Injuries, suspension to English could force Fannin into immediate playing time


As Virginia’s offensive line continues to take shape, the Cavaliers coaching staff said Monday the unit is ahead of where it was a year ago. But depth remains a concern especially with veterans John Montelus and Jack McDonald battling mild injuries and Jack English suspended for the opener against William and Mary.

So it looks like the plan for 2017 includes true freshman Tyler Fannin playing right away for the Cavs, who take the field Sept. 2 against the Tribe. Fannin, a consensus three-star prospect from Georgia, signed with UVa after receiving offers from programs such as Kansas State, Cincinnati and East Carolina, among others.

“Absolutely, he will take the field this year,” offensive line coach Garett Tujague said of Fannin.

Ranked the No. 9 center in his class by, Fannin may be needed at that position right away as others on the depth chart shuffle from position to position. Redshirt freshman Dillon Reinkensmeyer is another candidate for the starting center spot, but according to Tujague, he’s also been pushing the incumbent English at left tackle.

With Jack English out for the opener after violating team rules, it’s a decent bet Reinkensmeyer plays tackle versus William & Mary.

Sophomore RJ Proctor played some center for the Cavaliers last year, but has also been getting work at guard this preseason.

Meeting with reporters Monday after practice, Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall said he’s feeling pretty good at this point about improved talent across the first string for the Cavaliers, but is searching for depth in many spots.

That, along with an evolving philosophy on redshirting freshmen could also contribute to the decision to play Fannin, who entered college already blessed with size at 6-3, 285 pounds, from the start.

“We are making progress, but our roster is thin,” Mendenhall said. “I’d like to play anyone who is capable of playing, regardless of what year they are, if they earn a spot. I like the idea, especially for an institution that expects every student to graduate in four years. I don’t think it’s right for an athletic program to say because you play a sport, we’re going to take an exemption and now allow you to do it in five. So I like the alignment with the university. We’re accelerating our players, but a lot of it is just where the program is.”

Tujague said the starting lineup probably won’t be locked down until a few days before the William and Mary game, but it’s looking quite likely Fannin could see his name somewhere near the top of the depth chart.


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