By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Class: Redshirt junior
Vitals: 6-5, 300-pound offensive guard
Hometown: Glen Allen (Deep Run High School)
College Career: Started the final 11 games at left guard for the Cavaliers. Appeared in four games — against William and Mary, Indiana, North Carolina and Maryland — in 2011. Redshirted in 2010.
Musical Chairs: Conner Davis is one of three returning starters on the offensive line. All three are in new roles this summer. Davis is at right guard, Luke Bowanko at left guard, and Morgan Moses at left tackle. Bowanko started at center and Moses at right tackle last season.
Strong Recovery: Not long after the Wahoos’ 2012 season ended, Davis underwent two operations: one on a shoulder and one on a knee. He sat out spring practice but is showing no ill effects from his injuries this month.
With Sean Cascarano, a starting guard in 2012, likely to miss this season with an injury, Davis is one of the few veterans on the offensive line.
Even so, Davis said after practice Tuesday, Cascarano’s absence “really doesn’t change my mindset. I’ve still got to prove myself. Even if I wasn’t coming off of surgeries, I’d still have to prove myself, because at the end of the day, the best five play. You could have a guy who was second string last year come in and start, or someone who’s never even been here come in and start. You gotta prove yourself every day, and you only deserve what you earn.”
Pumping Iron: In strength coach Evan Marcus’ summer conditioning program, Davis was among the standouts.
“Coming off shoulder surgery,” Marcus said Tuesday, “he benched seven kilos — which for you laypeople is about 15 pounds — over his personal best. He got stronger coming off a shoulder injury. And he also had the knee surgery. Couldn’t squat or shoulder-press a PVC pipe in January, and he power-cleaned five kilos less than his best, and he squatted 10 kilos less than his personal best. So you’re talking about a guy who’s coming off those two surgeries and now in camp is at full strength. That’s pretty good, now.”
Offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim said Davis’ performance in the weight room “shows tremendous desire, tremendous work ethic, and it also shows the unbelievable ability of Evan Marcus to work with [athletic trainer] Kelli Pugh and put together a program for a guy coming off two surgeries, that he can make those kind of gains.”
Davis: “I’ve always tried to work hard in the weight room, and I knew I had to push myself to the limit, especially this offseason, coming off those injuries. I’d already missed the spring. I was there mentally, but physically I wasn’t able to participate. So every day I had the mindset of just going in there to get bigger, faster and stronger, and now I’m getting ready for the season.”
Mixed Bag: Consistency eluded Virginia’s offensive line in 2012, and Davis had ups and downs, too, in his first year as a starter.
“I had some moments where I struggled, but I learned from that and that made me better,” he said. “I had some really good moments, and that’s what keeps me going, keeps pushing me. But it’s the things I need to work on that push me every day in this camp. I’m coming off of an offseason where I had to get back into shape, and now I gotta prove myself over again.”
Wachenheim said: “Last year’s gone. We’ve kind of put it to bed. We’ve learned from it. We take the lessons that we learned from last year, but we’re 0-0. We have zero yards rushing, we have zero yards passing, we’ve given up zero sacks. This is a brand new year. So we learned from that, and I think Conner will be stronger for playing 12 games last year.”
“It’s cool,” said Davis, who grew up rooting for the `Hoos. “We’ve always prided ourselves on that, having a bunch of Deep Run guys out here. It’s a nice little pipeline we got coming up here.”