The Virginia Cavaliers football team has released its depth chart heading into Saturday’s home opener against the Tennessee Volunteers. Read on for full thoughts and analysis on each position group on the two-deep.
There isn’t too much new to glean from the offensive depth chart, but there are a number of confirmations for players who have stood out in fall camp and what we learned from last Friday’s open scrimmage.
Self-explanatory here. Muskett’s the one, Colandrea’s the two. After that it gets messy, but those two are a solid first two quarterbacks for this program to rely on.
As expected, Perris Jones is the top back for the ‘Hoos but with Mike Hollins and Kobe Pace close behind. Those three project to get the bulk of the snaps to start the season, but don’t count out walk-on Jack Griese from getting a few carries here and there.
Malachi Fields, Malik Washington, and Demick Starling are a solid group of starters, but there’s some really nice depth in the two-deep. JR Wilson could probably start and not miss a beat, while Jaden Gibson and Suderian Harrison are a pair of true freshmen that have clearly stood out in practice and should add some really nice speed to complement the size of Fields, Starling, and Wilson. Can’t help but love to see the young guns on the first depth chart of their career.
Sackett Wood over Grant Misch is interesting considering Misch’s experience, but Wood had more success particularly in the passing game last fall and has presumably followed that up in fall camp in 2023. They’ll probably receive a similar number of snaps, though.
This is where things get interesting. McKale Boley and Brian Stevens are healthy and predictably starting at left tackle and right guard. Ty Furnish is the guy at center with Jestus Johnson now focused on playing guard. Jimmy Christ is still coming back from injury, however, which means Ugonna Nnanna is starting in Christ’s spot at right tackle instead of his (likely) spot at left guard. That bumps Noah Josey into the starting spot left of Furnish, where he flashed at times last fall.
It’s not ideal for this group to be dealing with so many injuries and different players playing different positions. But Boley and Stevens being back is big, and with Christ’s return coming soon that should mean that the starting group can start to build some chemistry in the early season.
Chico Bennett being out (he’ll likely be back next week) means that Kam Butler shifts over to BANDIT and Ben Smiley fills in for him at defensive end. Butler will likely be the starter there when Bennett returns to play BANDIT with Paul Akere backing Bennett up and Smiley providing a great option behind Butler.
Meanwhile, Jahmeer Carter returns to his starting spot at nose tackle alongside Aaron Faumui at defensive tackle. They’re a good combo to have on the interior defensive line. It’ll be up to ‘Su Agunloye and Michael Diatta to provide playable depth behind them.
Antonio Clary is a game time decision for the ‘Hoos, which could determine the starters in the back of the Wahoo defense. For now, Josh Ahern and James Jackson are the starters at linebacker with true freshman Kam Robinson impressively the backup middle linebacker. Josh Ahern might be replaced by Lex Long when Clary is healthy, but he starts for now with Stevie Bracey his backup on the outside.
Coen King has the outside left corner job locked down with true freshman Dre Walker as the fourth true freshman on the two-deep. The right side is apparently still up in the air a pair of transfers Sam Westfall and Malcolm Greene listed there. Greene took the first team reps in last week’s scrimmage, but we’ll have to wait til Saturday for an answer.
Lex Long might’ve moved to linebacker this offseason, but he’s listed at strong safety to kick of the season in Clary’s absence. Should Clary play on Saturday Long may move to linebacker or SPUR. Jonas Sanker should be the season-long starter at free safety, although Dave Herard had a highlight tackle in the backfield in the scrimmage last Friday so the veteran could provide a nice backup option there.
Tayvonn Kyle is slotted to be the starting SPUR (which is a third safety/nickel corner/fifth defensive back). He’s slightly smaller than some of UVA’s other DBs, so playing him in the slot makes sense. Aidan Ryan is a very playable option behind him, and Long could bump down there depending on how John Rudzinski wants to use him when Clary is healthy.
Will Bettridge is slated to be Virginia’s place kicker with Matt Ganyard taking on kick off duties. Depending on Bettridge’s performance, Ganyard could get a shot place kicking as well. Vadin Bruot would be the emergency backup should they both go down.
Daniel Sparks, a preseason All-ACC selection, is one of the team’s best players relative to the rest of the country at his position. He’s the guy with Elijah Slibeck the backup.
I’m somewhat surprised the staff isn’t going to throw Suderian Harrison into the fire as the punt returner, but they probably want to be able to completely trust him before putting him back there. Ethan Davies is sure-handed, doesn’t make mistakes, and can find a hole if it’s there. He’s a reliable punt returner while Harrison has game-changing speed if the ‘Hoos need a big play.
Starling and Washington make sense as the kickoff returners. They’ve each got speed for days but are experienced enough to know when to push it and when not to overdo it.
Snap & hold
The ever-trusty Jared Rayman is on holding duties once again this season while Aidain Livingston returns to his duties as the long snapper with Luke Byrne as an inexperienced backup.