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Virginia scored a big win when coaches convinced offensive tackle Morgan Moses to stay.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Offensive tackle Morgan Moses will move to the left side of Virginia’s line, replacing All-ACC tackle Oday Aboushi.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia coach Mike London (left) opted to motivate offensive tackle Morgan Moses last year by pointing out his lack of acclaim.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE —Few people know how close Morgan Moses came to turning pro following his junior football season at Virginia in 2012.
Truth is, he was leaving.
“Back in January, I thought he was gone,” said Scott Wachenheim, who coaches the Cavaliers’ offensive line. “He called me on the phone and said, ‘Hey, coach, I don’t think I’m coming back.’ ”
Moses may have slipped from the consciousness of UVa fans during a period when head coach Mike London was retooling his staff, but there’s no question that Moses’ return was critical toward a reversal in Cavalier fortunes.
Virginia was 4-8 in 2012 with Moses and first-team All-ACC offensive tackle Oday Aboushi, a senior who was drafted by the New York Jets. What if Moses had put his name into consideration for the 2013 NFL Draft?
Wachenheim quickly sprung into action.
“I said, ‘Well, can go meet to lunch,’” Wachenheim said. “So, I met him for lunch at Littlejohn’s, we sat and talked and I said, ‘OK, you’re not coming back? Tell me why.’
“And he gave me about four or five reasons and all four or five were legit. I said, ‘Will you do me a favor? Will you give me 48 hours to meet with coach London and see if we can work all this out and change your mind?’”
Among other things, Moses wanted to make sure he was on a path to graduate. As far back as his days at Richmond’s Meadowbrook High School, rival recruiters had questioned whether Moses could meet NCAA entrance requirements and then stay eligible.
After signing with the Cavaliers in 2009, Moses was obligated to prep for a year at Fork Union Military Academy. He signed with Virginia again in 2010.
“I definitely know there are people who thought I wouldn’t make it this far,” said Moses, who has started games at right guard and right tackle and this year will move into Aboushi’s old spot at left tackle.
“It’s not where you start. It’s where you finish. Not having been the greatest [student] out of high school, the transition of going from a public school to all-boy military school was the hardest for me — having to wake up early, shine my shoes, all these things I’d never done before.
“I’m not sure I’d want to go back there and do it again, but I appreciate the things that it’s done for me. It’s opened up so many avenues for me as far as growing up and maturing. I feel I’ve accomplished a lot of things and there’s a lot of things ahead of me to accomplish.”
Moses was a freshman All-American in 2010, when he started eight games. Since then, he had received little acclaim until he was selected to the preseason All-ACC team this year.
Prior to the 2012 season, London chose to motivate Moses by pointing out that he had received little recognitition as a sophomore.
“I think I’ve gotten better every year at the university,” Moses said, “but, unfortunately, when you don’t win games, you can’t have accolades on the side, especially when you’re playing on the same line as Oday Aboushi. You can’t win four games and have two tackles on the All-ACC list.”
When Virginia played Auburn in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl, Moses, who stands 6-foot-6, weighed 345 pounds. He got down to 323 over the summer of 2012 and is now listed at 335.
“I can only do what I can do,” Moses said. “I feel like I’ve gotten in the best shape of my career. I’ve seen things at offensive tackle, right guard, wherever I am, and gotten better in recognizing what the defense is going to do.”
Moses doesn’t need to sell Wachenheim.
“I would say this about last year: I thought Morgan played extremely well,” Wachenheim said. “He only gave up three sacks all year, One of them was when he was on the field and concussed and nobody knew. I don’t even think he knew. That was the Maryland game.
“After that, he didn’t give up a sack the rest of the year. That’s playing against Virginia Tech, when he had a badly sprained ankle and didn’t practice all week long.”
Wachenheim thinks Moses, a natural left-hander, will be better on the left side, where he will be protecting the blind side of his roommate, first-year starting quarterback David Watford.
The switch to the left side wasn’t one of the questions that Moses had last January. He was always slated for that move, according to Wachenheim.
Moses actually could have made himself available for the NFL Draft following the 2011 season because he had been out of high school for the required three years, counting the year he spent at Fork Union.
“Four or five years ago, I don’t know if I could have seen myself here right now,” said Moses, proud that he had been chosen as one of two UVa player representatives, along with defensive end Jake Snyder, to represent the Cavaliers at the ACC Football Kickoff, a July media event.
He could have said the same for his proximity to graduation.
“I’ll be done in May,” he said. “Knowing I was that close to graduating, there was no reason not to come back.”
Fear of injury often weighs on NFL prospects considering a return to college. London confirmed that Moses has an insurance policy to deal with that.
“He had some legitimate things he was concerned about [last winter] and we were able to answer,” Wachenheim said. “Looking back, it was the best recruiting job I’ve done in my entire life.”
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