Virginia football rising sophomore safety Joey Blount delivered some good news via Twitter on Thursday (July 26).
4 months ago I broke my collarbone. Today, I was cleared with no restrictions! Can’t wait to get back on the field! God is Wonderful. #29GoLive
— Joey Blount (@JoeyBlount8) July 26, 2018
Blount, whose father Tony was a standout safety for the Cavaliers from 1976-79, played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman. Although he did see playing time in the defensive backfield, the bulk of his damage came on special teams, where he totaled a team-best 15 tackles.
By all accounts Blount was having a productive offseason before he went down with the injury. Now that he is back, he adds depth to what is perhaps Virginia’s deepest and best position heading into the 2018 season. His injury and return got me thinking, though. What are the positions and who are the players Virginia has to avoid injury to in order to have a successful 2018? I explore this topic in the latest “99 Thoughts” entry.
99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: No. 39 – Please Stay Healthy!
The Cavaliers are still in the early stages of rebuilding, so we know the team can ill afford to have many injuries at all. In order from the position the Hoos can least afford injury, here are my “can’t lose” players for 2018.
DL – Whether it’s at defensive end or nose tackle, Eli Hanback has been a model of consistency since stepping onto the field as a redshirt freshman in 2016. The Richmond (VA) native has started 24 games the past two seasons, including all 13 contests last year at nose tackle. Virginia really needs the rock-solid Hanback in the lineup – for production but also because this is the thinnest unit on the team.
QB – Junior college transfer Bryce Perkins gives the offense the extra dimension – and extra playmaking – it needs. None of the players on Virginia’s quarterback depth chart, including Perkins, are proven on the FBS level, but there is excitement surrounding the Chandler (AZ) native and what he can do for Virginia in the run-game and the pass-game.
ILB – All-American Micah Kiser is gone, leaving Jordan Mack as the only proven playmaker returning at inside linebacker. As of the spring, the Hoos were still figuring who might start beside Mack, who figures to be an essential player on this Cavalier defense.
WR – Olamide Zaccheaus has to have a huge role for the offense to be successful. Replacing him would prove difficult to overcome. An underrated selection here is Evan Butts. The tight end is a tremendously consistent receiver.
OL – Senior Jake Fieler is coming off his best season as a Cavalier. He is also proven to be a quality player at multiple positions, especially guard and center. Of all of Virginia’s offensive lineman, he is the one the Hoos can’t afford to lose.
DB – As mentioned, Blount’s return adds to what appears to be Virginia’s deepest position heading into 2018. Still, Juan Thornhill’s potential at safety and his versatility to play (and play well) either safety or corner make him a player Virginia needs to stay healthy.
Special Teams – Obviously Joe Reed is a key weapon on kick returns, but my pick is 2017 All-ACC Second Team performer Lester Coleman. There may be a viable replacement at punter (Brian Delaney is a scholarship punter), but Coleman was outstanding last year.
RB – Running back is another position with solid depth. Jordan Ellis’ leadership and toughness could be tough to replace if he were to go down, though.
The “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series has discussed much more. The previous articles are below. Click away.
- No. 99 – The Importance Of A Fast Start
- No. 98 – The Impact Of Early-Ending Careers
- No. 97 – Jordan Mack’s Role
- No. 96 – Welcome Back
- No. 95 – Han Solo Says
- No. 94 -Smart Addition
- No. 93 – The Center Spot
- No. 92 – Finding A Punt Returner
- No. 91 – Facing Running Quarterbacks
- No. 90 – Interceptions
- No. 89 – Kickoff Times
- No. 88 – QB Optimism Not Enough To Tilt Early Predictions Too Far
- No. 87 – It Starts With Jordan Ellis
- No. 86 – Virginia’s Most Dangerous Game
- No. 85 – The Tight End Swan Song?
- No. 84 – Teach A Man To Fish
- No. 83 – No Ordinary Joe
- No. 82 – Now Or Then
- No. 81 – How To Treat The Kickoff Rule Change
- No. 80 – Play, But Still Redshirt
- No. 79 – Which Red Zone Offense Is The Real One?
- No. 78 – Schedule For Success
- No. 77 – Who’s The Worst?
- No. 76 – ACC Coach Rankings
- No. 75 – Keep That Cold Weather Gear
- No. 74 – 1,000 Target For OZ
- No. 73 – Cross Out Cross-Training For Cross
- No. 72 – Punting Plans
- No. 71 – Redshirted … Ready?
- No. 70 – A June Jolt
- No. 69 – Who?
- No. 68 – Stops To Start Second Half
- No. 67 – Root, Root, Root For …
- No. 66 – Wildcard Extras
- No. 65 – Defense Showed Red Zone Improvement
- No. 64 – Welcome Back, Mr. Robinson
- No. 63 – The Florida Footprint
- No. 62 – True Freshmen Will Play, But Who Will Make The Most Impact?
- No. 61 – Four Fireworks-Worthy Moments In The Bronco Mendenhall Era
- No. 60 – Juan Thornhill Primed For An All-ACC Caliber Season
- No. 59 – Rebuilding The Offensive Line Is On Schedule
- No. 58 – Bouncing Back On The Defensive Line
- No. 57 – Underrated Hoos
- No. 56 – Lordy, Lordy, How ‘Bout 40?
- No. 55 – Peace Talk
- No. 54 – Hoos’ Handle On Social Media Bodes Well For Future Recruiting
- No. 53 – Filling The Void At Wide Receiver
- No. 52 – The Sixth-Year Seniors
- No. 51 – Borrowing A Burning Question
- No. 50 – Beat Tech!
- No. 49 – A Resolute Leader
- No. 48 – The Perkins Theorem
- No. 47 – Beat Pitt!
- No. 46 – A Look At Virginia Football’s 2018 Walk-On Class
- No. 45 – I Sense A Trend.
- No. 44 – The Need For (More) Speed
- No. 43 – Progress With Penalties
- No. 42 – Preseason All-ACC Musings
- No. 41 – Designing Sacks
- No. 40 – Go Long