By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Tim Smith is out, but Ras-I Dowling, Rodney McLeod and Brent Urban may be available Saturday when UVa plays VMI in football at Scott Stadium.
That was the word from the Cavaliers’ first-year coach, Mike London, on his weekly Thursday morning teleconference with reporters.
Smith, a sophomore wide receiver, has been bothered by a slow-to-heal ankle injury, and he may end up redshirting this season.
In the next day or two, Smith will get another opinion from doctors, London said, and “we’ll see what’s going to happen with him.” No matter what, London said, Smith won’t play against VMI.
Neither Dowling (hamstring), a senior cornerback, nor McLeod (knee), a junior safety, has played this season for UVa (1-1), leaving the secondary without its top two performers.
Dowling and McLeod practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, however, and are expected to be out train again Thursday.
“I would not be surprised if you saw either one in the game,” London said. “To the extent of how much, I don’t know. But they’re both out there practicing and doing everything that everyone else is doing.”
Urban, a 6-7, 280-pound defensive lineman, is a redshirt freshman who tore an ACL in the offseason. He wasn’t cleared for full participation in practice until recently.
He’s still getting in shape and still learning the defense, London said, so Urban is “not at the point from a mental standpoint of being able to go in and play a significant amount of reps.”
Even so, London added, whether “it’s this game, or a couple games down the road, it’s good to have a lineman back with his size, because everyone knows during the course of a year, those guys up front are going to take some hits, and the toll is going to show up on everybody there … He’s still got a little bit to go [before he’s ready to] go in a game and help us a lot, but he may find some reps this game.”
Virginia hosts VMI (1-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
* Billy Schautz has yet to play for the ‘Hoos this season, though he’s been healthy. His 2010 debut appears imminent.
The 6-4, 250-pound redshirt sophomore played outside linebacker last year in Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. Schautz is now at defensive end.
“Billy’s practice habits have improved,” London said. “He’s gained some weight. The last couple weeks here, he’s put himself in position to go in the game, and I think, again, you’re going to be able to see him play this game and all the rest of the games, because he also provides a special-teams role as a guy who was a linebacker and now is a defensive end who can run.
“It’ll be good to see him out there and mix it up a little bit.”
Against the Miami Hurricanes last season, Schautz returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
* Groh used 14 true freshmen in 2009, his final season as UVa’s head coach. Only two true freshmen have played for the Cavaliers this season: offensive tackle Morgan Moses and cornerback Rijo Walker.
“Those guys we’re committed to playing,” London said. “If anybody else is out there that has a chance to play, it’ll depend on who’s in front of them and the long-term prognosis of that player being able to play the rest of the reason.”
A reporter asked about tailback Kevin Parks, one of the more heralded recruits to enter the program this year.
Parks is a gifted player, London said, but “we have some pretty talented guys [at tailback]. As the season goes on, it’s less and less likely. I’m not in a position right now to say that every freshman is off-limits right now. But it’s my preference to try to redshirt freshmen.”