By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — On the spring football roster, the listed height for each of UVa’s three scholarship tailbacks is 5-8. That may be generous in a couple of cases.
“The only good thing about it is, when they stand next to me during the national anthem, I’ll look like Wilt Chamberlain,” Mike Faragalli said Monday morning. “I’ll have one on each side of me.”
Virginia’s running backs coach smiled.
“Truth be told, I don’t think it’s a huge disadvantage,” Faragalli said. “Obviously, you’d like them all to be 6-3 and 240, but you know what? They got a lot of heart. They’re tough as nails. They’re smart. They’re physical, and you can depend on them. I just think they’re playmakers, so I’m really not worried about it.”
Of the Cavaliers’ top three tailbacks in 2010, two were seniors: Keith Payne and Raynard Horne. Payne, a 6-3, 255-pound bruiser, led the ACC in scoring last season and carried 160 times for 749 yards and 14 touchdowns, all team highs.
Payne only started one game, though. The first tailback on the field for the Wahoos was usually Perry Jones. A graduate of Chesapeake’s Oscar Smith High, Jones rushed for 646 yards and 1 TD on 137 carries.
He also caught 31 passes for 224 yards and 1 TD last season. The 5-8, 185-pound Jones is a rising junior. UVa’s other scholarship tailbacks this spring are Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd, freshmen who redshirted last season.
Parks, a Parade All-American in 2009 as a senior at West Rowan High in Mount Ulla, N.C., is listed at 5-8, 195. Shepherd, listed at 5-8, 175, is from Gwynn Park High in Brandywine, Md. His father, Leslie Shepherd, is a former NFL wide receiver.
“I think we’ve got three really, really talented guys,” Faragalli said. “We might not have the stature that we had [with Payne and Horne], but the speed, the quickness, the playmaking ability is better, I think.
“I’m excited about it. There’s some young guys that have to learn some things in the pass-protection part of it, but they’re playmakers and they’re tough guys.”
Virginia’s spring game is Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium. Jones again tops the depth chart at tailback, but Parks and Shepherd are having good springs as well.
“As you saw last year, we’re going to play more than one guy,” Faragalli said. “Right now, Perry’s the starting running back, but those other two guys are really good. So I could see us playing three guys again in some way, shape or form.”
Another option is 6-0, 215-pound Max Milien, a rising senior who started seven games at fullback for UVa last season. Milien played tailback at Yorktown High and then at Virginia before switching to fullback last year.
“Just from a numbers standpoint, three [tailbacks] is not enough usually to make it through a season,” Faragalli said. “So Max will be the swing guy. He’ll learn both fullback and tailback. He is a good pass protector, he is a little bit bigger, so that’ll probably become an important role for him going forward: pass blocking on third down versus those bigger linebackers.”
A fourth full-time tailback is expected to join the program this summer. Recruits who signed with UVa in February include 6-0, 195-pound Clifton Richardson, a senior at Menchville High in Newport News.
COLLECTORS’ ITEMS: For the second year in a row, the football program is selling game-worn UVa jerseys.
In 2010, white jerseys were sold. Blue jerseys will be available from a six-season period — 2001 to 2006 — Saturday at Scott Stadium. Players from that era include Darryl Blackstock, Ahmad Brooks, Elton Brown, Brad Butler, Chris Canty, Angelo Crowell, Willie Davis, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Chris Long, Billy McMullen, Heath Miller, Alvin Pearman, Matt Schaub and Jason Snelling.
The only numbers that will not be available are those UVa has retired: 12 (Shawn Moore), 24 (Frank Quayle), 35 (Bill Dudley), 48 (Joe Palumbo), 73 (Jim Dombrowski) and 97 (Gene Edmonds).
A doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday at Scott Stadium. UVa hosts Maryland in ACC men’s lacrosse at noon, followed by the spring football game.
Games open at 11 a.m. for the lacrosse game. The football jerseys will be sold during both games at the scoreboard end of the stadium. The cost is $75 per jersey. Cash and credit cards will be accepted, but not checks.
The most popular numbers are expected to go quickly Saturday, so fans interested in purchasing jerseys may want to come during the lacrosse game.
Also Saturday, two autographed and framed jerseys will be raffled off: Ras-I Dowling’s No. 19 at halftime of the lacrosse game, Chris Long’s No. 91 at halftime of the football scrimmage.
Raffle tickets will be $5 apiece or three for $10.