Virginia coach Mike London announced Wednesday that he has re-instated rising redshirt junior Ausar Walcott to the football team just more than two months after Walcott and two other Cavaliers players were suspended indefinitely for their involvement in a fight near the James Madison University campus in late January.
All charges brought against Walcott stemming from the incident near JMU were dropped at an April 5 hearing in Harrisonburg, Va., and London said the University of Virginia handed down no disciplinary measures against Walcott in the aftermath of last week’s court appearance.
The two other Virginia players involved in the matter – rising junior cornerback Devin Wallace and rising junior center Mike Price – pleaded guilty that day to misdemeanor charges of assault and battery. London said Wallace and Price remain suspended while they wade through the university judiciary process.
London said Walcott, who played outside linebacker and was the team’s third-leading tackler last season, will move to defensive end and be placed at the bottom of the depth chart at that position. However, London noted that Walcott’s spot on the Virginia roster has yet to be solidified.
“Ausar is not out of the woods, but he’s back to being involved with football activities again,” London said in a teleconference with reporters. “We’ll meet everyday and we’ll discuss the goals and the things of the day that he’s achieved. And that will continue to be a deciding factor as we go into summer and as you start having to renew scholarships and things like that.”
Defensive end will be Walcott’s third position in as many seasons. He played at safety in 2009 before London arrived and switched the team’s base defensive alignment from a 3-4 – which was utilized under former coach Al Groh – to a 4-3.
Walcott was listed at 230 pounds while playing at outside linebacker last season, but London said the player put on a little weight in recent months, in part, due to the inactivity brought on by his suspension. Walcott now weighs “almost 240 pounds,” according to London, and the coaching staff would like for Walcott to put on another 10-15 pounds before the start of training camp in August.
“We feel pretty good that Mother Nature is going to jump on him real quick here like it has with most of the other players who start having personal bests in power cleans and in squats and in bench pressing,” London said. “Ausar was excluded from participating in lifting (during spring workouts), and we just think that with where he is at … that weight and the strength that he gains will put him in position to be a defensive rush guy for us.”
Walcott’s position switch will add more depth to the Cavaliers at defensive end, which will be particularly important given the unexpected early departure of Zane Parr and the surgery recovery of Cam Johnson.
Parr, who started all but one game at defensive end last season, elected to leave school and enter his name into the NFL Draft with one season of collegiate eligibility remaining. Johnson, who started every game and led the team in sacks and tackles for a loss in 2010, underwent offseason shoulder surgery and did not participate in contact drills during spring practice.
Jake Snyder and Bill Schautz saw limited action in reserve at defensive end last season and are expected to contend for increased roles in 2011.