Cavalier Camp: Speedy Safeties Must Learn Fast

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Marquis Weeks

One of the big question marks entering fall camp is the young secondary, especially the safety position. There is no question about the speed and talent of this unit, but experience is somewhat limited and Virginia will need to lean on some rookies in 2004.

Jermaine Hardy and Marquis Weeks are the senior citizens of the group. Both are seniors and the likely starters, though both have other issues. Hardy, who made 97 tackles last year, is coming off surgery for a torn ACL. Weeks has not played defense in a game since high school. A converted tailback, he is known for his exploits on UVa’s special teams.

The backups are all young. The staff seems pleased with the progress of sophomore Lance Evans, as exemplified by the increased playing time he garnered over the course of last season. Evans made his debut against Western Michigan and participated in the last 10 games, mostly on special teams.

Robbie Catterton was one of seven true freshmen to see playing time last fall. A face-in-the-fan safety with great versatility, he was having a solid freshman season before spraining an ankle against North Carolina. He missed three games but earned more playing time late in the season, even getting an interception in the Continental Tire Bowl.

Three newcomers also are expected to vie for playing time at safety: Nate Lyles , Jamaal Jackson and Bud Davis.

“We have a good talent level,” UVa coach Al Groh said in his Thursday teleconference with reporters. “It gives us some real good options for the future as well as the present. They can all run. They can all really run.”

Coming out of high school, Jackson was an All-Atlantic Region pick by PrepStar, which rated Davis the No. 21 player in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Lyles is the most heralded of the freshmen. He was rated the No. 11 cornerback prospect in the country by and the No. 25 safety by Tom Lemming.