Well the Hoos kicked off camp yesterday, and while it is WWWAAAYYY to early to come to any conclusions on position competitions, it is not a mystery who has to step up on offense to make this year a success. And this list isn’t filled with necessarily starters, it will be the role players that will make this team better. So at this point, let’s look at the 5 to key your eye on this fall. And, yep, tomorrow it will be defense.
5. Phillip Sims, Quarterback
We all know the story. While Virginia recruited two 1st year quarterbacks, they also brought in Sims who has been on a National Championship team. Now whether or not he will be the starter, I think that, worse case, he will push Mike Rocco (or Watford) in practice to make them better and get them ready for the tough opening stretch of the season. On the other side, if he dethrones Rocco, we get to see if Sims can live up to the hype.
4. Canaan Severin, Wide Receiver
Tim Smith, Darius Jennings, and Dominique Terrell. All of these guys will see the field a lot this season. They are also all speedy downfield playmakers and like to work off the screens. The one piece lacking in the receiving core is the taller possession WR. Even though he is a 1st year, he has the ability to get on the field early, work in the intermediate passing game, and pick up first downs.
3. Jeremiah Mathis, Tight End
Mathis only had 6 receptions for 25 yards last year, but 2 were for touchdowns. Mathis helps two fold for the Hoos this year. First off, if the Spring Game is any indication of Lazor’s 3.0 offense this year, the tight ends will be featured a lot more this year, and Mathis has really, really good hands. Second, Virginia was not very efficient at all in the red zone last year, and at 6-3, 245, he is a big target to set up in the end zone and when he might have been a 3rd option last year with 1/3rd of his catches for points, he should be in more of those big sets close to pay dirt.
2. Kevin Parks, Running Back
The offense this year will still run through Perry Jones, but he can’t be out there on every play. In comes KP. And even though he was sharing the spotlight last year, he had 60 yards a game with 10 total touchdowns....as a 1st year. And just because he is 5-8, he likes to run inside, especially in goal sets. Looks for him to continue his success in limited time this year before given the reigns next year.
1. Luke Bowanko, Center/Offensive Guard
While the tackles are All-ACC, the interior line is All-New. And while pulling guards are nice, the center is the anchor on the line. We have have been lucky to have fairly seamless transitions between incumbents, this year it seems like open competition. One name that is at the forefront is Luke Bowanko. If Luke can hold down the middle as the rest of the line gets their feet wet, they could solidify quickly and be a strength of this team, especially in pass protection.