Flowers are blooming, pollen is in the air, and Spring Practice has begun for the Virginia Cavaliers. Every year, Spring Practice gives the Coaching Staff a great opportunity to evaluate their talent and depth, as well as help determine the winners of key position battles for the upcoming fall campaign. Spring also marks the beginning of a new recruiting cycle for the Cavaliers. In part one of a two-part series, we look at the UVA Offensive Depth Chart, and what it means for the 2013 recruiting year.
Current Depth Chart:
At this point last year, the Quarterback situation in Charlottesville was anything but settled. Eventual incumbent Michael Rocco was in a four-way dead heat with Ross Metheny, Michael Strauss and early enrollee David Watford for the starting spot. Heading into this years’ Spring Practice however, the position is much less chaotic. Rocco is solidly in the Starter’s role; Strauss and Metheny transferred to Richmond and South Alabama respectively, and David Watford has been relegated to backup duty. Early enrollee Greyson Lambert is participating in Spring Practice and at 6’5’’ 200, he certainly looks the part. Lambert, along with fellow 2012 QB commit Matt Johns are expected to redshirt this season, while adjusting to the college game.
Coming into the 2013 recruiting cycle, Virginia fans were very optimistic about landing one of the State’s three premier QB prospects: Ryan Burns (Ashburn, VA), Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, VA), and Bucky Hodges (Virginia Beach, VA). Instead, Burns committed to Stanford, Hackenberg to Penn State, and it seems like a lock that Hodges, a Logan Thomas clone from a physical standpoint, will be the heir-apparent to Thomas in Blacksburg. One major reason for the Hoos being shut out amongst the "big three" Virginia QB’s is Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor’s recent flirtations with the NFL, which will certainly be used by other schools to negatively recruit Virginia in the future. Although UVA did not land one of the in-state quarterbacks, they recently received a commitment from Brendan Marshall, a pro-style QB from prep powerhouse Good Counsel in Maryland. Like 2012 QB commits Lambert and Johns, Marshall is a big kid (6’5’’ 210 according to Rivals.com) and has tons of potential for growth in Lazor’s pro-style attack. Marshall’s commitment to UVA will almost certainly be the only one the Cavaliers will take at the Quarterback position for the 2013 class.
Current Depth Chart:
Similar to the Quarterback position going into 2012 Spring Practice, the Running Back position seems pretty stable for the Cavaliers for this season, and the next few as well. All three of Virginia’s feature backs from 2011, Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson, return for this season. Khalek Shepherd also returns, but he has almost exclusively been used as a return man in the past. In the summer 2012 running back commit Kye Morgan will join the squad, and considering UVA’s depth at the position heading into the 2012 season, Morgan seems like a redshirt candidate.
Even with the current depth at the position, Virginia should be very active with running back targets in the 2013 cycle. The most likely of them to commit to Virginia at this point is Taquan Mizzell, a highly-rated prospect that hails from Bayside High in Virginia Beach. Mike London and his staff have reeled several major commits from Bayside in the past two years, most notably current starting Cornerback Tre Nicholson. Other running back targets for UVA this year include Derrick Green and D.J. Reid, both from the Richmond area, Ryan Green from Florida, and Marquez Grayson from North Carolina. Expect London and his staff to take one, maybe two Running Backs in the 2013 class.
Current Depth Chart:
The Wide Receiver position is probably the biggest question mark on the offensive side of the ball going into the spring. The Hoos lose two starters from 2011 at the position, Kris Burd and Matt Snyder, and replacing their production is imperative for further growth on offense. Tim Smith will be the number one receiver heading into next season. Smith will be partnered with rising sophomores Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell, who both showed flashes of potential in 2011. Several other players on the depth chart could make an impact in 2012 at receiver, including former Quarterback Miles Gooch, and E.J. Scott, both redshirt sophomores. The 2012 recruiting class brings a ton of talent at the receiver position, led by Canaan Severin and Anthony Cooper, both four-star prospects. Three prospects from the 757, Mario Nixon, Kyle Dockins and Jamall Brown are slotted at Wide Receiver as well. Also coming in this season is 2011 commit Adrian Gamble, who attended Fork Union Military Academy this year. Not many of these 2012 commits will see the field this year.
In every recruiting cycle, Mike London and his staff will look to add explosive, game-breaking talent at the Wide Receiver position. Virginia has already offered a bunch of wide receivers or "athletes" for the 2013 class. In fact, Virginia has a great chance to seal the deal with Andre Levrone, a talented prospect with several SEC offers, who is also a teammate of UVA commit Brendan Marshall. UVA was the first to offer Levrone, and if he is trying to keep his likely destination a secret, then he might want to change his twitter background. There are a lot of other Wide Receiver targets out there for the staff, but none seem close to a decision, and none besides Levrone seem to be leaning heavily toward UVA at this point either. Virginia will probably take two or more Wide Receiver commits for the 2013 class, as they usually do.
Current Depth Chart:
With starter Max Milien graduating, the Fullback position seems like a total crapshoot right now. Lovante Battle and Zack Swanson, who both have changed positions recently, will battle it out for the starting job in the spring. At Tight End, Colter Phillips, Paul Freedman and Jeremiah Mathis all return in 2012.
There were no 2012 commits at either position for UVA. It is pretty difficult to recruit players to play Fullback, as oftentimes fullbacks are converted from another position, like Running Back or Linebacker. If Zack Swanson ends up winning the starting job, that will solidify the position for the next three years. If not, UVA is going to have to try to address it through recruiting somehow. Virginia is likely to get a commitment at some point from Canadian Athlete Trent Corney, who could probably be slotted at Fullback if need be. Tight End is certainly a position of need going into this recruiting cycle. Phillips and Freedman will be out of the program after this season, leaving only Mathis on the roster at the position. In the past recruiting classes under London’s supervision, Virginia has not taken a commitment from a Tight End (Mathis was originally slotted as a Defensive End before making the transition to offense). The good news is that Virginia is the early favorite for Georgia Tight End prospect Arshad "A.J" Jackson, who could be a really nice addition to Lazor’s pro style attack. Jackson has offers from several SEC schools, and despite living in the heart of SEC country, Jackson has family in Virginia. The Cavaliers, led by Vincent Brown, has had a successful run recruiting in the Peach State as of late.
Current Depth Chart:
The strength of Virginia’s offense in 2011 was the play of an experience offensive line. UVA brings back starting Tackles Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi, as well as starting Right Guard Luke Bowanko. The Hoos do lose two solid starters in Center Anthony Mihota and Guard Austin "The Mullet" Pastzor. Sean Cascarano is penciled in at Left Guard to start Spring Practice, and Senior Matt Mihalik is expected to start at Center. UVA has a solid amount of depth on the Offensive Line, including backup tackles Kelby Johnson and Jay Whitmire, and reserve Guards Conner Davis and Cody Wallace. The 2012 class also adds four solid newcomers to the Offensive Line depth already established. All of the incoming First Years are expected to redshirt, as is usually the case with Offensive Line prospects.
Virginia has had a great track record with developing Offensive Linemen over the past decade, and that is always something the Coaching Staff can sell on the recruiting trail. The efforts of the staff have already paid off with an O-Line commit for the 2013 class. Sadiq Olanrewaju (I haven’t even tried to pronounce that one yet), an Offensive Tackle from New England, became Coach London’s second commit for the 2013 class on March 20th. It is safe to say that he won’t be the last Lineman brought in for the 2013 class. Virginia and Virginia Tech are locked in two in-state battles for O-Linemen already in this cycle. Braxton Pfaff from Lynchburg and Parker Osterloh from Williamsburg are expected to chose between the Hoos and Hokies at some point this spring, and both decisions could go either way at this point.
In conclusion, Virginia is set at Quarterback, will likely take a Running Back, possibly a Tight End, as well as a few Wide Receivers and Offensive Linemen for the 2013 cycle.