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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Sputtering Cavs making changes

CHARLOTTESVILLE—David Watford was so frustrated by the performance of the Virginia offense Saturday in Pittsburgh that he didn’t bother to shower before he boarded the team plane home.

And as soon the Cavaliers’ sophomore quarterback arrived in Charlottesville following a 14–3 loss, he and two of his top receivers began playing catch.

Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell were a part of a receiving corps that dropped 10 passes.

But despite their willingness to correct the mistakes, there appears to be a shakeup looming at their position.

On Monday, Cavaliers head coach Mike London released the depth chart for Virginia’s upcoming game against Ball State Saturday at Scott Stadium.

Jennings and Terrell, both juniors, are no longer listed as definite starters. Neither is senior Tim Smith, who has made 26 career starts.

“You can’t have 10 drops in a game,” London said Monday. “There’s a lack of production and there needs to be accountability for that.”

The Cavaliers list 10 players with potential to see significant action at three wide receiver positions, including Keeon Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound true freshman.

Johnson hasn’t played yet this season, but London is ready to forgo the opportunity to redshirt him because the Cavaliers are in desperate need of a playmaker.

London said Virginia strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus told him Johnson is “freakishly athletic” and he also drew rave reviews in fall camp.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we need to get production from that position,” London said.

Jennings, Smith and Terrell are all 6 feet tall or shorter. Johnson and five of the other receivers with potential to play more Saturday are taller than 6 feet, and Watford said they can create matchup problems with their physicality.

“I definitely feel this week will be an opportunity being that everybody wants to be on the field,” said sophomore Adrian Gamble, one of the receivers in the mix for more snaps. “That will bring more competition. Competition makes other players better.”

FAIRCHILD UNDER FIRE

The Cavaliers are ranked 112th out of 123 FBS programs in total offense (322.5 yards per game). They managed just 188 total yards in the loss to the Panthers.

The inept showing has left many fans frustrated and they’re already calling for first-year offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild to be fired on Internet message boards and social media networks.

Watford defended Fairchild Monday, saying he shouldn’t take the blame for the offense’s struggles. Watford said the Cavaliers can’t run all of Fairchild’s plays because of poor execution.

“It’s not his fault,” Watford said. “We, as an offense, just have to go out on the field and just execute and just show him we can do the type of stuff that we have. We have so much but we haven’t been able to do it because we’re not able to execute it right now. It’s nothing to try to hide because we know it and everybody else knows it. It’s not on him. It’s on us.”

London was offered a chance to defend Fairchild as well. London acknowledged that although the team is learning a new scheme, “it’s disappointing about where we are. The facts and statistics don’t lie about that part of it.”

He said the defense has performed just fine under first-year coordinator Jon Tenuta.

“So there is a level of disappointment with the new offensive scheme that’s not as productive,” London said. “[It’s] now showing the type of production that it needs to help us, particularly with this past game.”

O-LINE CHANGES, TOO

The receiving corps isn’t the only area the Cavaliers are shaking up this week.

London has moved right tackle Jay Whitmire to right guard. Whitmire will be replaced by true freshman Eric Smith, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound Georgia native.

Cody Wallace, who started the last two games at right guard after Conner Davis went down with a hamstring injury, is now a backup to Luke Bowanko at left guard.

London said Smith, who was a basketball standout at Columbia (Ga.) High School, has the potential to be a fixture at his position.

“From day one we were able to see he’s a guy with a big upside,” Watford added. “He has great ability, great talent. He’s eager to learn. He’s very athletic. He’s able to move. I have a lot of confidence in him. I know he’ll be ready.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

 

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