At the season’s outset, the Virginia coaching staff decided to switch up the location of some of its personnel on game days. Running backs coach Mike Faragalli, for example, coached from the sideline last season but has monitored games from the coaches’ booth this year.
And while that might not seem like a significant change to most people, it has had an interesting effect on the players Faragalli oversees, particularly Virginia’s two lead tailbacks, junior Perry Jones and redshirt freshman Kevin Parks.
This season, Jones and Parks have been almost solely responsible for their in-game rotations. With the exception of a few specifically designed plays and the instances when the coaches choose to insert true freshman tailback Clifton Richardson, Jones and Parks let each other know when it’s time for the other to get some reps.
“We’ve told those guys when Perry gets tired, after four or five or six plays, a long run, whatever it is, [Parks], you be ready,” Faragalli said Wednesday. “He’ll give you the signal and you go.”
Jones starts every game, and he is the team’s leading rusher with 365 yards and two touchdowns. He also has 30 more rushing attempts than Parks, though Parks sat out Virginia’s last game with an ankle injury. Faragalli said Jones typically will get a few more carries than Parks, but it usually ends up being a pretty even rotation. From the coaches’ box, Faragalli tracks how many snaps each back gets to ensure as much.
“We do a good job of letting each other get into a rhythm,” Jones said Monday. “We’re not just after two plays calling each other out.”
There are a few plays on offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s call sheet that have “33” – Jones’ number – or “25” – Parks’s number – next to them, and in those instances it’s not up to the tailbacks which one is in the game.
And when either Lazor or Faragalli wants to get Richardson some playing time, neither Jones nor Parks has a vote in those cases, either. Richardson has carried the ball 34 times for 207 yards and one touchdown.
“Last year, [Faragalli] was on the sideline, so he could tell me and [then-senior tailback Keith Payne] when to go in and when to go out,” Jones said. “This year, he’s in the box, so me and [Parks] just monitor ourselves. We look and see when the other player might need a blow or have a tweaked ankle. There’s been plenty of times when he’s seen I was a little tired and come in, or I’ve seen that his ankle was sore, so I went in.”
Parks, who leads the team with six rushing touchdowns and has recorded 282 rushing yards, has dealt with an ankle injury for much of the past month. However, Virginia’s game Oct. 1 against Idaho was the first contest Parks missed.
“I feel like I’m back to 100 percent,” Parks said Monday.