As much as half of the true freshmen on scholarship will play for the Virginia football team this fall, Cavaliers Coach Mike London said Monday.
Eight true freshmen were listed on the depth chart Virginia released Monday, and London said 10-12 will see playing time this season. The Cavaliers have 24 true freshmen currently on scholarship.
Last season, Virginia played only three true freshmen: quarterback Michael Rocco, offensive tackle Morgan Moses and defensive back Rijo Walker. Eight redshirt freshmen were listed on the depth chart released Monday.
“It’s an indication of some of the young guys who came in here with the talent that they had that the exhibited on the field, they were skills, whether it was speed or athleticism or strength,” London said. “Most of them that are going to play are skill position guys, and one of the things we tried to do was address speed, address skill, the needs there. … The reality of college football is you’re supposed to play your best players and try to develop those players as you go along.”
Two true freshmen likely to see significant playing time are wide receivers Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings. In addition to their roles as reserve wideouts, Terrell and Jennings also will take prominent positions on special teams. Terrell is listed on the depth chart as the team’s starting punt returner, while Jennings and redshirt freshman tailback Kevin Parks are listed as the team’s primary kickoff return specialists.
London said that while senior cornerback Chase Minnifield and junior tailback Perry Jones – players with ample experience returning kicks and punts – continue to practice with the special teams during practice, the coaching staff is looking to take some of the load off their shoulders during games. Jones, in particular, will be taking enough hits as it is, given he’s the running back likely to receive the most carries.
“We’ll see what happens with Dominique,” London said. “You know, that first punt is always, everybody will hold their breath. First punt, you know? Please catch it. Please catch it. But if he catches it and he runs away and runs with it and does a good job, then it’s a great move. If he doesn’t, then everyone’s upset.
“But again, here’s a skill level that we’re going to utilize his talents and we’ll go from there. And if things happen where we have to make changes, then we can always go back to those guys. But starting out, we’re going to give these young players an opportunity.”
In addition to Jennings and Terrell, true freshman cornerback Demetrius Nicholson will start. Other true freshmen listed on the depth chart: offensive tackle Kelby Johnson, quarterback David Watford, tailback Clifton Richardson, weak-side linebacker Daquan Romero and strong safety Anthony Harris.
Center Cody Wallace, right guard Conner Davis, tight end Jake McGee, tailback Khalek Shepherd, middle linebacker Henry Coley, cornerback Drequan Hoskey, long snapper Matt Fortin and Parks are the redshirt freshman listed on the depth chart.
“I know there’s some good and bad about young players that are playing,” London said. “We just said, ‘Hey listen, the guy came here to play, these guys came here to play, we’re going to put him in position to try to help us win.’ We’ll see.”