By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — For the University of Virginia football program, it’s not only about the 7-5-7.
The state’s Tidewater region, nicknamed the 7-5-7, has produced elite football players for decades and remains a priority for the Cavaliers. But Virginia coach Mike London hasn’t forgotten about the 8-0-4. The list of former UVa players from the Richmond area is a long one that includes James Farrior, Jamie Sharper, Billy McMullen, Ron Carey, Jeffrey Fitzgerald, Jameel Sewell, Greg Taylor, Byron Thweatt, Patrick Estes, Corey Mosley and Jason Snelling.
Among the current UVa players from the Richmond area are offensive tackle Morgan Moses (Meadowbrook High), defensive end Jake Snyder (Deep Run), tight end Jake McGee (Collegiate), safety Anthony Harris (L.C. Bird), cornerback Drequan Hoskey (Henrico), offensive guard Conner Davis (Deep Run) and punter Alec Vozenilek (St. Christopher’s).
“The Richmond area for us is huge,” said UVa defensive line coach Jeff Hanson, also the team’s recruiting coordinator.
“It’s an area with really good football, it’s a huge metropolitan area in the state of Virginia that we have to recruit hard, and the University of Virginia has a lot of alums that are located in Richmond. We’ve gotten a lot of good players out of Richmond, and we’ll continue to do so.”
London took over at UVa in December 2009. Since then, he’s taken his team on the road for spring practices in Norfolk, Alexandria, Hampton, Fairfax and Newport News. Up next, a week before the Orange-Blue spring game at Scott Stadium, is a practice in Richmond, a city where London and several members of his staff have deep roots.
From 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, the Wahoos will work out at Sports Backers Stadium, next to The Diamond. The practice is free, and fans are invited to attend.
“Because it’s the capital of Virginia and such a big metropolitan area, and with a lot of our alums being there, we need to have a show there in town,” Hanson said this week.
“So we’re excited about it, and we’re happy we could work it out. The biggest thing as far as doing something like this is finding a place to practice. I think Coach London probably would have come to Richmond the last couple of years if we could have worked out a place to practice.”
On the “Coach’s Corner” radio show Monday night, host Dave Koehn‘s guests included London, Moses and Harris. They talked “about how so many times the [Richmond] community comes up to Charlottesville,” London said, “but now this time we’re going back to that community there.”
Harris said: “It’s going to be a good experience. Hopefully I’ll see some family and friends and different people from my community. It gives them a chance to come out and see us practice and see what’s going on [with the program].”
London said he hopes to put his team in controlled scrimmage situations late in the practice Saturday. “It will be sort of a dress rehearsal [for the spring game],” he said.
A University of Richmond graduate, London was head coach at his alma mater in 2008 and ’09. Before getting into coaching, London was a police detective for the city of Richmond. He’s also been an assistant coach at UR, as have three members of his staff at UVa: Hanson, linebackers coach Vincent Brown and running backs coach Mike Faragalli.
Moreover, defensive coordinator Jim Reid is, like London, a former UR head coach. Reid is the Cavaliers’ primary recruiter in the Richmond area. The players who signed letters of intent with UVa in February include Varina High teammates Tyrell Chavis and Maurice Canady and Hermitage High’s Andre Miles-Redmond.
London and his staff have worked hard to repair relationships with high school coaches — in Richmond and other parts of the state — that frayed during Al Groh’s tenure at Virginia.
“The big thing for us is we have several coaches on the staff that the high school coaches in the state of Virginia know very well, because we’ve been in the state for so long,” Hanson said.
London, Reid, Chip West and Anthony Poindexter, among others, are “all guys that have a great name here in the state of Virginia as far as dealing with high school coaches,” Hanson said. “So [the high school coaches] know what kind of people we are, they know what they’re dealing with, they know they’ll get an honest evaluation of their players and that we’re going to recruit the state of Virginia very hard.”
EXTRA POINTS: The first 1,000 fans at Saturday’s practice will each receive a UVa football T-Shirt. Once the stadium gates open at 2 p.m., activities for youths will be held inside the main entrance. After the practice, London’s players will sign autographs.
Also, fans are encouraged to donate canned food, to benefit the Central Virginia Food Bank, at the stadium Saturday.
* UVa’s Orange-Blue spring game will be Saturday, April 14 at Scott Stadium. Gates to the stadium open at noon, and fans will have an opportunity to buy game-worn UVa jerseys and helmets.
Nike jerseys worn by the ‘Hoos from 2001 to 2005, with numbers on the shoulders, will be available for $40 apiece. Nike jerseys worn from 2006 to 2009, with V-Sabres on the shoulders, are $75 apiece.
A limited number of navy helmets will be sold for $150 each. All items will be sold as-is and may have rips and marks on them. Cash and credit cards will be accepted, but no checks.
The merchandise will be sold under the scoreboard at the top of the hill inside the stadium.
Also, an autographed and framed Chris Long jersey will be auctioned off April 14. Tickets are $5 each or three for $10. The spring game is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.