Virginia's quarterback spot still unsettled after spring, but Lambert looks like favorite

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Though the official word from coach Mike London after Saturday's spring football scrimmage was Virginia's starting quarterback job remains wide open, Greyson Lambert will likely have fewer sleepless nights about the competition going forward than David Watford.

In a scrimmage that featured inconsistent offense in part because of injuries on the line and at the skill positions, Lambert still managed to complete 18 of 31 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Watford, a Hampton High graduate who was the second quarterback in the scrimmage behind Lambert, completed just 4 of 14 passes for 31 yards and two interceptions.

"We'll make that decision early," said London of his team's quarterback situation. "We'll make that decision soon. We'll make that decision when all the opportunities to evaluate these guys present (themselves)."

While the numbers in the scrimmage provided one snapshot of where the quarterback race may be headed, the reaction of the team to Lambert and London's mention of an offseason shortcoming by Watford — one that was confirmed by Watford himself — could offer further indications.

Along with safety Anthony Harris, linebacker Henry Coley and running back Kevin Parks, Lambert was voted by his teammates a captain for the upcoming season. Lambert, a sophomore, is the only nonsenior among the captains.

"I don't know if I would've done anything differently than what I did last year," said Lambert of his maturation from last season, when he completed 33 of 75 passes for 340 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in seven games as a backup. "It's just that the experience that I was able to get last year throughout the whole year of college football — that's really helped me."

Last season, Watford was applauded by London for his work during an offseason training session led by the Navy Seals. Watford, who started all 12 games last season, went on to be the leading vote-getter last season by teammates for the team's leadership council.

This spring, London said he chose the council for the 2014 season himself. Watford's name wasn't among the 13 players on a list of council members for the '14 season provided to media.

"David is a part of the leadership council," London said. "There are things that you need to do in order to stay in it and continue to represent some of the ideas that I think are important. Every once in a while, people come short of meeting an expectation, and I have no doubt David will get himself back in a position where he will be involved in that leadership council."

Watford referred to the situation as "a team issue, a team incident that happened."

"I fell short of some expectations, and it is what it is," Watford said. "That's it."

"I did disappoint myself. I disappointed my teammates, and coach London as well, but it happened. Whatever happened happened, so all you can do is just learn from your mistake. It's all about how you respond to negative situations."

U.Va.'s defense, which was led by Coley's 12 tackles and two sacks each by defensive end Eli Harold, linebacker Max Valles and cornerback Kirk Garner on a day when merely touching the quarterback constituted a sack, had the upper hand in the scrimmage.

U.Va. was missing Parks and wide receivers Jake McGee and Dominique Terrell because of injuries, and had just 10 healthy offensive linemen — two of which suffered injuries in the game, including an ankle injury to Cody Wallace.

Despite having a shortage of weapons around him, Lambert was able to lead the offense on a drive of more than 80 yards late in the fourth quarter, concluding the drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kyle Dockins' outside shoulder.

"I don't think it was a big deal for my confidence, but just our offense's confidence as a whole," said Lambert of the fourth quarter touchdown drive. "As a quarterback, you have to be even-keeled, whether it's going good or bad."

Lambert also had a 22-yard touchdown pass to receiver Andre Levrone earlier in the afternoon. Lambert said his first interception, which was picked off by strong safety Mason Thomas in the midst of four defenders in the end zone, was a product of being "greedy." Lambert said his second interception was a case of not recognizing zone coverage on an intended receiver.

Heading into the summer, Lambert said he has plans to spend every day in the film room. He lives with tight end Zachary Swanson, and also will live with receiver Miles Gooch this summer, so throwing regularly with both guys will be on Lambert's agenda.

As far as his newfound leadership role is concerned, Lambert clearly has gained the confidence of his teammates. Now, it remains to be seen if it'll lead to a starting job.

"He's that one voice," Coley said. "He just has that presence, his stature, all of that.

"You need that, man. You need that rock — when everything is falling (apart), we need that guy that is going to take the reins and be like, 'Forget all of that. This is what we're doing.' "

Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad