No hard feelings between Groh, Rocco
Lynchburg shuttle of some concern
By Doug Doughty
Virginia football coach Al Groh and his former assistant, Danny Rocco, have almost identical recollections of the conversations they held over the Christmas holidays.
Rocco, who has just completed his first season at Liberty, said he might have spoken to Groh as many as five times. Most of the conversations applied to Marshal Ausberry, a former Cavalier offensive lineman who enrolled at Liberty this week.
Ausberry is the third former UVa player to join Rocco in Lynchburg, following offensive tackle Eddie Pinigis and defensive end Vince Redd. Pinigis was a second-team All-Big South selection this past season.
“Look, if they’re not of primary importance to us here, I’d like to see them helping him out,” Groh said this week. “There’s nobody we’d rather see do well than Danny.”
Redd was dismissed from Virginia’s team last spring and could not have rejoined the Cavaliers without great difficulty. Pinigis lost his starting job at UVa during the preseason of 2006 and, when he didn’t get much satisfaction in a face-to-face meeting with Groh, bolted on the eve of fall classes.
The departure of Ausberry, who started 11 games during UVa’s 2005 Music City Bowl season, was a slightly different story. He would have been welcome to return as a fifth-year senior in 2006 and would have provided depth and flexibility for a veteran Cavaliers’ offensive line.
Will this be the last UVa player to Liberty for a while?
“We’ll see,” Groh said. “As I wrapped up the conversation with Danny, I was like, ‘Hey, Danny, this is fine, but I want to make sure this doesn’t become a trend and everybody sees this as a way out.’
“I could see one guy telling the other guy, ‘Hey, you know, this is a great deal. Just come on down there and do this.’"
It’s easy to visualize that kind of conversation between Ausberry and Pinigis, fellow UVa starters for a period in 2005.
What makes the Ausberry situation a little more palatable for Groh is that Ausberry at least has a UVa degree.
“He’s a veteran player who played for us the year before and did a nice job for us,” Groh said. “What changed his situation was, [Jordy] Lipsey came on so strong in training camp that he was clearly one of the best five linemen.”
Lipsey started every game at center after a preseason battle with Ian-Yates Cunningham.
An undersized Lipsey can’t play guard, “but Cunningham can,” Groh explained. “Cunningham went over and played better at guard than Marshal did. So, that changed that circumstance.”
But, Ausberry “is a veteran player, who we’ve trained, who knows the system, who was always one play away from going in,” Groh continued.
Virginia was remarkably injury-free in the offensive line this year. That might not be the case in 2007.
“He would have given us the opportunity, if the circumstance had come up, to keep us from playing a young player a year earlier than we wanted to,” Groh said. “But, frankly, I was a bit surprised, when he was first offered the opportunity, that he said he would come back under those circumstances.
“Then, he said came back at Christmas and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about this and I think I’m going to graduate and go to Liberty.’ I think it would have been a shame, as I’ve told a couple other guys, ‘Hey, I’m all for football, but in the grand scheme of things, to play 10 or 11 games at that level and give up a degree from Virginia is not a great, long-range deal.'”
Along those lines, Groh said he has spoken recently with quarterback Kevin McCabe, hero of the Cavaliers’ overtime victory over Wyoming this past season. McCabe, benched before halftime in his first UVa start, has said he wants to spend his fifth season of eligibility at a lower level, but McCabe is enrolled for the spring term at Virginia.
“He’s going to stay through his graduation here, then play at one of those Pennsylvania teachers’ colleges,” Groh said.
McCabe will not take part in spring drills at Virginia, Groh confirmed.
There are a number of former Virginia players at various stages of eligibility and it would not be surprising for one or more to surface at Liberty. That group includes defensive lineman Chris Johnson, defensive back Phillip Brown, wide receiver Bud Davis and defensive back Robbie Catterton.
It would not bother Groh to see any of them at Liberty and he’s not losing sleep over the players who have left to date.
Gone from a prospective fifth-year senior group in 2007 are McCabe; Ausberry; scholarship long snapper Tyrus Gardner, whose academic ineligibility might be challenged in an appeal, and seldom-used nose tackle Keenan Carter, who has applied for the NFL Draft.
“Marshal was accurate in his assessment that, unless something happened, he probably wasn’t going to play,” Groh said. “I can understand why a guy would say, ‘Look, I’ve got one more year in front of me; I’d like to play in the games.’
“As it works out here, we have to manage numbers in a little different way than other places,” Groh said. “If you can gray-shirt guys [and bring recruits in at mid-year], there is no limit to how many players you can take.”
Virginia hasn’t allowed a recruit to enter at mid-year since Ahmad Brooks in 2003, after he had spent the fall of 2002 at Hargrave Military Academy. Brooks battled academic issues throughout his three-year UVa career, although he was never ineligible.
When teams gray-shirt, they have the option of counting a player toward the class he joins or the class that will join him.
“You never stop taking a good player,” said Groh, explaining that if a player puts a class over the 25-scholarship NCAA limit, “you just tell him to come five months later. Here, that’s just not a circumstance.”
“Since we always have to be cognizant of the numbers, if you’re put in the position of trading one year for four or five, then sometimes we’ll make the decision for the younger guy.”
UVa's snapper duties remain in Timesland hands
Doug Doughty | 981-3129
Virginia's decision to extend a scholarship to Roanoke-bred deep snapper Danny Aiken came into sharper focus Tuesday when head coach Al Groh said that projected snapper Tyrus Gardner will be ineligible for the 2007 season.
Gardner is enrolled in school and is on schedule to graduate in May, but an academic quirk has cost him his final season of eligibility.
A first-team All-Group A linebacker at George Wythe High School, Gardner has snapped for punts for the past three seasons and on field goals and extra points for the last two.
"Tyrus and I were both desirous of him coming back," said Groh, who does not automatically bring players back for a fifth year.
Groh described Gardner as a "very responsible" student who took a reduced course load when it appeared he would return for the 2007 season. However, the NCAA has different provisions for full-time and part-time students.
Gardner's situation was complicated when he failed to obtain the C-minus that was a passing grade in one of his classes. In most cases, "D" is a passing grade at Virginia.
"He would have been better off if he'd taken five courses and made two or three D's," Groh said. "Then, he'd be eligible."
Groh said that athletic department officials are gathering information in hopes of making an appeal on Gardner's behalf.
"But, we can't bank on that," Groh said.
Gardner's back-up for the past two seasons has been North Cross school graduate Jackson Andrews, whose father, Deke, was North Carolina's snapper when Groh was a Tar Heels' assistant in the early 1970s. At 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds, Andrews lacks the kind of bulk that helped Gardner contribute 11 special-teams tackles over the past two seasons.
"We knew we'd have to replace Tryus sooner or later," Groh said. "It just so happens, it's sooner."
n Regardless of who handles snapping duties in 2007, he will uphold a tradition that started when former Shawsville High School running back Ryan Childress filled that role from 2000-2003. Childress, Gardner, Andrews and Aiken all played at Timesland high schools.
Virginia Tech recruit Tyrod Taylor is rated the No. 20 prospect by SuperPrep magazine in its All-America issue, but Taylor continues to be dogged by the "athlete" designation that limited his playing time recently in the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
Taylor, one of three SuperPrep All-Americans who have committed to Tech, learned upon his arrival in San Antonio that the East team had four other quarterbacks and that he was needed at defensive back.
In addition to Taylor, who eventually was moved to quarterback and yielded an interception on his only series, other SuperPrep All-Americans headed to Blacksburg are defensive back Cris Hill from Highland Springs and linebacker Hunter Ovens from Sarasota, Fla.
Taylor was listed first among 15 All-Americans listed as "athletes" by SuperPrep. Virginia-bound Peter Lalich was listed 10th at quarterbacks and joins three other UVa recruits on SuperPrep's team -- linebacker J'Courtney Williams, defensive back Chase Minniefield and defensive lineman Nick Jenkins.
Minniefield, rated the No. 1 prospect in Kentucky, recently had a torn anterior cruciate ligament repaired by Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala. Williams, off an impressive performance in San Antonio, is rated the No. 3 linebacker and the No. 33 prospect overall by SuperPrep.
Home vs. road
The ACC has revisited its original ruling and now views Virginia's 59-52 triumph over Puerto Rico-Mayaguez as a neutral site victory, leaving the Cavaliers at 2-14 in road games in Dave Leitao's two seasons as coach.
"I don't want to make too much of that," Leitao said Sunday after an 88-76 victory over Wake Forest. "I watched the [Georgia Tech-North Carolina] game last night. I respect Paul Hewitt. He's a very good coach. His team's been to the final game. And, they've [the Yellow Jackets] lost 15 straight road games.
"It's not something unique. It's not anything specific to Virginia basketball. It's something that a lot of teams go through."
Virginia Tech, which has had some significant victories on the road, is 6-13 in conference road games over its first three ACC seasons. UVa is 2-16 in ACC road games in the same span, including 1-9 under Leitao.
Asked Sunday what the percentages are that he will return for his senior year, Virginia junior Sean Singletary replied, "One-hundred percent."
It would not be unprecedented for an underclassman to have a change of heart, but the 2007 NBA Draft will have a different twist because it will include college freshmen who, until last year, would have been allowed to go directly to the NBA from high school.
J.R. Reynolds responds to an earful with a sizzling final 10:57 on Wednesday.
By Doug Doughty
RALEIGH, N.C. -- J.R. Reynolds had barely embarked on a late-game scoring burst Wednesday night when an errant pass earned him a trip to the bench and an earful from Virginia coach Dave Leitao.
Reynolds was out of the game for all of 11 seconds.
"One of my assistants, Coach [Bill] Courtney, said, 'We can't take him out; we need him,' " Leitao said. "I just needed to take him out and yell at him."
It wasn't the first time in the past two seasons that Reynolds had experienced Leitao's wrath.
"He responded very well, obviously, and made big shots with guys draped all over him," said Leitao after a 71-58 victory at North Carolina State.
"He's a terrific, skilled player who can really put the ball in the basket as well as anybody I've ever been around. He knows he's got a green light."
Reynolds, a 6-foot-2 12 senior from Roanoke scored 22 points in the final 10:57 and finished with 29. Backcourt partner Sean Singletary added 27 points, including 15 as Virginia built a 26-19 halftime lead.
Singletary was 6-for-14 from the field in the first half and the rest of the Cavaliers were 4-for-21, missing 15 straight shots during one particularly ugly stretch.
"The team needed somebody to step up and I knew I had to be that guy, especially the way Sean had it going in the first half," said Reynolds, who scored five points in the first half, when two fouls limited him to 14 minutes. "I knew I had to come to his rescue and give him a little bit of help."
Reynolds scored 40 points Sunday in an 88-76 victory over Wake Forest, and the Wolfpack (11-8, 1-5 ACC) were well aware of the danger that he presented.
In the season's ACC opener, Reynolds scored 13 of his 14 points in the final 7:12 as the Cavaliers rallied for a 67-62 victory over the Wolfpack in Charlottesville, Va.
"If you have good guards, you'll win in this conference, you'll win college basketball games, and they have good guards," first-year State coach Sidney Lowe said.
Reynolds' 69 points in consecutive games didn't set a school record; in fact, it wasn't a season high for Virginia. Singletary had 70 points in consecutive games against American University (33) and Gonzaga (37).
Wednesday's victory was the third in a row for the Cavaliers (12-6, 4-2) and their first on the road since a Jan. 15, 2006 triumph at Virginia Tech.
Leitao has been preaching defense all season and the Cavaliers were ranked first in the ACC in field-goal percentage in conference games. Their opponents had shot 40.2 percent from the field in UVa's first five ACC games, a figure that dropped after State shot 31.7 percent Wednesday.
Virginia finished at 42.9 percent, but the Cavaliers shot 63.6 percent from the field in the second half, when they were 6-of-11 on 3-pointers and 14-of-22 overall.
Reynolds and Singletary were the only UVa players who scored more than six points, although senior Jason Cain contributed 12 rebounds, including eight in the second half.
UVa's road victory was only its fourth in ACC play during the careers of its two seniors, Reynolds and Cain.
It didn't hit Reynolds until the game ended that he had experienced victory twice at the RBC Center, where the Cavaliers defeated the Wolfpack 64-62 on a last-second putback by Singletary in 2005.
"I had forgotten about that till just now," said Reynolds, oblivious to the fact that State is 0-4 in ACC home games this year.
"It's big just to get a win on the road. Wins in this league don't come easy so you've got to take whatever you can get."
Richmond Times-Dispatch Jan 26, 2007
DYNAMIC DUO: Second-year men's basketball coach Dave Leitao noted late Wednesday night in Raleigh, N.C., that he often has said that his team "will go as far as our two guards would take us."
That remark came about 15 minutes after those guards -- junior Sean Singletary and senior J.R. Reynolds -- had almost single-handedly led U.Va. to a 71-58 victory over N.C. State at the RBC Center.
Singletary scored 15 of the Cavaliers' 26 first-half points and also had nine rebounds before the break. He finished with 27 points.
Reynolds, held to five points in the first half, scored 24 after intermission, hitting 7 of 9 shots from the floor, most of them well-contested by taller defenders.
No other Cavalier scored more than six points, although 6-10 senior Jason Cain pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.
"Sean's display early, and then J.R.'s display in the second half were nothing short of phenomenal," Leitao. "And obviously on a day where the other guys behind them didn't have great games at all, they were able to not only stabilize us but just make big shot after big shot, big play after big play, free throws and 3-pointers and give us an opportunity to win."
In his past two games -- both ACC wins for U.Va. -- Reynolds has made 11 of 16 shots from beyond the arc and scored 69 points.
Leitao said Reynolds, a third-team all-ACC pick in 2005-06, can "put the ball in the basket as well as anybody I've been around."
ANOTHER EXPORT: In recent weeks, Leitao's team has faced several players who grew up in Virginia and now play for ACC schools outside the state, including North Carolina's Marcus Ginyard (Bishop O'Connell High), Boston College's Tyrese Rice (L.C. Bird High) and Maryland's Bambale Osby (Thomas Jefferson and Benedictine) and Eric Hayes (Potomac).
On Sunday, U.Va. (4-2, 12-6) takes on a Clemson team whose leaders include Vernon Hamilton, who starred at Thomas Dale High and Benedictine.
Hamilton has improved dramatically since his freshman year, when his inconsistency prompted many observers to question whether he was an ACC-caliber point guard.
Clemson is ranked No.19, and Hamilton entered last night's game at No.10 Duke averaging 11.8 points, 3.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals. He remains a poor free throw shooter, though, and had made only 19 of 45 this season heading into last night.
STAYING PUT: Since the end of the 2006 season, there has been speculation among those who follow U.Va. football that Alex Field might be moved to offensive tackle. Coach Al Groh said last week, however, that Field, a 6-7, 288-pound rising junior who hasn't redshirted, will remain at defensive end.
Field was a second-teamer in 2006.
"One, he's got two years invested in this position," Groh said, "and another, we'd be putting him at a position where one guy is going to be a starter for two more years and the other for three more years."
U.Va.'s returning starters at offensive tackle are rising junior Eugene Monroe and rising sophomore Will Barker. At defensive end, the Cavs' returning starters are rising senior Chris Long and rising sophomore Jeffrey Fitzgerald.
FULL SPEED AHEAD: Evan Marcus isn't around to lead them, but Groh's players begin their winter conditioning program this month. Marcus, who had been U.Va.'s head strength coach since January 2003, left recently to take the same position with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.
"Evan did a fine job for us, and he was always very well-organized and ahead of things," Groh said. "The whole offseason thing is already in the computer and ready to go. We can start off and not miss a beat."
U.Va. has begun a search for Marcus' successor. Spring practice starts March 21.
IN THE CREASE: Practice began last week for the men's lacrosse team, the defending NCAA champs.
Among those who'll be expected to play leading roles this spring is sophomore Steve Giannone, who had 10 goals and five assists last season.
Dom Starsia experimented with Giannone at defensive midfielder in fall practices, but "if we had a game tonight, I think he'd be on the first offensive midfield," U.Va.'s veteran coach said recently. "We need guys that are hard to cover, and he's one of those guys for us."
The projected starters on the first midfield are Giannone, senior Drew Thompson and freshman Brian Carroll. Senior Foster Gilbert anchors the second midfield, whose other members, Starsia said, will come from this group: sophomore Gavin Gill, freshman George Huguely, redshirt freshman Max Pomper and junior Drew Garrison.
Gill and Huguely will play some at attack as well. Pomper may also work at defensive middie, along with juniors Will Barrow and Jack Riley and freshman Mike Thompson, a Collegiate School graduate who can take faceoffs, too.
Virginia opens the season Feb. 18 against Drexel in Charlottesville. -- Jeff White
Backcourt still carrying load
By Whitelaw Reid / email@example.com
January 26, 2007
RALEIGH, N.C. - On Wednesday night, Virginia picked up its first road win outside of the commonwealth in the Dave Leitao era when it defeated North Carolina State.
Maybe there should be a ticker-tape parade outside of John Paul Jones Arena in a couple of weeks. It can follow the school’s ceremony commemorating Leitao’s 107th career win.
Or maybe not.
But when you think about it, Virginia’s 71-58 victory was a good news-bad news kind of deal.
UVa was able to finally get off the snide and win on the road.
However, for the umpteenth time, the Cavaliers had to completely rely on Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds.
Last season, that was a recipe for disaster.
By the time postseason rolled around, the duo was the sole focus of every team’s gameplan and became completely worn down - physically and mentally.
In the win over the Wolfpack, Reynolds and Singletary combined to score 56 points.
“They were nothing short of phenomenal,” Leitao said. “The other guys behind them didn’t have great games at all. They were able to not only stabilize us, but make big shot after big shot and big play after big play - free throws, 3-pointers - and just give us an opportunity to win.”
Only six of Virginia’s 24 baskets were not scored by Reynolds and Singletary.
“If you have good guards in this conference, you’ll win in this conference,” said N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe, “and they have good guards.”
But in a way, isn’t Virginia, as presently constructed, like a good 10-year-old player who uses a two-handed set shot that he releases from his shoe tops?
The kid is really good, but he’s only going to go so far with that kind of form.
Similarly, Virginia may be able to beat a lot of teams when Reynolds and Singletary go nuts, but until other players step up, its ceiling for success isn’t very high.
Leitao realizes this.
“I think they’re special,” said Leitao of his backcourt. “They have big-time game and big-time heart -both of them … it’s my job now to try and raise the level of everyone else consistently, so that they can start to maximize themselves as well.”
That’s been something Leitao has been trying to accomplish since he came aboard nearly two years ago.
The best-case scenario for Virginia would be for one of its big men to step to the forefront. That would force defenses to play more honest.
Jason Cain had 12 rebounds against the Wolfpack but was just 1 of 4 from the field.
Lars Mikalauskas showed off some nice post moves in a 3-for-3 shooting performance - but for some reason he only played 10 minutes.
Tunji Soroye had two points, four rebounds and a block, which probably qualifies as his best game this season.
While the trio has been sporadic in terms of offensive production, their defense has been pretty good of late.
“I think we’ve gotten a little better at creating some imbalance in the mind of [opposing] post players,” Leitao said. “It happened the other night with [Kyle] Visser and it happened a little with [Ben] McCauley [on Wednesday]. We have to keep working at it.
“We’re six games into the league and we’re No. 1 in field goal percentage defense. That’s a pleasing stat given the fact that we haven’t been great throughout the year defensively, and we’re trying to score more points. I’m pleased with that part of it, and we have to keep doing it more and more.”
Cavaliers search for second road game win over ACC foedfadfa
After suprising win against N.C. State, Virginia looks to finish its travels through North Carolina with victory over Clemson
Eric Strow, Cavalier Daily Senior Staff Writer
The last time the Virginia men's basketball team played consecutive road games, the Cavaliers went 0-2 against ACC opponents North Carolina and Boston College. But after beating North Carolina State in Raleigh Wednesday, the Cavaliers have shown they do possess the ability to win on the road, which will be a key factor in the home stretch of the season.
"It definitely feels good to get a win on the road," junior guard Sean Singletary said. "Anytime you get a win in the ACC, especially on the road, it's special. Hopefully, from here on out, we can have a little swagger when we go to other arenas."
The Cavaliers will need this swagger when they play at No. 19 Clemson Sunday. The Tigers started the season on fire, winning their first 17 games and holding the title of the last unbeaten team in the country. Clemson dropped its next two games against ACC foes Maryland and North Carolina but came back with a 74-54 win over Boston College.
Clemson has a balanced scoring attack, with four players averaging more than 11 points per game. As a team, the Tigers have made 147 three pointers in 20 games this season, second in the ACC behind Virginia's 151 treys (in 18 games). Clemson boasts solid guards on both sides of the ball, including K.C. Rivers, who is second only to Singletary in three pointers made with 2.65 per game (Singletary makes 2.67 per game). The Tigers' other two guards, Vernon Hamilton and Chris Hammonds, are both in the top ten in steals in the ACC.
Virginia's guards have also played superb basketball as of late, dominating their opponents on offense. The win over N.C. State exhibited continued scoring from the Cavaliers' duo of Singletary and J.R. Reynolds, who combined for 56 of Virginia's 71 points against the Wolfpack. In the previous game against Wake Forest, Reynolds put up a career high 40 points en route to an 88-76 victory and won the honor of ACC Player of the Week. Virginia coach Dave Leitao is highly impressed with the play of his shooting guard over the last few games.
"I didn't think that after a 40-point performance that I'd be able to say that J.R. came back even better, but he did," Leitao said. "Some of the shots he made were tremendous. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. He's had some excellent games, he knows he has the green light to shoot, and he's making them."
Reynolds understands his role as a team leader, being one of only two seniors on the roster, and embraced that role by taking control of the game against the Wolfpack.
"We needed this win bad," Reynolds said. "The team needed somebody to step up, and I knew I needed to be that guy. The way Sean had it going in the first half, I knew I needed to come to his rescue."
Virginia's guards will need to step up their game against Clemson's tough defense, which uses a pressing style that Virginia has not seen much of this season. The matchup against Clemson will showcase two fast-paced offenses that like shooting three pointers and excel in transitioning from defense to offense. It also will feature a high-scoring Cavalier backcourt against the conference leader in steals, as the Tigers pick off 10.75 steals per game.
The game starts at 1 p.m. Sunday.
After sweep, Virginia hosts pair of titans
By Jay Jenkins / firstname.lastname@example.org
January 26, 2007
Brian Boland promises he will not be offended by cheers, regardless of their volume.
In fact, the coach of the Virginia men’s tennis team has an even greater request for the fans planning to attend today’s home opener against Notre Dame inside the Boar’s Head Sports Club.
“Please feel free to start the wave,” Boland joked.
The way Boland sees it, the importance of a supportive fan base is often overlooked in his sport, but he certainly has heard about it from opposing coaches.
“I believe we have one of the best environments in all of college tennis and we have an incredible venue to watch college tennis in,” Boland said. “We need fans, and we hope they come out and support the Hoos.”
Those in attendance can also get a firsthand look at Virginia’s revamped lineup, one that features four new faces.
Boland got his first chance to watch the newcomers in action on Wednesday. The result - Virginia beat William and Mary, 7-0 - left him feeling better about his eighth-ranked squad.
“I could certainly tell there were extra nerves compared to a typical day, but they calmed down and each and every one of them started to play within themselves a little more,” Boland said. “They became much more comfortable throughout the match.
“I thought the focus of the team was outstanding throughout the night on the court in terms of their discipline, focus and how hard they worked each and every point.”
Despite winning 51 matches during the past two seasons, Boland said that hasn’t always been the case.
“That’s something that we struggled with in the past,” he added. “This is the first 7-0 victory that we’ve had in probably over a year and a half, which I think says something about the focus and discipline that this team has.”
Virginia had not registered a 7-0 win - they did win several matches 4-0 - since April 6, 2005 when the Cavs blanked Maryland.
“We are happy with our lineup - we are strong from top to bottom - and our doubles teams have come together extremely well thus far,” said Boland, whose team also hosts Illinois on Sunday. “Obviously, things may change throughout the course of the season [with the lineup], but so far, so good.”
The focus will be needed, Boland said, all weekend.
“Notre Dame and Illinois have great programs,” Boland said. “They are going to be an incredible challenge for us again.
“We are just excited about the matches. It is a great way to open up at home. Just getting the fans out and getting them behind us always makes such a big difference. We hope they come out in big numbers [tonight].”
The first 100 fans in attendance today will receive orange shakers.