April 16, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE — From my 25-minute visit with Jim Reid at the McCue Center early Thursday morning, I got a lot of good material, much of which made it into my review of UVa spring football.
But there wasn’t room for everything in this article. And so what follows is more from the Cavaliers’ new defensive coordinator, a man whose passion for the program, for his players and for the sport itself is always palpable.
Before Virginia’s intrasquad scrimmage last weekend at Scott Stadium, fullback Terence Fells-Danzer and middle linebacker Aaron Taliaferro received the Rock Weir Awards, given annually to the most improved players in spring practice.
A graduate of Gloucester High, Taliaferro will be a redshirt junior in the fall. He’s appeared in only three games for the Wahoos, but with starter Steve Greer sidelined most of the spring with an ankle injury, Taliaferro worked extensively with the first team.
“Taliaferro just came out of no place,” Reid said. “As I told him in the beginning — I think it was after the second practice — I called him Adam Taliaferro all through the winter workouts. And then I said, ‘Hey, see that, Aaron? When you start playing well, people recognize your name.’ So hopefully he’ll continue that. That would really be a good boost for us with Steven coming back.”
Taliaferro wasn’t the only qualified candidate for the Rock Weir Award on defense.
“There wasn’t anybody here that I thought took any steps backward,” Reid said. “Not one player took a step backward.”
If a runner-up for the defense had been announced, it might well have been safety Trey Womack. When the semester began, Womack, who redshirted in 2006, was anything but a lock to return for a fifth season at UVa. Now, a strong spring may have earned him a spot on the two-deep at safety.
Others in the secondary who made strides included safeties Dom Joseph and Corey Lillard and cornerback Devin Wallace and Mike Parker.
Parker, a classmate of Womack, “gave us a very, very good spring in total,” Reid said. “He’s got some ability and was really flying around the field.”
Lillard, a rising sophomore, ended the final practice of the spring with an interception.
“This guy has done very, very, very, very well,” Reid said. “Very well.”
Reid liked the progress shown by converted safeties Ausar Walcott and LaRoy Reynolds, who are now at outside linebacker in Virginia’s new 4-3 defense.
Another player at a new position, outside linebacker-turned-end Cameron Johnson, “really had an excellent spring rushing the passer,” said Reid, who also praised ends Jeremiah Mathis and Jake Snyder and tackles Will Hill and Justin Renfrow.
“But the guy up front that made an awful lot of progress was John-Kevin” Dolce, an undersized but power tackle who’ll be a fifth-year senior in the fall, Reid said.
And then there’s tackle Nick Jenkins, the only one of five team captains who won’t be a senior in the final. In UVa’s former scheme, the 3-4, Jenkins started at nose tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2008 and again last season.
“Nick Jenkins really, I thought, had a great spring,” Reid said. “He’s a gentleman off the field, a scholar-athlete, but he’s a really violent, within-the-rules football player and leads very, very well.”