Virginia football head coach Bronco Mendenhall likes to call big receivers “always open.” At 6’7”, 200 pounds, true freshman Lavel Davis Jr. fits Mendenhall’s description. In his collegiate debut in Virginia’s senior opener against Duke on Saturday, Davis Jr. demonstrated the ability to make plays when the ball comes his way.
Davis Jr. was one of the stars of the Virginia offense against the Blue Devils, totaling four catches for 101 yards and two scores in the Hoos’ 38-20 victory. The two touchdowns came on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter as UVA surged to a 31-20 lead.
During fall camp this past August, Coach Mendenhall said the Dorchester (S.C.) native was “more capable of playing earlier than what I had imagined, as well as Demick Starling. Both of our first years … wow, they were needed.”
Following the win over Duke, Mendenhall called Davis Jr. “one of our best kept secrets. It’s hard to hide 6’7” for about 12 weeks in practice. The same plays he made tonight he’s been making against us almost every day. He wasn’t highly recruited. Was kind of viewed as a project, but we’ve loved him from the beginning and see a really bright future for him as he learns and grows and develops.”
Sophomore quarterback Brennan Armstrong clearly believes in Davis Jr., targeting the tall, lengthy freshman nine times in total (all targets were 15 yards or longer). Davis Jr. rewarded his quarterback’s confidence with four key catches.
– Davis Jr.’s first collegiate catch was an 18-yard reception that gave UVA possession at the Duke 27. Armstrong scored on a 4-yard touchdown run five plays later, bringing the Hoos within three at 10-7 in the second quarter.
– UVA trailed 20-17 heading into the fourth quarter before Davis Jr.’s acrobatic 18-yard touchdown catch put the Hoos ahead for good. The play was set up by a 39-yard pass from Armstrong to Davis Jr. the play before.
Lavel Davis Jr. snags one in the end zone for the lead! 🏈
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) September 26, 2020
– On Virginia’s ensuing drive, Armstrong found Davis Jr. for a 26-yard touchdown. Davis Jr. hauled in the pass at the Duke 9 but fought off several Duke defenders on his way to the end zone.
“Lavel, he came in as freshman and we hit the ground running when we got back here in July,” Armstrong said. “You know, that was our first get together with just throwing and I think it’s going to increase – we’ve gradually gotten better. First game, you know, this is his first game this is my first game in my first start. It’s going to gradually get better, I think, just the confidence that he’s having, his confidence is going to increase. Yeah, he’s 6’7”, a huge target and, you know, I’m really, really proud of him already and I think he’s going to be a great player.”