April 23, 2015

Matt Johns will head into the summer as Virginia's starting quarterback, having unseated incumbent Greyson Lambert during spring practice. Perhaps.

''It wasn't close,'' coach Mike London said of the competition on a conference call Thursday. ''If it was close we'd still be talking about going into August camp with two guys fighting for the same position. Matt clearly did what he was supposed to do and led our team in a way that we think the quarterback should be able to play to make us successful.''

Though London sounded like the competition was a done deal, it may not be over.

Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, who spoke before London, was less definitive than the head coach and indicated that the competition remains very much alive.

''It's definitely a fluid situation. This reflects if we were playing a game tomorrow, which we're not. Just like any other position, the guy that's most productive is going to play,'' Fairchild said, noting that the summer could alter the coaches' thinking.

Johns started three games last season, but Lambert started all nine for which he was healthy.

Both juniors, Lambert was a team captain and completed 59 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season. Johns completed 65 percent with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

Neither was voted a captain by the team this season, but both are on London's 14-member leadership council.

The decision was based on both players' body of work over 15 practices, not just the spring game, Fairchild said. Despite an increased attention to accuracy, neither completed 50 percent in the spring finale, but both did overall, he said.

In stark contrast to London's take on the competition, which might be designed to send a message to Lambert, Fairchild didn't see either Johns or Lambert overshadowing the other. In a perfect world, he said, that would have been ideal.

''You'd like separation,'' he said. ''I don't know that it's frustrating. I think they both got better, as they should, because they both played in live action last year. I thought they both did some great things throughout the spring.''

Johns, who emerged from the shadows and was called on in a relief role when Lambert struggled early last season, said after the spring game that he and Lambert are just competing and leaving the rest to the coaches.

''We're kind of just letting the coaches decide,'' he said. ''We're doing what we can do and we're having fun and we're playing football, and that's all that we can ask for.''

The quarterback spot was not the only surprise on the depth chart released Thursday.

At halfback, former five-star recruit Taquan Mizzell and former walk-on Daniel Hamm are competing for the starting job.

Mizzell has earned raved reviews for his explosiveness in practice, but has yet to show it in a game. Hamm set a Virginia record for rushing yardage in his debut with 136 yards in a victory against VMI in 2012, and he hasn't let up.

''He does everything you ask of him,'' Fairchild said of Hamm. ''A smart player. Was able to get ball downhill like we wanted in the run game. He has some value obviously in the pass game coming out of the backfield ... with his ball skills.''

London also announced that Chris Beatty, brought on this offseason as running backs coach, will be assistant offensive head coach, and wide receiver Dominique Terrell has asked for, and received, a release to pursue opportunities elsewhere


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