By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Mike London was UVa’s defensive coordinator in 2007. Dontrelle Inman was a true freshman who played on the other side of the ball, at wide receiver.
Nonetheless, Inman recalled last week, he “and Coach London had a relationship my freshman year that was real good. I could go and talk to Coach, and he would be there more like a father figure.”
London left UVa in January 2008 to become head coach at his alma mater, the University of Richmond. But after two seasons at UR, London returned to UVa, where Inman’s career had stalled. London was now the Cavaliers’ head coach, and his message resonated with Inman.
“When we had our meetings with him when he first came in, in December,” Inman said, “he just came to me and told me, ‘It’s just like a blank sheet of paper. Whatever happened in the past, that’s the past. We’re looking to the future, and we’re looking for you to help build this program up to a winning program.’ ”
When he came back to UVa, London admitted Sunday night, “nothing really stuck out in my mind” about Inman.
London laughed. “I know about him a lot now.”
And for good reason. A 6-3, 200-pound senior, Inman has caught 15 passes for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns this season for UVa (2-1), which plays its ACC opener Saturday afternoon against Florida State (1-0, 3-1) at Scott Stadium.
In Virginia’s 48-7 romp over VMI, Inman had 5 receptions for 72 yards and 2 TDs, a performance that led the coaching staff to name him one of the Wahoos’ co-offensive players of the game. Before Saturday, Inman had never scored a touchdown in a college game.
“That was pretty special for him,” London said. “It’s nice to see a guy who came in — I don’t know what happened before, maybe struggled a little bit, didn’t know where he fit in — but stuck with it and has now become one of the main two go-to guys [in the receiving corps].”
The other go-to guy, of course, is junior Kris Burd, who leads UVa with 260 yards and 3 TDs on 18 receptions this season.
“I think they’re good students of the game,” London said, “and I think the way our passing game is situated allows them to find the holes and the coverages. And they’re experienced players, so they know both pre- and post-snap reads, where to run their routes, because they know that Marc [Verica], being an experienced quarterback, is going to throw the ball there. That helps a lot, when you have experienced guys being able to do that. Both of them complement each other very well.”
UVa’s offensive player of the game was guard Austin Pasztor, a 6-7, 320-pound junior.
“Graded out at 87 percent,” London said. “Had some pancakes, some knockdowns. Just did a nice job, particularly when we ran the ball … It was good to see him do the things he needed to go and get recognized for his play and his effort.”
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Researchers in UVa’s athletics media relations department have determined that history indeed was made Saturday. For the first time in the modern era of Virginia football, three quarterbacks each threw at least one touchdown pass in a game for the Wahoos.
Verica, a fifth-year senior, had a career-high three TD passes. Redshirt freshman Ross Metheny and true freshman Michael Rocco had one apiece.
After breaking down the videotape, London said, he was pleased with the freshman quarterbacks’ play.
“It showed that both of them did a nice job in running the offense,” he said.
Rocco had an ill-advised pass picked off, so “the next step for him is to see the whole field and make a more intelligent determination as to whether to throw the ball or not,” London said.
“But he threw a touchdown pass and threw a couple of other passes that got it to a receiver. So he did a nice job, and the same thing with Ross.”
BUMPS AND BRUISES: On VMI’s first possession of the second half, one of UVa’s starting outside linebackers, sophomore LaRoy Reynolds, limped off the field. On the Keydets’ second possession, one of Virginia’s starting cornerbacks, sophomore Devin Wallace, got shaken up.
“They’ll be all right,” London said Sunday night. “They just got dinged a little bit. Both of them were here today. We did a little running today. On Sundays we do some stuff. They go to the pool and get worked out. They’ll be off tomorrow, and then back again as we start preparation Tuesday.”
TO BE DETERMINED: Asked Sunday night about wideout Tim Smith’s status, London said a decision had not been made.
Smith, who played as a true freshman in 2009, has an ankle injury that may cause him to redshirt this season. He played against Richmond and Southern California but missed the USC game.
The decision is “something that doesn’t have to be made right this very moment,” London said. But “bringing him back when he’s not 100 percent and when he’s not using one of the assets that he has, and that’s his speed, I don’t think would be a good move.”
In Smith’s absence, junior wideouts Matt Snyder and Jared Green played well against VMI, “so there’s more depth there,” London said. That was only one game, “but at least it gives you a little bit of breathing room to say, ‘Maybe the two of those guys can add up to give some plays, some catches, some blocks and running some routes that we don’t have to hurry Tim back.’ ”
London said he would probably meet Monday with UVa’s medical staff to discuss Smith’s situation. “We’re going to do whatever is in Tim’s best interest,” London said.
WELL-STOCKED: Late in the game Saturday, redshirt freshman Justin Renfrow made two jarring tackles. Renfrow plays defensive tackle, a position at which the ‘Hoos are deep and talented.
Senior John-Kevin Dolce and juniors Nick Jenkins and Matt Conrath are effectively co-starters there, and behind them are Renfrow, sophomore Will Hill and redshirt freshman Brent Urban. Another redshirt freshman, Hunter Steward, is practicing at that position, though he’s not likely to play this season.
Renfrow, like basketball players Sean Singletary and Sammy Zeglinski before him, came to UVa from William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia.
“Justin, he’ll be a good player here,” London said. “The interior has become a position of depth for us, because of who we have there and who we have back. But I think Justin will bide his time like a lot of young players do, where eventually they get a chance to step up and get involved in the games.”
At defensive end, juniors Cameron Johnson and Zane Parr are the starters. Reserves include redshirt freshmen Jake Snyder and Jeremiah Mathis and sophomore Billy Schautz, who made his 2010 debut Saturday against VMI.
The 6-4, 250-pound Schautz, in fact, was the first defensive end off the bench for UVa.
“He’s going to help us with depth,” London said. “And also he’s a a pretty good special-teams addition too, a big body that can run like that. I don’t know if he’s [the No. 3 end], but he’s going to get a lot of reps.”
AREA OF CONCERN: Led by Johnson, UVa sacked VMI quarterback Cameron Jones three times. But on several other plays, the Cavaliers surrounded Jones, only to see him slip out out of the pocket and complete a long pass.
“We just can’t get pushed past the quarterback, and that’s one thing we have to work on,” said Johnson, who had a career-high 2½ sacks.
London said: “It was frustrating a little bit. The guys got a great push, great rush. We just can’t go beyond the quarterback. You’ve make your counter moves back inside and things like that, but we’ll get that corrected.”
Overall, London said, “I do like the aggressiveness of the players. I like the aggressiveness of the secondary and playing man coverage. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll get those rush lanes squared away, because it’s going to be important, particulary for this quarterback that’s coming in next week.”
Florida State’s Christian Ponder has completed 61 of 100 passes this season for 672 yards and 7 touchdowns, with 3 interceptions.