Entering his third year in Charlottesville, wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. is preparing to take on a new, more significant role for the Virginia Cavaliers. After an impressive true freshman campaign in 2020 when he caught 20 passes for 515 yards and five touchdowns, the South Carolina native missed the 2021 season due to an ACL injury but now opens his third year with a more team-focused mindset.
“Looking from the outside in last year made me appreciate the leaders on the team,” said Davis after UVA’s first fall camp on Wednesday. He wen on to emphasize that, this season, “I’m trying to be one of those leaders. When things are going bad, even though it’s hard, try to pump positivity out. Try to say ‘let’s keep going guys we got this.’”
The 6’7” receiver mentioned that “when I started playing as a freshman I was just worried about doing my part, focusing on myself, making plays and this and that,” but, now, he’s more aware that “it’s bigger than me. It’s about the team.”
Davis Jr. also pointed out how his injury has made him approach the game itself differently as well. He said that he’s “not taking any reps for granted,” and “just really being hard on myself and worrying about all the details.” He mentioned that “I know film is really important for me. The eye in the sky don’t lie,” so “every time I get a snap I’m thinking about the little details and pushing myself because I know it’s going to be on film.”
After day one of fall camp, Davis Jr. acknowledged the overwhelming positives along with the understanding that there’s always room to grow. “There were some plays I should’ve [made] out there,” he said, “but it was just good to get through the day and finish the day out strong. The main thing, my leg got through it. I really pushed myself as hard as I could and my leg held up.”
Beyond that, the Public Policy major said that “I was really just enjoying [practice] with my teammates. Even the challenges, even the struggles, I’m enjoying having practice. I really love the game. I’m really happy and thankful to be back out there and running routes full speed. So it was a good day.”
Tony Elliott similarly appreciated how far Davis Jr. has come even since the spring. “I didn’t notice him, which was a good thing,” said the head Wahoo. “If I notice a guy and I’m calling a guy out that’s probably not a good thing. But I didn’t notice Lavel. He was doing what he was supposed to do. He was getting lined up. He was giving good effort.”
Elliott also specifically recognized that Davis Jr. “was trying to do the little things in the individual [drills]. I noticed that he was catching the ball and trying to finish and burst. So you can see he’s in a different head space than he was [in the spring]. So hopefully that means he’s back to 100%,” considering that “the fact that I didn’t have to get on him, didn’t notice him [in a bad way] tells me that he’s in a good place both physically and mentally.”
Davis Jr. himself added that he likes Elliott’s coaching style and his willingness to get on his players if they aren’t performing how he expects them to. “He’s a great coach,” emphasized the wideout. “I like coaches who are hard on me. I don’t like sugarcoating. I like coaches who are going to tell you what you might not want to hear. Who are going to light a fire under you. [Wide receivers] Coach Hagans and Coach Elliott are just like that.” Beyond that, Davis Jr. also finds incredible value in the fact that Elliott has “been around so many great receivers. So I’m just trying to soak everything in and really giving it everything I got.”
With the season opener for UVA less than a month away, the prospect of a new and improved Lavel Davis Jr. who’s adopted a leadership role should be a scary prospect for opposing teams. With him back to full health, the talent among the Wahoo skill position players is the highest it’s been in a while and with Elliott challenging his guys everyday there’s no telling how good this offense could be this season.