Now that playing in a bowl game is out of the question, Virginia coach Mike London is hoping to get the Cavaliers’ youth movement going in earnest.
He plans to start Saturday at Boston College, giving dueling backup quarterbacks Ross Metheny and Michael Rocco a chance to show what they can do in meaningful game action, as well as finding snaps for other lightly used players looking ahead to next season.
Fifth-year senior Marc Verica will again start, London said, “but at the same time, we’ve just got to be conscious of the fact that we’ve got to have some guys that have been in a game in competition, a league game, on the road. Both of them will probably have the crowd situation that will be unbelieveable, but that’s all part of the maturation process.”
The Cavaliers (4-6, 1-5 ACC) can still finish at .500 with victories Saturday and next week at No. 14 Virginia Tech, but they are disqualified from making a bowl even if they win both games because two of their victories came against FCS schools Richmond and VMI.
Boston College (5-5, 3-4) needs one more victory to qualify for bowl consideration.
The Eagles have been watching the quarterback maturation take place all season, coach Frank Spaziani having switched to freshman Chase Rettig after just three games.
“There’s been improvement every week,” Spaziani said of Rettig’s play.
Metheny and Rocco have each played in mop-up roles this season, but neither has distinguished himself enough to grab the No. 2 job, London has said repeatedly. Having them go into a game long before the outcome is determined could be more telling, he said.
“When you’re getting blown out, you just call plays the quarterback is comfortable with,” he said, while in a 0-0 game, the quarterback has to get his team aligned properly, point out all the cues to watch for defensively and then still execute the play that was called.
And quarterback isn't the only spot where London wants to see new blood.
Bobby Smith, a 6-foot-5 wide receiver who has played only one snap this season as well as tight end Jeremiah Mathis, who started the season as a defensive end.
Others likely to get some snaps are cornerback Rijo Walker, offensive lineman Luke Bowanko, defensive ends Will Hill and Brent Urban and linebacker Billy Schautz, he said.
The prospects of seeing new faces in the huddle is exciting, tight end Paul Freedman said. Freedman himself has seen more time than expected because of a season-ending injury to starter Joe Torchia, and he and Mathis have been among the pleasant surprises this year.
“It’s fun because it gives them an opportunity to really make some strides and make some greatplays,” Freedman said, while adding the change doesn’t mean Virginia is giving up.
“We’re still trying to win these last two games and play the best people, but I think he is just giving them more of an opportunity in practice this week to show what they can do.”