Things started getting a bit more physical at Virginia football practice on Wednesday.
Wednesday marked the third day of drills for the Cavaliers, which meant it was the first day the team could practice in shoulder pads. The team practiced in just helmets for the first two days; they can start wearing full pads on Friday, the fifth day of practice.
"It's 23 days left until our first game," coach Mike London said before Wednesday's practice. "And we have to make sure that the stuff we're starting to do now, even though it's the third practice, that we're getting ready for the season. Normally you'd like to find out a lot of different things about some of your spots that are the weakest."
London specifically referenced the Cavaliers' defensive backfield, where the team is searching for three new starters this season.
"There are some candidates in the secondary, particularly at corner," said London. "Brandon Phelps making an interception off the hash as a safety is what safeties do."
SOPHOMORE RECEIVERS EMBRACE BIGGER ROLES
Sophomore wide receivers Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell are emerging as leaders at the position in their second seasons at Virginia.
Now the question is how much production they'll bring once the season starts.
Both players saw time as true freshmen in 2011, and both admitted on Wednesday that they didn't play with the necessary consistency. With offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling for more big plays in 2012, Jennings and Terrell are both being counted on to step up.
"I feel as though it starts with us," Jennings said Wednesday. "If we want to be a big-play team, we've got to step our passing game up. And as receivers, we've got to step up and make the big plays. There can't be any 50/50 balls. We've got to go up and just make sure that the QB has trust in us to go get it."
"Get first downs. Move the ball. Get Perry some space, get it off his back," said Terrell. "We're not the biggest bunch in the group, so scoring, we've got to get shifty."
SCHAUTZ AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
Defensive end Bill Schautz was in the middle of a breakthrough season for the Cavaliers in 2011 -- until it came to an abrupt end because of a leg injury late in Virginia's win at Florida State last November.
Back for his senior season in 2012, Schautz says his leg is back to 100 percent.
"I'm past where I wanted to be (at this point in camp)," he said Wednesday. "This is a good start, where I'm at right now."
Schautz had a sack and a forced fumble before getting hurt in the Florida State game. He finished his junior year with 28 tackles, including two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.
London called Schautz an important part of the Virginia defense on Wednesday. He also praised the senior's leadership on the field during practice.
"Billy is a high motor guy," London said. "And when you see a high motor guy out there running around in everything he does... It's kind of contagious. And players see the expectation of just intense effort all the time."
"I would say I had to learn that from the guys ahead of me," Schautz said. "I came here as a freshman, and I had to look up to guys like Clint Sintim. And then Cam Johnson and Matt Conrath last year. It kind of got passed down to me, and I took it by the reins, and I'm trying to be the best I can. Lead these guys through the battles we go through every day."
LEWIS EXCITED TO START COACHING CAREER
New Virginia graduate assistant Jonathan Lewis admits he's gotten some good-natured ribbing from some former Virginia Tech teammates.
"Yeah, you know, you get a couple hard shots," said Lewis, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2005. "But you realize the opportunity you have, and you've got to take it. This opportunity to get into the coaching profession, feed your family, and do things like that. You've got to make decisions as a man. This is a good opportunity."
Lewis, a Richmond native, was an All-ACC defensive tackle with the Hokies, and spent time with the Cardinals, Raiders, Jaguars, and Seahawks during a five-year NFL career.
"I'm having fun," Lewis said of his first coaching job. "Just got off the field, and still had that intensity. I just want to take that intensity on the field, and instill it in these kids. I think these guys have got some ability. They just need to keep working hard. Staying relentless, running to the ball, stuff like that. And I think they'll be fine."