Without spring practice, the Virginia football team lost its chance to develop chemistry between quarterbacks and wide receivers.
The Cavaliers also added Mississippi State transfer Keytaon Thompson into the mix this offseason, bringing another quarterback alongside Brennan Armstrong hoping to develop chemistry with wide receivers ahead of the fall season.
On the flip side, COVID-19 led to an increased ability to meet virtually via NCAA guidelines.
“I would say it was kind of a positive and a negative,” Virginia wide receivers coach Marques Hagans said of the team leaving Charlottesville in the spring. “The negative was we lost the opportunity for chemistry in spring ball, however, I think with Zoom we found out that we actually moved our team a little bit forward as far as being able to meet more, being able to do more football.”
From a schematic standpoint, the wide receivers and quarterbacks spent months diving deeper into the playbook and film review. There were added benefits from film study, but it’s time for the Cavaliers to turn video work into on-field results.
With the first week of fall camp wrapped up, the Cavaliers are creating competition at quarterback and wide receiver. Terrell Jana is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver, but depth behind him remains a question. A handful of guys are vying for playing time.
At quarterback, it’s a battle between Armstrong and Thompson.
“They’re both doing great things,” Jana said. “Keytaon, I think the big thing is learning the offense for him, learning the new offense. Our offense is complicated, so if he can get all the shifts and motions all that stuff down, I think he can be something special here.”
It’s one thing to break down footage via Zoom; it’s another to implement the offense on the field. Thompson, who joined the Cavaliers after graduating from Mississippi State, is still finding his footing within the offense.
He’s not the only transfer working to gain familiarity within the scheme. Wide receiver Ra’Shaun Henry, a transfer from St. Francis, is adjusting to the Cavaliers’ expectations and working with new quarterbacks.
Henry tries to put in a few extra reps after practice with the two potential starting quarterbacks in hopes of developing chemistry prior to Week 1.
“Brennan and KT, they both have unique styles to themselves,” Henry said, “It’s always important to get after practice and throw some routes with them and see what their mind is. They’re both different. Very good competition. It’s exciting to see.”
Hagans feels the chemistry between the two quarterbacks and receivers is coming along nicely through a week of camp. The spring brought benefits in the film room, and the time on the field helps the extra time studying translate to the game.
“I think the football part is starting to catch up because we’re able to get out here as a unit and connect with the quarterbacks and make up for that lost time,” Hagans said.
Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall mentioned at the beginning of camp that he feels comfortable with the time allotted to prepare for the season opener. Hagans feels similarly.
Despite Bryce Perkins, Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed moving on, the Cavaliers believe their passing game can be a strong point in 2020. They just need to develop proper chemistry.
“I feel confident that with the time that we have, we’ll be able to be where we need to be for the first game,” Hagans said.
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