CHARLOTTESVILLE — The news came almost immediately before quarterback Greyson Lambert threw the first of his two touchdown passes Saturday afternoon, and the coincidence seemed appropriate.
Virginia announced that the redshirt sophomore had been voted one of the team’s four captains for the 2014 season by his teammates and become part of Coach Mike London’s leadership council. The other three captains — safety Anthony Harris, linebacker Henry Coley and running back Kevin Parks — are all rising seniors and entrenched starters.
Meanwhile, redshirt junior David Watford was nowhere to be found on the list of leaders a season after receiving more votes than anybody else for the council and starting every game behind center. London later said “everybody comes short of meeting an expectation” when asked about Watford’s absence and the Hampton native admitted an off-field “incident” led to his omission.
So while Virginia’s annual spring game ended without anybody declaring a new starter at quarterback going forward, it certainly appeared as if Lambert has emerged as the front-runner to win the job.
“I guess the quarterback spot was open,” wide receiver Kyle Dockins said of Lambert’s captaincy. “And he took it.”
Lambert said he has tried to become more vocal entering his third year in the program, and he performed far better than his counterparts Saturday. He showed both the good and bad of his skillset in front of a sparse crowd at Scott Stadium, finishing 18 of 31 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and combining pinpoint passes with moments in which his strong arm led him to force throws into double and triple coverage.
Lambert was the first quarterback on the field and led both of the team’s touchdown drives in an offense vs. defense format with 18 players out of action due to injury, including weapons like senior Jake McGee and Parks. But he did manage to showcase Virginia’s cadre of taller receivers, finding 6-foot-2 Good Counsel grad Andre Levrone (4 catches, 60 yards) and 6-foot-3 wide receiver Kyle Dockins in the end zone.
“The experience I was able to get last year. . . really helped me out,” said Lambert, who relieved Watford in the last four games when Virginia finished 2-10 during the 2013 campaign
Watford, on the other hand, completed only 4 of his 14 pass attempts and had two interceptions. Both signal callers were hamstrung by a patchwork offensive line that was without two potential starters (redshirt junior Jay Whitmire and sophomore Sadiq Olanrewaju) and lost two others to injury over the course of the afternoon.
Junior defensive end Eli Harold and sophomore linebacker Max Valles, who added 15 pounds to his frame this offseason, wreaked havoc on the edges by combining for four sacks.
Afterwards, Watford declined to discuss his specific transgression. He did, however, clarify that he was asked by offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild to play wide receiver during a few practices due to injuries this spring, contrary to London’s assertion earlier this week that Watford “volunteered” to be at the position.
“I did disappoint myself; I disappointed my teammates; Coach London as well,” Watford said. “Whatever happened, happened. All you can do is learn from the mistake. It’s all about how you respond to negative situations.”