Groh favors change to NCAA rule
By Doug Doughty
The Roanoke Times
A proposed rules change that would allow football players to compete in five seasons over a five-year span could make for some interesting decision-making for college coaches this season.
Current rules give players five years in which to play four, but the five-for-five proposal, sponsored by the ACC, could be made retroactive to this year's freshman class.
"The National Association of Basketball Coaches actually proposed it before we did as a conference, with the primary impetus coming from the football coaches," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "Then Myles Brand, the president of the NCAA, came out and endorsed it publicly.
"So we would hope that all that conversation would help to get it through. I think it would be a positive rule for the players themselves."
In past years, coaches might have used veteran reserves on special teams instead of more gifted freshmen, who could lose a year's eligibility.
"You've got to make an assessment of whether it's going to go through or not," Groh said. "There's a little bit of a risk involved. But if it's got the endorsement of the basketball people and the president of the NCAA likes it, then if you roll the dice, the odds are in your favor.
"Of course, if you use a [freshman] this year, it doesn't mean that he can't be redshirted again in the future."
Groh has done that twice in recent years, redshirting nose tackle Andrew Hoffman as a sophomore in 2001 and running back Michael Johnson as a sophomore in 2003.
Groh doesn't sound as if he expects much of a drop-off if 2003 starter Ian-Yates Cunningham does not enjoy a swift recovery from disk surgery and 6-foot-4, 327-pound sophomore Ron Darden takes his spot at left guard. Darden was listed No.1 on the Cavaliers' preseason depth chart.
Groh said he couldn't remember much about Darden's lone start, last year against Wake Forest in place of injured right guard Elton Brown, "but the significant thing [about Darden] is, he's a totally different guy now than he was at that time."
Groh described Darden's offseason performance in the weight room as "excellent, one of the best."
Bradshaw conjures up memories of Moss
Barcliff finds Timesland company at Hargrave
By Doug Doughty
THE ROANOKE TIMES
The latest developments in the saga of prep All-America running back Ahmad Bradshaw have caused me to make a mental note to myself:
Next time, I need to ask if a player has been released from his scholarship.
I wasn't surprised to learn that Bradshaw would not enroll at Virginia, although that broke sooner than I anticipated, and I was even less surprised to hear that his next destination would be Marshall.
Dating back to the Randy Moss days and maybe earlier, Marshall has been known for offering second choices, but I also was aware of a relationship between Virginia head coach Al Groh and his Thundering Herd counterpart, Bob Pruett, dating back to Groh’s days as an assistant at North Carolina and Pruett’s as the head coach at Gar-Field High School.
I could almost hear Groh calling Pruett and saying, "We can't take him. Do you want first crack at him?"
That’s not exactly the way it happened, Pruett said.
“He didn’t even know [Bradshaw] visited here,” Pruett said. “I talked to [Groh] after he visited. Al liked the kid, spoke very highly of him and thought that he would fit in here.
“The kid lives with his grandmother, and his aunt sort of takes care of him. Her son just graduated from here last year and was very familiar with our program and thought this might possibly be a good place for him.”
Groh announced July 23 that Bradshaw would not participate for the Cavaliers this season but UVa had nothing to say about Bradshaw’s status as a student or whether he had been released from his letter-of-intent.
If he hadn't been released at the time, he eventually was.
"He can't come unless he's been released," Pruett said.
Bradshaw faces a hearing Aug. 13 in Charlottesville General District Court on a charge of obstruction of justice. That stemmed from an incident July 17 in which Bradshaw ran from police who were questioning him outside a Charlottesville restaurant.
Bradshaw's coach at Graham High School, Glyn Carlock, said later that Groh had called him to inquire about any possible improprieties prior to Bradshaw's June arrival in Charlottesville.
“I don't know what the climate is and all that other stuff,” Pruett said. “All I know is about the problems up there [in Charlottesville]. That’s where we are, that's where we're going to leave it and we're going to go on with life.”
Bradshaw might be the most impressive Marshall newcomer since Randy Moss, according to Chuck Landon, who writes columns for the Charleston Daily Mail, where ex-Roanoker Jack “Pops” Bogaczyk is the lead columnist. Landon said Pruett has been saying some of the same things privately.
“The kid wanted to come to school here, we talked to him, he got admitted and we let him walk on,” said Pruett, who said Marshall was out of scholarships. "That’s all I’m going to say about it, buddy. The kid’s been through enough, know what I’m saying.”
IN PREPARATION for next Thursday's resumption of the Virginia Tech and Virginia Tech Insiders (how’s that for a shameless plug?), I will be traveling to Pittsylvania County on Saturday for Hargrave Military Academy's annual media day.
Hargrave has two Virginia signees (Olu Hall and Branden Albert) and two Tech signees (Brandon Holland and Sam Wheeler), as well as a third player committed to the Hokies (William Wall). Wall actually committed to the Hokies in August 2003, before his senior year at H.D. Woodson High School in Washington, D.C., but did not sign with the Hokies.
Hargrave coach Bob Prunty said that his 2004 team will include four other Timesland products, including All-Group A running back and 2002 Timesland offensive player of the year Robert Barcliff from George Wythe. Also enrolled at Hargrave are Pulaski lineman Shaun Branscome and running back Brandon Anderson, as well as Liberty defensive end Ian Childress.
Branscome, who originally committed to Clemson but decided he needed more seasoning, was rated the No. 26 prospect in Virginia by The Roanoke Times. Childress was 98th on the same list.
Division I-A signees who enrolled at Hargrave after failing to meet NCAA guidelines for freshman eligibility were West Virginia quarterback signee Terry “T.J.” Mitchell and N.C. State signees Willie Young and Andre Brown. Brown, a running back from Greenville, N.C., said he was leaning to Virginia at several stages before signing with the Wolfpack.
Beamer's restaurant in Roanoke closes
Beamer's owner said competition and slow sales at the downtown Roanoke location led to the closing.
By Jenny Kincaid
The Roanoke Times
Maybe there were too many Wahoos.
Beamer's, Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer's lunch and dinner namesake, has closed its downtown Roanoke restaurant.
Beamer's will continue to cater to Hokie fans and other restaurantgoers in the New River Valley, where the restaurant opened in 2002 at Christiansburg's Marketplace shopping center.
Mike Williams, owner of Beamer's, said it was difficult to manage both the Roanoke and Christiansburg restaurants. He opened the Roanoke restaurant last year. Now it's for sale.
"In Roanoke, we never achieved the sales that we wanted to," Williams said. "Especially with the coach's name, we wanted to make sure we were doing the best."
"There's probably a lot more Wahoos down there," he added. "There's more Hokie concentration here."
The Roanoke Beamer's employed 35 to 50 people, according to an employee. Some employees reported to work Friday afternoon to find the restaurant closed. It shut down Thursday afternoon.
Frank Beamer, who said he had eaten at the Roanoke Beamer's several times, said he's looking forward to owners and managers putting their time and resources into one restaurant.
"They had the one in Christiansburg going well, but when they took on another restaurant, it got to be too much," he said. "We can get back to the great food and service and great restaurant [in Christiansburg]."
Although lunchtime sales were strong, Williams said competition from other downtown and chain restaurants was hard on his business. Difficulty finding parking also played a factor in slower sales, he said.
There are 66 restaurants in downtown Roanoke and 45 of those are in the market area, said David Diaz, president of Downtown Roanoke Inc.
"Competition is fierce in our downtown," Diaz said. "It's not easy."
"We're trying to simplify life," Williams said.
He sold Joe's Diner, which has restaurants in Blacksburg and Radford, more than a year ago.
'Physically Rugged' Cavs Are Loaded on the Front Line
Brown, Canty, Miller, Brooks, Blackstock Are Preseason Hopefuls for the Lombardi Award
By Jim Reedy
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, August 14, 2004; Page D09
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Aug. 13 -- Only one college football team has five players on the list of preseason hopefuls for the Lombardi Award given annually to the country's best lineman or linebacker. It's not a defending champion or traditional powerhouse. It's Virginia, which plans to build its season on newfound strength up front.
While the Lombardi nominees -- offensive guard Elton Brown, defensive end Chris Canty, tight end Heath Miller and linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Darryl Blackstock -- get most of the attention, the Cavaliers are stocked with veteran players on the offensive line, at tailback and on the defensive front seven. Most are entering their second or third season as starters.
"That's been the progression for three straight years," fourth-year coach Al Groh said. "Each year we've become, I think, a more physically rugged team. We should continue with that this year, and hopefully we can use it as really the foundation of our game."
The Cavaliers will need more from a running game that gained 130.4 yards per game, second-worst in the ACC, especially now that star quarterback Matt Schaub has moved on, replaced by the athletic but less experienced Marques Hagans. They appear to have the tools to improve, with tailbacks Wali Lundy, Alvin Pearman and Michael Johnson, and veteran linemen Brown, Zac Yarbrough, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Brad Butler. The lone newcomer is Ron Darden, filling in at left guard until Ian-Yates Cunningham returns from back surgery. The current starting five owns 91 career starts -- and that doesn't include sixth man Brian Barthelmes, who has 16 of his own.
"A lot of times when we go to the line of scrimmage, we don't even have to make the calls," said Yarbrough, a senior who could contend for all-ACC honors at center. "We know what each other's thinking, where we're going."
Their counterparts on the defensive line -- Canty, nose tackle Andrew Hoffman and end Brennan Schmidt -- have been together as starters for two full seasons. The linebacking corps, which also includes Kai Parham and Dennis Haley, is only slightly less experienced, and makes up for that with an abundance of talent.
"It's a really comfortable feeling," Schmidt said. "You know you can count on everyone, just because you've been there together so long."
"Finally we have, I think, the kind of people playing that Groh wants to," Yarbrough said. "We finally can fit into his defense and his type of offense that he wants to run. . . . We have guys here that can make plays and are very smart on the field. When you get both those put together, it holds up."
Cavaliers Notes: Punters Noah Greenbaum, Sean Johnson, Kurt Korte, Chris Gould and Bryan Lescanec are auditioning for the job vacated when Tom Hagan left the team to concentrate on baseball. . . . Parham (back) and starting safety Jermaine Hardy (knee) are back at full strength after sitting out spring practice. Wide receiver Michael McGrew, who missed last season because of a broken leg, is expected to regain the starting job he held in 2001 and 2002. . . . Reserve lineman Braden Campbell has been forced to give up football after injuries to both of his wrists left him unable to withstand contact at the line of scrimmage. . . .
Virginia has the NCAA maximum of 105 players in camp this month, despite losing three incoming recruits. Olu Hall (Robinson) and Branden Albert (Glen Burnie) are prepping at Hargrave Military Academy, while Ahmad Bradshaw transferred to Marshall after an underage drinking arrest last month led Groh to suspend him for the season. . . . Virginia practice is open to the public the next five days: Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., Monday at 6:45 p.m., Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 8:45 a.m.
Cavaliers in full swing
Virginia delights fans in first open practice
By Kris Wright / Daily Progress staff writer
August 14, 2004
Training camp began in earnest for the Virginia football team and its fan base Friday. For the players, it was the first day in full pads. For the fans, it was the first time to see the Cavaliers in action since the spring game several months ago.
Suffice to say, that everyone was excited to be under way - especially the players.
“It’s really exciting,” redshirt sophomore running back Michael Johnson said. “You train all year for these 11, 12 games coming up. So it’s always exciting to get back in camp and to be getting ready to play football because that means the games are close.”
The team worked on all facets of the system in its first full-fledged practice of the spring. Virginia spent noticeable time on special teams Friday as punting, field goals and kickoffs all got numerous repetitions. The offensive and defensive units also got plenty of work as the Cavs worked through various drills.
Hagans settling in. Junior quarterback Marques Hagans got most of the snaps with the first-team offense in Friday’s practice and looked comfortable as the No. 1 quarterback. Among the highlights: a long connection with junior receiver Imhotep Durham on a fly pattern, a buy-some-time-and-find-someone pass to Michael McGrew tiptoeing the sideline and an over-the-attacking-linebacker touch pass.
Hagans said his focus is not on being No. 1 or No. 2, but on getting comfortable with his role and his teammates as the season opener at Temple nears. The Cavs open on the road Sept. 4.
“I’m making progress, but I have to keep working and keep coming out every day and keep trying to get better,” Hagans said. “I’m always comfortable on the move, but have to be just as comfortable with my drop-back passes and on roll-outs. I’m just going to try to keep getting better and getting ready to go.”
Perhaps more important than some of the impressive pass plays was a Hagans’ interception. Say what? Actually, the moments following the INT were the important part.
During a full-field first-team offense vs. defense two-minute drill near the end of practice, Hagans promptly had a pass picked off and returned for a touchdown. On the play inside the offense’s own 20, Rich Bedesem tipped the pass and linebacker Darryl Blackstock grabbed the ball and ran it in the end zone.
But Hagans came right back as the drill restarted, completing passes to Deyon Williams, Jason Snelling and the aforementioned pass to McGrew. The offense marched down the field during the drive and Hagans zipped a pass between defenders on a fourth down play to keep things moving.
Hagans said that showing leadership and getting the offense’s confidence back after a mistake is important.
“I think as a quarterback, you have to have a short-term memory. … You have to be able to shrug it off and keep fighting and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “I think as a team, you have to go out there and complete some passes [after an interception] and get your rhythm and your confidence going. I think as you see us get our confidence, we’re going to keep getting better and better.”
So did Hagans’ film work on the UVa season-ticket holder DVD help with his reads so far?
“Those are pretty basic plays,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m just trying to get my keys down and working on getting comfortable with my teammates and getting a rhythm with them and the offense.”
No Orange. Sophomore linebacker Ahmad Brooks was not in the familiar orange of the starting Orange Crush Defense on Friday. There was no indication as to why Brooks was not with the first team, but he did get some reps with the first team when mixed units were on the field.
Brooks did not start off last year with an orange jersey either, but had secured a starting role by the opener.
Back in action. McGrew and Snelling made their return to the practice field after one-year absences. McGrew missed last season after breaking his leg, while Snelling missed the year for an undisclosed medical reason. Both made noticeable plays on the afternoon.
Mr. Reliable. Virginia junior placekicker Connor Hughes got a chance to show his stuff and was reliable as always.
During a series of field goals, Hughes missed just once - from about 35 yards out. He also made several from that distance and in, before capping off the drill with approximately a
49-yarder that easily cleared the bar.
On the side. Backup quarterback Anthony Martinez and freshman linebacker Devonta Brown were on the sidelines doing various conditioning-style drills during practice. No official word was given as to why the duo was not participating in practice, but speculation indicated that the two did not pass physical conditioning drills that are required by any player before he is allowed to practice.
Central Virginia in camp. Several Central Virginia products now suit up for the Cavaliers as Groh’s local recruiting efforts have given the program more local presence. Former local high school standouts on the UVa roster include Devonta Brown (Charlottesville), Chris Johnson (Charlottesville), Bryan Lescanec (Western Albemarle), Chris Long (St. Anne’s-Belfield) and Jeff Schrad (Fork Union prep).
All five players earned first-team All-Central Virginia honors in their respective senior years. Johnson and Long were the Central Virginia Defensive Player of the Year as seniors, while Lescanec was the co-Central Virginia Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.
Brown is currently wearing No. 43 and is listed as a linebacker. Fork Union postgraduate product Jon Copper also has No. 43 for practice, but he will be assigned a different number for games.
Johnson, a redshirt freshman, lines up at defensive end. He has flipped his number from CHS - 66 - and wears No. 99. Lescanec is listed as a punter, running back and long snapper and is wearing No. 14.
Long is wearing No. 91 and is listed as a defensive lineman. Schrad is a sophomore transfer from Eastern Michigan; he is listed as a center/offensive lineman and wears No. 57.
Still open. There are five more open practices for fans and the media. The next two sessions are today and Sunday, both at 2:30 p.m. Anyone interested in attending practice must obtain a pass from the football office in the McCue Center.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Aug 14, 2004
ONE EXTREME TO THE OTHER: In its college football preview, SI.com, the Web site for Sports Illustrated, touted Virginia as one of five teams "that fit the title mold" in Division I-A, along with Southern Cal, Georgia, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Yet in the Aug. 16 Sports Illustrated, the magazine's preseason rankings have U.Va. at No. 31, not a traditional starting point for a title contender. The magazine has Southern Cal at No. 1, Oklahoma at No. 2, Georgia at No. 4 and WVU at No. 20.
SI did, however, see fit to include two Virginia players on its All-America team: senior offensive guard Elton Brown and junior tight end Heath Miller. A third Cavalier, junior offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, made SI's "all-name team," which also includes such notables as Texas Tech's Keith Toogood and Stanford's Derrick Belch.
QB OR NOT QB: Running the second-team offense at yesterday's practice was sophomore quarterback Christian Olsen, who sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame. Junior Marques Hagans remains the starter. Others working at the quarterback station included redshirt freshman Kevin McCabe and true freshman Scott Deke.
Former Patrick Henry High star Anthony Martinez, a sophomore, spent most of the practice on the sideline with Virginia's strength coaches and didn't take any snaps.
JUST FOR KICKS: It's too early, coach Al Groh said, to identify the leading candidate to replace Tom Hagan as Virginia's starting punter. Hagan gave up football after last season to concentrate on baseball.
Vying for the job are junior Sean Johnson, back at U.Va. after spending two years on a Mormon mission; junior Kurt Korte, a transfer from William and Mary; sophomore Noah Greenbaum, a graduate of Collegiate; and freshmen Bryan Lescanec and Chris Gould.
"It looks like the punt, pass and kick competition out there," Groh said yesterday. "After practice, it looked like we ought to be giving out balloons and Happy Meals, there's so many of them."
GONE FOR GOOD? Shannon Lane is in U.Va.'s 2004 media guide, but he wasn't at practice yesterday and wasn't listed on the team roster handed out to spectators. Lane, a redshirt freshman from Virginia Beach, was expected to provide depth at wideout this season. Groh wasn't available after practice to discuss Lane's status.
TOUGH-LUCK KIDS: Like Braden Campbell, Willie Davis was part of the highly regarded recruiting class that entered U.Va. in 2002. Like Campbell, Davis played as a true freshman. And like Campbell, Davis apparently won't play college football again.
Campbell has had operations on both of his wrists, Groh said, and is no longer capable of withstanding the pounding of football. Davis, who began last season as a starting safety, suffered serious nerve damage while making a tackle against South Carolina on Sept. 6, 2003, and hasn't suited up since. Groh said Thursday that Davis plans to remain at U.Va. as a student. - Jeff White
Cavs' McGrew ready to lead
Health and experience identify grad student as key cog in'04
BY JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Aug 14, 2004
CHARLOTTESVILLE He's the old man of the University of Virginia receiving corps, a graduate student tutoring freshmen and sophomores. Michael McGrew, 22, figured he'd share leadership duties with senior Ottowa Anderson this season, but that wasn't to be.
Anderson, a starting wideout last season, was declared academically ineligible after the 2003-04 school year and suspended from U.Va. That left McGrew, who has a bachelor's degree in urban and environmental planning, as the only receiver on the Virginia roster to have started a college game.
"I was expecting [Anderson] to really help me out with the young guys . . . but now I guess I can put it on my shoulders to make sure they learn," McGrew said last night after U.Va.'s third practice of training camp.
The 6-2, 205-pound McGrew broke his left leg in practice last August, an injury that caused him to miss the 2003 season. He was cleared for contact before spring practice this year and rejoined the first-team offense. Not until early July, however, did he feel 100 percent again.
Now, McGrew said, "I'm stronger and faster in every category. I think the year off helped me get stronger, because I didn't do anything but lift weights."
Cavaliers coach Al Groh said McGrew has progressed markedly since the end of spring practice. "I'd say at this time if you saw Michael perform, you'd wouldn't know he'd been hurt," Groh said.
Receivers such as sophomores Deyon Williams and Fontel Mines have enormous potential but little experience. McGrew is a proven talent in whom the Cavs' quarterbacks have great confidence. In his first three seasons at U.Va., the Birmingham, Ala., resident had 60 catches for 746 yards and four touchdowns.
In 2002, McGrew started all 14 games and caught 27 passes for 428 yards and two TDs. His average of 15.9 yards per catch was the highest of any Cavalier with more than 11 receptions.