Virginia’s Lavel Davis Jr., Chico Bennett Jr. tear ACLs in spring practice

Davis should be a starter this season, shortly after a highly productive first year of 20 receptions for 515 yards and five touchdowns. At 6-foot-7, Davis was a coverage mismatch, and its unusual length allowed him to hold a handful of acrobatic receptions in a confined space.

His injury was particularly daunting as the Cavaliers stepped into the spring and focused on improving the deep passing game. Last season, Virginia completed 34 passes of 20 meters or more, which is 10th out of 15 teams in the ACC.

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“He’s a really good player,” Mendenhall said during a Zoom conference call with reporters Monday, adding that the injury came when Davis, who suffered a similar injury in high school, put his feet on a defensive back got tangled. “We expected and knew that he could do even more than a year ago.”

Davis started seven of the eight games he played last season and led the ACC in yards per reception (25.8). At the yards, he was ranked seventh among the newcomers nationwide. He was the only player in great college football with at least 500 seats for 20 or fewer receptions.

Ra’Shaun Henry and Dontayvion Wicks are next in line to start at the external receiver.

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Henry moved from Saint Francis (Pa.) And played nine games last season, receiving seven passes, four of which were for touchdowns, averaging 29.4 yards per reception. He had a season high of 95 yards with a December 5 touchdown in a 43-32 win over Boston College.

Wicks didn’t play last season due to an injury at the pre-season camp. He played 10 of 14 games as a freshman in 2019, getting three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.

“What I saw is that Ra’Shaun Henry had an amazing spring and Dontayvion Wicks, who sat outside last year, basically does a really good job too,” said Mendenhall. “And so we exchange Lavel for Dontayvion, one for one. We hoped to have both. “

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The Cavaliers were seventh in the ACC last off-season, averaging 260.6 yards behind second quarterback Brennan Armstrong. The double-threat left-handed player threw 2,117 yards and 18 touchdowns in nine games with no time on the concussion log.

Prior to Davis’ injury, Virginia had expected to have five players back who had received at least one touchdown pass in the previous season. Davis’ five touchdowns last year are the most among the players on the current roster. His first season included a 90-yard touchdown catch against Abilene Christian.

Billy Kemp IV, a senior, led the Cavaliers to receive shipyards (644) and catches (67) and is supposed to start all over again.

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“The only way to avoid this is by not training in the spring,” said Mendenhall of the injuries suffered by Davis and Bennett who had played extensively outside tackles following their move from Georgia Tech, where he led all the newbies ( 17) before a lower body injury ended his 2019 season.

Bennett’s injury occurred during a non-contact exercise when he put his foot up and tried to change direction, Mendenhall said.

Sophomore Hunter Stewart is a candidate to start at an outside linebacker seat, with Bennett unavailable. Noah Taylor, a Silver Spring senior, is the other starter after a season in which he set a program record for the longest interception return by a linebacker (85 yards for a touchdown).

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If Bennett and Davis can’t play when the Cavaliers host Notre Dame in their first game of the month on November 13, the rest of the schedule includes games in Pittsburgh on November 20 and against Virginia Tech on November 27 in the Commonwealth Cup, this year at Scott Stadium.

“The ACLs are taking a long time, right?” Said Mendenhall. “It’s a tough rehab, a tough recovery. In Lavel’s case, he did it before in high school, so he knows how to do it. “