Just a month after making his first career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Jameel Sewell is now becoming a difference maker for Virginia. He probably believed it would happen during his career but just maybe not this soon.
Sewell arrived at UVA after a stellar prep career starring for Richmond (VA) Hermitage. A second-team All-State selection as a senior, Sewell passed for 2,001 yards, 27 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He was tabbed a three-star prospect and the No. 35 quarterback in the country by Scout.com, as Sewell chose the Cavs over Cincinnati, Maryland, North Carolina, and Syracuse.
He spent the 2005 season redshirting, learning as much as he could from senior star quarterback Marques Hagans and packing another 25 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, as he now checks in at 219.
Kevin McCabe and Christian Olsen entered the 2006 season as the likely options for Virginia at the quarterback position, given their college experience. Olsen started the season behind center, but was pulled in favor of McCabe midway through the Wyoming game. The next week, he came in to replace McCabe against Western Michigan, but struggled again and the ball was handed to Sewell. Sewell has stepped up and taken advantage of the opportunity presented to him, although it was a rocky start.
He completed 7-of-10 passes against Western Michigan, a tough loss for the Cavaliers at home, and made his first career start at Georgia Tech a week later. Facing one of the ACC's top defenses, Sewell completed just 15-of-31 passes for 115 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown in the Virginia's 24-7 loss. Then things started to click for him as he bounced back with a 14-of-20 outing against Duke and after a loss at East Carolina, Sewell has had two really strong starts the past two weeks.
On October 14th against rival Maryland, he completed 13-of-21 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, and he also added another 92 yards and a 36-yard touchdown run on the ground. Last week, he led UVA to a 23-0 win over North Carolina, passing for 166 yards as he completed 17-of-25 passes while rushing for another 40 yards on nine carries.
When you watch Sewell play, you may think he's an athlete playing quarterback, but that isn't the case according to NC State head coach Chuck Amato.
"Their quarterback... I want to say his first start was the Georgia Tech game, has improved, and improved, and improved," said Amato. "He's a quarterback who can hurt you with his feet. He's got a cannon for an arm."
Sewell has completed 81-of-139 passes for 803 yards and five touchdowns on the season. He's thrown three interceptions, but he is now doing a better job of managing the game and finding his open receivers. The light appears to be coming on for him, and his emergence gives UVA fans a hope for the future. With just two senior starters on offense, Sewell's play could signal the start of something special in Charlottesville.
NC State fans are hoping his play will drop off this weekend against the Wolfpack.