Cavalier Corner

June 2012

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T BY SHANE METTLEN HERE HADN'T BEEN A spring like this one around the Vir- ginia Cavaliers football pro- gram in quite a while. Coming off a surprising eight-win season that saw Virginia earn a bid to a respectable bowl game in Mike London's second season at the helm of the program, the Cavaliers entered spring drills with excitement and high expectations — a combination that hadn't been enjoyed around Charlottesville since the middle of the Al Groh era, circa 2005. But after exceeding expectations with a SPRINGBOARD relatively young squad in 2011 and con- tinuing to build recruiting momentum by signing another promising class in Febru- ary, it would have taken a true pessimist to look at Virginia's spring football season on the spring roster, Virginia hadn't been this loaded with quality depth at the posi- tion since the days when Matt Schaub and Marques Hagans were taking snaps in the early 2000s. (UVa added to that depth on May 2, when it announced that former five- star recruit and in-state standout signal-caller Phillip Sims was transferring from Alabama.) Add to that a talented receiving corps returning, it came as little surprise that Lon- without feeling good about the direction of the program. Coming back to lead the team was an don used the spring as an opportunity to build on the passing game. "A lot of those guys can catch and run with it," London remarked when asked about his receivers following the Blue-Or- ange Spring Game, which was won 20-17 by the Orange squad. "If we just get enough protection to throw it down to them, we can have more explosive plays. We're going to try to get it into the hands of as many guys as we can." Though the Cavs lost veteran standout Rocco and Watford to gain experience playing at the ACC level, the spring was about fine-tuning their games and, for Rocco in particular, developing leadership skills to help the Cavaliers take the program to the next level. "I'm trying to improve my techniques and the pre- cision of my game," Rocco told reporters after one spring practice. "There's a lot of areas I can improve on, so I go into the film room and dissect all that ev- ery chance I get. I've kind of taken that upon my shoul- ders and continued to grow as the leader. I'm continuing to grow. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. People pick 20 ◆ CAVALIER CORNER 2012 UVA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Sept. 1 Richmond Sept. 8 Penn State Sept. 15 at Georgia Tech Sept. 22 at TCU Sept. 29 Louisiana Tech Oct. 6 Oct. 13 Maryland Oct. 20 Wake Forest Nov. 3 at NC State Nov. 10 Miami Nov. 15 North Carolina (ESPN) Nov. 24 at Virginia Tech at Duke Kris Burd to graduation, other talented wide receivers such as rising redshirt third-year Tim Smith and rising second-years Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell returned and had solid springs. Terrell, in particular, was named one of the team's most improved players during spring prac- tices and showed some great moves in the spring game, making three catches for 61 yards. Adding to Rocco's list of targets are several talented tight ends. Rising fourth- year Colter Phillips returns at the top of the depth chart, but rising second-year Jake McGee had an impressive spring game with a pair of catches for 81 yards, and rising second-year full- back Zachary Swanson also proved to be a solid receiver established starting quarterback. Rising third-year Michael Rocco won the job out- right in the fall after initially sharing snaps with rising second-year David Watford, who also returned. Both signal-callers looked improved during spring practice and were joined by Greyson Lambert, a promising, highly recruited first-year from Georgia who enrolled early so he could take part in spring drills. While last year was a time for both SPRING FOOTBALL AWARDS Rock Weir Award (most improved players): Fourth-year defensive tackle Will Hill and second- year wide receiver Dominique Terrell who displayed excellence in the classroom, on the field and in the community): Cornerback Demetrious Nicholson Z Society Dudley Award (first-year player (uncompromised excellence in their aca- demic pursuits): Fourth-year defensive end Billy Schautz and third-year defensive end Jake Snyder Cavalier Academic Achievement Award cation in the weight room): Redshirt third-year wide receiver Tim Smith Iron Cavalier Award (performance and dedi- Jones, fourth-year offensive tackle Oday Aboushi, fourth-year outside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds and fourth-year defensive tackle Will Hill Team Captains: Fourth-year tailback Perry me up when I make mistakes, and I do the same thing for them. "It's always exciting when Coach puts confidence in you to where he wants to throw the ball downfield and have big plays in the offense. Everyone saw in the Auburn game that we hit a bunch of downfield routes, so [offensive coordinator Bill] Lazor has the confidence now to call those types of plays." Despite having just the three quarterbacks out of the backfield with three catches for 44 yards. And while the banged-up offensive line spent much of the spring just trying to heal, the running back corps looks as deep as ever. Perry Jones returns for his fourth-year sea- son after leading the Cavaliers in rushing a year ago, and Kevin Parks, who split carries with Jones, also returns after an impressive rookie season. Rising second-year Clifton Richardson, a bigger back than Jones and Parks, also got meaningful carries in 2011. But one of the surprises of the spring game was rising second-year tailback Khalek Shep- herd, who had one of the most impressive performances of the scrimmage, carrying four times for 102 yards and a touchdown. Having a loaded backfield only adds to the growing confidence of the Virginia quarterbacks. Cavaliers Use Spring Football Practice To Fine-Tune A Young Team "Having some of those young guys a year older now and having the confidence to play in big games is very good," Rocco said. "We have older guys like Perry and Tim that give everybody confidence to become playmakers. We want to take our offense to the next level." Defensively, the Cavaliers are dealing with more question marks after losing standout players such as Cam Johnson and Chase Minnifield to the NFL. But there are some nice pieces to build around. Rising fourth-year linebacker

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