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April 5, 2012

Lambert says early start is huge

You wouldn't know from watching him sign autograph after autograph on Friday night in Newport News, but that isn't the place Virginia true freshman quarterback Greyson Lambert calls home. That matters not for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound native of Jesup, Ga., though.

If there's anything hard to miss about the tall, slender Lambert aside from his arm strength, it's that he seems perfectly comfortable. And yet, he knows he has a long way to go.

"It's mixed emotions about everything," said Lambert, who passed for 4,282 yards and 38 touchdowns over his three seasons at Wayne County. "I'm always nervous and my mind is always racing. But I know I'm in the right spot, learning from the right people, and doing the right thing."

One of the best to commit to UVa last fall, Lambert is the only newcomer this spring, having enrolled in January. And as the sole member of the 2012 recruiting class to be on Grounds, he doesn't look in over his head at all. In fact, at times, he looks like a seasoned player, perhaps not on the level of starter Michael Rocco or backup David Watford but not too far behind.

"I don't know it yet," Lambert said of Virginia's offense. "I know the basics and I'm just now starting to learn things like if I get this look, then this is where you're supposed to go. I'm learning the progressions and things. So it's a process and obviously, everybody knows that the speed is a lot faster. Right now, I'm just trying to watch the other guys and do what I can do."

Since offensive coordinator Bill Lazor only has three quarterbacks at his disposal this spring, that means a lot of reps for all of them. Of course, Lazor was one of the biggest reasons Lambert chose UVa. And his comfort level with the coaches and players grows daily.

"I got to meet a lot of the guys on my official visit, so when I came in, I had at least met most of the team," he said. "But now? It's second nature. As soon as I got here, guys welcomed me in, showed me around. It's a big family here."

Lambert credits Lazor, head coach Mike London, and the rest of the "Virginia football family" for making him feel welcome instantly.

"Everybody took me in," he said. "The staff, the academic support folks, the players, they're all great people before they do their job. They want to help you any way they can. It's been an easy process to get used to the college life."

At times, Lambert has looked like a freshman this spring; but most of the time, he looks like a returning player. He credits good offensive coaches and quality receivers, and those wideouts and make the smile erupt on his face.

"They're fast," he said. "They are some real fast guys."

Could he over overthrow them?

"I haven't yet," Lambert said with a laugh, "because they'll go run it down. Before spring practice started, we'd all go out on the field and throw and we'd work on some routes and timing. It's fun to work with these guys. It kind of feels like you're at a combine or a camp because of how strong these guys are. It's college football. They're all solid otherwise they wouldn't be here."

The biggest benefit from starting his college career ahead of schedule is that he gets to tackle the academic side of being a student while also having plenty of time to learn on the field without the added pressure of the season.

"We have meetings every day," he said. "We're in the film room. Getting into the playbook and working on it some on my own. Those things wouldn't have happened if it I hadn't headed up here early. It's already a big deal for me and the experience I'm getting now is off the charts."

So how does a quarterback, who is one of three on the roster at the moment, both prepare to be "the guy" while also committing himself to being better?

"You have to do both," Lambert explained. "Look, everybody has to get better and that's the big message from our leaders and coaches and I know I'm only a few plays from having to step up. I think we all look at it that way.

"You want to be prepared but you also want to make sure you're improving the right way and you're not cutting any corners. You can't be afraid of the moment. My dad will even say, 'Prepare like you are Mike [Rocco]. Look at the things he does.' That way, when my time does come, I'll be better for it."

Quarterbacks historically aren't thought of as being all that helpful in the development of a guy who could very well take their job. And yet, Lambert said UVa's two experienced guys are helping him just like the offensive coaching staff.

"They've been great," he added. "If one of them is in and I'm standing back there just trying to learn and listen, whether it's Mike or David that is out with me, they'll talk me through the whole play. They're always standing there right with me, quizzing me. 'What is this read? What is this defense running?' They're always trying to help me."

If Lambert is going to become a player on the field indicative of his hype off it, he says it will start with mechanics.

"My drop," he said when asked what needs the most work. "In high school, I would take mostly a three-step drop from the gun and even that wasn't a good form. The only time I'd ever take an under-center snap that was a straight five- or seven-step drop was in a camp. Right now, I'm just working on just doing the basics and learning the fundamentals and particulars in my footwork."

The question some have asked is if he feels the pressure and the expectations that fans may well have for him.

"I just try to treat it, especially right now, like it's a game," he said of his mindset. "I go out and I try to have as much fun as possible but you can't let it get to you. While you're out there, you don't think about any of that other stuff. You have work to do.

"But that feeling? When you throw that route just right? I look forward to it every day."



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