Today, I continue my gush fest of Newport News (hence the shipyard to your right).
We are gearing up for Friday’s UVa Football practice at CNU with an in depth look at the Hoos team that has been practicing this spring. Our focus yesterday was on groups and the battles that should unfold in these early sessions. In Part 2, we look at the individuals who will be using these stages to show what they can do. Some are projected starters. Some are the depth players. And some are just looking for playing time. So who are the eyes of the 757 going to be watching?
QB #11 Greyson Lambert, Fr.
Is there anyone else that should occupy the top line? I did the same for Watford last year, and now it the true 1st year’s turn as well. Lambert is an early enrollee that has been wowing the fans in the earlier practices with his mechanics and velocity. I understand he is very raw and hasn’t seen snap one in a college game, but he will have a chance to get used to his new teammates this spring, get stronger and smarter in the summer, and will be back at it in the fall. All indications is that he will not shirt, or at least have it on and will most likely be burned early. But with Johns coming in this fall, it just sets up for a 1 redshirt/1 true freshman class.
RB #38 Khalek Shepherd, So.
Two years in a row for Mr. Shepherd, but it just seems like he still has something to prove. He is a perfect 3rd down back with his size, speed, and catching ability. The problem, just like last year, will be fighting for time. With Jones, Parks, and Richardson all back, and none of them giving any reason why time should not be split between the 3, Shepherd’s advantage is his versatility. He should be a fixture in the kickoff return game (although the new rules might see his impact diminished), but worse case scenario is he sees time due the unthinkable: injury. Now he could impress enough to bump Richardson into splitting the carries he got last year, but for now look for a show from him on the 3rd team line that could matriculate into more field time this year.
WR #6 Darius Jennings, So.
With Tim Smith pretty much a lock for one starter, the other side is still kinda up in the air. Darius was part of the two headed 1st year receiving core that saw them used more on the end arounds and bubble screens versus the traditional WR routes. Jennings showed towards the end of the season that he could run those conventional routes, and had decent production, but will be asked for more this year. Out of the two, I believe at this time, Lazor has a tad bit more confidence in DJ to start, but how much he gets thrown too will come down on execution and ability to separate from defenders.
RTs #78 Morgan Moses, Jr. & #77 Jay Whitmire, RFr.
You can’t talk about the line without Moses. He has slimmed down in the offseason and looks more like the leader that he needs to be on the other side of the line. But I’m really going to watch Whitmire. I pegged him as the one that would be in the two deep last year, but Kelby Johnson took that honor. Not that it was a knock on Jay, but how much Johnson looked the part. Whitmire has a very interesting opportunity this year. He should be a lock for the backup behind Moses, and with Oday and possibility Morgan leaving next year (sorry folks, it is a distinct possibility), coupled with OA out this spring, should vault him in the two deep by the end of April. The experience he gets from these practices and playing this year will help him when it becomes his time to start, maybe sooner than we think.
DE #26 Ausar Walcott, Sr.
It is an interesting situation for Ausar. Caught up in the JMU tiff from a few years ago, he moved to DE mid-2011. I don’t believe he will push Snyder out of the starting job, but if Schautz is not completely healthy (and I’ve been on record that I am more pessimistic about his ability after that massive injury), he could battle Urban for the other starting spot. He does not have the size of a Snyder or Urban, but he still does have that LB quickness to get around the edge. And if he can show the staff in these practices that Moses and Whitmire are not there, look for early advantage to Walcott.
DT #45 Vincent Croce, RFr.
Boy, do I like this guy. I knew out of high school that he would most likely need to redshirt, but this is a motor kid. The last motor kid the Hoos had was Chris Long. Now I don’t think he is the same edge rusher that CL91 was, but he could cause problems in that A gap on passing downs forcing QBs into the waiting arms for the DE/LBs. Now there is a good amount of talent in front of him, and I do believe he will be a starter before his career at UVa is over, but I liked his polish in high school, and like Greer, he just seems to be in on every play. And real production is what the Hoos really need from the DT slot.
WLB/SS #40 Darius Lee, RFr.
Hehe, this one is fun. Lee was set up to battle D.J. Hill for the spot behind LaRoy Reynolds at linebacker. But Dex pulled him out of that group and have been trying him out at Safety. He brings the wood in the flat with great closing speed, something at the top of the list for both slots. And with the FS/SS spot still up in the air, he could make his way at least on the 2 deep, if not in situational defenses.
CB #23 Brendan Morgan, So.
Lastly, I love great stories, and Morgan is one of those. We are aware of the Hoos love affection with Canada. Austin was one of those products last year. Morgan is from Toronto and came in as a WR project. After redshirting in 2010, he saw the opportunity to find the field faster at CB. Now two years later, he is back on the team as a preferred walk-on and has really impressed the coaches. So much so that early review have him pegged as Nicholson’s backup this year. And with a class coming in that does not have many “right away’ starters, it sounds like he could end up on the two deep. Oh, Canada!