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Marc Verica leads large stable of Virginia quarterbacks into training camp

Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor spent the past seven years in the NFL, so it shouldn’t come as much surprise that he hasn’t yet been able to shed all the pro league’s lingo. He said Wednesday that he would prefer to have “one definitive quarterback” entering the start of the season, or “the franchise guy,” as Lazor used to call his team’s starting quarterback when he worked for the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons.

Redshirt senior Marc Verica will enter training camp No. 1 on the team’s depth chart at quarterback, though that does not necessarily mean he’s got a lock on the starting job. Redshirt freshman Ross Metheny and true freshman Michael Strauss will push Verica in camp, and it’s possible one of them could pull even with or even overtake Verica as Virginia’s top signal caller.

“I’ve played with two starters before, so I’ve done it, and the team situation warranted that that was the best thing to do, we thought. We did it for an entire season,” Lazor said. But, “I feel like it’s the best thing for the team to have that guy. You want just the right person.”

By nearly all accounts, Verica is the right guy for the job right now. He’s the only quarterback on Virginia’s roster with any collegiate game experience. In 2008, Verica got his first chance to start, and he completed 63.8 percent of his passes. He also threw 16 interceptions. In 2009, Verica resumed his backup role, though he did start once and see playing time in six games.

Thus far, Verica has impressed Virginia coaches on both sides of the ball.

“From the first meeting, he’s shown that he can pick up things,” Lazor said. “When you do it under fire, you can see exactly how well, but I think when you’re coaching a quarterback and you’re evaluating him, you can sit in a meeting and give him information and ask him questions and usually you can tell how it comes back. Now, different guys have to get the information differently. Some on paper, some by lecture, some on the boards, some on video. And Marc has shown the ability to take that in.”

Lazor said that during spring practices Verica demonstrated an ability to transfer what he learned in those meetings onto the field. That, according to Lazor, is the No.1 trait a quarterback can possess in terms of decision-making.

“The quarterback gets so much information thrown at him from the coach, from meetings, from the written material, from his own video study when he’s taught how to study video himself, from the feedback he learns to give himself on the practice field or on the game field from one play to the next, when a play goes wrong, when a guy gets to the point where he can give himself some coaching and feedback before he gets to me on the sideline – all of that is information that has to go in, and the only thing that matters is on the next play, does it make a difference on how he plays?” Lazor said. “So far, he’s demonstrated the ability to do that. It hasn’t been live bullets, but I feel real optimistic about it and time will tell.”

After Lazor concluded his press conference Wednesday, Defensive Coordinator Jim Reid took his turn on the dais. Before the first question could be asked, Reid began with an impromptu opening statement.

“I just listened to Coach Lazor, and most of the questions were about the quarterback,” Reid said. “Let me just say this to you: Marc Verica, through spring practice, from a defensive standpoint, was outstanding. You have a great appreciation for a man who understands the game … You couldn’t ask for a better man, a better leader, a harder worker. My family is not here yet so I was in the office alone all hours of the night and all of the sudden I would hear a door open and a light would pop on and Marc would be in there by himself watching some tape. It’s, I believe, the beginning of just a great story. Any other quarterback questions?”

One of the other quarterback questions Lazor is going to have to address is how to get all six of his quarterbacks an appropriate amount of repetitions during training camp. In addition to Verica, Metheny and Strauss, Virginia’s quarterback contingent also includes true freshmen Miles Gooch, Jake McGee and Michael Rocco.

“It’s probably, for me, going to be a very big challenge in training camp, especially early,” Lazor said. “It’s very difficult to get four quarterbacks reps. It’s almost impossible to get five quarterbacks reps. We have six. And so that’s going to be a huge challenge for me … As a staff, it’s going to be a huge job because some decisions will have to be made early because six is too many for everyone to rep every period of practice.”

By Steve Yanda  |  August 5, 2010; 11:01 AM ET
 
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