By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Morgan Moses is back where he began on UVa’s offensive line: at right tackle.
Moses played extensively at right guard, in place of starter B.J. Cabbell, against Georgia Tech last weekend in Atlanta, and that’s the position at which the 6-6, 350-pound true freshman had been practicing recently.
No longer. Moses will start at right tackle Saturday night when UVa (0-2, 2-3) hosts ACC rival North Carolina (1-1, 3-2) at Scott Stadium.
“He’s done a nice job,” first-year coach Mike London said on his Thursday morning teleconference with reporters. “He started out playing right tackle [in training camp] and then we moved him inside. It was amazing putting him back out at right tackle, the recall he had.”
Sophomore Oday Aboushi, who started the Cavaliers’ first five games at right tackle, has moved to the left side. He replaces junior Landon Bradley, who’s out indefinitely with an injury that required surgery early this week.
Bradley, a two-year starter at left tackle, broke his hand against the Yellow Jackets.
“I think right now what’s best for the team is Morgan at the right side and Oday over at the left side,” London said.
As they have in every game this season, Cabbell, Anthony Mihota and Austin Pasztor are expected to start at right guard, center and left guard, respectively. Cabbell is a senior. Pasztor and Mihota are juniors.
“We went the route of what’s best for the team right now,” London said.
The top backup at both tackle spots will be Sean Cascarano, a redshirt freshman who took over on the left side in Atlanta after Bradley got hurt.
The coaching staff considered starting Cascarano and Aboushi at the tackles and Moses at guard. In the end, though, the coaches decided it made more sense for Cascarano to have “a chance to see what’s going on in the game,” London said, “and when it’s time to give [Moses or Aboushi a break], then allow him to come off the bench after observing what’s going on out there.”
Moses, a Parade All-American as a Meadowbrook High senior in 2008, played for coach John Shuman on Fork Union Military Academy’s postgraduate team last season. Little, if any, thought was given to redshirting Moses this season.
“He’s got the size, the ability and the skills, so he was kind of a ready-made guy,” London said.
The 6-6, 295-pound Aboushi has similar promise. Against Carolina, Aboushi will be responsible for protecting the blind side of Virginia’s starting quarterback, Marc Verica.
“I think he’s looking forward to” that challenge, London said.
Aboushi played in six games as a true freshman last year.
“He’s a young player, ” London said, “and he’s going to be a really good player when he has the experience and the accumulated amount of reps and the strength aspect.”
What happens when Bradley returns? The coaches will figure out then, London indicated, how best to slot the offensive linemen.
For a true freshman, even one as gifted as Moses, the transition to college football is probably easier at guard, but tackle is “now where he’s playing,” London said. “He’s going to play, and I’m quite sure he just wants to play. So we’ll see how his development goes in this particular game.”
Moses’ teammates at FUMA last year included Cody Wallace, now a classmate at UVa. The 6-4, 275-pound Wallace, who’s redshirting this season, is working at center, “and I think that might be a place he’ll be able to settle in on,” London said.
“He’s not quite ready to play. Morgan had the requisite size and all the other things and [was] ready to go. But Cody is going to be a good player. He’s tough. He’s aggressive. But he needs a little more of [strength-and-conditioning coach] Brandon Hourigan right now.”