CHARLOTTESVILLE — Thursday’s late football practice marked the end of two-a-day workouts at the University of Virginia, and it came on the heels of a Wednesday night scrimmage that inched the Cavaliers closer to an opening-day lineup.
“For the most part, I think all the concepts and schemes are in,” coach Mike London said.
To test that comprehension, the coaches stayed off the field during the scrimmage, forcing players to make their calls. Defensive coordinator Jim Reid said it’s tough to stay silent while he watches the younger players work.
“But on purpose we haven’t [interjected], because we want to force everyone to make their own decisions,” he said. “Once you get into an environment of 70,000 people screaming, with TV cameras all over the place, there’s sometimes the tendency to be distracted. That’s why you go to the stadium and make it as hard as you can for them.”
Players are settling into roles at several positions as camp winds down.
Running back: The running backs were the talk of the scrimmage, which was delayed briefly by a thunderstorm. Perry Jones and Kevin Parks rattled off big runs that were ended prematurely by the coach.
“I had a quick whistle on the running backs,” London said. “It should have been a 50- or 70-yard touchdown run, but I wanted to get more plays in. We had about 70 plays, which is about what you get in a game, so I wanted to simulate how you feel after that.”
It’s one of the team’s deepest positions, but also one with injury concerns. Backups Clifton Richardson and Khalek Shepherd sat out of workouts this week. London said Richardson has been fighting a hamstring injury all camp, but knows the offense well, so he’ll be able to jump back in when he’s healthy. Shepherd was slotted as one of the kickoff returners.
Cornerback: The all-Richmond battle between true freshman Maurice Canady (Varina) and Drequan Hoskey (Henrico) will end with Hoskey snagging the starting spot, Reid said.
Canady likely will find himself on the field in nickel packages, especially against teams that run a spread offense.
Defensive end: True freshman Courtnye Wynn was on crutches during the portion of practice open to the media. That doesn’t mean Wynn will redshirt, though, with London saying that Wynn might end up being needed at the position.
True freshmen Eli Harold and Mike Moore also will get a shot at making an immediate impact, while Trent Corney could be headed for a redshirt year. Corney, who drew raves for his size and speed at fullback, was moved to defensive end last week.
“He benched over 400 pounds the other day,” London said. “He had some guys looking at him cross-eyed.”
Quarterback: The camp’s most intriguing battle is the one the coaching staff is staying the quietest about.
Junior Michael Rocco has earned praise for his grasp of the offense and played a big role in Wednesday’s scrimmage. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a role for sophomore transfer Phillip Sims, but he’s running out of practices to win the starting job for the Richmond game.