Virginia capped the second week of fall camp with a intrasquad scrimmage at Scott Stadium on Saturday. With a healthy amount of practices under their belts, the Cavaliers are beginning to develop into shape for the season and the coaching staff is starting to get an idea of the depth chart at the various position groups.
As we did after the first week of practice, we're going to try our best to make meaningful observations based on what we've seen and heard from the team so far. Much of our takeaways this time around will be based on what we saw during the open portion of Saturday's practice, where we got to see the first drive of the team's scrimmage.
Starting 22 as of Saturday
Saturday's scrimmage gave us our first look at the players who are currently getting first-team reps. Of course, with several practices remaining between now and opening kickoff on September 3rd, the starting lineup will likely be subject to a significant amount of change. But, Saturday was our first opportunity to see which players are in position to have starting roles at this point in time. Some will be unsurprising like Brennan Armstrong and the receiving corps, while units like the offensive and defensive lines are made up of almost entirely new faces.
Here are the players who started on offense and defense during the first series of Saturday's scrimmage:
Offensive Line: LT Charlie Patterson, LG John Paul Flores, C Ty Furnish, RT Jestus Johnson III, RG Jonathan Leech
Running Backs: Perris Jones and Mike Hollins
Quarterback: Brennan Armstrong
Receivers: Dontayvion Wicks, Lavel Davis Jr., Keytaon Thompson, Billy Kemp IV
Tight End: Grant Misch
Defensive Line: DE Kam Butler, DT Jahmeer Carter, DT Aaron Faumui, DE Chico Bennett Jr.
Linebackers: Nick Jackson, Josh Ahern, Darrius Bratton (fifth DB)
Defensive backs: CB Anthony Johnson, S Langston Long, S Aidan Ryan, CB Fentrell Cypress II
There could be some substantial differences between the offensive line that started the first drive of the scrimmage on Saturday and the five-man OL that starts against Richmond in three weeks. Without naming any specific players, Tony Elliott said the offensive line is "banged up", so Garett Tujague's unit has not been able to field the same five guys on the line consistently throughout fall camp.
Fifth-year running back Ronnie Walker Jr. is showing some solid progress as he works back from an injury he suffered back in the spring. He is not yet cleared for contact but he did participate in some drills in a green jersey before Saturday's scrimmage.
Elliott reported that senior defensive back Coen King was unable to finish the scrimmage due to an elbow injury. He was still unsure about the severity of the injury when he met with media after the scrimmage.
Special Teams taking shape
Junior Brendan Farrell will likely be listed on the depth chart as both a kicker and a punter, as he is capable of carrying out punts, kick-offs, and field goals. However, Tony Elliott and special teams coordinator Keith Gaither would like to avoid the situation where Farrell is handling all three of those duties if possible. Farrell took over the starting kicker job in UVA's fourth game last season after Justin Duenkel went down with an injury. He made 11 of 13 field goals and was a perfect 34 of 34 on extra points. Farrell also put 37 of his 45 kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks.
True freshman Will Bettridge out of Miami, Florida is one of the highest-ranked kickers in the recruiting class of 2022. He has made some noise in fall camp, with Tony Elliott even noting that the team calls him 'Walk-Off Will' after he drilled a 48-yard field goal to end practice and save the team from sprints. Both Bettridge and Farrell attempted field goals and kickoffs at practice on Saturday, with Farrell doing the real kickoff that was returned to start the scrimmage.
Speaking of returners, UVA seems to be looking at four different players in the punt/kickoff return game: Billy Kemp, Devin Chandler, Demick Starling, and Ethan Davies. Of course, Kemp will be the frontrunner to reprise his role as the starting punt returner for the Cavaliers, as he has for the last couple of seasons. Wisconsin transfer Devin Chandler has some experience returning kicks and Tony Elliott spoke highly of Demick Starling's speed on Saturday.
Minnesota transfer Daniel Sparks should end up earning the starting punter job, but Farrell is an option for that position as well.
While nothing is finalized, a few specific Cavaliers have been mentioned by the UVA coaching staff as players who have worked their way to the front of the line in their respective position groups. Kameron Butler, a 6'3", 265-pound transfer from Miami (Ohio), has had a strong camp and found himself on the field to start Saturday's scrimmage as an edge rusher.
Tony Elliott likes what he is seeing from the Virginia running back room from a competition standpoint, but he noted that if he had to pick a starter now, it would be senior Perris Jones. The former walk-on has been the most consistent running back in camp thus far and could be setting himself up for a breakout season as UVA's starting running back if he continues to be solid.
Sophomore defensive back Aidan Ryan out of Fredericksburg, Virginia has impressed the UVA defensive coaching staff this fall - so much so that he started alongside fellow Virginia native Langston Long in the safety positions on Saturday.
Watch some clips from Saturday's UVA football scrimmage in the following video:
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