When Lindell Stone committed to Virginia it was, if nothing else, a symbolically huge get for the Cavaliers.
The highly-coveted quarterback prospect from Woodberry Forest School turned down offers from UCLA, West Virginia, Ole Miss, Wisconsin and others to become one of new coach Bronco Mendenhall’s signature recruits. It also reestablished a pipeline out of Woodberry, a football factory that is recent years has pumped prospects en masse out to programs such as Notre Dame and Stanford, but not so much the Cavaliers just 30 minutes down the road.
Now, it looks like Stone’s immediate contributions to the Virginia program might have to be more than just symbolic.
Late last week, UVA announced that graduate transfers Marvin Zanders and Colin McGovern wouldn’t join the program after all. Zanders, a quarterback who began his career at Missouri, was expected to backup Kurt Benkert this fall and contend for the starting job in 2018.
McGovern, who left Notre Dame, was a potential starter on the offensive line. Additionally, sophomore quarter back Sonny Abramson left the team.
Individually, none of the losses is devastating. Mendenhall had made it fairly clear Abramson wasn’t likely to ever see much playing time. The Cavs sure could have used McGovern’s size and experience on the line, but he’s just one guy.
The margin for error is slim
If Benkert stays healthy, Zanders might not have seen anything more than mop up duty this season. But that’s an awfully big if, and now the Cavaliers have a frightening lack of depth at quarterback.
Abramson was technically the most experienced backup QB in spring camp, but Benkert took close to all of the snaps with the first string. Redshirt freshman De’Vante Cross got limited looks, but with Zanders coming it appeared the plan was to give Cross a shot to get on the field at wide receiver.
Now it appears Cross and Stone could be in a competition to become Benkert’s primary backup. That’s where the loss of Zanders really hurts. With Zanders on the second string and Cross available in case of emergency, Stone likely could have redshirted this season and spent next backing up Zanders.
Will the freshmen have to play?
Yes, Virginia could quite possibly need Stone to take snaps as a true freshman. That might be fine. Stone is a remarkably poised and accurate passer, who played against better than average competition in high school. He threw for more than 7,700 yards with 87 touchdowns and 18 interceptions the past two seasons.
But throwing Stone or Cross to the wolves this season or next was clearly not the plan. Ideally, the young quarterbacks would learn for a year or two, then competed for a starting job. The revamped offensive line will have more experience two years from now.
That’s luxury UVA football doesn’t have anymore.