By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Who will be UVa’s starting quarterback in the Aug. 31 season-opener against BYU at Scott Stadium? Who will emerge as the defense’s leaders now that linebackers Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds have moved on?
The answers to those questions, and many others, will be answered this month during the Cavaliers’ training camp, which starts Monday. Virginia, heading into its fourth season under head coach Mike London, finished 4-8 in 2012, and nobody associated with the program wants to go through that again.
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency this year, to get back on track,” senior wide receiver Tim Smith said Friday.
In 2011, UVa posted an 8-4 regular-season record and played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
Smith said Virginia’s players are aware of “the mistakes that we made and the plays we could have made, here and there, that would altered the way the season went last year.”
Knowing that, he added, “just got the guys more excited and ready to take advantage of every opportunity and make those plays that were missed last year and do all the little things so we can actually get back to winning.”
The first three practices of training camp — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — are open to the public.
Practice is scheduled to start at 3:40 p.m. and last about two hours each day. The Wahoos practice on the fields behind University Hall and the McCue Center. Fans can park in the U-Hall and John Paul Jones Arena lots.The football program’s annual Meet the Team Day will be Sunday, Aug. 18 at JPJ, from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Urban, one of Virginia’s defensive tackles, was “in our backfield every snap,” recalled Tenuta, who was NC State’s associate head coach for defense in 2013.
In the Cavaliers’ 33-6 rout of the Wolfpack, Urban had three tackles, including a sack. Tenuta is excited about coaching the 6-7, 295-pound Canadian he calls “the Urbanator.”
“He does things naturally a lot of guys don’t do,” Tenuta said. “He is a tremendous player, and obviously if he stays healthy, keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll play on Sundays.”
DECISION LOOMING: Early in training camp, London has said repeatedly this summer, UVa will choose the quarterback who will start the opener. The candidates, as Virginia fans know, are David Watford and Greyson Lambert.
Watford, a 6-2, 200-pound redshirt sophomore, is by far the more mobile of the two. Lambert, a 6-5, 220-pound redshirt freshman, is the prototypical dropback quarterback.
During UVa’s media day, new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild was asked which style he favors.
“The preference is the most productive guy,” Fairchild said, “and they come in all different shapes and sizes and skill sets. Guys that can run in the college game, it appears more and more, can bail you out of bad play calls or bad situations. They tend to be able to minimize those more so than a guy that can’t move. Obviously the ability to move at that spot’s becoming more and more important.”
Fairchild “plays to our tendencies … and what we can do best,” Watford said. “With me being a running quarterback, he has plays designed for me to use my legs and just emphasize that type of stuff, as well as showcase my arm. I feel like Coach Fairchild is just an awesome coach. I love the man to death, and it’s just been nothing but great things since he got here.”
Lambert, who enrolled at UVa in January 2012, said he has worked this summer to become “quicker with decision-making. I feel like as a quarterback, you see all the great ones, Brady and Manning, and you see that they have very low sack numbers, and that’s because they get the ball out of their hands [quickly] and they know where to go with the ball.
“And so I’ve been telling some people I’d like to run a 4.3, 4.4 up here” — Lambert pointed to his head — “because I know that I’m not as mobile as some. That’s really kind of been my focus.”
POINT OF EMPHASIS: As a true freshman in 2011, Watford completed only 30 of 74 passes (40.5 percent). In an era when college quarterbacks routinely complete 55 to 60 percent of their attempts, Watford knows he has to hit his targets more often.
“As a quarterback, you want to be very accurate, you want to get the ball to your playmakers and let them do what they do,” he said. “You want to be accurate, and you want to have a high completion percentage, because that’s really a knock on quarterbacks [if] they’re not accurate with the ball.”
Watford spent countless hours this summer “working on throwing with the guys, having great timing with them, just being on the same page as all my receivers, my running backs, my tight ends,” he said. “Whoever I’m throwing to the ball to, I just want to be on the same page with them so that I know what they’re going to do, I don’t have to second-guess any of their routes or what they’re doing, what they’re thinking.”
Moses, who started at right tackle last season, switched to the left side in the spring, replacing Oday Aboushi, now a rookie with the NFL’s Jets, there.
“He’s very, very talented,” Fairchild said of Moses. “I thought he had a great spring. Wish we had five guys like him up front. He has a lot of ability, and we’re expecting big things out of him this year.”
Whitmire, a reserve last season, “really came on in the spring,” Fairchild said. “He earned that starting job pretty quick. It didn’t take us long to figure out he was a guy that belonged in the starting five. Talented guy. It’s tough to play on an edge, and he’s going to get challenged, but he certainly has the length and body type to play.”
NEW ROLE: After starting at right offensive guard in 2011, Luke Bowanko moved to center last season. The emergence of redshirt freshman Jackson Matteo at center during spring practice this year allowed the coaching staff to move Bowanko to left guard.
Will he be a better guard for having played center?
“Obviously, it’s hard to say now — I’ve only practiced there four times — but I would think if anything I’ll be better just because I’m playing next to Big Mo,” Bowanko said Friday, referring to Moses. “It’s hard to not be a good football player playing next to Big Mo. He makes a lot of people look good.
“But a general understanding of what’s going on around you never hurts, and sometimes when you’re a young guy you just grasp your position, you don’t really care about what’s going on [elsewhere], and that’s perfectly fine for the level of understanding that you need to have. But at my age, it’s good to know what Mo’s doing or Jackson’s doing, or even what the guys on the other side are doing.”
Moses and Bowanko will be the only seniors among the offensive linemen when the `Hoos open practice.
“It is weird,” Bowanko said, “but it’s college football. There’s attrition. There’s guys that move on, there’s guys that move out, there’s guys that move in. It’s kind of a learning process, and everybody goes through it.
“It adds a little bit of fun. You get to put your arm around a guy and be like, `Come on, here we go.’ It’s fun to see the progression from Week 1 to Week 12, where a guy by Week 12 is moving and you don’t have to really do much. You don’t realize it per se, but you look back on it and say, `Wow, that guy turned into a good football player.’ ”
FREAK OF NATURE: Defensive end Trent Corney attends UVa on a football scholarship, but he also competes for the school’s track and field team, and those around him marvel at his mix of size, strength and speed.
“There’s a guy that has athleticism,” Tenuta said.
The coaches’ challenge, Tenuta said, is to “find the right place to plug him in … and then keep him in that package, so he can help you win games.”
A Canadian who’s from Brockville, Ontario, the 6-3, 250-pound Corney came to UVa in 2012 with limited experience in organized football, and he’s trying to overcome that handicap.
“Trent’s a work in progress,” defensive end Jake Snyder said last month at the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C.
As a true freshman last season, Corney played in six games, primarily on special teams. He begins training camp on the two-deep at defensive end, along with his classmates Eli Harold and Mike Moore and fifth-year senior Snyder.
“Trent Corney’s like my brother, man,” Harold said. “I love him to death. He teaches me a lot, and I teach him a lot.”
Harold said he’s quicker than Corney. In a sprint, though, Corney has the edge.
In fact, Harold said, Corney is “faster than most all the skill players. It’s scary, watching that kid. He’s one of the strongest guys I’ve ever laid eyes on.” Harold tapped his head. “He’s just got to get it up here.”
Snyder said: “He is an unbelievable athlete, unbelievably powerful guy. I think he’s the best, if not one of the best, in every lift we have on the team. And he’s fast. He’s as fast as anybody on our team, which is unbelievable for a guy that’s 250. But he is a little bit behind the curve, I think because of the high school ball he played in, which wasn’t as competitive as most leagues that the other kids come from.”
His teammates are trying to help Corney accelerate his educational process.
“He’s a very hard worker, and he wants to learn,” Snyder said. “He’s been focused on the playbook and doing extra meetings and extra drills and trying to prepare himself as well as he can. Once it clicks with him, you’re going to see big things from him, too, because he’s an explosive player.”
Harold said: “You just gotta keep pushing, keep shoving the playbook in his face. I just try to teach him the techniques. He has all the athletic ability.”