Sanker growing into versatile piece for UVA secondary
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Jonas Sanker played high school football just a couple miles from Scott Stadium, but needed the nine games as a freshman with the Cavaliers to take the edge off.
"Being on the field my first year you definitely get some of those butterflies out of the way," Sanker said.
As a sophomore, Sanker has started the first four games for Virginia in three different positions. Quite the feat for a player who had a late start to impressing Tony Elliott and the new UVA coaching staff.
"He was a guy we didn't have this spring, he was coming off of a shoulder [injury]," Elliott said, "He's very athletic. He's got great ball skills. He doesn't mind throwing his body around. Now it's just being comfortable in all the different checks and adjustments."
The Covenant alum impressed when he returned to the field for UVA fall camp, which has carried over into his play. In his first four college starts, Sanker ranks third on the team in tackles (28 total) and has already record a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and his first career interception, the latter two coming against Syracuse.
With the Eagles, Sanker was a constant threat with the ball no matter where he lined up whether at quarterback, running back, wide receiver or on defense on Covenant's way to back-to-back VISFL titles.
"Jonas has great instincts," UVA defensive coordinator John Rudzinski said, "He's a great communicator and you can see that quarterback background as far as his ability to have grown as a communicator in the backend."
Sanker's instincts have allowed the sophomore to lineup in a variety of positions in Rudzinski's defense from strong safety to free safety to SPUR, each one with their own intricacies. Sanker starts alongside fellow classmate Lex Long and says even for two players with no starts coming into the year, both have slid in seamlessly due to the rigors thrown at them in practice.
"Feel like it was pretty easy to kind of come in and feel comfortable," Sanker said, "Just because of the high stress they put on us in practice in terms of forcing you to communicate and think a lot and make all these checks, so when you get in the game it feels like everything is a little slower."
Elliott says the game has not slowed down quite as much for Sanker like it has for Long yet, but the Charlottesville native has handled a challenging role in the Virginia defense already. As for the two turnovers Sanker was a part of against Syracuse, Elliott expects plenty more to come for Sanker.
"Jonas is progressing as well," Elliott said, "I think in the future you're going to see him around the football a lot more. He's got a nose for the football."