Quarterback Kurt Benkert and wide receivers Doni Dowling and Olamide Zaccheus are Virginia’s proven offensive standouts returning this season. There is plenty of opportunity for others to step forth and become big-time contributors for the Wahoos.
The Sabre Editor Kris Wright examined the wide receiver depth chart in this EDGE report. One of those receivers, Joe Reed, appears primed to play a big role on offense as well as special teams.
“I’m so ready,” Reed said of the 2017 season.
Now a rising sophomore at Virginia, Reed arrived in Charlottesville used to playing a lead role on offense. At Randolph-Henry High School (Charlotte Court House, VA) he saw action at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, tallying 900 yards receiving on 33 catches his sophomore season and rushing for 2,100 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior.
Reed only had four catches in 12 games his freshman season with the Cavaliers. The limited touches still showcased his playmaking skills. Except for one 6-yard reception, Reed’s catches achieved double-digit yards, including an 18-yard catch versus Central Michigan, a 25-yard catch against Pitt, and a 28-yard reception versus Virginia Tech.
Last season’s experience gave the 6’3”, 210-pound Reed confidence heading into spring practice and now into fall camp.
“Playing as a true freshman was like a wake-up call as to what it was going to be for four years,” Reed continued. “I’m glad I got to get my feet wet.”
Reed’s absence was felt this spring, when he missed part of spring football while dealing with a high-ankle sprain.
“As soon as [Reed] came back, our offensive point production and big plays went up,” Bronco Mendenhall said. “It didn’t take long. It gave us another athletic, explosive player on the perimeter that allowed us to move the ball in bigger chunks and score more points. It happened as soon as he was cleared and came back. It was immediate and ‘oh, Joe’s back.’ He still has a lot to learn because there wasn’t the same volume, but we already saw the ability component a year ago and it will be nice to include him as much as possible.”
Reed blends good size with good hands, nimble feet and good acceleration. He has improved footwork heading into preseason camp, a product of doing many cone and ladder drills all offseason to improve in this area. Route running — the Virginia native spent much of his time in high school as a rusher, either as a running back or quarterback — and of course health may be the only thing separating Reed from a breakout sophomore year on offense.
“Running routes has been the biggest struggle,” Reed admitted. “Playing quarterback some in high school, I knew what I wanted as a quarterback when I was throwing to the receiver. Reading defenses, working on releases, little things like that will help me get better as a player.”
Virginia’s offense needs breakthrough players, and the hope is Reed will be ready for that role. At the very least, UVA hopes to be able to count on his production in special teams. Reed finished sixth in voting for the Specialist position on the 2017 Preseason All-ACC ballot, and the reason was his performance last season as a kick returner. In 2016 he returned 27 kicks for 678 yards, an average of 25.1 yards per return, good for third in the ACC. Reed had a 44-yard return against Miami and a 50 yarder against UNC, the latter being oh-so-close to going for a touchdown.
“I know what to look for,” Reed said, discussing his production as a kick returner. “I’ve been watching film on my kick returns and it’s going to benefit me this season.”