Naturally, David Watford has much to prove as a college quarterback. He’s started only three games for Virginia, none on the road, and remains a unknown quantity as a passer, runner and decision-maker.
But the more I see of Watford off the field, the more I understand why Cavaliers coaches rave about him as a leader.
The young man, a sophomore from Hampton High, simply appears very comfortable with the attention and responsibilities inherent with quarterbacking a major college team. Not in a boastful, it’s-all-about-me way, but in a humble, down-to-earth manner.
Not that media interviews reveal all. Many great players — former Virginia All-America tight end Heath Miller springs to mind — are shy and borderline reclusive.
But quarterback is the most visible and scrutinized position in sports and usually demands a more extroverted personality. Watford’s not the lampshade-on-his-head-at-the-frat-party type — Virginia’s been there and done that with some recent quarterbacks — but is an easy conversationalist.
As the 2-1 Cavaliers prepared for Saturday’s ACC opener at Pittsburgh (2-1, 1-1), Watford met with reporters Monday afternoon. Wearing an orange Virginia hoodie, he sat for more than 15 minutes and addressed myriad subjects. His answers were honest, insightful and belied the formal news conference setting.
Some of his remarks appeared in Tuesday’s print column, but here are a few others:
On offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild moving from the press box to the field after a season-opening victory over Brigham Young: “He had asked me, and I told him straight up that I would rather him (be) on the sideline than in the box, because I’m able to communicate better with him. Instead of having to go through a headset, I can just talk to him directly. I can get more information from him, faster, and we’re able to see the same thing, even though him being in the press box, he would be able to see the defenses and stuff better, what they’re running.
“But I feel like just us being able to see each other eye-to-eye and being able to talk on the sideline constantly, is easier for not only myself, but him as well. It makes the flow of the game easier for me as well.”
* Watford said he texts often with Clemson quarterback and Phoebus graduate Tajh Boyd, as well as other notable Peninsula quarterbacks such as the Baltimore Ravens’ Tyrod Taylor, Philadelphia Eagles’ Michael Vick and former New Orleans Saint Aaron Brooks.
“We try to stay as tight-knit as possible,” Watford said, “because there’s only a select few that make it out of there. … Our area code, we take a lot of pride in where we’re from, around here, anywhere we go, 757, you hear it all the time.”
* On running the read option, a look Virginia showed for the first time in last week’s victory over VMI: “(It) wasn't the same kind of read (in high school). I was keeping it either way. It was a designed run, so I would just fake it and keep it, and I’d have a pulling guard (to follow). So it was a much easier read. But now, I’ve had to learn how to read the defensive end, just his body language, his eyes, and stuff like that. I feel a lot more comfortable with it now than I did at first. We’ve continually repped it in practice.”
Watford rushed for 791 yards as a senior at Hampton, 379 as a junior. But with 48 yards in three games this season, and 42 in 10 games as a freshman in 2011, Virginia fans have yet to see the speed he displayed in high school, a subject that he discussed recently with teammate Daquan Romero, a Peninsula District rival at Phoebus.
“I just have to trust my speed,” Watford said. “(Romero) was just like, `Just trust your speed, like we were in high school.’ Because in high school I would trust my speed, I would split defenders and make people miss and just run. But now I'm trying to find holes and lanes instead of just running. My coach is telling me the same thing: ‘Just run. You’re fast for a reason, so just run.’ ”
Watford appears eminently coachable and amenable to advice, so don’t be surprised if he does “just run.”
And the more he trusts himself, the more his teammates and coaches will trust him.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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