Virginia redshirt junior Ausar Walcott moved back to primarily playing outside linebacker earlier this week. Walcott had been switched from weak-side linebacker – where he started 11 games last season – to defensive end in April after Cavaliers Coach Mike London re-instated the player to the team following an investigation into his role in an off-campus fight.
London said Thursday that his decision to switch Walcott to defensive end in April stemmed from “the fact that I wanted him to be uncomfortable.
“I wanted him to understand what it feels like to almost have an opportunity be taken away from you, to realize that working hard and getting yourself back up is winning the graces of the coaches and players, it’s something that these guys have to respect and cherish the fact that they wear a Virginia uniform.”
Walcott and two other Virginia football players were involved in a fight near the James Madison University campus in late January. Consequently, London indefinitely suspended the three players from the team.
The other two Virginia players involved in the incident – Devin Wallace and Mike Price – pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery charges and no longer are enrolled in the school.
All charges against Walcott were dropped during a court hearing April 5. After the university disciplinary process ran its course and no action was brought against Walcott, London re-instated the player at the conclusion of the team’s spring practice period.
Upon his re-instatement, Walcott – who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds – was re-positioned to defensive end and placed at the bottom of the depth chart.
“When you challenge him, he was a first-team guy, played in a lot of games (in 2010), you know what? He was a brief moment away from not playing any games,” London said Thursday. “And so I wanted to see was he going to sit and sulk? Or was he going to work regardless of if I put him at kicker or receiver. He’s responded in a way that says, ‘I understand. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m ready to contribute to this team in any way necessary.’”
London said Walcott is taking reps with the second- and third-team units at outside linebacker, though he would not specify whether Walcott was lining up on the weak side or the strong side. The coach said Walcott will play outside linebacker, and in some long-distance, third-down packages, Walcott will start on the line of scrimmage with his hand on the ground.
“Hopefully after today and as we start looking forward to his role on the team, it’s everything that’s happened in the past is put behind him and looking forward to doing great things,” London said. …
In other news, London said redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Justin Renfrow – who has sat out of practice this week – is dealing with a concussion issue. The coach said Renfrow “should be back tomorrow or whenever.”
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” London said. “We take the approach that he won’t be put back out there until he’s ready to go. He’s a veteran. He knows a lot of the defenses and the calls, so we talk about taking mental reps when you’re not involved physically practicing. I expect Justin to be back with us soon.”
On Wednesday, Virginia Defensive Line Coach Jeff Hanson said Renfrow – who logged 15 defensive snaps combined in four games last season – had positioned himself to be in the Cavaliers’ four-man rotation at defensive tackle along with Matt Conrath, Nick Jenkins and Will Hill. …
Virginia Offensive Line Coach Scott Wachenheim said Thursday that true freshman offensive lineman Kelby Johnson (DeMatha) is taking reps with the second-team unit at left tackle.
“He’s a very gifted and talented athlete who’s a pleasure to work with,” Wachenheim said of Johnson, who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds.
London said Monday that, among the freshman offensive linemen, Johnson is the closest to being ready to compete in games at the Division I-A level.