Virginia junior Perry Jones is the unquestioned starter at tailback, Cavaliers Coach Mike London reaffirmed Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean Jones will be the only Virginia tailback receiving significant reps this season.
Redshirt freshman Kevin Parks also figures to be a relevant factor in the Cavaliers backfield, and redshirt freshman Khalek Shepherd and true freshman Clifton Richardson likely will earn some game snaps, as well.
“It won’t be as much by committee,” London said in a teleconference. “Perry’s going to get his fair share of carries, and the rest of the guys, we’ll find situations, whether it’s by down and distance or area of the field, where they can help us and put them in the game.”
London said that even though Jones, Parks and Shepherd are “of similar size and stature,” the three tailbacks carry unique skill sets. Jones (listed as 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds) is “a jump-cut guy, still fast, can get the edge.”
Jones tallied 646 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown last season, though London attributed Jones’s low rushing touchdown total to the goal line presence of 6-foot-3, 255-pound Keith Payne. With Payne out of eligibility, London expects Jones to find the end zone more often this year.
London described Parks (5-foot-8, 195 pounds) as “unbelievably strong and pretty fast, too.” London said Parks is “a downhill guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield.”
Shepherd (5-foot-8, 185 pounds) “kind of does a little bit of everything,” according to London, while Richardson (6-foot-0, 215 pounds) “is a bigger back, a Keith Payne-size guy.”
London said he probably will name a starting quarterback “or guys that will be involved in playing in the game” next week. …
London said the coaching staff has not yet reached a final decision on which true freshmen will play this season and which will redshirt.
Among those true freshmen known to be receiving heavy consideration for playing time this fall are wide receivers Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell, quarterback David Watford, tailback Clifton Richardson, strong safety Anthony Harris, free safety Darius Lee, offensive tackle Kelby Johnson and cornerback Brandon Phelps.
On Monday, London said true freshman Demetrious Nicholson will start at cornerback opposite fifth-year senior Chase Minnifield. …
Redshirt junior Ausar Walcott is taking reps at strong-side linebacker and has put himself “back up into contention” for a starting job, London said. Fifth-year senior Aaron Taliaferro currently sits atop the depth chart at strong-side linebacker.
Walcott had been playing at defensive end until early last week. After being involved in an off-campus fight last winter, Walcott was suspended indefinitely. After being cleared of all charges, Walcott was re-instated to the team and moved from weak-side linebacker – where he started 11 games last season – to defensive end.
But with insufficient depth in the linebacking corps and the season drawing nearer, London elected to move Walcott back to the unit in which he played last season, though with a slight role adjustment. Walcott primarily will line up over the opposing tight end, and London said the player also might line up in a three-point stance on the edge in certain third-down situations.
“Now, with him, I’m going to be watching to make sure he goes to class and does all the things that I expect him to do,” London said. “But I would say right now he’s been kind of a quiet surprise … He’s kept his mouth closed, done what he’s supposed to do, learned a new position, which has helped him learn how to pass rush and utilize that skill whether he’s an outside linebacker or a guy his hand down in the ground in a three-point stance. So far, so good with him.”