Four days in and Mike London’s surprises of August camp are ... Trent Corney and Rob Burns.
The Virginia head coach specifically picked out that duo prior to the start of Thursday’s practice at the McCue Center.
It was pretty high praise for a pair that has switched positions since last season.
After a year at linebacker, Corney, a sophomore, is now at defensive end, running second-team opposite Mike Moore. A high-energy renowned former Canadian track and field athlete, Corney said he’s found his home in 2013.
And he’s not just talking D-end.
“Last year at this time during training camp, I had no idea what I was getting into,” Corney said. “I barely even knew the campus at all. I had an official visit. I knew nothing as far as the American game and what the practices were going to be like at all because the practices that I had in high school were really unorganized.
“I’m just getting a feel for every drill that’s coming up and I’m just getting better at every drill.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder’s camp highlight was an interception return for a touchdown on Wednesday.
“He’s picked up everything from terminology to concepts,” London said of Corney. “And you saw where he took an interception and took it to the house. He understands how to play the defensive end position. He’s improving.”
Burns is a former defensive end who is now running as the third tight end behind Jake McGee and Zach Swanson.
The long 6-7 redshirt sophomore made consecutive tough catches on Monday, prompting London to announce, “It’s Rob Burns Day!”
“It makes me feel great,” Burns said of London’s appreciation. “It makes me feel like the offseason’s really paid off. It’s great so far.”
Burns said when he first arrived in Charlottesville in 2011 he tipped the scales at 220 pounds. He’s now at 250 and reaping the benefits.
“His goal was to get bigger over the summer and he’s done that,” London said. “There’s been a couple of balls that have been thrown to him — I don’t know, he must be 6-7, 6-8 or whatever he is — and he’s gone down and caught some balls right at his shin level. It’s pretty athletic.
“He’s a try-hard guy. He wants to contribute to this team. If we want to get the tight ends back involved — with Jake and with Zach Swanson — then Rob’s been a pleasant surprise.”
McGee sits out
McGee, the star of the tight end corps, missed Thursday’s practice with a shoulder stinger. It was a precautionary move by the UVa staff with camp’s first scrimmage set for Saturday.
The all-rookie line
From left to right, they go 6-6, 280; 6-6, 295; 6-6, 300; 6-5, 275; 6-5, 280.
The characters are Sadiq Olanrewaju, George Adeosun, Eric Tetlow, Jack McDonald and Eric Smith. It’s Virginia’s third-team offensive line, a bunch made up of entirely freshmen.
“If you look at them from a pure size aspect, they’re pretty talented,” London said. “It’ll be that year with [director of football training and player development] Evan Marcus, which is going to be very important. We may not have the luxury to have a guy soak for a year. That may be one or two of them, at least, that might be in the depth or backup position role.
“But all five of them are as advertised. They’re tough, they’re aggressive. They love football. They’re only going to help this team and their careers are only going to be brightened.”
The offense rebounded on day four. The turnovers were less, the big plays were more.
-Dominique Terrell hit Tim Smith on a trick play 65-yard touchdown that left freshman corner Tim Harris grabbing at air.
-On a well-developed end around by Terrell, Smith provided a solid corner-sealing block.
-Quarterback David Watford, still getting all the first-team reps, hit Darius Jennings across the middle for a big gain as Khalek Shepherd cleanly picked up a blitzing Daquan Romero.
-Running with the third team, freshman fullback Connor Wingo-Reeves bulldozed a linebacker to clear a path for running back Kye Morgan.
-The lone turnover came when Taquan Mizzell mishandled a Greyson Lambert handoff. Linebacker D.J. Hill scooped and scored.