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Virginia football opens spring practice with lots of changes

Players bulk up, switch positions

NCAA Football: Virginia at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Spring football practice started today for UVa, and lots has changed from last year.

For one, there were guys in orange and blue—a change from the all-black practice gear look from 2016.

Coach Mendenhall also discussed players getting bigger and stronger as the main focus of off-season conditioning.

Players have changed positions on both sides of the ball. On offense:

Those players, with their 2017 year and 2016 height/weight, are:

  • Jake Fieler (JR, 6’5, 305) moving from offensive tackle to center
  • Trenton Jenkins (Rs SO, 6’6, 300) moving from offensive tackle to offensive guard
  • Osiris Crutchfield (SO, 6’3, 260) switching from defensive line to offensive tackle
  • Tanner Cowley (Rs SO, 6’4, 230) moving from wide receiver to tight end
  • Alec Shifflett (SR, 6’2, 235) moving from defensive line to fullback

Especially with the offensive line, formal positions are pretty fluid. The additions of three graduate transfers could shake things up again before fall practice, but it looks like these moves may be setting up for Brandon Pertile and Colin McGovern to start at the tackle positions.

And on the other side of the ball:

  • Reed Kellam (Rs SO, 6’1, 230) moving from outside linebacker to inside
  • Naji Abdullah (Rs SO, 6’5, 260) moving from defensive end to outside linebacker
  • Myles Robinson (JR, 5’11, 195) moving from cornerback to free safety
  • Juan Thornhill (JR, 6’1, 195) moving from corner to strong safety

Crutchfield switching sides of the ball is fairly notable, but the headline news is the new safeties. Robinson was a revelation at corner early before his season was cut short, and Thornhill was an impact corner for most of the year, winning ACC Defensive Back of the Week after snagging two interceptions in the win at Duke.

There’s a great album of pictures from the first practice on the football team’s Facebook page. Some of the best are below.

The running backs rehearse the Cossack dance scene from Fiddler on the Roof
Mmmmm, donuts!
Getting an early start on beating the over-under for the season