that might be the first time that he sees action, but all of the sudden at that time he might make the position better.”

True freshmen who may be ready to play sooner rather than later, if only on special teams, include Hill, wideouts Tim Smith and Quintin Hunter, tailback Perry Jones and offensive tackle Oday Aboushi.

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So far in training camp, UVa’s quarterbacks have been off-limits to tacklers. That’s kept them healthy, but Groh realizes there are benefits to putting them “live” work.

“I’d like to some place in here to do that,” Groh said. “There were some throws made yesterday that were real good throws that probably wouldn’t have come off the same way if the rusher hadn’t pulled off. And I think the quarterbacks need to know that.”

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What Austin Pasztor did last season was almost unprecedented in Dave Borbely‘s long coaching career.

Borbely has been working with offensive linemen for nearly 25 years. During that span, he said yesterday, he’s probably coached no more than three starters who were true freshmen. And Pasztor, who started the Cavaliers’ final eight games at left guard, didn’t turn 18 until the last week of the season.

“He did a great job for us last year,” said Borbely, who’s in his fourth season at UVa. “The thing we stressed to him was, ‘You’ve really got to come out this year and establish yourself as a veteran.'”

Pasztor is one of four returning starters on the offensive line. The others are center Jack Shields, right guard B.J. Cabbell and right tackle Will Barker.

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Virginia’s starting cornerbacks, Cook and Ras-I Dowling, are each 6-2. Its starters at safety, Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley, are each listed at 5-10, though Mosley may be shorter.

“If they can play the game,” height doesn’t matter much, secondoary coach Anthony Poindexter said. “Football players come in all shapes and sizes, in my opinion. If you came to our field, you would think the two corners look like the safeties and the safeties look like the corners. But we just got ’em reversed, and all of them can run.”

Anyway, Poindexter noted, Mosley “definitely hits harder than any of them, and he’s the smallest of them all.”

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Two of the team’s more experienced wideouts, sophomore Kris Burd and junior Dontrelle Inman, have been slowed by injuries so far in training camp. But Scott doesn’t believe that will put them too far behind the other receivers.

“Because they had great summers, and their issues [came up] late in the summer,” Scott said. “I expect Kris Burd to be back [soon] and be a really big contributor in this group right away.”

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