By Jeff White
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Cramps limited Vic Hall‘s availability Saturday afternoon at Kenan Stadium, but it’s clear that he’ll play a leading role for UVa going forward, even if he’s not at quarterback.
Hall, a cornerback for most of his first three seasons at Virginia, started at quarterback in the opener against William and Mary but suffered a hip injury in that game. He played only one snap, on special teams, the next week against TCU and sat out all of UVa’s third game.
The Cavaliers had a bye week after that Sept. 19 loss at Southern Mississippi, and that gave Hall time to recover. He started at wide receiver against North Carolina, held for extra points and field goals before cramping up, and also played defensive back in passing situations.
Hall had a 6-yard reception at wideout and was credited with one tackle on defense. He also lined up in the shotgun once and took a direct snap, but the Tar Heels swarmed over him for a 4-yard loss.
Al Groh used three quarterbacks — Hall, Jameel Sewell and Marc Verica — against W&M before, in the wake of Hall’s injury, settling on Sewell.
But Groh’s goal remains, as he’s been saying for months, to make sure Hall, a two-year team captain, is tired and dirty after every game.
“Most definitely I enjoy it,” Hall said of his expanded role. “Playing both ways in the game, it’s very exciting.”
His cramps, Hall said, were due to his “being out for two weeks and coming back. I gotta get my body back in condition.”
* * * * * *
Defensive end Matt Conrath, who stands 6-7, broke up three passes as a redshirt freshman last season. He batted down three more Saturday.
“He’s got a pretty good record of doing that over the course of his short career so far,” Groh said after UVa’s 16-3 victory. “He does it in practice, he’s done it in the games, he’s just one of those players who has a sense of doing that.
* * * * * *
Five Cavaliers made their college debuts Saturday: redshirt freshman Mike Price and true freshmen LoVante Battle, Corey Lillard, Javanti Sparrow and Drew Jarrett, who kicked the extra point after the game’s only touchdown.
Groh has played 10 true freshmen this season: Battle, Lillard, Sparrow, Jarrett, Tim Smith, Quintin Hunter, Will Hill, LaRoy Reynolds, Dominique Wallace and Perry Jones.
Wallace is out with a season-ending foot injury he suffered at Southern Miss. Hunter was not included in Virginia’s travel team this weekend.
UVa used three kickers Saturday. Robert Randolph booted a career-high three goals, Chris Hinkebein handled kickoffs, and Jarrett was assigned the PAT.
“Our plan was to use Drew on extra points today and get him broken in,” Groh said. “That’s how we’ve done it with young kickers. We did that with [former UVa star] Connor Hughes for a few games and got him comfortable with it, and then he was able to expand … We’ll just see where that goes. Competition is a good thing.”
* * * * * *
Juniors Mike Parker and Dontrelle Inman, who have been out with injuries, made their 2009 debuts for UVa on Saturday.
Parker, a cornerback, played on special teams. Inman, a wide receiver, played several series but did not catch a pass.
* * * * * *
Sophomore safety Rodney McLeod, who has a knee injury, was ruled out before the game Saturday. In his place started fifth-year senior Brandon Woods.
Woods, who’s from nearby Durham, responded with the finest game of his career in his longest stint in the secondary. He made three tackles and had a quarterback hurry.
“He did a very nice job,” Groh said. “It wasn’t until, actually, probably the pre-game that we knew for sure that McLeod wouldn’t be able to go, and Brandon did very well. And kudos to [sophomore safety] Corey Mosley for stepping back up into his role and certainly playing, it would appear from a distance here, the best that he’s played in the time that he’s started.”
* * * * * *
That they had Sept. 26 off turned out to be a good thing for the Cavaliers.
The bye week “allowed us to spend an appreciable amount of time assessing exactly who we were and what we can do well, maybe what was missing, what had to be addressed,” Groh said. “It allowed us to look in the mirror a little harder than a normal game week allows to us do.”
* * * * * *
UVa’s front seven dominated Saturday. Those who distinguished themselves included outside linebackers Cameron Johnson, Aaron Clark and Denzel Burrell, inside linebackers Steve Greer and Darren Childs, ends Nate Collins, Zane Parr and Conrath, and nose tackle Nick Jenkins.
Virginia’s defense had wilted late against Southern Miss, in part because of the heat and humidity in Hattiesburg, and the coaching staff rotated more players yesterday.
“We felt that we had to get some of these players in the game early so that we would have all the energy that we needed at the end,” Groh said.
UVa held the Heels to 39 yards rushing.
“We went in knowing that it was going to be on the front seven,” Conrath said, “that they were going to try to run the ball on us, and if we stopped them, we’d have a good chance of winning.”
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Greer dropped tailback Shaun Draughn for a 2-yard loss. The same thing happened on second down. On third down, quarterback T.J. Yates, pressured by Burrell, threw an incompletion.
“That first series was fun,” Greer said. “As a defense, we made a couple nice plays and kind of stung them a little. We kind of set the tone with that first series.
“We knew North Carolina’s offensive style was kind of just run it at you with the I formation, so all week we emphasized that the front seven had to step up and play big.”