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Receiver Rotation Cause For Concern

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff




April 3, 2007

CHARLOTTESVILLE – Based on statistics, a case could be made for Virginia wide receiver Kevin Ogletree as one of the most underrated football players in the ACC.

Just how underrated might not be evident until 2008.

Ogletree, who had 52 receptions in 2006 as a sophomore, sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in practice March 23 and is expected to miss the 2007 season.

Fortunately for Ogletree and the Cavaliers, he previously had not been redshirted, so he still will have two seasons of eligibility, starting in 2008. But the impact of his loss on the Cavaliers' passing game could be significant.

In Ogletree's absence, fellow junior Maurice Covington will enter the 2007 season as the returning UVa wideout with the most receptions in 2006 – seven.

The Cavaliers do have an impressive core of tight ends, led by rising senior Tom Santi, who caught 29 passes last year.

Ogletree's 11.2-yard average per catch would suggest that he was a possession receiver, which he was, but he also was the Cavaliers' best big-play threat. He had three receptions for 133 yards in a 28-26 loss to Maryland, including a 51-yard catch and run on which he weaved his way through the Terrapins' defense, and a 44-yard touchdown reception on a post pattern.

Overall, wide receiver was not a position of strength at Virginia last season, and now the Cavaliers have lost Ogletree, Deyon Williams, Fontel Mines and Emmanuel Byers from that group.

Byers, who had 10 receptions in 2006, was a fourth-year junior who underwent postseason surgery and was advised by the UVa coaches that his chances for future playing time would be limited.

Williams, too, finished 2006 with 10 receptions, after suffering a broken foot in the preseason. He did not play until the fifth game, had other injuries that limited him to six games overall, and probably should have been redshirted. In 2005, when able-bodied, he had 58 receptions.

Ogletree's injury marked the third time in five years that UVa lost its top returning receiver to injury prior to the start of the season. In 2003, it was senior Michael McGrew, who suffered a broken leg in August. McGrew previously had not been redshirted, so he was able to return as a fifth-year senior in 2004.

Wire-service reports indicated that Olgetree would miss the 2007 season, but that's not what coach Al Groh indicated in his March 28 teleconference. Groh simply said that the benchmark for injuries of Olgetree's type is 12 months. However, the coach's other comments suggested that a redshirt is likely.

"Third year is when it really happens for a lot of guys," Groh said. "He's (Ogletree) been very tunnel vision toward that. We've just got to realize, that year's coming back again. We've just put it on ice. It's not like it's lost forever. We'll get a chance to get it back."

It seemed as if Groh's tone had changed from previous years, when he usually held out hope that a player could return. He had to be aware of the Williams situation, and how much the player's desire to return and the coaches' desire to have him back led to a decision that seems short-sighted in hindsight.

Virginia signed three wide receiver candidates in February, including SuperPrep All-American Chase Minnifield, but Minnifield underwent ACL surgery in January. Another incoming wideout, Dontrelle Inman, had his 2006 season cut short by a knee injury. Minnifield and Inman both expect to be available in the fall, when the Cavaliers also will welcome all-state wide receiver Kris Burd from Matoaca (Va.) High.

New receivers coach Wayne Lineburg will have to patch together a unit from a cast that includes Covington, 2006 Tulane transfer Cary Koch, redshirt freshman Chris Dalton, walk-on Staton Jobe and the freshmen.

Dalton, measured at 6-2 and 172 pounds when he arrived at Virginia, has been cited by Groh as the fastest player the Cavaliers have recruited in his seven seasons as the team's head coach. Of all the returning wide receivers, he is the one who has the most potential to stretch the field. Dalton put up some monster numbers at West Iredell High in North Carolina, where he had 64 receptions for 945 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior in 2005.

However, if there was one wideout who was the talk of the spring, it was Jobe, an invited walk-on last year out of Westlake High in Texas.

"Staton Jobe is doing as good a job as anybody – walk-on, walk-out, walk-in, whatever category they came from," Groh said. "He picks things up very quickly. He has good speed and a lot of moxie to him."

Even before the Ogletree injury, Groh had moved Chris Gorham, a starter at cornerback in the 2005 Music City Bowl, to wide receiver. Tailback Mikell Simpson also was getting turns at wide receiver before the Ogletree injury and might get a longer look now.

NBA MUST WAIT FOR SINGLETARY

Sean Singletary, one of five men's basketball players in Virginia history to make first-team All-ACC more than once, threw a scare into the hearts of UVa fans when he indicated that he "definitely" had interest in NBA pre-draft camps.

That was in the aftermath of Virginia's 77-74 loss to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and the comments may have reflected Singletary's unfamiliarity with the process. Singletary has been saying since Day One that he will be back at UVa for the 2007-08 season, which led to a chat with coach Dave Leitao after the Cavaliers returned to Charlottesville.

One day later, in a previously scheduled news conference, Leitao said that Singletary had no intention of making himself available for the NBA draft, a decision that would allow him to attend the pre-draft camps.

Singletary, who faces a surgery-free offseason for the first time since his arrival at UVa, simply is looking forward to playing against NBA players in the offseason, whether it's in Charlottesville or Philadelphia, his hometown.

"I think there is a very significant level of naivete (about the NBA draft process), not only on his part, but on a lot of kids' part," Leitao said. "He hadn't really thought a whole lot about it, which brings about even more naivete."

Leitao also confirmed that an ankle injury sustained by senior guard J.R Reynolds in the first half against Tennessee was so severe that, had the Cavaliers won and advanced, Reynolds probably would have been unavailable five days later in the South Region semifinals.

Reynolds and top postman Jason Cain were the only seniors in 2006-07 for Virginia, which has focused its spring recruiting attention on 6-8 Patrick Patterson of Huntington, W.Va., but faces formidable opposition from Florida, Duke and Kentucky, with West Virginia and Wake Forest also still in the picture until Patterson announces otherwise.