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2017 Virginia football redshirt tracker: Two more freshmen see action in win over UCONN

Both burned shirts come on defense

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing like a big win over an FBS opponent to get your young guys some seasoning and experience. Virginia did a little bit of that in its 38-18 win over UConn, getting two more true freshman defenders onto the field for the first time in their careers.

2017 Redshirt Tracker

Number Name Position Game Burned
Number Name Position Game Burned
32 Darrius Bratton DB Boise State
38 Charles Snowden LB Boise State
43 Elliott Brown LB UCONN
98 John Kirven DL UCONN
33 Zane Zandier LB Indiana
25 Lamont Atkins TB William & Mary
26 PK Kier TB William & Mary
27 Jamari Peacock FB William & Mary
29 Joey Blount FS William & Mary
41 Germane Crowell CB William & Mary
56 Matt Gahm LB William & Mary
84 Terrell Jana WR William & Mary
89 Brian Delaney K William & Mary
91 Mandy Alonso DL William & Mary
95 A.J. Mejia PK William & Mary
36 Lindell Stone QB
54 Ryan Nelson OT
69 Chris Glaser OT
72 Tyler Fannin C
80 Shawn Smith WR
Andrew Yavinsky FB
Christian Pluchino ILB
Colin Dixon DL
Darnell Pratt WR
Davion Zeno WR
Donovan Rolle DB
Gerrik Vollmer OL
Harrison Turlington OLB
Hayden Mitchell WR
Isaac Buell DL
Riah Burton CB
Ryan Swoboda OL
Shane Eilers WR
T.J. Kitts QB
Tommy Christ DL
Tristan Hillerich QB

Defensive end John Kirven and outside linebacker Elliott Brown are the new faces on the Cavaliers defense. Kirven earned his number last week before the loss to Indiana, and Brown joins fellow freshmen Matt Gahm and Zane Zandier as linebackers to make an appearance in 2017.

The other change for freshmen this week is wide receiver Shawn Smith earning a jersey at Thursday practice.

Smith will wear #80, worn last year by fellow receiver Hasise Dubois.

The clock still ticks for quarterback Lindell Stone’s first appearance. Saturday sure looked like a prime opportunity, with Virginia enjoying a big lead late. While one ordinarily wouldn't want to burn a shirt until necessary, consider what playing Stone this year would do:

  • It is virtually certain that this is Kurt Benkert’s final season in Charlottesville. Stone is the heir apparent to be the starter next year. Playing time in zero-pressure situations this year would get him some real game experience before the snaps really count.
  • Wyatt Rector will join the program either in January (if he signs and enrolls early) or, like Stone, in summer school before 2018 fall camp. Transfer Matthew Merrick will also be eligible for next year and 2019.
  • Playing Stone this year means he would exhaust his eligibility in 2020 after (presumably) starting for three years. Redshirting Rector next year would extend Rector’s eligibility to 2022. Which would let the Hoos have 2 years of Benkert, 3 years of Stone, then 2 years of Rector.
  • Redshirting Stone this year reduces the options for multi-year starters. Even if Merrick starts both of the next two seasons (2018 and 2019), Stone would start 2020 and 2021, leaving Rector buried for most of his time at Virginia. Given that Rector is the only current/committed future Cavalier that could be classified as the “Thorterback” that Mendenhall wants, one would think the better plan is to get an experienced Rector on the field as early as possible.

There aren’t many apparent opportunities left on the schedule for Virginia to take and hold a comfortable lead. Which means few opportunities for the coaches to get Stone used to the taste of FBS competition before being thrown right into the crucible.