Aug. 19, 2010
6:48 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — With Drew Jarrett expected to redshirt this season, the kicking competition during UVa’s training camp has involved juniors Robert Randolph and Chris Hinkebein.

Hinkebein has the stronger leg, but Randolph is usually more accurate, especially on field-goal attempts of 45 yards or less, and the job may well be split accordingly.

In 2009, Randolph attempted every field goal for the Cavaliers, making 17 of 19. Jarrett, who was a true freshman, kicked most of the extra points and was 17 for 17. Hinkebein handled most of the kickoffs.

Don’t be surprised if the ‘Hoos turn to Randolph for extra points and most field goals, with Hinkebein kicking off and attempting long-range field goals.

“Robert has had a very productive camp,” head coach Mike London said Thursday afternoon before a practice devoted primarily to special teams.

“The other day he kicked a 50-yarder, along with Chris Hinkebein. But I think as far as the accuracy and keeping track of who’s making the most, Robert’s winning that battle.”

UVa’s No. 1 punter, for the third straight season, is Jimmy Howell, a junior from Florence, S.C. Howell averaged 39 yards in 2008 and 40.1 last season.

“Jimmy’s done a nice job catching the ball and getting rid of it,” London said recently. Special-teams coach Anthony “Poindexter will tell you, all of these [kicking specialists] go to these gurus all over the country, and whatever [Howell has] done, wherever he’s been, he’s done a nice job.

“He’s punting the ball really well. Special teams is a big point of emphasis, and his leg can provide field-position [advantages] that are very, very important to us.”

At 6-6, 240 pounds, London noted, Howell is “probably the size of a linebacker. That leg strength and the leg trajectory when he punts the ball, that has a lot to do with it. When you look at your NFL punters, they’re bigger guys, and Jimmy’s doing a good job. And to know that he is a junior and has a chance to even get better, that’s a good thing for us.”

* London said he’ll know more Friday about Colter Phillips’ timetable for rejoining the team. The sophomore tight end from Darnestown, Md., has been with his family since early last week, when his father was killed in a plane crash in Alaska.

Bill Phillips’ funeral is Friday in the D.C. area, and London and many UVa players plan to attend.

* Classes begin Tuesday at UVa, which means London’s players will soon have more than football on their minds.

“And so you have to curtail your practices and understand that there’s some obligations, particularly in the beginning, because of first-year orientations and class schedules, add/drops, and make sure these guys have a chance to get to class and get in the classes they need,” London said Thursday afternoon. “There’s a little bit of an adjustment period for that, and then you get back into, ‘OK, this is what the routine of every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday is going to be like.’

“I was telling them today that this week, up until the end of this week, is kind of the last opportunity for us to get things right without added distractions … So it’s very important for us today, tomorrow, Saturday to really hone in on what we’re trying to get done.”

UVa opens the season Sept. 4 against Richmond at Scott Stadium. London is a UR graduate, and he’s reminded of that every time he sees the degree hanging on the wall of his McCue Center office. But with the opener still more than two weeks away, he’s more concerned with Virginia than with the Spiders.

“I’ll wait to have nightmares about them later on,” said London, the Spiders’ coach in 2008 and ’09. “Right now, my nightmares are about what’s going on with my team.”

Jeff White

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