April 15, 2014
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CHARLOTTESVILLE -- One of the most celebrated recruits in the class that joined UVa's football program in 2012, defensive end Mike Moore played in all 12 games as a true freshman that fall.
Moore, whose father, Shawn, was an assistant coach at Virginia in 2010, '11 and '12, appeared in 11 games last season but had little impact, making 16 tackles and recording only one sack.
"I think he was a little disenchanted last year," UVa defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta said Tuesday.
Not only was his father one of the Virginia assistant coaches dismissed after the 2012 season, but Moore was unable to crack the starting lineup in 2013, when Eli Harold and Jake Snyder divided most of the snaps at defensive end.
As Moore heads into his third season with the Cavaliers, however, "I think he has a totally different attitude," Tenuta said. "You could tell this spring he came in with his guns blazing."
At halftime of the Orange-Blue game Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium, Moore, a graduate of DeMatha High in Hyattasville, Md., received a Rock Weir Award as the defense's most improved player this spring.
"His football IQ is up there," middle linebacker Henry Coley said. "He's made himself a lot more versatile, [from] playing D-end to playing inside techniques. He's gotten stronger in the weight room. I believe he's doing great in school also. On the field and off the field, he's just been a hell of a player."
On offense, Rock Weir Awards went to two players: fullback Connor Wingo-Reeves
and guard Ryan Doull
In spring drills, Moore and his classmate Harold usually were the first-team ends. At 6-4, 270 pounds, Moore is also big enough to slide inside to tackle as needed.
"For me he's made leaps and bounds," Tenuta said. "He's more engaging. There's a lot of things about the young man that are positives, and the positive for us defensively is that he's playing well."
Wingo-Reeves, a graduate of Monacan High in the Richmond area, was one of 12 true freshmen to play for the Cavaliers last season. He did not carry the ball, but he caught one pass for 4 yards. He also was in on 79 special-teams plays.
Virginia's starting fullback last year, Billy Skrobacz, has exhausted his eligibility, and the 6-3, 235-pound Wingo-Reeves replaced him atop the depth chart this spring. No. 2 at fullback is rising junior Vincent Croce, and No. 3 is rising sophomore Israel Vaughan.
"I just think he's a young man that is coming along from where he was at in the fall," running backs coach Larry Lewis said Tuesday of Wingo-Reeves.
The Cavaliers' coaches played Wingo-Reeves as a true freshman in part, Lewis said, because "we needed him, but we also really thought the playing time last year would help him get along better this year, which I think it has. And I think he was mature enough academically to be able to handle it.
"Physically, I don't know if he was quite ready yet. But our thinking was the experience part of it would make a big difference for what he was going to do this year, especially on special teams."
Wingo-Reeves played on the kickoff return and kickoff coverage units last season, said Lewis, also UVa's special teams coordinator, and practiced with the punt return and punt protection teams.
The 6-5, 305-pound Doull, who's from Ontario, Canada, played on the postgraduate team at Fork Union Military Academy in 2011. He redshirted at UVa in 2012 and then played in nine games last season, mostly on special teams.
This spring, Doull worked extensively at left guard on the second-team offense and occasionally, when starter Conner Davis wasn't available, with the first team.
"Going into the spring game, Ryan probably had more snaps than any other offensive lineman," offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim said Tuesday, "which we were doing on purpose, because you learn by doing, and we want to get him as many repetitions as we can."
Over the course of 15 spring practices, Wachenheim said, Doull "really came a long way in his football IQ. He didn't miss very many assignments this spring. He played with a lot more confidence. He knew what to do, and his natural ability, for the first time, you could really see shining through.
"He played his best football since being here, and he looked like he was having fun again. There's still some improvement to be done before we open up the season, but he really did take a huge step in the right direction."
Doull's "limitations have never been athletic," Wachenheim said. "It's just been grasping all the minor details of playing offensive line. That's normal for any incoming freshman, whether they're from Canada or the United States.
"He's picked it up now, and I really expect big things from him in training camp and in the fall if he continues on the learning curve that he's on now."
LEADING BY EXAMPLE: In addition to the Rock Weir Award winners, other players recognized Saturday at Scott Stadium included wide receiver Darius Jennings and free safety Wilfred Wahee.
Jennings and Wahee shared the Iron Cavalier Award, which is handed out each spring by the strength and conditioning coaches who work with football.
Neither player is a giant -- Jennings is listed at 5-11, 175 pounds, and Wahee at 5-11, 200 -- but each has distinguished himself with his performance and work ethic in the weight room during the offseason.
Jennings, a rising senior from Baltimore, has caught 106 passes for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns as a Cavalier. He's also returned 56 kickoffs for 1,162 yards.
"He's battled through some injuries, and he never complains about them," strength coach Ryan Tedford said. "He never uses that as an excuse. He pushes through, and then he takes some younger guys under his wing and kind of shows him the way as well."
Jennings is strong for his size -- he cleans over 300 pounds -- and "he's not afraid," Tedford said. "He attacks every lift."
And the importance of that, Tedford said, can't be overstated.
"There's always going to be some self-doubt, but if you give in to that self-doubt, then you're never going to be what you really want to be," Tedford said. "[Jennings] has none of that self-doubt. He goes in and says, `This is what I'm supposed to do. I'm going to do my best at it and see where the chips fall.' And that's what we really need to be more like as a team. Don't have preconceived notions about what's going to happen. Go for it. See what happens. If you fail, figure out what we've got to do different to get it the next time. But don't back down from the challenge. Attack it, and see what happens."
Wahee, a graduate of Norfolk Christian, redshirted in 2012. He was expected to be a major contributor on special teams last fall, but in mid-August he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
"He battled through the most adversity, I think," Tedford said.
Wahee's injury required reconstructive surgery, but "as soon as the season was over, he was full go, and that's quicker than usual," Tedford said.
When he was cleared to resume training, Wahee showed "no fear about going back into things, and with his positive attitude and his aggressiveness towards what he was doing, he really did an outstanding job, and he came a long way as a person as well," Tedford said.
"He was always a more reserved individual, and this injury kind of took him out of his shell a little bit. I think he surprised himself a little bit too: `Hey, this is what I'm capable of.' "
In the weight room, Wahee's "strength numbers went out of the roof, too, and that's while battling back from an injury," Tedford said. "It was good to see him come in and take it upon himself to get better and not shy away from that thing."
Also considered for the Iron Cavalier Award, Tedford said, were Croce and defensive tackle Donte Wilkins.
IRON MEN: UVa went into the spring game with only 10 healthy offensive linemen, and midway through the first quarter one of them, senior Cody Wallace, went down with an ankle injury.
That meant extra work for two other linemen in particular.
"Eric Smith took 96 snaps and Mike Mooney took 92 snaps," Wachenheim said.
The 6-5, 295-pound Smith started eight games at right tackle as a true freshman last season. He's expected to start on the left side this fall. The 6-6, 290-pound Mooney played in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman last season, mostly on special teams.
HITTING HIS STRIDE: In the first game of his senior season at Good Counsel High in Olney, Md., wide receiver Andre Levrone broke his left tibia and fibula.
Those injuries sidelined him until late in the season. Then, at UVa, he missed an extended stretch of practice with tendinitis in his knee last year. The 6-2, 210-pound Levrone ended up redshirting, but he served notice Saturday that he's likely to an integral part of the Cavaliers' receiving corps this fall.
Levrone finished the spring game with four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. Among Virginia's wideouts, only rising sophomore Kyle Dockins (eight catches, 74 yards, one TD) had a more impressive day.
He knew he had to remain patient, Levrone said, "but when you know you're able to produce but you physically just can't go do it right away, that's hard, man, that's hard. A lot of people can't deal with that. But I was persistent, and over time it became my time to shine. I took advantage of my opportunities, and I'm looking forward to doing the same in the future."
WORTHY CAUSE: One of the football program's annual community-service projects is a bone-marrow registration drive. This year's will be held Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the amphitheater on Grounds.
In the event of rain, registration will be moved to the Newcomb Hall gallery.
This cause has special meaning for head coach Mike London, who saved his daughter Ticynn's life with a bone-marrow transplant in 2003.
Since London's team began sponsoring the "Get in the Game, Save a Life" initiative, four UVa students have been identified as matches, including former football player Trevor Grywatch and current football player David Marrs.