Elite-armed freshman Colandrea pushing Muskett in UVA training camp

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

When Tony Elliott told media attending his Monday post-practice chat that the biggest takeaway from Saturday’s team scrimmage was that Anthony Colandrea was “pushing” Tony Muskett for the starting quarterback job, it was a bit surprising.

Is that a good thing or not so good? Colandrea is a true freshman out of St. Petersburg, Fla., who enrolled early and participated in spring practice. Muskett is a veteran transfer from Monmouth with years of starting experience under his belt.

So, should a freshman be pushing a seasoned veteran for the starting job? Does that mean Colandrea is reaching beyond expectations, or is Muskett not meeting expectations?

The fact that Colandrea is pushing Muskett means that at least there is competition in training camp, especially after QB candidate Delaney Crawford volunteered to play receiver or kick returner to help the team, and Davis Lane moved to safety.

When Jay Woolfolk dropped football last month in order to focus on his baseball career, it appeared the QB job was Muskett’s, but the freshman is giving him competition and if nothing else, giving UVA a reliable backup.

I asked Elliott what it is about Colandrea that has put him in this position. Afterall, he’s not that big at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds. He wasn’t highly recruited by the Power 5 crowd (Kentucky was his only Power 5 offer, and that came in 2021).

The list of schools that offered Colandrea isn’t eye-popping: South Florida, Tennessee Tech, Buffalo, Richmond, Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Grambling, Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green, Georgia State, Western Carolina, Furman, Hawaii and Utah State. He actually committed to Middle Tennessee State in April of 2022 but backed out of that agreement, eventually committing to Virginia in July of 2022.

Elliott didn’t hesitate to explain what has made Colandrea a contender.

“He’s from the hotbed of football, right down there in the Tampa area, St. Pete,” Elliott said. “He’s right at six-foot, but he’s got an elite arm. In the days of the transfer portal, Covid, all that, you’re looking for that prototypical guy, and so he doesn’t have that 6-3 frame (Muskett is 6-2, 206), but he’s got the mind, he’s got the arm strength, and he’s got the moxie of any of the top quarterbacks in the country.”

Elliott should know, after spending a decade coaching some elite QBs during Clemson’s impressive run.

“He had some opportunities mid-major, but when we had a chance to watch him spin the ball and throw it, we were not going to be nit-picky over an inch or two,” Elliott said. “This was a really good quarterback, right at the six-foot mark, so I think it’s a function of where he’s from, with a lot of talent. He’s got the arm, he’s got moxie.

“And when the lights come on, he loves to play football.”

At Lakewood High School, Colandrea threw for 7,311 yards (more than 6,000 of that coming his final two years), and 60 TDs (55 his last two years), while completing 62.5 percent of his pass attempts.

Muskett threw for 51 TDs and 5,687 yards (64.2-percent completion rate) during his career at Monmouth.