At U.Va., no snap decision on who'll take snaps in 2014

Quarterback Greyson Lambert, in an interview Saturday after Virginia completed its first spring practice of the year, began to look over his shoulder.

Redshirt junior David Watford, last year's starter, continued to toss passes to receiver Miles Gooch.

And with that, the wide-open race to become the Cavaliers' starting signal caller in 2014 had begun.

"I didn't come here to give up this job and I didn't work as hard last year to give up the job. That's not in any of my thoughts," Watford said a few minutes later. "I don't want to give up the job. If Greyson wants the job, he's gonna have to win it outright. I'm not gonna give it up. I'm not just gonna hand it to him."

Once again, the main story line of U.Va.'s spring practice revolves around quarterbacks.

Watford started all 12 games a season ago, when the Cavaliers went 2-10 and lost their last nine games. But coach Mike London and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild have declared no favorite for when the 2014 campaign begins Aug. 30 against UCLA.

Watford, Lambert and redshirt sophomore Matt Johns, all part of the competition last year, will be given a chance.

Lambert took the first-team reps Saturday, but Fairchild was quick to point out that will rotate practice by practice. London noted that every drill will be charted and analyzed.

The same was true last year, and Watford eventually emerged. But the Hampton native was erratic, completing just 57.1 percent of his passes for 2,202 yards, eight touchdowns and an ACC-high 15 interceptions.

By the end of the season, Lambert saw increasing action in relief and performed better, albeit mostly during games long since decided.

"I don't think it was just David," Fairchild said Saturday. "We've got to play better around him. We got to coach better. We just weren't very good last year. We've got to get a lot better."

Lambert, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound redshirt sophomore, ultimately played in seven games in 2013, completing 33 of his 75 passes for 340 yards and one touchdown. But when London inserted him into U.Va.'s 16-6 loss to Virginia Tech in last year's finale with the game in the balance, Lambert also had issues. He finished 4 of 16 for 54 yards and an interception.

Lambert believes another year in Fairchild's system has helped with his comfort level and that "every time I was on the field, I was able to learn."

He has the best arm in the program.

"I really think he's taken the next step to trusting himself," tight end Jake McGee said.

Johns is something of a wildcard. He spent last season as the team's holder on kicks.

But Fairchild has consistently praised the Chalfont, Pa., native over the past year, and the 6-5, 205-pound Johns described his skill set as "more of a pocket quarterback, but if I need to get out and run, I'll try and make plays with my feet."

Neither London nor Fairchild have set a timetable for naming a starter, and the battle could again drag into August. The urgency, though, was palpable Saturday, particularly with so many other Virginia sports teams performing well - nine programs are ranked in the top 10 in the country this week.

So London, a former defensive line coach, spent more time than usual watching the quarterbacks, backing up his promise to be "more hands on" this year.

After one play during a red-zone drill, in which the ball slipped out of Watford's hands for a careless fumble, he screamed at the entire team. The very next snap, Watford hit running back Taquan Mizzell of Bayside High in the flat, and he stretched out for the pylon to score a touchdown.

If only the repairs were that simple in 2013.

"I'm all about looking forward and that's behind us," London said. "The job now is to look forward and perform and get it fixed and do the things that are gonna help this team be successful."

Posted to: College Football Sports

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