Under head coach Mike London some would say that the University of Virginia Cavaliers experienced a renaissance of sorts last season. Finishing the season 8-5 and playing in their first bowl game since 2007 when they lost to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl 43-24, both were improvements.
Former local players are working hard in Charlottesville, and two are expected to be key contributors this season. Meadowbrook alum right tackle Morgan Moses and L.C. Bird alum safety Anthony “Ant” Harris. UVA held opened practice last week, and the Village News was there to catch up with the guys.
Moses, who registers at 6’6”, 325 pounds, was considered a top offensive line prospect in high school. After graduation and his signing, he attended Fork Union Military Academy to work on his academics before attending UVA full-time. Last season, he started all thirteen games on the line and had a great performance in the Chick-fil-A bowl.
“Morgan has gotten better steadily in every category,” said University of Virginia offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim. “He lost some weight in the off-season, got stronger in the weight room and his stance is right where we want it when he’s blocking.”
The big man has matured greatly in the eyes of his coaches and teammates since his arrival, and his recent weight loss endeavors were just another way the junior showed furthered maturity and dedication in the off-season.
“I miss those late night trips to McDonald’s,” Moses joked. “But I feel better. I’m not as tired and I feel like I can give my all on every play, and that’s what Coach [London] is looking for.”
Moses is expected to be an All-ACC first team performer and an All-American this season. With his size and growing skill set, the NFL could be on the horizon as well. But first things first – Moses wants to see the team grow.
“We were one game from the ACC Championship last year,” said Moses. “Our goal is to get better as a team and get there.”
Another local star chiseling out his spot is Ant Harris, the former football and basketball standout at L.C. Bird. In fact, that spot is a starting safety in the Cavaliers’ secondary.
Last season, Harris worked his way up to the number two spot on special teams, playing in all 13 games as a freshman and registering 15 tackles including a three tackle performance against North Carolina.
“We’re going to see what he can do this year when the lights come on,” said Anthony Poindexter, safeties coach for UVA. “We’ll see what his special team experience taught him, and what he learned last season.”
Harris played wide receiver and quarterback in addition to corner and safety in high school, and at the perspective of playing quarterback he stated it had been helpful in playing in the defensive backfield.
“Playing quarterback [in high school] allows me to think like one,” said Harris. “I can read their eyes, read their shoulders and try to see what they might be seeing.”
The sophomore has been lauded for his work ethic in the weight room and in practice. Harris is seen as a player with much potential.
“I want to make big plays and help us win games,” said Harris. “I want to do something in my time here, that the people here remember.”
There are two other members of UVA’s team trying to find their spots; sophomore Greg Gallop and redshirt freshman John Pond. Gallop was both an academic and athletic standout at Thomas Dale and hopes to work his way into the defensive line rotation. Gallop saw no playing time last season, but has been working to improve his conditioning.
“I’ve been working hard to get into the rotation,” said Gallop. “A big part of that has been off the field work and I’ve lost weight and have been working on my conditioning. “
Pond, a standout for Matoaca was redshirted last season along with three other offensive lineman for UVA, and is excited to have the opportunity to crack the rotation for the Cavaliers.
“We gained a lot of experience and got a lot of extra work in last season,” said Pond. “The redshirt period is over, it’s our time to play now and prove ourselves.”
The Cavaliers open their season with a match-up at home against Mike London’s former team and in-state rival Richmond Spiders on September 1st. They follow up with another home contest against Penn State on September 8th.
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