clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Exclusive notes from UVA football’s open scrimmage

Detailing the depth chart, who stood out, and what Tony Elliott emphasized a week out from the season opener.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Athletics

The Virginia Cavaliers football team held an open scrimmage for students to attend yesterday afternoon. Naturally, as the resident student beat writer, I figured this would be a pretty good opportunity to go and collect some useful intel as we get closer to the season opener next Saturday.

Notably, this was a situational scrimmage for the Wahoos. So the team was split into two with the scout team (largely third, fourth, and fifth stringers) on one side of the field and the ones and twos on the other side. Tony Elliott and his staff dictated the situation of every play prior to the snap, disregarding what actually occurred on the previous play in order to get the team comfortable with executing the ins and outs of any possible situation they could run into on game day.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t players who flashed or valuable insights gleaned from what went on between the lines. Read on for a full breakdown.

Depth Chart

There are still a number of players yet to return from injury, so this shouldn’t be taken as gospel for UVA’s depth chart heading into the game against Tennessee. But this is what I could get down for the two-deep on offense and defense.

(N/A indicates that the player first player took all the reps)


QB: Tony Muskett, Anthony Colandrea

RB: Perris Jones, Mike Hollins, Kobe Pace, Jack Griese

WR: Malachi Fields, JR Wilson

WR (slot): Malik Washington, Suderian Harrison

WR: Demick Starling, Ethan Davies

TE: Sackett Wood, Grant Misch

LT: Ugonna Nnanna, NA

LG: Noah Josey, NA

C: Ty Furnish, NA

RG: Noah Hartsoe, Jestus Johnson

RT: Blake Steen, Charlie Patterson


DE/Bandit: Kam Butler, Paul Akere

DT: Aaron Faumui, Michael Diatta

NT: Jahmeer Carter, Olasunkomi Agunloye

DE: Ben Smiley, Bryce Carter

MIKE: James Jackson, Kam Robinson

WILL: Josh Ahern, Stevie Bracey

SPUR: Tayvonn Kyle, Aidan Ryan

Cornerback: Coen King, Dre Walker

Cornerback: Malcolm Greene, Sam Westfall

Strong Safety: Lex Long, Micah Gafney

Free Safety: Jonas Sanker, Dave Herard

Special Teams

Place Kicker: Will Bettridge

Kickoff: Matt Ganyard

Kick Return: Demick Starling

Punt return: Suderian Harrison, Ethan Davies

Hold: Jared Rayman

Punt: Daniel Sparks

Notable players who didn’t participate due to injury

RB: Xavier Brown (elbow)

WR: Jaden Gibson, Dakota Twitty (hamstring)

OT: Jimmy Christ, McKale Boley (ankle)

OG: Brian Stevens

DE/Bandit: Chico Bennett (knee)

S: Antonio Clary (high ankle sprain)



  • Freshman receiver Suderian Harrison is special. He scored two touchdowns on the day, one on a nice seam route for a 30-yard score and another on a punt/safety return. He’s got wheels and knows how to use them. A really nice backup option for Malik Washington in the slot who I’m sure the offense could use in creative ways. They used him on an end around at one point and he picked up a first down.
  • Perris Jones and Mike Hollins both looked good. Obviously it’s against the third stringers, but they found holes well and each had multiple 10+ yard runs in the first half of the scrimmage before sitting the rest of the time.
  • Elliott and the offensive staff clearly like Kobe Pace’s pass catching/pass blocking abilities out of the backfield. He was used in multiple short clock drives. Could be the team’s third down back to start the season.
  • Malachi Fields had an absurd one-handed catch with his left hand on the left sideline to start the scrimmage. From my vantage point he had at least one foot in, possibly two. He and Muskett are on the same page.
  • Demick Starling had a nice return on the opening kickoff, making it to the 30 despite a good kick and decent coverage. Starling starting over JR Wilson on the outside is notable. He didn’t have any catches from my memory, but the first team receivers also didn’t get a ton of reps.
  • Malik Washington looks like a very capable slot receiver to provide some easy completions for Tony Muskett. The starting QB consistently looked for him across the middle when nothing else was open.
  • This isn’t news, but UVA’s tight ends definitely provide more in the running game than the passing game. Wood and Misch both seemed to miss-time routes on the few targets they got.
  • Ethan Davies had a few nice catches when the second team receivers were out there. If he’s anything, he’s sure-handed.
  • The offensive line largely stayed consistent personnel-wise throughout the scrimmage, a sign that the staff is trying to establish some familiarity. But the injuries to the group are limiting that. McKale Boley, Jimmy Christ, Brian Stevens, and Houston Curry were all just running laps through practice. Boley and Christ are the team’s starting tackles, and Stevens is likely an option to start at left guard. Ideally they’ll all be back to full health relatively soon so the group can gain experience playing together.
  • With that said, the players who were in at offensive line looked perfectly respectable against the scout team. How much that means is uncertain, but it’s better than the alternative and suggests the team has at least some playable depth. I like Ugonna Nnanna’s guard/tackle versatility.


  • The defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage against the scout team (wearing blue). Just about every attempted run play for the blue team was blown up at or behind the line of scrimmage.
  • Antonio Clary being out meant there was some movement among UVA’s first team linebackers and safeties. Despite moving to linebacker this offseason, Lex Long played strong safety in Clary’s absence with Josh Ahern and James Jackson starting at linebacker. Tayvonn Kyle took the third corner/fifth defensive back spot. It will be interesting to see how John Rudzinski deploys his personnel when/if everybody is healthy. Does Long take one of the starting linebacker jobs with Clary back at strong safety? Would be play as the SPUR/slot and provide a more physical presence in the box than Kyle? Having a variety of players to fit in various spots is a nice problem to have.
  • King and Greene starting on the outside is a solid combo. Both looked smooth when they were out there yesterday. The scout team couldn’t get much of anything going outside the hashes. Long term, they’re an experienced and talented duo who provide a nice combo physicality and speed.
  • Unless others subbed in and I didn’t catch it, Kam Robinson and Stevie Bracey got all the second team linebacker reps. I’m not absolutely certain where they each lined up. What did stick out was that Robinson was consistently around the ball when he was on the field. He’s probably still a little ways from making a tangible impact on game days, but he’s not far.

Special Teams/Other

  • Tony Muskett practiced a quick kick at one point around the 40-yard line. Didn’t like the decision to do that against Duke last year, and I don’t love the idea of doing that again. 30ish yards (at absolute best) of field positioning is rarely worth it on a gettable fourth down. But I yield.
  • Harrison and Davies split reps as the white team’s punt returner. The staff clearly trusts Davies to not make mistakes, although Harrison has more big play potential.
  • Matt Ganyard has a leg folks. He booted a kickoff a solid 70 yards down the field. He had one kick in particular that reached the goal-line but stayed in the air long enough that the kick coverage team first made contact with the scout team returner at the 10-yard line. It seems like he will be kicking off for UVA this fall. Although Will Bettridge did come in when the ‘Hoos practiced onsides kicks.
  • Bettridge hit his extra points, but struggled on field goals. Off the top of my head he was 1-for-4 on the evening on field goals, although the three misses were all from outside 40 yards. But they were all short, one of which was a potential “game-winner.” I’m curious how fast the staff would give Ganyard a shot if Bettridge struggles in game.
  • Tony Elliott was quick to get on his players for any mishaps or moments of lacking attention, even calling out starters on the sideline for not keeping their eyes locked on the field. He kept emphasizing the importance of the details in every aspect of the scrimmage. Sure, some of it was coach speak. But his background as a coach who has won national championships was obvious, and his commitment to the minutiae was notable throughout the practice.

Stay tuned to Streaking the Lawn for further updates as we get closer and closer to the start of the 2023 Virginia football season!