Christian Olsen and the Cavaliers had their first practice in full pads Saturday.
After opening practice on Wednesday, the Virginia football team held its first practice in full pads on Saturday. The session lasted nearly 3 hours and moved at quick pace with position drills, head-to-head competitions between the offense and defense, and scrimmage-style situations all on the docket.
Things moved very efficiently throughout the day and all of the coaches – new or otherwise – were obviously excited to be back at it. For the players, it was business as usual.
“It’s pretty much the same. We’re doing the same stuff. The first two days are the same; the first two days without pads and today was the first day with pads,” senior Marcus Hamilton said. “It’s not much different. It’s just another day of practice, going out there trying to learn and get better and help the young guys out and form as a team.”
Four players stood out in the receiver slots Saturday. As should be expected, seniors Fontel Mines and Deyon Williams were among the quartet. Also drawing attention were sophomores Andrew Pearman and Kevin Ogletree . The two youngsters are part of what should be great depth at the wideout position.
Ogletree made a nice catch on the far sideline when he had to leap to haul in a high pass. Pearman caught several balls throughout the day and immediately showed that he has a burst of speed that could be a big factor in the long run for the Hoos. Pearman ran at least one reverse on the day and lined up at punt returner.
“He’s fast,” UVa defensive back Marcus Hamilton said with added emphasis on the word fast. “It’s unbelievable. He’s very fast and quick. In changing directions, he can be going one way very quick and the next step go in the opposite direction without too much stop and go. It’s very impressive and he works very hard, just like his brother. He’s going to be good.”
Nearly every quarterback on the roster got a chance to make some throws Saturday, but the big names took the most snaps. Christian Olsen, as the appointed No. 1, received the most reps with Kevin McCabe , Jameel Sewell , and Scott Deke all receiving shots as well.
From the drills, Olsen unquestionably looked the most comfortable as should be expected, perhaps, of a fifth-year senior. Most of his passes were crisp and on target and he seemed to have poise in the system. Sewell, a quarterback many expect to take the reins in the future, showed why his talent level raises excitement. He has a strong arm and appears to be mobile, though the drills weren’t really designed for that Saturday.
If anyone attended Saturday’s practice and picked up a roster, this unit is one where depth is a scary word. On the roster there are just eight players listed at D-line positions: ends Jason Fuller , John Roberts, Chris Long , Alex Field , Allen Billyk , and Jeffrey Fitzgerald plus nose tackles Kevin Crawford and Keenan Carter . Granted many players on the roster are getting looks at various positions, but the sheer numbers are not very high.
Regardless, Long and Field received a lot of time at defensive end with Billyk in the middle of the line. Carter also played significant snaps at NT throughout the scrimmage-style drills and made a handful of good pursuit plays. Carter is currently considered as Billyk’s back-up at the nose tackle slot, according to UVa coach Al Groh.
“He leaves me wanting for more right now,” Groh said earlier this week of Carter. “I guess the way to say it is that we’d like to see his motor run a little faster.”
Much like their offensive counterparts at receiver, the Cavaliers seem to have a lot of talent in the defensive backfield. At the corner slots, Marcus Hamilton, Vic Hall, Chris Cook , Mike Brown, and Chris Gorham all received reps. At safety, Brandon Woods , Byron Glaspy, Jamaal Jackson , and Ryan Best were among the players to take snaps.
Cook seemed to move well as he makes his way back from an injury last season. Hall, like Pearman, has an obvious speed burst and he made one of the most notable plays on the day when he broke up a pass on a deep out pattern. He closed quickly on the play, cut in front, and knocked the pass down. That brought Al Groh across the field to praise the play.
All four of the safeties had what seemed like solid afternoons. Glaspy, who emerged down the season stretch in 2005, and Best both look like they can line up in coverage with nickel packages.
Yards After the Catch …
- Michael Johnson, who had been wearing a protective boot, practiced Saturday.
- During a passing drill with the running backs, offensive coordinator Mike Groh reminded the players of an important detail when catching the ball with your back to the defense. Whichever shoulder the quarterback led you toward, that’s most likely the direction that you should turn after catching the ball because the quarterback can see the defensive pursuit.
- During a field goal drill, Chris Gould made 4 of 5 kicks. Noah Greenbaum struggled and made just 1of 5. Of interest, Vic Hall was the holder throughout the day on field goal kicks and the Cavs showed at least one fake package with him as the runner/passer. He’s in there while John Phillips , last season’s holder, recovers from an injury. Stay tuned long term on that front.
- During 7 on 7 action, Al Groh motivated his defense to be more aggressive by saying “Who wants the ball?” several times. On the very next snap, linebacker Denzel Burrell stepped in the passing lane for an interception that would have been a touchdown return.
- Overheard: After a receiver fell down on a play, Al Groh told him not to fall down because, “There are 100 guys at the bus station that can fall down.”
- DB Mike Brown was helped off the field after stepping awkwardly on a play. He was up and moving around by the end of practice.
- Ian-Yates Cunningham and Jordy Lipsey both gave snaps at the center position.
- Overheard: Linebacker Clint Sintim told the defense that it was dead during one head-to-head drill with the offense. “Liven it up out here,” he said.
- Ryan Weigand took nearly all of the reps at punter, showing off a handful of boomers and a handful of busts. Stay tuned.
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