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UVA’s QB room is noticeably lacking: How did Tony Elliott let this happen?

Chris Graham
tony elliott
Photo: UVA Athletics

Tony Elliott needed to work the transfer portal for two quarterbacks, not just the one that he ended up getting, Tony Muskett.

This isn’t me second-guessing things now that Jay Woolfolk has confirmed that he’s quitting football to focus on baseball, which those of you who read my columns on UVA football have known for months was going to happen.

This was me, back on Dec. 1, after Brennan Armstrong hit the transfer portal:

One other thing that we know now is that Elliott and Kitchings are going to have to recruit at least one, and probably two, QBs off the transfer portal.

If you’re scoring at home, I’d recommend not looking at the bevy of four- and five-stars putting their name into the portal the next few days.

No one who has a thought of doing enough at the college level to get a sniff at the NFL is going to want to put their futures in the hands of the staff that ruined Brennan Armstrong.

Think: guys who put up decent numbers in the MAC, Sun Belt, Conference USA, maybe FCS, who want a chance at a starting job in Power 5, even if it’s the bottom rung.

I say that because, if you look at the high school recruiting for the upcoming Class of 2023, that’s the kind of talent that the new staff has been able to get to commit – the kids whose other offers are coming from the Group of 5 and FCS.

I say Elliott and Kitchings are going to probably need two guys because I don’t assume that they really think Jay Woolfolk, this year’s backup, is actually their QB of the future.

Remember that, one, Woolfolk was recruited by Anae and Beck to play in Anae’s Air Raid, and two, that he’s also an elite baseball prospect, who would either have to miss a month in the middle of the 2023 UVA Baseball season for spring practice, or miss spring practice so that he doesn’t have to sit out the middle of the 2023 UVA Baseball season.

And, yes, he can try to do both, but you can’t really expect him to learn the offense and get the reps he needs in the spring, do what he needs to do in baseball, somehow still get to class every so often, and not put himself in the hospital with exhaustion.

And even if he does, and wins the starting QB job, you’re still going to need depth at QB, which went from being a position of great strength in the Anae/Beck era to barely there in Year 1 of Elliott/Kitchings, and that was before Armstrong announced that he was leaving.

Emphasis here: this was me back on Dec. 1.

This wasn’t anything resembling wisdom from on high.

It was just common sense.

Virginia, even with Jay Woolfolk in the fold, would have lacked depth in the QB room, with the next man up after Tony Muskett, who is now the presumed starter, being a true freshman, Anthony Colandrea, who looked nice in the spring game, but that’s one game, against your own guys, wearing a red shirt that signifies, they can’t tackle you.

After Colandrea, there’s four sophomores and a fifth-year guy that weren’t even expected to push Colandrea for the #3 spot on the depth chart.

Now Colandrea is the clear #2, and the next in line after him is going to be somebody who was either recruited by the previous staff to be an Air Raid quarterback, or a guy who walked on.

How this impacts the offense going into 2023: well, the most noticeable thing, it’s going to limit the options for Des Kitchings, the offensive coordinator, in his game plans and play-calling.

Elliott and Kitchings came in last year, in their Year 1, talking up how they wanted to put a renewed emphasis on running the ball, but because of issues with the offensive line – basically, a lack of talent – Kitchings had to revert to what had worked under his predecessor, Robert Anae, who relied way, way too much on his quarterback to get yards on the ground.

Armstrong led the team in rushing, with too many designed runs for anyone’s liking, and an awful lot of his productivity coming off scrambles – a nice way of saying, he was good at making something out of having to run for his life behind that leaky line.

Kitchings could go with the designed runs and live with the scrambles with BA because he had Woolfolk as a marginally experienced backup.

He doesn’t have that same luxury going into 2023.

And if you thought last year’s line was leaky, well, four of those guys are gone now, replaced by another makeshift line that, on paper, may have less talent than the one last year that never really did gel.

The tailback room actually has me excited, particularly Kobe Pace, who was the featured tailback at Clemson in 2021 before injuries pushed him down the depth chart last season, ahead of him hitting the transfer portal.

With a decent line, even, Pace and last year’s returning guys – Mike Hollins, Perris Jones, Xavier Brown and Cody Brown – would form the backbone of a solid running game, easing the transition of Muskett, who played three years at Monmouth, a mid-tier FCS school, to the Power 5 level.

Muskett is likely going to be running for his life like Armstrong was last year, and if the unthinkable happens, the next man up is a true freshman, and behind him, one of a number of guys.

The preseason football mags aren’t being kind to Muskett, the consensus of their accumulated wisdom being, he’s the 14th best starting quarterback in the 14-team ACC.

Even if they thought he was the best, your QB room is only as good as its depth, with the #2 guy being a play away from being the #1 guy.

I’m of the mind, based on that one data point, the spring game, that Anthony Colandrea is a QB of the future for Virginia.

If that future is sometime in 2023, what’s already expected to be a massively disappointing season for Virginia football could go historically off the rails.

It’s an indictment on Elliott’s job fitness that he has his program in this situation.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].