The Virginia football team has multiple starting jobs up for grabs this season, but one of the most notable battles to get on the field is at safety. The departures of Nate Lyles and Jamaal Jackson have left plenty of playing time available, meaning the likes of Brandon Woods , Rico Bell , Matt Leemhuis , and Corey Mosley are in daily competition to line up alongside Byron Glaspy. While nothing will be officially decided this spring, Al Groh said the progress has been “encouraging” along the back line.
“Clearly there’s really only one safety there that has had significant minutes on the team so whether it’s for the starting spot or to get into the rotation, for anyone there it’s an equal opportunity circumstance at that spot,” Groh said of the safety competition. “Plus, you have some new coaching back there so guys have a chance to either get a fresh start or prove themselves all over again so daily performance has been a big thing.”
Glaspy, who has 28 career starts, made 71 tackles last year and recorded an interception at Miami. Lyles and Jackson, meanwhile, racked up 68 and 39 tackles respectively a year ago; Jackson also added an INT. In other words, the defense will need to replace more than 100 tackles from that duo.
In terms of on-field experience, Woods has a leg up on the competition. He is the only other returning letter-winner at safety other than Glaspy and he has appeared in 25 games in his career. That includes 13 appearances last season, though most of the cameos came on special teams. Groh said the arrival of new defensive coordinator Bob Pruett, who works with the safeties in particular, has been beneficial for Woods.
“Bob has stepped in and made a good impact on him,” Groh said. “He’s a player...
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