Ratcliffe: London makes right choice at QB - Cavalier Insider: Cavalier Insider

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ratcliffe: London makes right choice at QB

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Posted: Monday, May 5, 2014 8:30 pm | Updated: 9:23 pm, Mon May 5, 2014.

Virginia made the right decision Monday when Mike London announced that Greyson Lambert is the Cavaliers’ starting quarterback.

Lambert clearly won the job during the spring drills and took over a leadership role in the process, meaning that the redshirt sophomore from Georgia displayed all the right stuff, both on and off the field.

If you haven’t been keeping up, Lambert is a strong-armed kid who could have signed with most any Southern football power, including Alabama. He’s a kid who isn’t afraid to lead, even though he admitted he’s a bit uncomfortable speaking in front of a roomful of people. He’ll get over that quickly.

He’s also a kid who didn’t shave or get a haircut the entire spring, calling it his “Andrew Luck scruff,” to the surprise of his mother who arrived at UVa’s spring game and barely recognized her own son when she first saw him. Like all of us, he’s a mama’s boy, but in a good way, and quickly became clean-cut again before his mother left town.

Oh, and on the field. Lambert was impressive in the spring game, completing 18 of 31 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He threw two interceptions, one of which he blamed on his own greediness—something he should also get over quickly.

While he beat out incumbent starter junior David Watford for the job, Watford proved to be the culprit of his own undoing by displaying a lack of leadership in some off the field issues that the youngster admitted “disappointed the coaching staff” and his own self. Combined with inconsistent performances and way too many interceptions last fall, Watford made choosing Lambert an easy decision for the coaching staff.

Virginia’s fan base had lost faith in Watford. He wasn’t the guy they thought he was in terms of on-the-field performance. They expected a more consistent passer and someone who could also beat opponents with his feet. Neither ever materialized.

That’s another reason that Virginia’s coaching staff made the right decision with Lambert. Faith and hope.

Immediate reaction from Wahoo fans on Twitter expressed those thoughts.

“Promise,” one UVa fan tweeted when he saw Lambert had been named No. 1 on the depth chart, which was released prior to London’s teleconference.  In a year where there’s incredible pressure on the coaching staff to turn the program around, everyone knows that picking the right trigger man can be the biggest decision a staff can make.

“[Lambert] can make all the different type of throws, having touch with soft passes and flare passes, or out into the flat,” London said. “He has the ability to throw intermediate routes from 18 to 21 yards, and he has the arm to throw the long ball.”

While all that is well and good, that wasn’t the No. 1 priority London and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild were looking for.

“The number one thing for us has to be accuracy,” London said. “He has to be able to hit guys in full stride.”

Lambert has displayed accuracy in his limited game appearances and that was one of the things, along with his arm, that attracted the Cavaliers to him when they stole him away from Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide and his home state’s Georgia Bulldogs.

There’s much more to the Jesup, Ga., native. It’s the leadership thing. According to London, Lambert was the third-leading vote getter when the team cast its ballots for its four captains.

Players know.

“It’s the things guys see, coaches see, in the film room, and lots of things like that to speak of,” London said.

Not that a quarterback must be statuesque in order to be good, but Lambert’s physical presence alone could be an added advantage. Lambert stands at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds.

“He’s a very tall guy who can survey the field,” London said. “There was not many balls getting batted down during the spring or in the 75 throws he made last season. There’s something physical there that allows him to do some things, which should lead to completions and that’s very important to us.”

If Virginia is going to improve on its 2-10 season last year, when the Cavaliers melted down several times in the second half and finished winless in the ACC, then London has to have the right quarterback. He has to have a guy who can make the play when it becomes crunch time. He has to have a guy who can get the fan base excited again and put fannies in the seats.

He has to have a guy he can win with and everyone believes in.

Lambert appears to be that guy.

That doesn’t mean that Watford is through. The Hampton native, who showed great flashes at times last season, plans to make his second visit to California to work with a quarterback guru and give Lambert competition in fall training camp.

Lambert, who had previously mentioned the possibility of working with one of those quarterback specialists, has changed his mind and decided to spend the summer in Charlottesville working with Fairchild, which the NCAA now allows.

“This is a big year for us, an important year for us,” London said before discussing the depth chart (see Andrew Ramspacher’s story for those details). “At [the quarterback position] we all know that you have to have a leader. All things added up, and we felt Greyson did a pretty good job at it.”

Being the leader he is, Lambert said last month that he plans on organizing seven-on-seven passing drills over the summer for him and his teammates. Those plans also include a weekly cookout to help bring the team closer together.

In fact, he is tearing off a page from Tony Bennett’s basketball success—the one that emphasizes unselfishness and togetherness—hoping that the philosophy will rub off on the football team.

Not a bad game plan to copy.

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