All eyes were on Virginia’s newly installed spread offense at Saturday’s Spring Game, which officially wrapped up the end of spring practice.
The game kicked off with a series of field goal attempts followed by an offense vs. defense scrimmage intermixed with punt team work. The offense vs. defense set-up provided a chance to gauge the entire depth chart in a stadium game-like situation, UVa coach Al Groh said.
“Particularly we are interested in seeing with players who haven’t been on that stage in the past. … Does it change their game?” Groh said.
The offense scored two touchdowns overall, one 48-yard break-away run by Mikell Simpson and the other a 21-yard pass to the end zone from Marc Verica to Raynard Horne . On five carries Saturday, Simpson exhibited a return to his “one-cut” running style of 2007, a change which Groh said has made all the difference in his performances.
“I think we saw today ample example of the fact that Mikell is playing much faster than he played last year. Whatever happened between [07 and 08], somebody else was living in that jersey,” Groh said. “The Mikell that was so effective [season before last] He was much more evident every day this spring and that was certainly the case today.”
All of the roster quarterbacks took a turn behind center but it was Vic Hall who took the field first to a loud cheer from the fans, first finishing 11 for 16 with 98 yards. Hall was all over the field Saturday, also holding field goals and returning punts.
“Vic’s energy level seems to be endless,” Groh said. “He loves to be in the game. He loves to do everything that you can do. His positive nature is infectious to everybody. He’s going to be, however it shakes out, a busy college football player next year.”
A complete analysis of the quarterbacks’ performance was somewhat hindered by the fact that the signal-callers donned the orange no-contact jerseys. Groh acknowledged that several more big plays may have developed if the quarterbacks had been live.
“There’s certainly a good possibility of that. That’s an integral part of the scheme,” Groh said, referring to the quarterback’s running work within the new scheme. “When a quarterback can do that, it clearly adds another dimension to it.”
Verica took the field last of the quarterbacks and looked strong by throwing for 148 yards and the touchdown to Horne. He did have an interception that Rodney McLeod picked with ease and Groh said is just as important as the positive results.
“He had one of his better days today,” Groh said of Verica. “Minus that one bad play. But you can’t minus those plays. They count. So the other team had the ball deep in our territory as a result of that. That affects the game. As we have seen. They can’t be discounted but there were a lot of good plays in there. He did a real good job on recognizing the blitz.”
Groh said after the game the team had two primary objectives to the game and the spring in general and both showed positive results in the game. The first being special teams work and the second being non-offensive scores. Both are areas which can change the score in a hurry, Groh said.