At some point on Saturday, true freshman weak-side linebacker Daquan Romero will take the field on defense and gain his first bit of experience at the collegiate level. For now, the plan is for him to come along slowly, as a reserve for starter LaRoy Reynolds. Romero also will factor significantly into Virginia’s kick coverage.
But, undoubtedly, many things will transpire this season that no one on the Virginia roster or coaching staff possibly can foresee, including injuries. And so Romero and several other Cavaliers true freshmen find themselves in precarious positions – not quite prepared enough to shoulder significant responsibilities, yet on the verge of having to do just that.
Seven true freshmen are listed as either the No. 1 or No. 2 option at their give positions on Virginia’s depth chart. Clifton Richardson, another true freshman, is slotted as the No. 4 tailback. Coach Mike London said Monday he expects to play 10-12 true freshmen this season.
Additionally, eight redshirt freshmen can be found on Virginia’s depth chart, and several of them are likely to see significant playing time this fall, as well.
Those facts, according to Linebackers Coach Vincent Brown, are simultaneously encouraging and nerve-wracking as the team prepares to begin its 2011 campaign.
“There are two sides to it,” Brown said Tuesday in a teleconference. “On one side, you say, ‘Well, this guy hasn’t quite seen all the things that he needs to see to be ready to play.’ But the other side of it is you’ve got a young guy who has the natural athletic ability to help you win a game. And so sometimes you just have to throw them out there and let them learn as they go.
“You can’t prepare them for everything that they’re going to see in practice because it’s just not practical. But when you have talented athletes, you put them out there and hope that they understand enough that they don’t cause you to lose a game. I feel good about the young guys we have because they do bring a tremendous amount of talent and athleticism to us, and you can always kind of simplify things to be pretty basic to give them a chance to succeed.”
As for Romero, who enrolled at Virginia for the 2011 spring semester, Brown said there remain facets of the defense the player has yet to learn. Regardless, Brown is confident Romero is at a point in his development where he can contribute.
“He’s done a tremendous job of just studying and trying to be focused on the details,” Brown said. “I’ve told all the guys that it’s a long season. Players get hurt. They get nicked up. And everyone has to be prepared to go into the game. He’s at a point now where we can put him in the game, and he can be successful. Wouldn’t want to put him out there if we didn’t think he could be successful and help us.”