New QB Tony Muskett believes Virginia's offense is poised for a major jump

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When he joined the Virginia football program in January, transfer Tony Muskett got together with quarterbacks coach Taylor Lamb and watched video. They studied last season’s UVa games and scrimmages from the previous spring, aiming to get the former Monmouth quarterback familiar with the team’s offensive system.
“Just to let me see it play out in real time, and know how it’s supposed to look,” Muskett said. “And maybe how it’s not supposed to look.”
A year ago, coach Tony Elliott and offensive coordinator Des Kitchings installed their pro-style offense, a run-first, play-action based scheme that relies on timing routes in the passing game, a dramatic departure from the more wide-open style employed by the previous staff.
Elliott and Kitchings stubbornly tried to shoehorn Brennan Armstrong and a talented cast of wide receivers into that attack, but they struggled with the rapid change. The offense floundered and UVa’s coaches drew criticism for not tailoring their approach to better suit their personnel, not making a more gradual transition to what they want the Cavaliers’ offense to look like in the years to come.
This season, they’re hoping to reap the benefits of that pull-off-the-band-aid approach. Elliott said that starts with his players being more willing to accept his plans.
“I think you'll see a significant amount of progress,” Elliott said. “I think what you have seen is there's a lot more buy-in. In fairness to the guys that were there last year and transitioned, they had a lot of success from a Virginia standpoint. In their minds, ‘Why are we changing?’ Unfortunately, just a transition in coaching, you're going to change. There's going to be a philosophical change.”
Now, Elliott believes he has a roster full of players committed to doing things his way and ready to rebuild an offense that ranked last in the ACC in scoring, putting up just 17 points per game as Elliott debuted with a 3-7 season.
A year after leading the conference averaging 392.6 passing yards per game, the Cavaliers managed just 221, the fourth lowest mark in the league. Its touchdown passes dropped from 31 to seven.
Armstrong transferred to North Carolina State after the season. Wide receivers Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson turned pro, Billy Kemp IV transferred to Nebraska and Lavel Davis Jr. was killed in the on-campus shooting that ended the Cavaliers’ season with two games remaining on the schedule.
As Virginia prepares for its second season under Elliott, the offensive personnel looks dramatically different and is, potentially, better suited to run Elliott's vision of this offense.
"We aim to be special, man, electric," said senior running back Perris Jones. "Our goal is to go out there and score every time we touch the field. We left a lot on the grass last year, and we're trying to make up for those mistakes, and I think the buy-in from the young guys and even with the older guys has been a lot better than it was. I think as a result, we're operating at a more efficient level."
This year’s roster is deep at running back and more experienced on the offensive line. Its question marks fall at quarterback – where Muskett must make the jump from the FCS-level to playing at Power 5 school – and at wide receiver, where UVa hopes Malachi Fields can emerge as a star.
“I think you'll see an improvement, a significant improvement, just with the continuity of what we're doing and guys understanding,” Elliott said. “Now, that they understand they can play fast. They can play physical. They can play free, which gives them the ability to execute at a higher level.”
While the offense may aim to focus on running the ball, its success – or failure – will likely hinge heavily on Muskett’s play. He said the system he was in at Monmouth was a similar, pro-style scheme and that his transition at UVa has been a smooth one.
Elliott praised his accuracy through spring practices, his ability to throw a “catchable ball,” and his confidence.
That confidence isn’t just in himself. Muskett believes his wide receivers and the entire offense are being underrated going into this season. He’s judging his new teammates more on what he saw on the field in the spring than what he watched on video from last season.
“It’s one of those things with this system – It takes time,” Muskett said. “It’s hard to get it clicking right away.”

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