The Hoos brought in a big OL class last year (potentially 6 OLs), and 3 of them played as true freshman. Smith was likely not considered the top prospect of the bunch, but he's the only one who played extended minutes. In fact, he started the final 8 games of the season. Smith became just the 4th UVA true freshman to start at OT. The previous 3 (Brick, Brad Butler and the aforementioned Moses) were all drafted and ended up playing in the NFL. That's a good sign for Smith.
Last year, the Hoos had Morgan Moses at LT, but the RT position was a bit of a mess. Senior Sean Cascarano had been the incumbent, but he suffered an injury and was knocked out for the season. A few different players saw time at RT, including Cody Wallace, Jay Whitmire and Connor Davis. Finally, in the VMI game, Eric Smith saw some time there. Unlike his classmates (two of whom also played in that game), Smith was impressive enough that he stuck. He held his own as a true freshman starting at RT. He wasn't great, but he was good enough and Kevin Parks used that OL to rush for over 1000 yards. He was named to several freshman All-American teams (or honorable mention).
During the spring, Smith was perhaps the most established starter on the OL. He was a lock to start at one of the tackle positions. And then fall practice began. At the start, Smith was the #1 LT, especially with Whitmire dealing with a leg injury. Then, we saw Michael Mooney move there, with Sadiq Olanrewaju at RT. Then Sadiq got nicked up and Smith was back on the first team, but now at RT. The word from Coach Wachenheim is that Smith is more comfortable on the right side.
There has been a lot of rotation along the OL during this year's fall practice. At least 3 players have gotten first team snaps at C. Some guys have moved between many different positions. So, based on that, it is difficult to get any real read on how Smith has performed.
Were other guys getting first team snaps just because of the rotation, or was he moved down the depth chart because he wasn't performing? There's really no way to know. I guess we'll find out if Smith is on the field for the first snap against UCLA. My guess is that he will be.