UVA's backup QBs a mix of potential, knowledge of offense

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- RJ Harvey has been running the scout team offense at Virginia football practice, giving co-defensive coordinator Kelly Poppinga a first-hand look at the Wahoos' first-year quarterback.

Poppinga has been impressed by what he has seen.

"That guy's probably one of the fastest quarterbacks in the country that nobody knows about yet," he told reporters after Wednesday morning's practice.

Harvey has yet to take the field for the Wahoos this season -- though that could change Saturday night, with No. 21 UVA a four-touchdown favorite at home against Old Dominion.

UVA backup quarterback Brennan Armstrong isn't on the depth chart for Saturday's game, after missing last week's win against Florida State with an undisclosed injury. Armstrong was still on crutches and wearing a walking boot on his left foot at practice on Wednesday, according to offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

With Armstrong "day-to-day" according to head coach Bronco Mendenhall, UVA starting quarterback Bryce Perkins will again be backed up by redshirt sophomore Lindell Stone and Harvey, a 5-8 freshman whom Mendenhall compared to a cross between Perkins and Marques Hagans on Signing Day.

Poppinga has seen that potential play-making since Harvey arrived at UVA this preseason -- though the defensive assistant has also been impressed with the freshman as a thrower when watching him run the scout team offense against the Cavaliers' deffense.

"As far as a dynamic runner, that was easy to see in fall camp. Because our offense put him at running back, and at receiver a couple of times, and a couple times at QB designed run stuff," Poppinga said. "A dynamic runner. Maybe one of the best I've ever seen at quarterback, at that position, just running the ball. But then having him with us, just being able to see the ability for him to throw the ball, he could be special."

Mendenhall erred on the side of caution this week when asked about Harvey's development.

"We haven't played him enough, and he hasn't had enough live game reps or live scrimmage reps to give an accurate assessment," the head coach said. "We know he's dynamic. And we know he can run and we know he can throw. In terms of composure, maturity, making the reads, handling all the things that are required, way to early to tell, other than capability is there."

Harvey is listed as the Cavaliers' third quarterback entering Saturday's game. Above him is Stone, who appeared in one game as Kurt Benkert's backup as a true freshman in 2017 -- before the NCAA's new redshirt rule was in place, allowing players to appear in four games while still retaining a potential fifth year of eligibility. Stone got that potential fifth year back when he didn't appear in a game last fall.

UVA coaches have long praised Stone for his knowledge of the team's offensive scheme. Stone spent time this summer working with Harvey and fellow first-year quarterback Nick Wentz to help the freshmen get up to speed before the start of camp.

"This being my third season, I have a pretty good understanding of it," Stone said. "All the passing game's kind of stayed the same, so I have a pretty good example of it now. So I feel comfortable."

Stone's lone game appearance two seasons ago didn't go well. He threw a pair of interceptions, including a pick-six, in mop-up duty during a UVA loss at home against Boston College.

While he admits he'd be eager to get another opportunity to run the UVA offense in a game, Stone said that's not his focus heading into Saturday night.

"I mean, that'd be great," he said. "But I think our first and really only concern right now is just being able to win the game against ODU. I mean, they're a tough opponent."



 
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