CHARLOTTESVILLE — Of all the roles that De’Vante Cross has filled during his Virginia football career, none is more critical than the latest one.
Cross, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior, has been given the task of replacing pre-season All-American Bryce Hall as the Cavaliers’ boundary cornerback.
Cross started UVa’s first six games at free safety before Hall suffered a broken ankle in a 17-9 loss to Miami and was lost for the season.
The injury occurred before halftime and Cross immediately was moved to Hall’s spot.
“Reviewing the film from that game, my alignments for corner were off,” Cross said this week. “A lot of things were just off.
“Being able to look at that [Miami] film and get a whole week of practice, it really helped me become more comfortable and put myself in position to make more plays.”
On the day he signed with Virginia in the winter of 2016, Cross was listed as a quarterback, the position he earned all-state honors in Pennsylvania during high school. He passed for 2,947 yards and rushed for 1,385 yards as a senior at Parkland High School in Allentown.
At the time, he had been committed to Boston College since Oct. 16, a span of more than three months.
“Out of high school, a majority of my offers were to play quarterback,” Cross said. “That’s what I came [to Virginia] as and that’s what I spent my whole first year doing.
“That next spring, Kurt Benkert was obviously the starter and [the coaches] were like, ‘Kurt’s going to play all year, so instead of just sitting here, you can try to play other positions.’ And that set me on this path I’m on now.
“Quarterback would have been fun and all, but it’s the hardest position on the field at all times. I like defense, too, so it worked out.”
Cross took snaps in the wildcat formation in 2017, where he carried three times for 14 yards at Boise State, and he also had one reception in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
He is listed in this year’s media guide as a returning letterman on offense.
“I remember early going to Pitt [in the 2017 season] and playing De’Vante at corner because we didn’t have anyone,” UVa coach Bronco Mendenhall said this week. “We just moved him [as] the next best athlete out there .
“It wasn’t really fair to him to really expect him to play at a high level other than he was a good athlete and was going to compete.”
In making the move to cornerback, Cross has replaced a fellow Pennsylvanian in Hall, who is from Harrisburg, roughly an hour from Allentown, but their paths seldom crossed.
“I would have been his teammate if he had played in the Big 33 Game,” said Cross, referring to Pennsylvania’s season-ending all-star game, “but he decided not to. Before I got here, I never really knew him but I’d heard of him.
“Here he’s been very helpful. Ever since I moved to defense, I worked with him all throughout the summer. He’s a great mentor, a great guy to learn lessons from. He’s one of the best, so why wouldn’t you listen to him.”
When Cross shifted to cornerback, his spot at free safety was filled by fellow junior Chris Moore, who missed the entire 2018 season as the result of a preseason injury. Moore was credited with 12 tackles Saturday, four of them solo.
“Now that we’re gaining some maturity in the program and some depth,” Mendenhall said, “it gives you a chance to keep competing for your division, which we have as good a chance [right now] as anyone.”