Jake McGee is listed third on the depth chart currently.
When the week of the first game arrives each season, one of the hottest topics always becomes the depth chart. After all, that first press conference represents the first official depth chart update since the conclusion of spring practice. That remained true at Virginia’s game week press conference Monday for BYU as several depth chart nuggets quickly caught the attention of fans and reporters alike.
The biggest eye-catcher on the latest depth chart (click here for the PDF) came at tight end where Zach Swanson and Rob Burns sit ahead of Jake McGee , who tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions last season with 5. Mike London said that different packages feature different players and that reading too much into the tight end order would be a mistake.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t put too much into that. I think what we’re doing is with the three tight ends that we have, obviously it’s about personnel – two tight ends in the game, 11 personnel, one tight end in the game, the tight end that’s in the game is not counted as a receiver. So I think you’ll see multiple sets with multiple personnel units in there, and trust me, Jake will play and play a lot. He’s one of our best players,” London said.
A preseason injury may have been one thing that may have left McGee third in the paper pecking order. He missed the start of practice in full pads with a shoulder injury that lingered through the first half of training camp.
“It was unfortunate that the injury issue occurred. … But it’s been progressively getting better and better. Jake has participated in the last three, four practices with full pads. His development continues to keep getting stronger, and as I said before, he’ll play. He’ll play in the game because he has a skill set that we definitely need,” London said. “But we’ve got to require our tight ends to block, and I think that Jake will get better at that. I think Zach [Swanson] and Rob Burns have done nice jobs when they’ve gone in, when their numbers have been called. But we’ll expect all three of those guys, that they’ll have an opportunity to play and help us.”
Other depth chart nuggets of interest:
- The starting offensive line from left to right: Morgan Moses, Luke Bowanko , Ross Burbank , Conner Davis , and Jay Whitmire . Burbank overtook Jackson Matteo , who had been listed as the starting center after the spring practice period.
- The second string offensive line from left to right: Sadiq Olanrewaju, Michael Mooney , Matteo, Cody Wallace , and Eric Smith . Mooney moved from tackle to guard, while Olanrewaju and Smith are true freshmen.
- Dominique Terrell is listed ahead of Khalek Shepherd at punt return, while Darius Jennings , Shepherd, and Taquan Mizzell are listed in that order at kickoff return. Mizzell is also listed behind Kevin Parks and Shepherd at running back.
- Ian Frye is the starter for both field goals and kickoffs.
- At defensive tackle, true freshman Donte Wilkins is listed behind Brent Urban , while Andrew Miles-Redmond is listed behind David Dean .
- At strong side linebacker, Demeitre Brim is in the first string spot while true freshman Zack Bradshaw is listed ahead of Mark Hall . Kwontie Moore and D.J. Hill are the other reserve linebackers behind Henry Coley and Daquan Romero .
- At cornerback, true freshman Tim Harris is listed as an “or” candidate with redshirt freshman Divante Walker behind starter Demetrious Nicholson . Also, redshirt freshman Kelvin Rainey is the second string strong safety behind Anthony Harris .
- Finally, one more true freshman is listed: Connor Wingo-Reeves at fullback behind Billy Skrobacz.
Certainly, the inclusion of seven true freshmen on the depth chart is interesting. Of note, some true freshmen made the paper depth chart last season but didn’t play, but London said. In terms of the two freshman offensive tackles, London said: “Will they have to play? We’ll see.” Overall, though, his message was clear – if a player is on the depth chart now, it is because he is currently believed to be the best option in that spot.
“There’s about seven freshmen that I think have put themselves in position to play in terms of depth or in terms of skill level, and we’ll try to get them as much time as needed to bring them along. It’s a long season, but at the same time we know all know that things happen to players, and you’re always an injury away from being the next guy in,” London said.
“I think you always go into it that the best players have an opportunity to play, and what we’re saying is as those back-ups are listed there, we’ve identified them as being the next best to go in,” London added later. “Obviously if games are close and they’re tight and guys have not gone in, as you get into the season, then perhaps you may re-evaluate that. But going into the season now, as is listed, whoever can help us win, then we’ll run the depth chart as you see it.”
The Hassle With Hoffman
With game week finally here for the first game, a lot of questions Monday focused on BYU. One Cougar that could present a major challenge is receiver Cody Hoffman, a 6’4″, 210-pound senior. He needs 19 receptions, 538 yards receiving, and 3 receiving touchdowns to become BYU’s all-time record holder in those categories. Hoffman needs four 100-yard receiving games to take over the lead on that list. With 942 yards, he’ll become BYU’s all-time all-purpose yards leader.
Hoffman’s totals to date are impressive: 203 receptions, 2,718 yards, and 28 receiving touchdowns. He holds the school record for receiving touchdowns in a single game with 5. Hoffman made the preseason watch list for the 2013 Biletnikoff Award, given to the most outstanding receiver in college football.
“He’s another talented player, and obviously we think [Demetrious Nicholson ] is talented as well, But sometimes you may just look up and look at the match-up that you want to create and throw the ball out that way,” UVa coach Mike London said. “Again with coverages and how we assist Tra or whoever, even if it’s [DreQuan] Hoskey or Maurice Canady , how we assist him is a game plan that Jon [Tenuta] and the game coaches have [to come up with] for this talented player.”
Virginia safety Anthony Harris said Wake Forest and Virginia Tech had taller receivers that attacked the ball in the air, but that he hasn’t seen a player exactly like Hoffman.
“He has great size, great speed, great ability. He goes up and gets the ball and is very physical,” Harris said. “That’s what we work for in the offseason. We train hard, lift weights, run, and try to improve our skills as well. We’re going to go out there and give it everything we got.”
The Beard Team?
Most of Virginia’s starting offensive linemen each have sported varying types of beards this preseason during interviews with the media. Morgan Moses and Ross Burbank each have fluffy beards with no moustache, while Luke Bowanko and Conner Davis have well-kept, full mountaineer style beards. The lone exception is apparently Jay Whitmire .
“Jay Whitmire is the pretty boy of the offensive line,” Burbank said jokingly. “He can grow a beard. He just sometimes likes to have the clean cut look going on. That’s more his style.”
Jake Snyder led the defensive line with 44 tackles in 2012.
Virginia seniors Jake Snyder , Luke Bowanko , and Rijo Walker will serve as captains this season. All three will represent the Hoos at the pregame coin toss each week. A fourth Cavalier from the team’s leadership council, which was formed this offseason, will join the trio each week.
Bowanko joked on Monday with reporters that he is the good cop to Snyder’s bad cop.
“Jake Snyder , walking around with gray streaks in his hair at 22, I kind of let him deal with all the discipline stuff and I’m the good cop,” Bowanko said with a grin. “Obviously I play that up much more than it actually is true. I get guys believing that he’s the big, hard guy.”
Snyder said Bowanko isn’t just acting like a good cop all the time.
“Luke likes to take a lot of credit for being the good guy and likes to think of himself as a nice guy, but when it comes down to it he’s an enforcer as well. He’s a guy that’s looking out for the well being of the team,” Snyder said. “If someone is out of line, he’s going bring them back in line just like any other captains or seniors or older guys on the team will.”
- The game Saturday kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU. The game is available on satellite radio channels Sirius 132 and XM 192.
- The coaches on the field for Virginia will be Mike London, Larry Lewis, Vincent Brown, Marques Hagans, Anthony Poindexter, Chip West, and Scott Wachenheim as well as graduate assistants Jonathan Lewis and Tommy Reamon. The coaches in the pressbox will be Tom O’Brien, Jon Tenuta, and Steve Fairchild as well as graduate assistants Mike Saint Germain and Jacob Hodges.
- Virginia owns a 2-1 edge in the all-time series with BYU, which dates back to the 1987 All American Bowl.
- Virginia is one of four FBS schools with three assistant coaches that have been an FBS or FCS head coach.
- The Hoos own a 73-19-7 (.773) record in home season openers and have won 16 of their last 19 openers in Scott Stadium.