By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NAME: Jay Whitmire
POSITION: Offensive tackle
VITALS: 6-6, 300-pound redshirt sophomore
HOMETOWN: Alexandria (T.C. Williams High School)
COLLEGE CAREER: Whitmire, who wears jersey No. 77, redshirted as a freshman in 2011. He played on special teams and as a reserve right tackle last year and appeared in all 12 games.
OUTLOOK FOR 2013: A season ago, Oday Aboushi started at left tackle and Morgan Moses at right tackle on UVa’s offensive line. Aboushi is now pursuing an NFL career with the New York Jets, and Moses has replaced him on the left side. Whitmire emerged from spring practice as the No. 1 right tackle and has tightened his grip on the starting job during training camp, which started Monday.
“Whitmire’s going to be the starting right tackle, and I have complete and total confidence that he will get the job done,” offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim said after practice Friday evening.
“He had a great offseason, and he’s playing well so far this camp. I think he’s going to do a phenomenal job this year, and we’ll be able to rely on him. That doesn’t mean he’s going to play perfect, but he’s going to give us everything he’s got every day and do a great job.”
REMEMBER THE TITAN: At T.C. Williams, Whitmire also played basketball and lacrosse. But football was his best sport, and he received scholarship offers from such schools as Penn State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Maryland and Pittsburgh. He chose UVa in part because its football program has consistently turned out big-time offensive linemen — Ray Roberts, John St. Clair, Elton Brown, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe among them.
“Definitely,” Whitmire said. “That’s a big selling point for every offensive lineman we get.”
WORK IN PROGRESS: Evan Marcus, UVa’s strength and conditioning coach for football, said Whitmire has made significant strides this year.
“He’s a good athlete, with good size,” Marcus said. “He’s had everything you look for. It’s just a matter of maturity for him, where he can put some of it together. It’s one thing to be a big, strong kid, but you have to learn how to utilize your strength and bring it to the field. That’s one thing we’re trying to teach these guys, that it’s not about just weight-room strength. It’s about taking the strength and power that you’re getting inside and bringing it out to the field so you can apply it.
“For him it was just maturity. I think he probably got by on just being the biggest guy in the bunch, and now he realizes that to play at this level, it takes more than that. It takes the application of trying to be good every day, and there’s work involved with that. He just needed to get that part of it, and he had a very good summer.”
Whitmire said: “This summer I put in a lot of work. I had a pretty tough course load, too, and real tough weight-training and conditioning, and I just put in a lot of effort.”
It helped, Marcus said, that Whitmire began training with such veterans as Moses and Luke Bowanko, seniors who are three-year starters on the offensive line.
“He started lifting with the older guys,” Marcus said, “and I think it paid huge dividends for him, because it was by far the best summer he’s had. He made very good gains in every lift, and he seems more focused, a little more mature, not as goofy.”
The older guys, Whitmire said, “definitely push you a lot harder.”
SEIZE THE DAY: Whitmire, who’s majoring in economics, has three seasons of football eligibility left at UVa, and he’s determined not to squander them.
“In high school, I probably would have thought, `Hey, man, I got plenty of time,’ ” Whitmire said, smiling. “But looking back and seeing how fast high school went, I know you gotta take advantage of every single year.”
THROUGH THICK AND THIN: Whitmire, who was born and raised in Alexandria, is a regular at John Paul Jones Arena for UVa men’s basketball games, and he also roots hard for D.C.-area pro teams.
“I’m a big, big, big Wizards fan,” he said.
He still loves to hoop. During football season, he stays off the court, but “I play a little bit over the summer and the spring,” Whitmire said. “It’s good to get out there and get a couple dunks.”
The best basketball players on UVa’s football team?
Offensive lineman Ross Burbank, a dominant wrestler in high school, has surprisingly good moves on the basketball court, too, according to his classmate and close friend.
“Ross was a wrestler, but he can run the point a little,” Whitmire said. “He’s a good assist man. He’s got a mean floater. So me and Ross kind of feed off each other when we’re on the court.”