It’s going to be a long weekend. I know, I know, you’ve already been waiting for months since the Spring Game for fall practice to get here. But the next two days before the Virginia football opens fall practice are going to seem like forever for diehard Hoos. Never fear, The Sabre has you covered with a Fall Practice Cheat Sheet to get you ready for training camp.
First things first, though. When can you see the Cavaliers with your own eyes? The training camp schedule (all practices are on the McCue Center practice field and Meet the Team Day is at Scott Stadium) breaks down like this:
- Sunday, August 5 – Players report.
- Monday, August 6 – Practice begins.
- Friday, August 10 – First open practice, 2:20 p.m.
- Saturday, August 11 – Two more open practices, 8:35 a.m. and 6:35 p.m.
- Sunday, August 12 – Meet the Team Day, 2:30 p.m.
- Friday, August 17 – Open practice, 2:20 p.m.
- Saturday, August 18 – Open practice, 8:35 a.m.
So what should you be looking for as the Hoos begin preparation for the 2007 season? Here are 5 things to consider during training camp.
Jameel Sewell ‘s wrist will be a hot topic as practice begins.
1. Hot Topics. There are several buzz-worthy subjects that have surrounded the offseason and those topics need to be closely watched this month. How is Jameel Sewell ‘s wrist following surgery? Sewell was limited to non-contact drills in the spring so fall training camp will provide the first look at the QB in authentic action.
In a related area, a question that remains from the Spring Game Cheat Sheet is who is Sewell’s X man? Kevin Ogletree ‘s knee injury leaves the starting X receiver position up for grabs. Chris Dalton , Cary Koch, Staton Jobe , Chris Gorham , and others are in the mix. The battle for snaps will be an interesting one to watch.
Also on offense, the Keith Payne situation at running back remains murky. Payne is eligible by NCAA standards, but he was indefinitely suspended from the team for failure to meet academic responsibilities in June. UVa coach Al Groh said recently that Payne was on track in summer coursework and had “fulfilled the deans’ requirements so far” to have the suspension lifted. Gut feeling: he’ll be in practice soon.
2. The Secondary ABCs. Defensively, the questions aren’t as rampant as they are on offense. After all, the only starter absent from last year’s line-up is Marcus Hamilton, who signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs. But when you’re watching the defense, start at the back because that’s where the chief concerns are. Here are your ABCs …
- Are safeties Byron Glaspy and Nate Lyles locked in as starters? Last season, this duo spent a lot of time on the field together as Glaspy logged 571 plays while Lyles participated in 609. They are not perfect complements for one another though because neither is the ranging centerfield type of cover safety needed with an aggressive defense. Glaspy filled the role reasonably well last season thanks to his on-field IQ and he will likely see lots of snaps again in 2007. But is there a better way to use the personnel? That depends …
- Back-ups, back-ups, back-ups. Glaspy and Lyles piled up the plays last season because the corps of reserve didn’t provide much playable depth. Will Brandon Woods , Jamaal Jackson , Rico Bell , or anyone else push for playing time? Woods fits the needed mold as a rangy, speedy safety that moved over from wide receiver. Still, he had yet to grasp the position fully last season and the light bulb moments were not consistent in the spring. He’s the most likely candidate to push for time this fall so stay tuned.
3. Where will the tight ends spend their time? Early last season, Virginia’s versatile and dangerous tight ends spent a lot of time being neither of those things. Why? The offensive line’s slow start forced the coaching staff to keep the tight ends on the line scrimmage to help protect the quarterback. As the line improved, the ends slowly joined the receiving plan and started to show why they’re one of the deepest and most talented units on the team. With the entire OL starting line-up returning, the tight ends should get to run routes and become a threat to the defense.
4. The need for speed. Cav fans often lament how slow the team has looked in recent seasons and how that hurts the Hoos against certain opponents. Defensively, help is on the way after most of last year’s recruiting class redshirted. Those players are now in the mix for playing time and that could upgrade the explosiveness on D. Without question, linebacker is the place to watch for the biggest change. The return of Olu Hall (took year off for academics) and Denzel Burrell (injury) should provide some pop for the outside slots while Jon Bivens and Darnell Carter should speed up the inside. How will Mike London mix and match the pieces?
5. The return of the fullback. Virginia shifted to a one back, H-back system for a large portion of snaps last season and the offense never seemed to click. There were a variety of reasons for that of course, but the lack of a true fullback seemed to limit some of the Cavaliers’ playbook. The staff moved Rashawn Jackson to fullback in the spring to address that issue and it could pay dividends. Jackson still needs to be more consistent with his work as a lead blocker on running plays, but he could be a key contributor as an offensive weapon. Don’t be surprised to see Jackson utilized with quick-hitters up the gut, wheel passing routes, or in the flats.
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