Decision on Quarterbacks Looming for 'Hoos
By Jeff White
PINEHURST, N.C. -- In Mike London's two seasons as head football coach at the University of Richmond, quarterback was the least of his concerns. Eric Ward led the Spiders to the Football Championship Subdivision national title as a junior in 2008 and graduated as a four-year starter.
"Life is easier" when there's a clear No. 1 at QB, London acknowledged Monday night. "But at the same time, as I've said, we are where we are at this point of the program."
London, who had two stints as a UVa assistant under Al Groh, returned to Charlottesville as head coach after the 2009 season. He took over a struggling program with only one quarterback, Marc Verica, who had taken a snap in a college game. Verica started every game for the Cavaliers in 2010, but he's out of eligibility, and the identity of his successor has yet to be determined.
The candidates, as Virginia fans know, are sophomores Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny, redshirt freshman Michael Strauss and true freshman David Watford. Nobody has to tell London -- or the rest of the team -- how important this battle will be.
"College football, it's all about the quarterback now," senior wide receiver Kris Burd said Sunday at Pinehurst Resort, where it was London's turn to field questions Monday.
"How can the quarterback do? Can he control the ball? Can he keep possession? Can he make the play? Can he keep his composure?" said Burd, who led the Wahoos with 58 receptions last season. "There's a lot of weight and a lot of added pressure at the quarterback position, and the guy this year is going to be somebody who hasn't been the guy. That's going to be a tough role to step into."
A year ago, Verica completed 233 of 396 passes (58.8 percent) for 2,799 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he also threw 14 interceptions.
"Those are pretty decent numbers, outside of the interceptions," London told reporters Monday night at ACC Football Kickoff.
Virginia opens Sept. 3 against FCS power William and Mary at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers' coaching staff -- other than strength-and-conditioning coach Evan Marcus -- has not been able to work with the quarterbacks since spring practice ended in April. Training camp starts Aug. 5, and the coaches will "be able to hopefully tell early on where these guys are and how far they've either moved ahead, stayed the same or taken a step backwards," London said.
In seven-on-seven drills organized by the players, Metheny, Rocco, Strauss and Watford have rotated at quarterback. All-ACC cornerback Chase Minnifield said he's seen little separation among them.
"They all bring different qualities, but they're all pretty much the same," Minnifield said Sunday. "I think anybody can win the job, and we'll be OK. But as far as leadership, that's what I really want to see."
Minnifield said he's waiting for one of the quarterbacks to "step up and tell somebody like Kris Burd that he's running the wrong route or he's at the wrong distance. When somebody does that is when I'll know that somebody is ready to be the leader of this team."
So far, Minnifield said, all four have been "pretty quiet ... They don't want to take too much control right now." He paused, then added with a smile: "But before the first game, they better start taking some control."
In 2006, when London was UVa's defensive coordinator, Groh tried Christian Olsen and then Kevin McCabe at quarterback before turning to Jameel Sewell, a redshirt freshman who started the final nine games of the season.
"I break out in hives right now when you're saying that," London said with a smile Monday night. "Thanks for reminding me of that. I remember that. We're not going to do that, that's for sure."
Ideally, London has said, he and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will be able to settle on a rotation a couple of weeks into training camp.
"You don't want it to carry on and linger, because you can't give four guys or three guys the reps to try to find out who No. 1 is," London said. "We're going to find out early who 1 and 2 are, and 3 will be a guy that'll probably be the scout-team quarterback."
Rocco and Metheny know "this is not going to be a long, drawn-out process," London said. "It can't be a long, drawn-out process."
If the quarterbacks remain unproven, London loves the talent level elsewhere on his offense, starting with a line that includes Oday Aboushi, Morgan Moses, Austin Pasztor and Anthony Mihota.
If fullback Max Milien can provide some of the power running that the Cavaliers got from 6-3, 255-pound tailback Keith Payne in 2010, London believes, the offense will be more talented overall at the positions around the quarterback than it was a year ago.
The weapons from which Lazor can choose will include Milien, tailbacks Perry Jones and Kevin Parks, tight ends Colter Phillips, Paul Freedman and Jeremiah Mathis, returning wideouts Burd, Matt Snyder and Tim Smith and, perhaps, true freshman wideouts Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings.
"I expect us to be a very productive group," Burd said of the receivers.
Rocco appeared in six games and Metheny in five last season. Strauss, who entered UVa in January 2010, redshirted, and Watford was still at Hampton High School. (Watford enrolled at Virginia in January.]
Given that, the development of Strauss and Watford "from an on-the-field standpoint probably is going to be behind [that of Rocco and Metheny] a little bit," London said. "But there's something about each one of those guys. Michael Strauss has a cannon for an arm. He'll throw the ball and say, 'I can get it there.' Now, that's a good thing. The bad thing is, he'll throw the ball and say, 'I can get it there,' and he's not supposed to.
"David Watford is probably as athletic as I've seen, but [he's still] learning to read the defenses and do the other things that quarterbacks have to do. It'll come, but when is it going to come? When is the light going to come on? It turned on for him academically ... but now the football part of it, when is that going to come?"
Rocco, whose extended family includes several football coaches, is probably the most fundamentally sound of UVa's quarterbacks. But he can be methodical to a fault.
Sometimes, London said, when the pocket collapses and receivers are covered, a quarterback cannot afford to go through all of his progressions. "Sometimes, you gotta get the heck out of Dodge," he said. "It's that innate thing about just having a sense and a presence about you, that although it calls for [progressing from] 1 to 2 to 3, I gotta go."
Metheny is more willing to take off and run, but there are things he doesn't do as well as Rocco.
"You wish one guy had more of this or more of that," London said. Still, he believes his team can win with the QBs in the program.
"The surrounding cast has a chance to make the quarterback perform in an efficient manner where you don't have to rely on the quarterback to win games for you," London said.
The 'Hoos have not won more than five games in a season since 2007, when they went 9-4 and played in the Gator Bowl. In their annual preseason poll, media members attending ACC Football Kickoff picked UVa to finish fifth in the six-team Coastal Division, ahead of only Duke.
"I don't even look at them," London said of the preseason polls. "It's not where you start, it's where you end, and that's kind of the mentality. The last season is over. Whatever happened before, that was then, this is now."
Fifth-year seniors Burd and Minnifield talked Sunday about how they desperately want to play in a bowl before leaving UVa. Such goals are fine with their head coach.
"There's been enough losing going around here for a while," London said. "It's time to change the thought process."
Virginia Picked By Media to Finish Fifth in ACC Coastal Division
PINEHURST, N.C. - The Virginia football team was picked to finish in fifth-place of the ACC's Coastal Division, which was announced during the 2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff on Monday at the Pinehurst Resort. The media voted Florida State as the league's favorite to win the ACC's Atlantic Division and defeat Virginia Tech for the 2011 ACC Football title.
Florida State was chosen on 50 ballots to win its first ACC title since 2005. Virginia Tech finished second (18), Clemson (2) third and Boston College (1) fourth in votes to win the title. The Hokies were tabbed to win the ACC's Coastal Division with 421 points, including 66-of-71 first-place votes. Miami (328) picked up four first-place votes and is projected as the division's second place team. Rounding out the Coastal Division predicted order of finish is North Carolina (287), Georgia Tech (226), Virginia (132) and Duke (96). Florida State compiled 420 points and 65-of-71 first-place votes to claim the Atlantic Division title over Clemson (286), NC State (270), Boston College (224), Maryland (211) and Wake Forest (80). Clemson grabbed four first-place votes and Boston College received two of its own.
Boston College senior running back Montel Harris, who enters his final season within striking distance of the conference's 33-year-old record for career rushing yardage, was selected as the ACC's Preseason Player of the Year. Harris garnered 26 votes to finish ahead of Florida State's EJ Manuel (14) and Eagles' teammate Luke Kuechly (12). Virginia Tech's David Wilson (12) and Maryland's Danny O'Brien (8) round out the league's players with the most votes.
ACC Championship Votes
2011 ACC Football Preseason Media Polls
ACC Championship Votes
1. Florida State 50
2. Virginia Tech 18
3. Clemson 2
4. Boston College 1
1. Florida State (65) 420
2. Clemson (4) 286
3. NC State 270
4. Boston College (2) 224
5. Maryland 211
6. Wake Forest 80
1. Virginia Tech (66) 421
2. Miami (4) 328
3. North Carolina 287
4. Georgia Tech (1) 226
5. Virginia 132
6. Duke 96
ACC Player of the Year
1. Montel Harris, Boston College 26
2. EJ Manuel, Florida State 14
3. Luke Kuechly, Boston College 12
4. David Wilson, Virginia Tech 8
5. Danny O'Brien, Maryland 4
6. Andre Ellington, Clemson 3
7. Lamar Miller, Miami 2
T8. Sean Spence, Miami 1
T8. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State 1
ACC Championship Game Predictions
1. Florida State over Virginia Tech 45
2. Virginia Tech over Florida State 15
3. Florida State over Miami 4
T4. Clemson over Virginia Tech 2
T4. Virginia Tech over Clemson 2
T6. Florida State over Georgia Tech 1
T6. Virginia Tech over Boston College 1
T6. Boston College over Virginia Tech 1
U.Va.s Bird a man with a plan
By DARRYL SLATER
Published: July 26, 2011
PINEHURST, N.C. --
Kris Burd still has all of his memorabilia from the 2007 Gator Bowl — the ring, obviously, but also the sneakers and luggage the bowl gave Virginia's players as a reward for playing in the game. He needs only to look at them to remember they're the only bowl gifts he owns.
Burd, a wide receiver from Matoaca High, was redshirting as a freshman in 2007 — the last time the Cavaliers played in a bowl. The next three years, they went 5-7, 3-9 and 4-8 — and were a combined 6-18 in the ACC, including 1-7 last season, their first under coach Mike London.
Now that Burd is a fifth-year senior — and finally healthy after major ankle surgery in February — he has but one goal for his final season with the Cavaliers, which he boldly expressed recently to the team's younger players.
"We're going to a bowl game," he told them. "So just get that in your head and do what you've got to do and work to make it there, because that's what we're doing."
Burd will play an important role in that quest. Despite playing with an injured ligament in his right ankle from the third week of last season on, he caught a team-best 58 passes for 799 yards and five touchdowns.
"He never begged out of a practice," London said Monday at ACC media days. "I've never seen him say anything about not being able to continue on in a game."
Burd had to get a pain-killing shot before games, but didn't miss any, and still practiced every day, he said. Yet cutting and changing direction became "a conscious thing, because I knew my ankle was hurting," he said.
He had surgery Feb. 16 to reconstruct his ankle ligaments. He said he felt good for the past month and had been catching balls from a Jugs machine.
"I haven't been too far out of football," he said.
But he wasn't medically cleared to fully participate in workouts until last Monday — a welcome end to 10 months of aches.
"When you don't have to worry about that pain anymore, it's definitely an alleviating feeling," he said.
Burd now just needs to learn who will throw him passes: sophomore Michael Rocco, sophomore Ross Metheny, redshirt freshman Michael Strauss or true freshman David Watford. All are competing to replace Marc Verica and restore stability to the quarterback spot — something Burd thought in 2007 that he'd enjoy for his entire career.
That summer, he arrived with Peter Lalich, a highly recruited quarterback. Lalich lasted just one season and two games of 2008 before getting kicked off the team because of a probation violation. Since then, Burd has caught passes in a game from Hermitage's Jameel Sewell, Vic Hall and Verica. The quarterback carousel, Burd said, "has been kind of crazy."
Burd also has played under three offensive coordinators: Mike Groh and Gregg Brandon with head coach Al Groh, who preceded London, and now Bill Lazor. London said Burd has handled "all the things you can throw at a wide receiver. His experience has been such that he's put himself in a position to be a better player this year."
Now that he is healthy, Burd said, "the sky's the limit."
Whether that means at least a 6-6 record — which would qualify U.Va. for a bowl — remains to be seen. London still faces a significant rebuilding job before going to a bowl becomes routine for his Cavaliers — as it is for other teams in college football — whose players are probably less likely to keep a piece of luggage from a bowl.
"I feel like you're not really experiencing college football without going to a bowl game," Burd said. "We're trying to make it routine. I want to be able to just throw [the gifts] away. But seeing as we haven't been back there, you kind of just cherish it a little bit more."
One that got away, E.J. Manuel, haunts Cavaliers
By PAUL WOODY
PINEHURST, N.C. --
The one that gets away always breaks hearts.
E.J. Manuel, a blue-chip prospect at quarterback from Bayside High School in Virginia Beach, Va., got away from the Division I colleges in Virginia.
Virginia Tech has done OK without him and has a potential star, Logan Thomas, taking over at quarterback this season.
The University of Virginia is in a different situation.
The Cavaliers' quarterback position is unsettled, hardly an ideal situation for the preseason. Manuel would solve a lot of problems for Virginia coach Mike London.
Instead, Manuel, a redshirt junior, will start for Florida State. His performances in spot appearances the past two seasons, along with an abundance of talented players around him, make the Seminoles the preseason favorites to win the ACC championship.
Manuel is not just any quarterback. He's 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, has a strong arm, throws with accuracy (67.3 percent completion rate), can absorb blows and stay upright in the pocket or gain yards on the ground when a pass play breaks down.
Last year, he made a positive impression in the ACC championship game against Virginia Tech. Starting quarterback Christian Ponder was a late scratch with an elbow problem.
Manuel stepped in and performed like the real deal. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown.
His downfall was two interceptions.
"For him to come in like that, he played real good," said Virginia Tech safety Eddie Whitley. "We knew he was going to be a special quarterback in his career. We know he's capable of changing the game at any moment."
For Manuel, the ACC championship game was about more than completions or even losing.
"That was the game where it started slowing down for me," Manuel said. "I saw things before the snap, and I think that's how the season's going to be."
Manuel would be a nice fit at many schools, especially Virginia.
But in 2007, when Florida State, LSU, Alabama, Oregon and Penn State came calling, Charlottesville did not seem glamorous nor a likely place to win a national championship.
"Virginia Tech and Virginia offered scholarships … I want to say after my sophomore or junior year," Manuel said. "I had so many offers I wasn't going to centralize myself to the state of Virginia.
"What took me out of Virginia was getting recruited by Florida State, LSU, schools that were really high on the national scene. Virginia Tech was high on the scene, but they had Tyrod [Taylor], and he was a year ahead of me. I wasn't going to go in right after him and ride the bench for a long time.
"U.Va.? I can't say it was a specific thing that took them off the list. It just wasn't for me at the time. I liked other schools."
Times change. At least London hopes they do.
"Some of the best players in Virginia are looking at Virginia once again," London said. "I wish I'd been head coach at Virginia when he was coming out."
If Manuel performs well, it will not be timely only for Florida State.
The ACC has been an also-ran in major college football, falling well behind the SEC in national prestige and power.
To change that, ACC teams must win significant non-conference games. Florida State has a chance on Sept. 17 against Oklahoma and Nov. 26 at Florida.
Manuel should give the Seminoles an edge in those contests.
"It's perfect for me because I have good guys to throw to, good guys to hand off to, good guys blocking for me, and [the defense] is going to get us the ball back very quickly," Manuel said. "If there's ever a time where I wanted to be the guy, this is it. I feel like I came in at the right time."
At Virginia, coaches and fans can only wonder about what might have been.
U.Va. coach Mike London tries to get most out of DE Cam Johnson,
who struggles with sickle cell trait
As a coach with a penchant for motivational tactics and approaches, it should come as no surprise Virginia’s Mike London has approached defensive end Cam Johnson with one straightforward question.
Does Johnson want to be great?
Simple enough, to the point, no room for confusion – but what was Johnson’s response?
“’Yeah, coach’” London said.
Don’t confuse it with aloofness. It’s just Johnson’s style. London’s challenge is finding a way to get the most out of Johnson’s body, which may be pre-programmed through no fault of his own to wear down at an alarming rate.
London said Monday at the ACC Football Kickoff media gathering Johnson has the sickle-cell anemia trait. It’s a trait that can result in symptoms including
Sickle-cell trait is a recessive genetic blood disorder where red blood cells take on an unusual sickle shape. The trait affects mostly people of West African heritage.
A story in yesterday's Orlando Sentinel revealed since 2000, sickle cell trait has been "by far the biggest non-traumatic killer" in college football, with nine players dying as a result of complications from the trait.
London said it has been managed for the last few years in Johnson’s case, but London wasn’t sure when Johnson first discovered he had the trait. The most obvious result of the trait is that it causes Johnson to have trouble sustaining a high energy level on the field from play-to-play.
“You can go and go hard for two or three plays, and then on that fifth or sixth play be gassed,” London said. “As a matter of fact, with (strength and conditioning coach) Evan (Marcus) and working out during the summer, (Johnson) would go and go. He’d be out in front, out in front, out in front, and then all of a sudden on one particular play, it’d be like, ‘What are you doing?’
“If he’s not an eight plays in a row, every-down guy, then manage the three or four plays that he plays, get him out, get him rested and then get him back in there.”
Before London returned to U.Va last year to take over the coaching job, he had two assistant coaching stints under former coach Al Groh, including a role as defensive coordinator in 2006 and ’07. London recruited Johnson out of Gonzaga College High in Greenbelt, Md. when London was a coordinator.
Johnson’s body has transformed quite a bit since the Gonzaga days, when he was a 220-pound wide receiver and safety. London said he thought Johnson was a basketball player in those days.
London used one of his favorite references in relation to Johnson, saying “mother nature jumped on him.” Johnson grew to nearly 270 pounds in his first two seasons at U.Va., when he played linebacker in Groh’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Johnson was moved to defensive end prior to last season when defensive coordinator Jim Reid switched U.Va. to a 4-3 alignment.
Johnson, who is now a 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior, finished last season with 14 1/2 tackles for loss, including 6 1/2 sacks, while starting in all 12 games. He heads into this season as a potential All-ACC candidate.
For London, the idea is to do as much as possible to try to get 100 percent effort out of Johnson on first, second and third downs, like former U.Va. All-American defensive end Chris Long was able to do in his senior year. Johnson’s trait obviously presents issues in the quest for that kind of effort, but London sees the potential.
“Chris would do that play in and play out,” London said. “I’m not using (Long’s energy level) as an excuse for Cam.
“(Johnson) has a chance to be as good as he wants to be. He’s not an every-down player, in my estimation. He’s a guy that plays every down, but to be an every-down difference-maker, he’s got to raise it up another notch. You guys watch film and you guys watch him out there playing, he can be a good player and a dominant player when he wants to, but you’ve got to want to all the time.”
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Posted by Norman Wood
Cavaliers need to find a starting quarterback
Virginia, which has only two signal callers on its roster who have played in a game, must find a clear-cut successor to Marc Verica.
By Doug Doughty
PINEHURST, N.C. -- In his second stint as a Virginia football assistant, Mike London was on a staff in 2006 that started three different quarterbacks in the first four games.
"Thanks for reminding me," London said Monday at the ACC Football Kickoff.
As the Cavaliers' defensive coordinator at the time, presumably London was not involved in the offensive decisions the way he is now in his second season as head coach.
Three different quarterbacks in the first four games?
"I break out in hives when you're saying that," London said. "We're not going to be doing that. For sure."
Nevertheless, Virginia doesn't yet have a clear-cut successor to 2010 starter Marc Verica, who finished his career as UVa's No. 6 all-time passer.
As a senior, Verica completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 2,799 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Think London wouldn't take those numbers again?
"Whew!" London responded. "Twice on Sunday right now."
What London would like to reduce is the number of interceptions, many of the untimely variety. Verica was picked off 14 times.
"I wouldn't take that," he said, "but those are pretty decent numbers outside of the interceptions.
"I think the supporting cast is good enough to win games by taking whatever liabilities the quarterback may have and raising the level of play around him."
There are enough scholarship quarterbacks in the UVa program -- four -- for a game of musical chairs. Only two have played in a game, 2010 backups Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny.
"Last time, Marc Verica was the only quarterback in the program with any experience," London said.
Virginia made a commitment to getting Rocco and Metheny some work in 2010, when they played in six games and five games, respectively, and had a combined 42 passing attempts.
Meanwhile, Michael Strauss was being redshirted and David Watford was a senior at Hampton High School. Watford entered UVa in January and had a 2.7 grade-point average in his second semester, London said.
"From an on-the-field standpoint, they're going to be a little bit behind in their development," London said, "but there's something about each one of those guys.
"Michael Strauss has a cannon for an arm. He'll throw the ball and say, 'I can get it there.' That's the good thing. But he'll throw the ball when he's not supposed to. David Watford is probably as athletic as I've seen.
"Learning to read defenses ... it'll come. It's like, 'When is it going to come?' "
On earlier occasions, UVa has entered the preseason without a clear-cut starter at quarterback and almost invariably waited until the last minute before making a decision, much less an announcement.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to tell early on where these guys are and how far they've moved, either ahead or stayed the same or taken a step backwards," London said.
"The first couple of weeks, you're going good on good. You want to see the fundamentals of the quarterback -- his drops, the way he throws, his reaction to the defense. By midway through the practices, hopefully we'll have some sort of determination."
Seniors Chase Minnifield and Kris Burd had spoken Sunday of their goal of becoming bowl eligible in 2011, and London expressed his desire for the Cavaliers to develop a winning mindset.
On the other hand, he was mindful of Virginia's opening game, a Sept. 3 date with William and Mary, a Division I-AA team that defeated the Cavaliers 26-12 in the opening game of the 2009 season.
"Ultimately, we have to produce on the field," London said. "Don't forget, this William and Mary team we're getting ready to play will probably be the No. 1 FCS team in the country.
"Undoubtedly, it's a team that will know and feel they can come in your place and beat you."
C.J. Moore, a defensive back from Buford (Ga.) High School who has been timed in under 4.5 seconds for 40 yards, has made an oral commitment to Virginia for 2012. Moore also had a scholarship offer from Wake Forest.
A few not-so-usual ACC football predictions
9:43 p.m. EDT, July 25, 2011
PINEHURST, N.C. —
Florida State and Virginia Tech are the media's choices to clash in this season's ACC football championship game. Two reasons.
Returning talent and force of habit.
Although the Seminoles and Hokies are transitioning to new quarterbacks, both are blessed with myriad playmakers at running back, receiver and on defense. They are the class of the conference.
But even if the picks weren't as clear-cut — Tech received 66 of 71 votes, Florida State 65 — the keyboard jocks and talking heads attending the ACC's annual kickoff Sunday and Monday likely would have swayed the same way. Like New York voting for the Democrats' presidential nominee and Wyoming for the GOP's, it's what we do.
This marks the seventh season of ACC divisional play and the sixth time we've picked the Hokies to win the Coastal. Ditto the Atlantic Division, where we've tabbed the Seminoles six times.
So enough with the routine, it's-going-to-be-hot-in-July forecasts. Let's delve into some less obvious, perhaps even reckless, prophecies for the 2011 ACC season.
* The ACC will earn its first Bowl Championship Series at-large bid.
Given the conference's atrocious 2-11 BCS record, this is counter-intuitive, especially since only Duke, Wake Forest and Maryland return established quarterbacks. But in EJ Manuel and Logan Thomas, Florida State and Virginia Tech have quarterbacks of unmistakable promise.
"I think Florida State's got the kind of quarterback that can lead them to the national championship," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said Monday. "I think he's got that kind of ability."
Plus, Florida State and Virginia Tech, not to mention Miami, have the fan support and/or national appeal to give BCS organizers temporary amnesia regarding that 2-11 record.
How bad is it? The next worst among the five other major conferences is the Big 12's 8-10.
One other element that could enhance the ACC's at-large hopes: Virginia Tech's forgiving non-conference schedule of Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall.
Navigate those four as they should, and the Hokies figure to finish the regular season with double-digit victories for the eighth consecutive year.
And after last season's flop against James Madison, don't even think about Tech overlooking Championship Subdivision Appalachian State.
"No Appalachian State, no Marshall, no Arkansas State, no anything," safety Eddie Whitley said, rattling off three 2011 opponents. "Last year we came off a tough loss to Boise and we thought about ECU before we even played JMU, and JMU came in there and took it to us. That was a lesson learned and a lesson we will never be taught again."
* But Virginia Tech will not survive the regular season unscathed.
Many say the Hokies will be favored in all of their games, and perhaps that's correct. But going undefeated is too hard, and Tech is too young and/or thin at positions such as defensive tackle and linebacker.
Could it happen? Sure. Will it? Don't think so.
* This was North Carolina coach Butch Davis' last ACC Kickoff.
At some point the agonizing drip, drip, drip of NCAA scandal that's tarnished this proud university for more than a year has to mandate a change in leadership. Right?
"Fully and completely," Davis said Monday of his responsibility for violations that include academic fraud and improper benefits. "I am the head football coach."
The NCAA Committee on Infractions has not implicated Davis by name, but as the program's leader, he must be held accountable for its darkest hours.
* With an experienced offensive line, an influx of freshmen playmakers and a manageable non-conference schedule (William and Mary, Indiana, Idaho and Southern Mississippi) Virginia will slide into a bowl at 6-6.
No question, the Cavaliers' uncertainty at quarterback and linebacker could render this pick foolhardy. But with 17 returning starters, second-year Virginia coach Mike London knows progress is a must to reclaim fans disheartened by four losing seasons in the last five years.
"I talk about winning and the attitude of winning," he said. "I think that's a mindset that's been missing for awhile. … You can talk about the mindset of winning, but ultimately you have to do it on the field. There's been enough losing around here for awhile. It's time to change."
London's focus on present
Media picks Virginia to finish fifth, one place better than last year
By JAY JENKINS
Published: July 25, 2011
PINEHURST, N.C. --
Mike London is not interested in winning battles on paper.
For that reason, the second-year coach at Virginia ignored the results of the annual media poll that was released Monday at the 40th annual ACC Football Kickoff.
The Cavaliers did make progress — albeit in a minor way — avoiding being predicted to finish last in the Coastal Division.
A year after being correctly pegged to finish last, Virginia was predicted to finish fifth in the six-team division, one spot ahead of Duke.
“I don’t even look at it,” London said. “It’s not where you start, it is where you end. That’s kind of the mentality of, ‘Last season is over. Whatever happened before, that was then. This is now.’
“I am pleased with the way we have been in the classroom and the community. Now the second year, the staff, the schemes, the terminology, recruiting, all of those things point towards us being a better football team.”
Florida State was predicted to win the Atlantic Division ahead of Clemson, North Carolina State, Boston College, Maryland and Wake Forest.
Virginia Tech was a clear favorite in the Coastal Division, being picked as the top team on 66 of the 71 ballots submitted. Miami, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Duke rounded out the predicted order in the Coastal.
Florida State was picked to win the ACC Championship game on 50 ballots, followed by Virginia Tech (18 votes), Clemson (2) and Boston College.
London has just one thought at the moment as the start of practice is a week away: winning.
“I talk about winning and the attitude of winning,” London said.
Talk of bowl games and titles must wait for a program looking to rebound from a 4-8 record overall and a 1-7 mark in the ACC.
The Cavaliers will do so without a starting quarterback pegged, something that will come as the team moves into the planning stage for the season opener on Sept. 3 at home against William & Mary.
London said he would be willing to take comparable stats to what former quarterback Marc Verica posted last year “twice on Sunday” from a first-year starter, whether it be sophomore Ross Metheny, sophomore Michael Rocco, redshirt freshman Michael Strauss or true freshman David Watford.
“Those are pretty good numbers,” he said.
Verica did throw 14 interceptions.
“I wouldn’t take that,” London said. “Let’s face it, these guys will be young quarterbacks.”
That will put pressure on other positions on offense and defense to improve their play, thus making the transition at quarterback easier.
It starts on the offensive line, a unit that welcomes back five players that started last year. Left tackle Landon Bradley, however, was limited to five starts guarding Verica’s blindside and made one start at right tackle against Duke before missing the final three games.
Bradley is in the “trainer’s hands right now” and is not guaranteed his starting spot back for his senior season.
“If Landon doesn’t play another down, then we will have Morgan Moses at right tackle, Oday Aboushi at left tackle, Austin Pasztor at left guard, Anthony Mihota at center and a guy like Luke Bowanko playing guard,” London said.
“You are only as good as your line and both lines, defensively and offensively, as you search for the quarterback [they are needed] to raise the level of quarterback play.”
The defensive line could have a new rotation, attempting to keep Cam Johnson as fresh as possible.
London disclosed that Johnson has a sickle cell trait that often leaves the defensive end “gassed” on the field.
It was something that is tested for among all NCAA athletes and something that London knew about before the start of the 2010 season.
Virginia did not have a player earn a vote for the preseason ACC Player of the Year voting, something that Boston College running back Montel Harris was the winner of.
Harris was on 26 ballots, which edged out Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel (14 votes), BC linebacker Luke Kuechly (12), Virginia Tech running back David Wilson (8) and Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien (4).
Cavs still need to pick starting QB
By JERRY RATCLIFFE
Published: July 25, 2011
PINEHURST, N.C. --
Mike London has always been a big believer in the fact that a player’s biggest improvement comes between the end of spring practice and the opening of August training camp.
When camp opens in eight days, the second-year Virginia head coach is hoping that belief holds true for his corps of young quarterbacks. The Cavaliers exited spring drills without any of the four QB candidates winning the starting job outright.
While it appeared that sophomores Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny owned an edge over redshirt freshman Michael Strauss and true freshman David Watford, who enrolled at UVa in January, the starting job remains wide open. Certainly London and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor would have been elated had one of the group taken control in April, but the fact that this race drags on is nothing new at Virginia.
Remember the Don Majkowski-Kevin Ferguson battle? How about Scott Secules-Shawn Moore early on? Or Bryson Spinner-Matt Schaub, which went on for an entire season?
“Life is easier when you know who your starting quarterback is going to be early on,” London said Monday during the ACC Football Kickoff at Pinehurst Resorts.
But as the great poet Paul McCartney once wrote, life goes on. And so it will at Virginia.
However, London would prefer that this contest doesn’t linger late into camp. With so many ACC teams boasting new quarterbacks this season (possibly as many as eight), few of the coaches are in the same boat as London and Lazor. Most of their peers either know or at least have a strong idea who their “guy” is going to be. Even new Miami coach Al Golden, a former UVa assistant with London, hopes to have the Hurricanes’ quarterback battle settled between Aug. 19 and 22.
Although he wouldn’t guarantee it, London said Monday that the last thing he would want to see happen is a repeat of 2006 when the program tried Christian Olsen and Kevin McCabe in the first three games before settling on freshman Jameel Sewell.
When everyone assembles at the McCue Center practice fields in a little more than a week, all eyes are going to be on the quarterback race. Not only will the coaches and fans be focused on the battle, but also the other Cavaliers players, such as fifth-year senior, All-ACC cornerback Chase Minnifield.
“What I’m waiting to see is one of the younger quarterbacks tell a senior like (wide receiver) Kris Burd that he’s lined up wrong,” Minnifield said on Sunday. “Somebody that wants to take command.”
London echoed those thoughts during his media session.
“When we come back, I want to see someone take command in the huddle,” the head Wahoo said.
If things go as planned, London and Lazor hope to know their starter midway through the August training camp, which would give them a bit of a head start in planning for a tougher opener than most outsiders might think. William & Mary, a FCS institution, is expected to be ranked as the preseason No. 1 team in the nation on that level. In addition, the Tribe came into Scott Stadium two years ago and handed the Cavaliers a whipping.
While Rocco and Metheny might have a leg up, Strauss has a cannon of an arm, but doesn’t yet possess the required throwing discipline. Watford is as athletic a quarterback as London has seen in a while, but needs to develop his ability to read defenses, often a huge barrier for young quarterbacks, and even sometimes veteran ones.
“It’s going to come [for Watford],” London said. “When is it going to come? When is that light going to click on?”
He’s hoping sooner or later.
All this leaves one to think, what happens to the guys who don’t win the quarterback battle, or fall to No. 4 in the race? Will someone consider transferring if they don’t see a future? After all, the four players are bunched into the sophomore and freshman classes at present.
“You would think that [Rocco and Metheny] by virtue of having been in games and their level of understanding, would put them up in the front of the line,” said London. “Strauss was watching as a redshirt. Watford was just getting out of Hampton High School, trying to figure out where the library is, so their development is going to be behind a little bit. But there’s something about each one of those guys …”
Even though Rocco and Metheny own that edge, they both still have a long way to go.
“It’s kind of interesting about the dynamics of Rocco and Metheny,” London said. “Both of them know this isn’t going to be a long, drawn out process.
“Rocco comes from a football family and the thing with Mike that I like about him is that Coach Lazor says, ‘OK, this is the way we’re going to read a defense … from one, to two, to three.’ Michael will literally do that from one, to two, to three. Sometimes during that progression things happen around you, and you have to get out of Dodge, you have to have a sense of, ‘OK, I’ve got to go.’ His next level of development is that sense of the rush has gone way up the field, the underneath coverage has turned its backs to me and they are running. I know it says one, to two, to three, but I’ve got to go.’”
When it comes to Metheny, the case is a little different.
“Ross can do the one to two to three,” London said. “He can turn and run and do that. I think Mike is more methodical in those reads. One guy has something over the other guy. You wish one guy had more of this and more of that.”
London isn’t necessarily requiring that this year’s starting quarterback wins games. Sometimes winning is a product of the quarterback not losing the game himself.
Last year, Virginia knew that Marc Verica would be its starter. He had experience and ended up throwing for 2,799 yards, 14 touchdowns and completed 58.8 percent of his passes. The negative was 14 interceptions.
Would London take those numbers right now from the new guy?
“Yes and twice on Sunday,” the coach grinned. “Not the interceptions. Those are decent numbers except for the interceptions.”
What the coaches are hoping is that the rest of the offense, which London expects to essentially be a better starting cast surrounding the quarterback this season, will make it easier on the quarterback to do his job.
While that would appear to be the case on paper, it remains to be seen.
It’s not easy to win without a solid guy at quarterback, especially without a quarterback who doesn’t feel comfortable barking at seniors when they’re lined up in the wrong place.
If London’s theory about the improvement between April and August holds true, then maybe Year 2 of his regime will be a few steps better than the first.
Cavaliers plan to approach William & Mary differently this time
By Steve Yanda
Remember back in 2009, when Virginia opened its football season
with a 26-14 loss to Division I-AA William & Mary? Yeah, so do the Cavaliers
that played in that game and remain on the team’s roster.
One such player, senior cornerback Chase Minnifield, said Sunday that the Cavaliers plan to prepare for their next encounter with William & Mary much differently. Virginia hosts the Tribe on Sept. 3 in its 2011 season opener.
“I’m not even looking at this opener like it’s William & Mary, which I think that we did that year,” Minnifield said. “We kind of was like, ‘Okay, that’s William & Mary,’ and we didn’t know much about William & Mary. We just knew it was a lesser school.
“We’re going to take this team as if it’s a regular game, and we’re going to attack it like it’s any other game. I respect their team. I respect their coach. He had some great schemes against us two years ago. I know it’s going to be a tough game, honestly.”
That approach should prove useful, especially considering at least one national prognosticator – the widely renowned Phil Steele – has slotted William & Mary as the No. 1 division I-AA team in the country in his preseason poll. The Tribe returns 13 starters from a 2010 squad won the Colonial Athletic Association crown and was the No. 2 seed in the I-AA playoffs.
Nephew of Olympian Gail Devers commits to play football at
11:15 am July 25, 2011, by Michael Carvell
Buford DB CJ Moore is the nephew of three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers
Speed is a family tradition with CJ Moore, who committed to play football at Virginia.
Moore, a lightning-fast cornerback from Buford High School, committed to Virginia over offers from Rice, Memphis, Air Force and Navy. Moore’s mother, Monica Phillips, ran track at UCLA, and his aunt, Gail Devers, won three Olympic gold medals in sprinting events.
“We’ve definitely got some speed in the family.” Moore told the AJC with a laugh. “We really don’t talk about it because it’s just natural. It just seems like everybody in my family either ran track, coached track or had something to do with track.”
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound Moore will be following the same sports path as his father, who did both football and track at Cal State Northridge.
The younger Moore has already established himself as one of Georgia’s fastest college prospects for 2012, winning the Class AA state championship in the 100 meters in 10.89 seconds last May as a junior. He earned a football scholarship at Virginia’s football camp last week after showcasing his blistering speed.
Virginia had shown some interest in Moore during the spring, and invited him to audition for a scholarship at last Friday’s camp. It was a long drive (seven hours each way) with no promise of a scholarship offer, but Moore figured it was worth the gamble. He won over the coaches after his time in the 40-yard dash — “they said it was 4.3,” according to Moore.
“The coaches evaluated me at defensive back and decided to offer me,” Moore said. “I came home and talked about it over the weekend with my parents. I decided it was the right school for me. I have a good relationship with the coaches. It’s a nice campus and a good football program. I like everything about Virginia.”
Moore is expected to play both ways this year for Buford, the four-time defending state champions in football. He will play cornerback for the third year in a row on defense, and alternate between both wide receiver and tailback on offense. Moore said he has a 3.4 GPA and plans to study Engineering or Architecture in college.
Cavaliers nab 18th commit for 2012
By DAILY PROGRESS STAFF REPORTS
Published: July 25, 2011
July has been a very good month to the efforts to complete Virginia's recruiting class for 2012.
Late Sunday night, the Cavaliers landed another speedster, giving the program 18 verbal commitments for the class.
This time, however, the product hails from Georgia.
Cornerback C.J. Moore, who plays for powerhouse Buford High, announced his decision to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Moore picked Virginia over a growing list of offers that included Air Force, Navy, Wake Forest and Oregon.
A 5-foot-10, 165-pound cornerback, Moore started as a sophomore and a junior and was a second team pick for the All-State team in Class AA last year.
Moore helped Buford go 14-1 and win a fourth straight state championship as he made 48 solo tackles and intercepted seven passes.
Moore, a three-sport athlete, showcased his speed en route to winning the 100-meter dash in outdoor track.
A relative of Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers, Moore joins cornerback Wil Wahee, from Norfolk Christian, in the class.
United States Earns Bronze in 4x100-Meter Freestyle Relay
SHANGHAI, China - The United States 4x100-meter freestyle relay team earned bronze at the 2011 FINA Long Course World Championships that began over the weekend in Shanghai, China.
Former Cavalier swimmer Scot Robison competed for the United States during the preliminary event, where the U.S. squad clocked a time of 3:13.50, the second-fastest time of the prelims behind France (3:12.09).
Robison, a Charlotte, N.C., native, swam third on the relay behind Garrett Weber-Gale and Ryan Lochte. David Walters anchored the relay.
Then, during the finals, the team of Michael Phelps, Weber-Gale, Jason Lezak and Nathan Adrian followed that up with a bronze, touching in 3:11.96. Australia (3:11.00) took gold and France (3:11.14) earned the silver.
The World Championships continue through July 31.
Robison began a string of several international and national competitions for Virginia swimmers this summer. He is among a group of many current and former Cavaliers who will participate in the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships Aug. 2-6 in Palo Alto, Calif.
Four Cavaliers - Rachel Naurath, David Karasek and former swimmers Katya Bachrouche and Matt McLean - will also compete in the World University Games Aug. 14-19 in Shenzhen, China.
Past, Present and Future Cavaliers Compete Successfully At
Under-23 World Championships
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Highlighting a group of six with Virginia rowing ties, class of 2011 graduate Christine Roper (Reading, St. James, Jamaica) and rising junior Susanne Grainger (London, Ontario) won a gold medal with Canada's women's eight at the 2011 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Also earning a medal at the championships was former Cavalier rower and member of the 2010 NCAA Champion squad Inge Janssen. Rowing for The Netherlands in the pair, Janssen won the bronze medal.
Rising senior Martha Kuzzy (Minneapolis, Minn.) finished fifth with the United States' women's four and rising junior Kristine O'Brien (Massapequa Park, N.Y.) finished seventh with the United States' women's quad.
Rounding out Virginia's presence at the championships, incoming graduate student Sarah Cowburn finished fourth for Great Britain in the double.