By the end of last season, Rijo Walker was a significant contributor on special teams and was seeing an increasing number of snaps on defense. He was one of three true freshmen to play in 2010. By the end of spring practice, Walker was listed as a first-team cornerback.

But on the first day of training camp, Walker was supplanted on the first-team defense by true freshman Demetrious Nicholson. And by training camp’s end, Walker had been moved to free safety, where he will begin the season as a reserve behind fifth-year senior Corey Mosley.

“You always like those corners that can play safety,” Virginia Coach Mike London said Monday. “That’s how you recruit. And his curve is fast-forwarded to the point that he has a great understanding and grasp of the defense and how to run it and shows an aptitude to getting it done.”

London said one option the coaching staff contemplated in an effort to bolster the team’s depth at safety was to return fifth-year senior Dom Joseph to the position he played last season.

“We still can do that in an emergency situation,” London said. “But I think Rijo has done a good job in knowing the defense and the calls and the adjustments and all those things.”

Joseph, who was moved to cornerback in the spring, will serve primarily as the third cornerback during situations in which the Cavaliers have five defensive backs on the field. London noted that redshirt freshman cornerback Drequan Hoskey and true freshman cornerback Brandon Phelps also will be utilized in Virginia’s nickel and dime defensive packages.