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Highlights from Virginia’s spring football festival

Jordan Ellis emerges as focal point of rushing attack

Miami v Virginia Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers football team held its final practice of the 2017 spring in front of a few thousand loyal (and sweaty) fans at Scott Stadium on Saturday.

And here’s write-up coverage from around the Commonwealth. Running back Jordan Ellis got plenty of ink in his favor, and it sounds like quarterback Kurt Benkert has taken a big step forward from 2016.

Doug Doughty, Roanoke Times:

Maybe the biggest revelation was junior Jordan Ellis, a seldom-used running back in 2016 who was maybe best known for his preseason conditioning, which earned him the No. 1 spot in balloting for jersey numbers.

Ellis, who finished the 2016 season with 14 carries for 65 yards, gained that much yardage on one touchdown run early in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Ellis had the looks of an inside runner last year at a listed 5-11 and 220 pounds, but he looks surprisingly sleek this spring at a listed 5-11, 225.

Mike Barber, Richmond Times-Dispatch:

It was the U.Va. offense, and especially junior tailback Jordan Ellis, who left the lasting impression of the spring’s last workout. In front of a few thousand fans, Ellis and fellow tailbacks Daniel Hamm, Lamont Atkins and Jamari Peacock had one of their best days of the month.

“They’re all monsters,” senior quarterback Kurt Benkert said. “They’re all really good players, and they don’t really get stopped on first contact.”

Andrew Ramspacher, Daily Progress:

Jordan Ellis pushed the pile a couple yards before the pile finally collapsed near the goal line. The Virginia running back, a junior who’s built a reputation on a tireless work ethic while a Cavalier, immediately got to his feet and began making a spooning motion with his right hand.

Ellis was facing the sideline, alerting the offensive coaches he was still hungry. Feed me, he told them.

David Hall, Virginian-Pilot:

On several occasions this spring, [Benkert] has sprinted for the edge and found himself there much more quickly than he expected. That’s the result of the 10-12 pounds he shed through winter workouts.

By studying Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers, he has sought ways to extend plays without leaving the pocket.

There are, Benkert said, no ways to truly replicate pocket presence – hence the high number of reps.

It is, he said, working.

Jerry Ratcliffe, Daily Progress:

Benkert never left the field Saturday, other than to watch a few punts and extra points. He felt good about his spring and the practice although he was disappointed in not hitting any of the big pass plays that have been normal for UVa’s practices this month. Still, he was pleased that he converted numerous third down passes in tough situations.

Sporting a new haircut, and looking svelte after dropping 10 pounds since last season, Benkert said he hasn’t felt this good in a long time. He was recovering from a knee injury last spring, his last at East Carolina, before transferring to Virginia. His shoulder injury (non-throwing arm) that caused him some anxious moments last season for the Cavaliers, is now healed.

Virginia opens the 2017 season on Saturday, September 2, at home against William & Mary.