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Aug. 17, 2010
9:54 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — As UVa’s football players warmed up Monday afternoon in the Cage, waiting out the thunderstorm that had forced them inside, tight ends coach Scott Wachenheim spotted Kevin Royal.

“So, Kevin, I hear you didn’t like my coaching,” Wachenheim said.

He was just teasing No. 82. Royal, a redshirt freshman from Newburg, N.Y., was content at tight end, but the coaching staff wants him back at wide receiver, so that’s where he’s lining up again.

“The experiment of Kevin Royal being at tight end has ended,” head coach Mike London said before practice. “Now he’s a 218-pound wide receiver that can provide opportunities for us on the perimeter [as a pass-catcher and blocker].

“Very strong guy. The reason why we moved him over [to wideout] is because he can run and still be matched up against safeties and corners. And now we have a bigger-body guy to help seal the corners and block down on linebackers and safeties.”

Royal, who stands 6-3, came to UVa as a receiver last summer, but the new coaching staff moved him to tight end in the spring, envisioning him as an H-back. The coaches eventually realized that it would be difficult for Royal to add the bulk necessary to excel in that role.

“We tried to go that route,” London said, “but body-wise, it was going to be a constant struggle with him. And then the other reason that promoted and prompted the move is, I feel really good about [true freshmen] Zach Swanson and Jake McGee.”

The 6-6 Swanson reported to UVa as a tight end, and 6-5 McGee recently moved there from quarterback.

“When [strength-and-conditioning coach] Brandon Hourigan gets done with them, they’re going to be big, tall, athletic tight ends that are in tight end bodies,” London said. “Kevin was kind of a cross between a receiver and a tight end.”

* Redshirt freshman Hunter Steward, a 6-7, 285-pound defensive tackle, continues to practice with the team while awaiting a decision on his academic status. London said Monday that UVa’s compliance department and the NCAA are in the process of determining if Steward will be eligible this season.

Jeff White

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