Lavel Davis Jr.: The lightly recruited true freshman matchup nightmare

Lavel Davis Jr.
Lavel Davis Jr. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Lavel Davis Jr., 6’7”, 210 pounds, hands the size of catcher’s mitts, catch radius spanning half the continent, was a three-star prep recruit.

This is why coaches don’t put as much stock in the recruiting services as fans do.

“We just we just saw great potential and a really humble and hardworking person. When we met Lavel, we thought he’d be a great fit,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Davis, whose other college offers were Georgia Tech, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and Western Kentucky.

His numbers at Woodland High School (Dorcester, S.C.) weren’t off the charts. Davis had a 70-catch, 1,007-yard season as a junior in 2018, but getting more attention from defensive coordinators in his senior season, his numbers dropped off – 40 catches, 622 yards, seven TDs.

But, just look at the guy.

“I like the matchups right from the beginning, as most corners are rarely taller than 6-foot, sometimes 6’1”, but usually 5’10” or 5’11”. When you’re 6’7”, even if you’re not behind a defender, you’re still open,” Mendenhall said.

Davis clearly has some growing to do – maybe not up, but he looks like he could eat a hamburger or two.

Actually, get him in the weight room, fill him out, and imagine this kid in a couple of years at 6’7”, 225, 230.

I’m thinking of the transformation that De’Andre Hunter made from his freshman year in the UVA basketball program, when he arrived on Grounds as a 6’7”, 195-pounder, looking like a decent gust of wind would knock him over, to when he left as a 225-pounder with shoulders like an NFL tight end.

Davis, just based on his height, probably projects to pass-catching tight end by the time he’s ready for the next level.

Matchup nightmare times ten he will be as he fleshes out.

In the here and now: he’s learning, growing.

“He’s a very talented kid,” senior cornerback Nick Grant said. “He works hard. He’s really humble. I always see him taking notes. I can really see the hunger in his eyes. He really wants to be great.

“It is really inspiring to see someone in my fifth year, and he’s a first year, just really taking up on where we left off with people like Joe Reed, Hasise Dubois. He knows those are some big shoes to fill, and he’s stepping right in and taking the challenge on head on,” Grant said.

Davis’ talents just came on display for fans for the first time in Saturday’s season-opening 38-20 win over Duke, in which he caught four passes for 101 yards and two TDs.

What we saw for the first time on Saturday was something that his teammates and coaches had been seeing in practice all summer.

“He makes circus catches all the time,” Grant said. “I mean, if he’s in the back of the endzone, the ball is his. You might as well just count it to him. He jumps out the gym, and he’s already 6’7”. If you’re gonna get the ball away from him, especially on like a fade or D ball, you’re going to have to really be on your P’s and Q’s and jump as high as you can.”

“You saw some of what he’s been doing against our defense at practice fairly consistently,” Mendenhall said. “It’s just the beginning for him as he’s learning to play the position. So, we saw just really, really nice potential in a lot of areas not only on the field, but off.”

Story by Chris Graham

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