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Attention shifts to Virginia’s young players in pre-bowl scrimmage

- - Saturday, December 24, 2011

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A midseason tradition for the Cavaliers was moved to the postseason this year, and on a Friday early in December, Virginia's lesser-known players got the spotlight.

The annual scrimmage, known as the Weenie Bowl, featured freshman and scout-team players who haven't received a lot of playing time over the course of the season.

For 20 minutes they get a chance to show their stuff on the field. This time, though, they got a week of coaching beforehand.

U.Va. coach Mike London gave his starters the week off after the season ended and focused practice time on development for the young players who will be part of the team's future.

Their work was evident in the scrimmage, those who were there said.

"That was the best Weenie Bowl since I've been here," running back Perry Jones said. "Even better than the one I played in. There were a lot of big plays out there. Jake McGee [a redshirt freshman from Collegiate] made a lot of big plays. I was impressed."

London said he didn't want to pick favorites --- he might forget somebody --- but saluted the performance of the linemen.

Left tackle Oday Aboushi said it was fun to be on the other side of the experience now that he's a veteran.

"You look back on it and think, 'Oh, I played in that game too,'" he said. "There's definitely a lot of talent behind the people we already have here. They're young, but they have big hearts, and they're willing to learn."

After the scrimmage, those players took a back seat again as bowl preparations got underway. London installed the game plan for Auburn early, wanting to complete that work before the Cavs arrived in Atlanta, which they will do tomorrow.

All the players will travel to the bowl, though, and will have their Christmas haul brightened because of it.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl is allowed to give the players a gift basket, with the NCAA capping its value at $550.

This year's gifts include a watch, ski cap, football and Chick-fil-A gift card. There's also a $250 gift card --- organizers originally said it would be to Best Buy, but after consulting with the players, changed that to a Visa gift card.

On top of a Weenie Bowl appearance, that makes a good December for the team's younger players.

Read Michael Phillips‘ Virginia blog at timesdispatch.com