Aug. 24, 2010
5:38 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The expected battle between Ausar Walcott and Jared Detrick for the starting job at one outside-linebacker spot hasn’t materialized.

A nagging injury has slowed Detrick recently, allowing Walcott to get most of the work with the first team. Like the other starting outside linebacker, sophomore LaRoy Reynolds, Walcott is a converted safety.

At 6-4, 230 pounds, Walcott has excellent size. Equally appealing to Mike London is Walcott’s speed.

“He’s a big guy with safety cover-skill ability,” London said on a teleconference Tuesday morning.

As a redshirt freshman in 2009, Walcott was in for 181 plays — all on special teams. He has much to learn about playing linebacker, but “being able to play and run fast has been a big asset for him,” London said, “because he is starting to distinguish himself as a guy that deserves to be a full-time starter and play a lot of reps.”

Of the outside linebackers in Virginia’s new 4-3 defense, three were at safety last season: Reynolds, Walcott and LoVanté Battle.

London believes that, as former defensive backs, they should be adept in coverage. But it’s crucial that they tackle well, too, and they’re learning new techniques for playing the run.

In practice, London said, the Wahoos “do a lot of 9 on 7, a lot of team work, a lot of runs where we show these guys where they have to fit, not just with regular defenses but with stunts and with blitzes.

“So with the accumulation and the amount of reps that these guys are getting, the learning curve has increased for them, but when you play other teams and they run other schemes at you, then you’ll see whether or not they’ve learned enough.”

Virginia opens its first season under London on Sept. 4 against the University of Richmond, the team he coached in 2008 and ’09. Game time at Scott Stadium is 6 p.m.

* The most heralded recruits in UVa’s first-year class were offensive tackle Morgan Moses and tailback Kevin Parks.

Moses will definitely play this season, London has said. As for Parks, “I have a decision to make with him,” London said Tuesday.

Classes started at UVa on Tuesday, and the football team had the day off. The ‘Hoos will practice Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, London said, after which the depth chart for opener will be set.

Parks is “everything that everybody thought he would be coming out of high school,” London said. “But he’s got a learning curve between the blitzes and the different techniques. You just want to say, ‘Look, go run the ball,’ but tailbacks also have to block and do other things.

“Kevin’s still in the mix, but like I said, it’s the other [tailbacks] that have risen” — Perry Jones, Raynard Horne and Dominique Wallace among them — “that makes this thing an interesting dilemma.”

* A true freshman who will not play this fall, London said, is Miles Gooch, currently the team’s No. 5 quarterback.

Ahead of Gooch at that position are fifth-year senior Marc Verica, redshirt freshman Ross Metheny and true freshmen Mike Rocco and Michael Strauss. Verica is the starter; the other three are battling for the Nos. 2 and 3 slots on the depth chart.

Gooch wanted to begin his college career at quarterback, a request London granted, but the 6-3 215-pounder from Decatur, Ga., could eventually move to linebacker or wide receiver.

Wherever Gooch ends up, London said, he’s “going to be a good player.”

* The first-team holder on field goals and extra points? That would be walk-on Jacob Hodges, who joined the team in the spring after impressing the coaching staff during a tryout.

Hodges, a 5-11, 190-pound junior, starred at quarterback for Mountain View High in Stafford, where he also was the holder. He was a student-manager for the Cavaliers for two years before deciding he wanted to play again.

“Jacob’s a great story,” London said. “He’s probably got the best hands on the team … There’s a technique that he has, and there’s a comfort level that Robert Randolph and our place-kickers have with him that allows them to have complete trust in him.

“Plus, he was a quarterback in high school, so as far as any fake opportunities or any mishandling of the ball and being able to roll out and do something with the ball, he’s athletic enough that he can do that also. He’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Hodges’ father, James, is a former coach at Halifax County High School.

Jeff White

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