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College Football: Hodges scores by prepping Virginia’s defense

FORMER WILDCATS QB HELPS OUT CAVALIERS

BY MIMICKING YELLOW JACKETS’ SPREAD ATTACK

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

CHARLOTTESVILLE—The Virginia Cavaliers have a host of young quarterbacks on their roster.

Head coach Mike London has the luxury of planning to redshirt sophomore David Watford this season because Alabama transfer Phillip Sims is the primary backup to starter Michael Rocco.

Virginia also has true freshman Greyson Lambert, a four-star recruit from Georgia, and fellow true freshman Matt Johns, a former three-star player.

However, when it comes to Georgia Tech week, London bypasses Watford, Lambert and Johns to run the scout team. Instead, he turns to senior holder Jacob Hodges, a former Mountain View High School quarterback.

Hodges, who holds for field goals and extra points, played quarterback effectively for the Cavaliers’ scout team in 2011. His precision in simulating Tech’s unique spread option helped prepare Virginia’s defense, which shone in a 24–21 upset win.

So as the Cavaliers (2–0) prepare to visit the Yellow Jackets (1–1, 0–1 Atlantic Coast Conference) in their ACC opener on Saturday, Hodges is again in control of the operation.

“I know that this offense, because of the short motion and the footwork of the quarterback and all of the different intricacies of playing that position you know, it takes some time [to learn],” London said of why he prefers Hodges. “And when you want to get the right look, you know, there’s a guy that knows the look.”

That guy is Hodges.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is known for his run-heavy, flex-bone offense that gives opponents fits.

Hodges ran a similar offense at Mountain View his junior season. He approached the coaching staff last year about possibly playing scout team quarterback for the Georgia Tech game, and it was immediately evident he could handle the job.

He and Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid spent time this summer prepping for the Yellow Jackets.

“This is a special week for me,” Hodges said Tuesday. “I get to go back to my glory days a little bit.”

Hodges looked on with pride as the Cavaliers defeated a then-6–0 Georgia Tech team last season. Virginia became the first team to out-rush the Yellow Jackets (274–272) since Iowa in the Orange Bowl following the 2009 season.

The entire scout team was honored by the coaching staff after the victory.

“At the beginning of the game we were nervous,” Hodges said. “We knew the guys were prepared, but you never really know until the game starts. It was a great honor for all of us on the scout team to watch the defense play so well that day.”

Hodges said the group felt a sense of “ownership” for the way the defense played. But last season, the Cavaliers had two weeks to practice for the Yellow Jackets.

This year, they face Georgia Tech on the heels of an emotional 17–16 win over Penn State last Saturday.

Hodges said he began playing scout team quarterback on Sunday. The team had Monday off, and was back at it on Tuesday.

Hodges said he was rusty on Tuesday, but added that he expects to be better Wednesday.

“It’s like riding a bike,” he said. “After the first couple of days I’ll get the feel back for it.”

Hodges’ ability to perform the task still takes some of his teammates by surprise.

Sophomore cornerback Demetrious Nicholson said Hodges gives the defense “a great look” at what they can expect from the Yellow Jackets.

“Oh, that’s pretty amazing,” Nicholson said. “I was talking to him the other day and he said they used to run the same type of offense in high school, and I didn’t know that. But he knows how to run it pretty well.”

Hodges earned his undergraduate degree in May, and is now in graduate school at Virginia.

London granted him the opportunity to play for the Cavaliers again this season because he didn’t want to enter the year with a new holder and new kicker.

Hodges was the Cavaliers’ manager before he walked on three years ago. He’s using his playing experiences to prepare for what he hopes is a career in coaching.

He takes notes at defensive team meetings. And whenever he hangs out with coaches, he carries around a notebook to write down how they operate.

“This has been a true blessing,” Hodges said. “Hopefully all of this will help me reach my goal.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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