Junior Matt Johns beat out Greyson Lambert for Virginia’s starting quarterback job coming out of spring practices, and Coach Mike London said Thursday that “it wasn’t close.”
“Matt did the best job,” London said. “He was most productive. He was most efficient. It wasn’t close. If it was close we’d still be talking about going into August camp still fighting for the same position. But Matt clearly did what he was supposed to do.”
Lambert appeared to have the edge going into spring drills, as he started nine games last season, but Johns played in every game and started three. Neither markedly outplayed the other in the spring game; Lambert was 6 for 14 for 79 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Johns was 11 for 23 for 66 yards and a touchdown. The two split reps with the first team throughout the spring and Johns ultimately “just graded out slightly higher,” offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said.
Johns went 89 for 162 passing for 1,109 yards, with eight touchdowns and five interceptions last year, while Lambert was 154 for 336 for 1,972 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Virginia finished the season 5-7 overall, 3-5 in the ACC. The offense ranked 11th in the 14-team ACC in total yards per game (374), 10th in points (25.8) and sixth in passing yards (236.4).
“It’s definitely a fluid situation,” Fairchild said. “This reflects if we were playing a game tomorrow which we’re not. Just like any other position, the guy who’s most productive is going to play. We’ve still got a long summer and obviously our two-a-day practices as well before we play.”
Though it’ll be up to Johns to keep the starting spot, he’ll have an advantage over Lambert in that he’ll enter the fall getting the majority of the reps with the first-team offense. London said Lambert was disappointed to learn he was not on the top line of the post-spring depth chart, but he told London, “Coach, I’m going to win that spot back.”
The Cavaliers have reiterated a commitment to becoming a power-running team next season, and the newly released depth chart listed junior Taquan Mizzell and sophomore Daniel Hamm as starting tailbacks. That the two are considered equal is surprising, as Mizzell was a five-star recruit and Hamm walked on at Virginia.
“Daniel had a good spring,” Fairchild said. “He does everything you ask of him. . . . He was able to hit the ball downhill like we wanted in the run game.”
London’s teleconference with reporters on Thursday was a newsy one. He also announced that running backs coach Chris Beatty, who joined Virginia’s staff in January, has been promoted to assistant head coach for offense. Senior wide receiver Dominique Terrell has been granted his release to transfer to play his final season of eligibility elsewhere.