CHARLOTTESVILLE — By the end of the spring, Virginia coach Mike London would like to have a better idea of what his depth chart will look like and some idea of what he has to work with at key positions, including quarterback.
As U.Va. prepares to open spring practice Saturday, London is relying on his players to provide those answers. Coming off a dismal 2-10 season, and after surviving speculation that last season might've been his last in Charlottesville, London knows things have to change in a hurry.
"I will be more hands-on in terms of making sure we do what we need to do, whether it's player scheme or whatever it is, to be successful," said London, whose team will open the season Aug. 30 at home against UCLA riding a nine-game losing streak. "We have to perform better, and we have to play better.
"I look around and I see so many of our sports teams here now that are excelling and doing well — Tony Bennett and the basketball team doing well, our baseball team, our lacrosse team. I want to emulate those opportunities as well."
After a season that saw Hampton High graduate David Watford complete 57 percent of his passes for 2,202 yards, eight touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 12 starts, it should come as no surprise quarterback is one of the positions where London wants to see improvement.
Watford, a rising junior, will head into the spring sharing reps with Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns. There's no depth chart right now for U.Va.'s quarterbacks — just as there's no publicly-released pecking order at any other position entering spring practices.
"We have to perform better there," said London of his quarterback spot. "We have to play better there. Our evaluation will be at least the three quarterbacks that have been in a game. I think it's important and significant for all of them to know we will chart throws, we will chart opportunities that they've had with chances they've had to lead this team situationally."
U.Va.'s quarterbacks will have a new target at wide receiver. Jake McGee, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound rising senior who led the team with 43 catches for 395 yards and two touchdowns at tight end last season, will split time at receiver and tight end this spring.
"Whether you call it H-back, whether you call it tight end or wide receiver, we want to put him in a position where we can utilize his height and his catching ability and skills," said London, whose biggest returning weapon on offense will be rising senior running back Kevin Parks (1,031 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last season to go along with 38 catches for 339 yards and a touchdown). "That's one of the things you evaluate how you can get better, and that's what we're going to do."
In addition to McGee getting a look at a new position, Kwontie Moore has been moved to defensive end. He worked primarily as a backup linebacker in his first two seasons at U.Va. Moore will enter spring with a heavy heart, according to London, who said Moore's brother was killed a few weeks ago in Alabama.
After sitting out the last year while working on his grades, defensive tackle Chris Brathwaite is back with the program. London said he needs to work on getting himself in shape, but big things will be expected from Brathwaite.
While Brathwaite is back in the fold, U.Va. has lost long snapper Matt Fortin. London said Fortin left the program and will try to earn a position with the Navy SEALS.
U.Va. will practice three days a week this spring as opposed to four days a week like last spring in order to focus on teaching in practices. The Cavaliers have several players on the shelf due to injuries this spring.
Linebacker Daquan Romero, a Phoebus High graduate who was second on the team last season with 89 tackles, defensive end Trent Corney, running back Daniel Hamm, linebacker Darius Lee and offensive linemen Sean Karl, Sadiq Olanrewaju, George Adeosun and John Pond will sit out the entire spring. Offensive tackle Jay Whitmire will only miss a portion of spring practice.
"I'm all about looking forward," said London, who is 16-21 in three seasons at U.Va. and welcomes new defensive line coach Jappy Oliver and safeties coach Mike Archer to his staff. "You can look in the rear view, and I think that's behind us. The job now is to look forward and perform and get it fixed and do the things that are going to help this football team be successful."
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun