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Virginia’s cornerback battle offers most intrigue early in camp

True freshman making his push as competition for jobs heats up

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A week of open practices came to a close at Virginia with a day of direct competition at several key positions.

The quarterback battle has been well-documented, and the Cavaliers' search for a kicker continued, but it was the cornerback position that turned heads in Week 1.

Henrico's Drequan Hoskey, a sophomore, entered as the favorite for the spot opposite Demetrious Nicholson. He's been pushed by a true freshman, Varina's Maurice Canady, who was slotted with the first-team defense in Saturday's workouts.

The coaching staff likes the upside the 6-foot-2 Canady provides, and has him rooming in training camp with Nicholson, a player who started as a true freshman.

"I'm always asking him about stuff, and he's giving me good answers," Canady said. "It's about adjusting to the speed and the quickness."

Hoskey felt he struggled out of the gate, saying "my mind wasn't right" during the opening workouts, but added he's back to feeling good — something his play backed up.

Neither is likely to get shut out entirely, as the Wahoos will use plenty of three-corner sets during the season.

For the quarterbacks, the headlining portion of the open practice was a late-game drill with the clock set to 1:20. The drill featured a majority of short passes, but David Watford scrambled out of the pocket on a fourth down and hit James Valerias for a long reception.

Phillip Sims and Michael Rocco continued to provide steady play under center, and coach Mike London said he'll turn up the heat in Week 2 to provide separation at all the position battles. Currently only 50 to 60 percent of the playbook is being used.

"Next week, we'll load them up," London said. "We've got to start moving in the direction of getting guys ready to play soon."

The coach switched venues for Saturday's practice, moving it to Scott Stadium. The emphasis was on special teams, and a sizable portion was dedicated to field goals in the stadium environment.

Drew Jarrett and Ian Frye each went 5 for 8, and both converted two of their three kicks from 50 yards and beyond.

The punting portion belonged to Alec Vozenilek. The sophomore from St. Christopher's earned a vote of confidence from London, who said he would be the pick if the season started today, but he emphasized that the competition would remain open for now.

Note: Camp has been relatively injury-free so far. Tight end Jake McGee (Collegiate) has sat out with a leg injury, and running back Clifton Richardson has also missed time, but London expects both to be at full strength before games roll around. ... Sims had a brief scare in a running drill Friday when he tweaked his hamstring, but didn't miss any time and was at full strength Saturday.

Read more about the Cavaliers at Times-Dispatch.com

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