Virginia scored 17 rushing touchdowns in 2010. Fifth-year senior Keith Payne bulldozed his way into the end zone an ACC-best 14 times. Placekicker Robert Randolph scurried across the goal line once on a fake field goal attempt. Fullback Max Milien and tailback Perry Jones scored one touchdown apiece.
Given Special Teams Coordinator Anthony Poindexter’s propensity to run trick plays, it’s entirely possible that Randolph turns into a prodigious touchdown scorer for the Cavaliers this season.
But excluding Randolph, Virginia’s returning tailbacks/fullbacks have tallied two touchdowns combined in their collegiate careers. Payne’s production certainly will be missed, and Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor knows someone on the Cavaliers’ roster must replace Payne’s power-running style to some extent.
Enter redshirt freshman tailback Kevin Parks. At 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds, Parks might not be as big as Payne (who last season was listed at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds). But he may pack just enough punch to assume Payne’s role as Virginia’s go-to short-yardage back, according to Lazor.
“I’m excited to see how he can fill in the role of running with power when necessary,” Lazor said Wednesday. “I think Kevin has a real good mix of running with power and also has a chance to make some big plays.”
Parks – who broke the North Carolina high school career rushing record while at West Rowan High in Salisbury – earned Parade all-American honors during his senior year. Then he came to Virginia and watched as the Cavaliers finished in the middle of the pack in the ACC in rushing offense in 2010.
Lazor said Parks “probably felt frustrated” that he was kept on the sidelines last year, but during the times when Parks did get opportunities to impress the coaching staff, he obliged.
During the bye week last season, the team conducted a scrimmage for the freshmen, and Lazor said he came away impressed with Parks’s performance. Lazor felt the same way while watching Parks carry the ball during spring practice.
“In some goal line periods in the spring when we went live against the defense I saw him have no hesitation and lower his shoulder when we were down near the goal line and try to punch the ball in there,” Lazor said. “When you think about it, we lost a lot of touchdowns when Keith Payne left. That was a lot of production, and certainly some of it was power running, and we’re going to have it in our offense.
“Someone at certain times is going to have to run the ball with power, so it will be interesting to see if Kevin can do that.”