CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- When spring practices first began at Virginia, there were four quarterbacks splitting the reps fairly evenly. When spring practices ended on Saturday, Ross Metheny still didn’t know where he stood on Mike London’s depth chart.
He’s not the only one.
“I’ve been trying to get a beat on the rotation,” he said with a laugh, “but we just go in when coach tells us to go in. We just do what we’re told to do.”
Virginia’s biggest question this year remains unanswered, as none of the quarterbacks separated themselves this spring enough to earn the starting job. Metheny and Michael Rocco are the only two on the roster who have any game experience (a combined 42 pass attempts, four touchdowns and three interceptions). Michael Strauss and true freshman David Watford will also continue to push for the starting job. London said it’s possible the competition could extend into the season, but that he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of separation this spring.
“To me, the competition of all of those guys has raised all of their levels,” London said. “Obviously young David Watford is dropping the ball and doing things like that, but that’s part of his growth and development, understanding that when you’re down in the red zone, make sure you get the snap more than anything else. He’ll learn those things. The other three guys, all of them are working at it to make sure no one separates themselves from each other.”
Despite the lack of official practices between now and summer camp, London said the rest of the offseason will be critical to how the depth chart shakes out because he wants to see who takes the lead role when it comes to training, watching film and organizing the voluntary seven-on-seven workouts.
Part of the problem in the evaluation of the quarterbacks was injuries that sidelined six wide receivers for all or part of the spring, including returning starters Kris Burd and Tim Smith, and team captain Matt Snyder. With walk-ons filling some of the spots, the timing was often thrown off.
“It’s hard to evaluate your quarterbacks throwing that out-route when he’s supposed to go one-thousand one, one-thousand two, and let it go, and the receiver might not be as fast,” London said. “… With that being said, throw to the open guy, regardless. Be in the right gaps, be in the right position.”
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said it helped the staff evaluate the tight ends and running backs instead because they were more involved in the passing game because of the low numbers at receiver.
“We have two rules for the receivers -- be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and never fool the quarterback,” Lazor said. “Obviously they have a lot of things they have to know, but those are the overriding rules, and when the guy isn’t out there practicing, it’s hard. The first day he comes out, it’s hard to judge depth when you’re running full speed, it’s hard to be in the right spot. There will be some makeup time when all those guys come back.”
Once the season starts, there’s not a lot of time for auditions. Virginia will face former North Carolina backup quarterback Mike Paulus and William & Mary in the season opener before back-to-back road trips at Indiana and North Carolina.
“You may not know until the first or second game,” London said, “but right now, all of them know that wherever their game is, they need to improve upon it, and they’ve got to be doing it right now with a sense of urgency.”