Inside The Game: Maryland

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Mikell Simpson had 16 carries and 13 receptions against Maryland.

Throughout fall training camp, a lot of discussion focused on a new hybrid role in Virginia’s offense. The Cavaliers wanted to find a way to use the talent and speed of a player like Mikell Simpson and the plan was to develop a position that merged the duties of a wide receiver and running back into one.

But Simpson – and Andrew Pearman for that matter – could never get fully comfortable in the role. Pearman switched to running back full-time as the development of Keith Payne and Raynard Horne continued behind starter Cedric Peerman . Simpson, meanwhile, toiled away in the hybrid slot, which truthfully evolved into more of a ‘receiver only’ situation because of depth issues there. But efforts to use Simpson as a slot player in the receiving packages never really made it to game day as he struggled with the position. He was tentative and indecisive when called upon and the result was a slow-moving wideout – look no further than the receiver reverses from early in the season for an example.

Virginia coach Al Groh said the coaches “saw it before-hand and we saw it coming out exactly the same as you did” when asked about Simpson’s pre-Maryland season on Sunday. There were flashes when he would show what the coaches thought was possible with the hybrid role. But those moments weren’t enough to warrant consistent game use after he stumbled with early season chances.

“We kind of saw the same things [in practice] as what transpired in the games. But, you know, he’s always shown some very intriguing things in practice. He’s, as we discussed before, a very versatile player. That’s what attracted us to him when he was in high school – he returned kicks, he played defense, he caught passes, he ran with the ball,” Groh said. “So that’s why with the Peerman-Payne routine