CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The skies were gray at Virginia's practice Tuesday, but the mood was nothing of the sort.
Coach Mike London had just received a commitment from five-star running back Taquan Mizzell, the depth chart is beginning to solidify and practices are starting to look more like football games.
In fact, the Cavaliers were using Tuesday's practice to prepare for a key ACC test that awaits in Week 3, when they play at Georgia Tech. Last year's victory against the Yellow Jackets was attributed, in part, to coming off a bye week and having extra time to prepare.
That won't be the case this time around, but London has given his coordinators portions of practice time to allot as they see fit, and each of the first three opponents has been covered at some point.
"You fit in an opportunity for the coaches and players to practice against the screen, so when you go into a game week, it's not the first time you do so," London said. "We've practiced against a 3-4 defense a few times, and we'll do it again, then get a little bit more tuned in this weekend as we start doing the Richmond game plan."
Along with that game plan will be a final depth chart. Most of the position battles have been settled at this point, though some decisions won't be made public until Monday or later.
Special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter confirmed that St. Christopher's grad Alec Vozenilek will punt in the opener, but said the kicking battle between Ian Frye and Drew Jarrett remains unresolved.
At the position of top intrigue right now, quarterback, London hinted that the team might find out who the starter is "when that guy takes the first snap under the first-team center."
He was highly complimentary of junior Michael Rocco in his comments about their work so far, though.
"There's about 13 practices left, but Mike has command of the offense right now. He's been in it for two years," the coach said.
Of transfer Phillip Sims, he said: "We've got a guy who's had 16 or 17 practices to learn an entire offense. We'll go as long as it takes to come out of this thing with a fair and objective evaluation, to do what's best for the team and best for the individuals."
London said practices are being structured to give Rocco, Sims and David Watford time with the first-teamers. Barring injury or another major change, true freshmen Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns will redshirt.
London wasn't able to comment on Mizzell's commitment, but the decreased media presence gave a hint that something big was happening elsewhere.
Mizzell, a running back, became the first five-star recruit to pick the Wahoos in eight years. About 20 players nationally are given the five-star designation by the Rivals recruiting service each year.
Recruits can't sign a binding letter of commitment until February, which is when the coaching staff can comment publicly.
Note: Virginia's official website yesterday said that fewer than 1,500 tickets are available for the Sept. 8 game against Penn State, which will kick off at noon and be televised nationally on ABC.
Read more about the Cavaliers at TimesDispatch.com