Virginia Coach Mike London said Thursday he was not concerned about the team’s depth at linebacker entering Saturday’s ACC opener at North Carolina, despite the prospect of – at best – having limited use of two key contributors at the position.
Aaron Taliaferro, a fifth-year senior who plays strong-side linebacker, and redshirt freshman middle linebacker Henry Coley saw limited action because of injury during the Cavaliers’ 34-31 win Sept. 10 at Indiana and also were limited in practice this week.
London said Taliaferro “will be there” Saturday, but the coach was not sure whether Coley would travel with the team to Chapel Hill.
The nature of the players’ injuries has not been disclosed. Because North Carolina is a conference opponent, Virginia is required to release an official injury report. A team spokesman said the report will be released sometime late Thursday afternoon.
London cited the recent play of weak-side linebacker Daquan Romero, a true freshman, and redshirt junior strong-side linebacker Ausar Walcott as reasons why he’s not concerned about the team’s linebacker depth against the Tar Heels. Romero primarily has played on special teams thus far, though London noted Romero’s role has increased.
Walcott started in place of Taliaferro at Indiana. While that may have been a result of Taliaferro’s injury, it’s a move that many people close to the team viewed as inevitable. Walcott was credited with six tackles against the Hoosiers.
“I thought Ausar Walcott did a great job last week in doing the things that he’s done,” London said. “I look at the depth situation, and it is what it is. . . . I think we’ll be all right at the linebacker position.”
Aside from starters Steve Greer, LaRoy Reynolds and Walcott, Virginia’s viable options at linebacker – assuming Taliaferro and Coley are limited or not available – include Romero and junior outside linebacker Tucker Windle, who seldom was used last season.
On Tuesday, linebackers coach Vincent Brown said a team needs five or six dependable linebackers to make it through a season.
“You’re always concerned when guys are a little bit nicked up and whether they can go or not and how effective they’re going to be,” Brown said. “But I think as of [Tuesday] morning’s practice, all the guys that participated had a good practice and were really playing fast and playing with detail.”
Greer said Tuesday that having to take extra reps in practice with Taliaferro and Coley limited due to injury was a little taxing, but “a couple extra reps is better conditioning.”