Marques Hagans doesn’t want to overstep his boundaries.
Virginia’s wide receivers coach and the cousin of quarterback David Watford, Hagans would seem to be an ideal source of information this week. The Cavaliers are trying to ignite their offense, starting with Saturday’s game against VMI, by using Watford as a running threat and creating downfield passing plays.
But Watford hasn’t sought out Hagans, whose 902 career rushing yards rank third all-time by a Cavaliers quarterback, for any advice this week.
“I think the person that can coach him the best” is offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Steve Fairchild, Hagans said. “Unless he asks for my opinion, I just let him be coached by Coach Fairchild. . . .
“I think the thing with David, contrary to me, is he’s doing a good job in the confines of the system. . . . Once he understands certain down and distances and situations, he’ll feel more comfortable and obliged to run. I think he’s doing a great job. He’ll feel his way as the season goes along and understand when he should run and when he shouldn’t.”
Hagans has enough on his plate leading a position group that, along with Watford, is primarily responsible for Virginia having the fewest receptions of 15 or more yards in the country right now. The Cavaliers’ longest catch of the year is a 20-yard completion to junior Darius Jennings against BYU in Virginia’s season-opening win.
Many have voiced displeasure with Fairchild’s conservative play-calling since Virginia’s 59-10 loss to No. 2 Oregon two weekends ago, but Hagans said this week the blame could also fall on his wide receivers.
“I don’t think there’s anything against the play-calling,” Hagans said. “I think we have to do a better job of getting open and we have to make the plays when they present themselves and the ball comes our way.
“I think the off week was good for us. It allowed us to look over the first two games and see exactly where we needed to improve at and we were able to do that during the bye week. So as we move forward, getting ready for VMI, the fans and everybody that comes to the game, will see a different look from the receivers starting this week.”
The personnel, though, will likely stay the same. Senior Tim Smith, junior Dominique Terrell (Osbourn) and Jennings have been receiving most of the snaps through two games, and Hagans doesn’t foresee that changing.
All three are listed at 6 feet or shorter and are better suited catching the ball in space as opposed to over the top of the defense.
The Cavaliers did throw to sophomore Adrian Gamble on a long incompletion against Oregon, but Hagans indicated other taller receivers like redshirt freshman Kyle Dockins and sophomore Canaan Severin have not proven themselves enough to get on the field as receiving option just yet.
“We have to find the right blend of guys who can go in and make plays,” Hagans said. “I think the three guys that are on the field the most right now have proven in practice on a day-to-day basis that they’ve earned the spots that they have and the guys behind them have to continue to push and get better and work each day.”
Three things to watch vs. VMI
Calm before the storm
Virginia’s 83rd all-time meeting against VMI should pose few problems. The Keydets are 0-26 facing Football Bowl Subdivision competition since 1982 and lost, 37-24, to Division II North Greenville last week. They haven’t finished with an above .500 record since 1981. But with Virginia’s ACC opener at Pittsburgh looming in a week, the Cavaliers would be wise to clean up the flaws that were exposed on both sides of the ball against BYU and No. 2 Oregon to start the year.
Changing gears on offense
The Cavaliers spent their bye week trying to ignite an offense that struggled to produce anything consistently facing two top-tier defenses to begin the season. Coach Mike London said the plan is to use quarterback David Watford as a running threat and call more downfield passing plays. Virginia is one of just two BCS teams that doesn’t have a completion of 30 or more yards this season. Connecting on some explosive plays could do wonders for the entire team’s confidence.
Watford and Fairchild
New offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild took some heat from fans who were upset by his conservative play-calling during Virginia’s 59-10 loss to No. 2 Oregon. But part of the problem, it seems, simply involved getting more comfortable with Watford and what he can do effectively. Watford is averaging just 3.77 yards per attempt this year, with just one touchdown and four interceptions, including three against the Ducks. It’s easy to forget, however, that Saturday will be just his third career start. Facing an overmatched VMI squad, it should be the perfect opportunity to develop a rhythm and an identity.