UVA wideout Olamide Zaccheaus: Keep doing what you’ve been doing

Olamide Zaccheaus.A kind of a dumb question, dumb answer thing got my attention from today’s ACC Kickoff, involving UVA wideout Olamide Zaccheaus.

Let me get this clear at the get-go: I love Zaccheaus’ game. At 5’8”, 190, he came to UVA as a tailback, but has developed heading into his senior season into being a sort of slash, contributing in the passing game from the slot and getting touches in the running game basically motioning out of the slot on reverses and jet sweeps.

And I love how offensive coordinator Robert Anae has been creative in using Zaccheaus that way. Reminds me of how Taquan Mizzell came to be used in his UVA career, a small speedster who got touches on the perimeter on pitches from the backfield and as a slot receiver on third downs to best utilize his talents.

Now, to the dumb question, and dumb answer. A reporter asked UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall if he thinks it’s going to be important that Zaccheaus improves on his 10.5 yards-per-catch average from 2017, when he caught a school-record 85 balls.

Dumb question, considering how Zaccheaus is used. Andre Levrone was the deep threat, and averaged 20.3 yards per catch, but only caught 34 balls.

Zaccheaus and Doni Dowling were the move-the-chains guys, which, honestly, is a much tougher job than running the fly, post and deep-slant routes that you saw Levrone handling, because you’re operating in space with big, fast bodies coming at you from all directions trying to disrupt.

OK, so dumb question. Mendenhall was probably being nice to the reporter asking a dumb question with his dumb answer.

“He’s going to have to. So as strong as his numbers were a year ago, they’re going to have to be better for our team to have success,” the coach said, and, yes, of course, it would be awesome if Zaccheaus went for 80-yard touchdowns on every touch, but, not what he’s asked to do.

Unless the plan is to move Zaccheaus outside, which, he’s 5’8”, so maybe not the best idea there.

Zaccheaus needs to do more of what he’s done, which is catch balls in traffic, gain between 10.3 yards per catch (which he did as a freshman) and 11.5 yards per catch (what he did as a sophomore), move the chains, draw extra attention from safeties and backers to open things up for backs out of the backfield and whoever emerges as the deep threat to replace Levrone, and not try to be what he’s not.

Zaccheaus talked earlier in the day about working with wide receivers coach Marques Hagans, who succeeded early in his UVA career as a slot receiver before moving to quarterback, then back to wideout in the NFL, to improve in yards after the catch, so give him credit, he’s saying the things his coaches want to hear.

Reality is that the inexperienced, and thin, offensive line is going to be a challenge again this fall, as Bryce Perkins takes the reins at quarterback, after the departure of two-year starter Kurt Benkert. Zaccheaus is going to be an important security blanket for Perkins, whose ability to extend plays with his feet is going to be at a premium as the O line gets its bearings.

Which is why you’re likely going to see Zaccheaus averaging around 10 or 11 yards a catch again in 2018, and it’s not going to be a problem at all if he does.

Column by Chris Graham

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