Freshman Maurice Canady was being interviewed by a reporter Wednesday when defensive coordinator Jim Reid approached to listen in more closely. Canady barely flinched, cracked a smile and continued talking about his development as a cornerback.
Reid and the Cavaliers defensive coaches are also paying close attention to Canady on the field. The Richmond native has been practicing with the first-team defense since the middle of practice on the first day of training camp.
A year after Coach Mike London played more than 20 true freshmen, Canady has emerged as one of the few who could play a big role this season. Not a bad first week for a player who lined up at quarterback for Varina High last season.
“Right now he thinks he can cover everything and everybody, which is a good thing,” London said. “I think that as he’s learning how to play the position, the technical skills of it, he’ll be a better player. Right now, the good thing with a lot of these freshmen, they’re coming in like show me where to line up and I want to go play. That’s a good attribute to have.”
Canady ascended up the depth on the first day of practice when London became upset with the effort of sophomore Drequan Hoskey after he was beat by wide receiver Darius Jennings on a play. Soon thereafter, defensive backs coach Chip West turned to Canady and put him in with the starters.
As London alluded to, Canady wasn’t intimidated by the sudden promotion.
“I was hyped. It was like, ‘Let’s go.’ There wasn’t any of that shyness stuff,” Canady said.
A three-star recruit according to Rivals, Canady was an all-around threat at Varina High last year. He passed for more than 700 yards, rushed for over 1,000 yards and finished with 280 receiving yards. He also played cornerback, but admitted this week that he had to work on his cover skills before arriving on campus.
So Canady went through something of a role reversal, spending part of his spring and summer lined up against the receivers he used to throw to in high school. He says now that being a quarterback has helped him read coverages but that his technique still needs improvement.
Whether he sticks on the first-team defense remains to be seen, but Canady certainly looks like a candidate to at least be involved in Virginia’s nickel package this season. Besides, cornerback is in his blood.
“My Dad played corner so I think I just kind of stepped in his footsteps,” Canady said. “It just kind of comes naturally for me.”