Tim Smith (orange jersey) leads as talented a group of WR as Virginia has had in a long time.
Previous UVA Football* Quarterbacks
* Running Backs
Over the past 20 years or so, the Hoos have had a number of very talented WRs. From Herman Moore to Billy McMullen, from Germane Crowell to Kevin Ogletree. Most recently, Kris Burd was busy writing his name all over the career record book.
Kris Burd is gone as is last year's other starting WR, Matt Snyder. Despite the loss of those two players, and obviously not having any of the above mentioned names, there is probably more pure talent at WR on this team than there has been in the past 20 years.
The Hoos return last year's 2nd leading receiver, in junior Tim Smith. Smith also led the team in yards per reception (by a wide margin), showing how much of a big play guy he can be. While he will still look to make the big play, Smith is also going to have to step into the #1 WR spot and run more short and intermediate routes. Smith is going to be the guy to run the 8 yard out on 3rd and 7.
After the jump, we'll look at the rest of the WR corps.
Behind Tim Smith are all underclassmen. There isn't a single WR expected to see the field, other than Tim Smith, past his 2nd year of eligibility. The projected starter opposite Smith is true sophomore Darius Jennings. Jennings showed flashes last year, but had trouble at times with release and route running. Neither of those things is surprising for a true freshman learning a new position. Jennings finished with 20 catches on the season, for 238 yards and a TD. The TD, you may recall, was a 53 yard WR screen against Miami (13 seconds in). Jennings finished out the season on a high note, with 4 catches against Auburn. The difference between Jennings' play in last year's opener and the bowl game was tremendous. Big things are expected from Jennings this season.
Behind Jennings on the depth chart is another true sophomore, Dominique Terrell. Like Jennings, Terrell was learning how to play WR, after being a QB in high school. Terrell's freshman campaign was very much like Jennings, but he seemed a step behind Jennings at every point. Terrell finished the season with 8 receptions for 59 yards and a TD. Terrell's TD was also on a screen, and this one was the game winner against Idaho. Terrell also spent much of the season as the primary punt returner, a role where he was basically terrible. He didn't look a whole lot better in the spring game, although he looked much more comfortable playing WR. Terrell will likely see a lot of time in the slot, and should wind up with a lot more than 8 catches this year.
Smith's backup is another converted QB, Miles Gooch. Gooch is a vastly different player to the other guys, as he is 6'3" and 220 pounds. Smith, at 6'0" and 180 lbs is actually the bigger than Jennings or Terrell. Gooch hasn't seen the field much, but looked good in the spring game and appears ready to make his mark. He should be able to use his size to go over the middle and make tough catches. He is also very athletic for his size, and would be a load for a CB to bring down. Because of the different look he provides, Gooch should get plenty of looks. He is still a bit on the raw side, and he still needs to learn how to get open.
Amazingly, we aren't done. Sophomore E.J. Scott spent most of his time on special teams last year, prior to getting hurt and missing the final 8 games. Scott looked decent as a KR and looks ready to break out in offense this year. Scott has a similar game to Tim Smith, but isn't as refined yet. He's a tall, fluid runner, and has shown good hands. Because of the depth ahead of him, he may not see the field much on offense, but he has the ability to excel once he does. (EJ Scott changed his number from 84 to 19).
Despite all that talent we've already discussed, there are a couple of true freshman fighting for playing time. The top contender there is Canaan Severin. At 6'2" and 210 pounds, Severin is bigger than most of our other WRs (with Gooch being the obvious exception). In fall practice, Severin has been catching everything thrown to him, going up, over, and through the DBs to make some impressive grabs. Despite Gooch's potential, he's still raw and Severin is more polished. If Gooch struggles, look for Severin to pick up the role of the bigger WR. Severin's size would be a huge weapon in the red zone. I do not expect Severin to redshirt.
That is 6 WRs I've mentioned, and that doesn't include a couple of other freshmen. Adrian Gamble just spent a season at Fork Union Military Academy, which is pretty much a redshirt season. He may be ready to play, but I simply don't see the playing time being available for him. He's on the bigger side, at 6'1", but likely needs to put on some muscle before he'll see the field.
Mario Nixon, Kyle Dockins and Jamall Brown are all true freshmen who are almost definite redshirt candidates. It isn't that they aren't ready to play, it's just that there isn't room for them on the depth chart.
Yes, there is a ton of WR talent on this team. Combined with the talent at RB, the skill positions are well-stocked for this year and the next 3. If these guys play up to their ability, and the QBs are able to find them, it's going to be an exciting year for the Hoos offense.