As the finishing touches are being applied to Scott Stadium, the Virginia football team's makeover continued Friday night at Klöckner Stadium in the annual spring game. Returning starter Dan Ellis started the contest at quarterback, but both freshmen backups showed promise as the offense defeated the defense, 30-19.
Ellis started the evening well, leading the offense on a 70-yard drive, which culminated with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Billy McMullen.
Virginia coach George Welsh had intended on playing Ellis for the entire first half, but Ellis exited the game with 3:49 to go in the first quarter to protect an injured shoulder that had sidelined him for much of the spring.
Freshmen Bryson Spinner and Matt Schaub, both competing to win the spot behind Ellis, went the rest of the way and impressed the crowd in their first public performances in Virginia uniforms. Spinner ran the option effictively, gaining 33 yards while Schaub displayed his strong arm, throwing for 136 yards and one touchdown on 12-of-18 passing. Spinner threw two interceptions in the first quarter, both to linebacker William Clark.
"Both are the kind of kids that, if they make mistakes, they are not going to get down on themselves," Welsh said. "Spinner probably played better in the second half."
Running backs Arlen Harris and Tyree Foreman both made cases to take over Thomas Jones' throne at tailback. Harris and Foreman will compete for the spot against Antwoine Womack, who was not in uniform Friday, but will return to the team during the summer.
"Both are improved," Welsh said. "Harris looks like he is faster, and Foreman is a deceptive runner. I'm anxious to get Womack back though, and then we can have a three-way battle for that spot."
Walk-on Guy Brown stole the show from Harris and Foreman by rushing for 85 yards and one touchdown. The Cavaliers also recruited several running backs who will make for a crowded backfield in the fall.
"The competition will be intense," Foreman said. "Whoever gets the job will have two capable backups."
With the loss of starting corners Dwayne Stukes and Antwan Harris, the Virginia secondary is a question mark leading into the season. Former receiver Ahmad Hawkins and ex-hoopster Chezley Watson both made their debut in the defensive backfield Friday.
"I was kind of nervous once the game started," Hawkins said. "After the game started, I began to feel comfortable. Hopefully I can keep improving."
With the Cavaliers' home opener against BYU four-and-a-half months away, there is still work to be done to erase the memories of last season's 63-21 loss to Illinois in the MicronPC.com Bowl.
"If anything, that loss has refocused and rededicated everyone, and made us get back to basics," Foreman said.
McMullen, who garbbed seven passes for 89 yards, said the Cavs are looking forward to contending with Florida State and the rest of the conference. Virginia will have replace 12 starters from 1999, including three All-Americans in Jones and offensive linemen Noel LaMontagne and John St. Clair.
"Our goal is to win the ACC," he said. "But we'll need to play hard every play and get everyone back on the same chord."