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How can Virginia best use the versatile De’Vante Cross?

Much of what Virginia is able to do offensively this season is going to rely on quarterback Kurt Benkert staying healthy and having time to make good decisions.

With five new starters on the offensive line for Saturday’s opener against William & Mary, that’s no sure thing, but the Cavaliers may have personnel elsewhere to help take some pressure off Benkert.

Virginia has a nice mix of size and athleticism across the depth chart at wide receiver, with players such as 6-3, 225-pound senior Andre Levrone making nice targets. But versatile wideouts such as Olamide Zaccheaus and De’Vante Cross could also keep defenses on their toes.

Folks across the ACC have already seen the speedy Zaccheaus’ ability to make plays, and he should become even a greater focus of the UVA offense this season. The 5-8, 190-pound Philadelphia product had nearly 600 receiving yards while playing banged up last year.

Zaccheaus can line up at a variety of spots all over the field and is a big-play threat on both downfield routes and catching the ball in the flat. The Cavs might even occasionally hand him the ball on running plays.

 

On offense: Crisscross

The presence of Cross gives Virginia at least the threat of getting tricky. Cross is a redshirt freshman who was a three-star quarterback recruit, but was looking good enough at wide receiver this spring that he stayed there even after transfer Marvin Zanders was denied admission, leaving UVA with only two quarterbacks.

Whenever Cross, who is listed second on the depth chart behind Levrone, is in at wide receiver the Cavaliers essentially have two quarterbacks on the field. Fans probably shouldn’t expect Cross to throw a lot of passes in this role, but the fact that he could is intriguing.

Perhaps Cross could also occasionally be used in a Wildcat-like formation to further keep defenses off balance.

It’s interesting to note UVA wide receivers coach Marques Hagans was a standout high school quarterback who switched to receiver for a time before becoming the starter at quarterback. Hagans completed 17 passes as a sophomore while primarily playing wide out. He might have some ideas how to effectively use Cross.

Virginia will also need to find ways to expand the role of versatile hybrid Olamide Zaccheaus.

“I think you guys will see on Saturday, I think we’re a completely different offense,” Benkert said. “We do a really good job right now of getting everyone the ball, playing to each of our players’ strengths.”

What exactly that means for the wide outs could be fun to see.

 

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