Schaub enjoying learning curve
By Jay Jenkins / Daily Progress staff writer
August 15, 2004
Matt Schaub has a scrapbook full of memories from his time at Virginia.
From being named the 2002 ACC Player of the Year to rewriting the UVa record book, Schaub did it all.
Now he finds himself trying to add to that scrapbook.
He knows it will not be easy.
The rookie signal-caller stands behind Mike Vick at quarterback on the depth chart.
Vick, a former star at Virginia Tech, is household name in the Commonwealth and more importantly in the NFL.
That has not deflated Schaub’s spirits.
He is merely trying to learn from every snap, from every practice.
“It has been good so far. Things have been well and it has been progressing very nicely,” Schaub said earlier this week. “I am just trying to go out, myself personally, and get better every practice and keep improving and learning from some of the mistakes that I might make. We are working hard and our team is getting better as a whole. I am looking forward to getting to our preseason games so we can play against some other teams.”
Schaub’s first preseason game was Thursday.
Despite throwing a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned by the Ravens for a touchdown, Schaub impressed his coaching staff.
“The most important thing about [Schaub] was that he made good decisions,” Falcons offensive coordinator Greg Knapp told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He seemed to have a level head.”
For the game, Schaub completed 12 of 24 passes for 108 yards and finished with a uncharacteristic QB rating of 27.8.
That was quite a change from the lofty numbers he posted while wearing the Cavalier orange and blue.
He completed 66.98% of his passes during his career, the second-best mark ever in NCAA Division I-A history.
Schaub also set the school’s career records for pass completions, attempts (1,069), passing yards (7,502), total offense yards (7,560), touchdown passes (56), most 300-yard passing games (8) and most 200-yard passing games (20).
Not bad for a guy that split time with Bryson Spinner as a sophomore.
Schaub knows that the speed of the game at the NFL level is faster than anything he has ever experienced and it has helped him focus on the areas he needs to improve in.
“I think initially the hardest thing was the amount of time that I had to react to windows and anticipating openings to get the ball into the receivers,” Schaub said. “Coming into training camp, with the work that we did in mini-camps and everything, I got my timing down and things have been going well.”
Playing with a Hokie
Most players would be intimated with their name one spot behind Vick on the depth chart.
Not so for Schaub.
He is using the experience to learn from the former Hokie quarterback.
“It has been great working with Mike,” Schaub said. “He is a veteran quarterback and he knows how the league works.”
According to Schaub, Vick has taken him under his wing and is trying to help him every step of the way in training camp.
“He has been very helpful to me, in sharing his experiences and what he is looking at when he looks at defenses and how he approaches the position,” Schaub said. “It has been good I think to gather some information from a player who is a little bit different and has a different approach than I do. He has been great so far.”
A familiar face
Knowing Schaub’s love for Virginia and the football program, it is only fitting that he has a familiar face, a familiar Cavalier face, there with him in training camp.
David Rivers, who was a QB at UVa from 1996-1999, is also in camp and is battling for the third and final spot at the position on the team’s roster.
Cavalier fans remember Rivers best for his performance in 1999 against Georgia Tech. Before the field was littered with fans celebrating Virginia’s come-from-behind win against the Yellow Jackets, Rivers completed
18 of 30 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite transferring to Western Carolina for his fifth season of college ball, Rivers and Schaub created a bond.
It has paid off this far in training camp.
“Dave is down here with us right now and it is nice to have a familiar face that I played along with at Virginia,” Schaub said. “It’s good to have a good guy around to talk to and kind of share the experience with.”
Schaub said that he would always cherish his memories and would always appreciate the fan support he had as a Cavalier.
“It is nice to be remembered, to know that people appreciated the time that I had there and that I represented the university and the program in a good manner,” Schaub said. “We were a real good team while I was there. It is nice and I am honored that people still look at me that way.”
Johnson ready to contribute
By Kris Wright / Daily Progress staff writer
August 15, 2004
Virginia redshirt sophomore Michael Johnson is ready. Ready to practice, ready to play, and ready to contribute.
After spending last year redshirting and playing with the travel squad, Johnson also is ready to travel - namely to Philadelphia for the opener with Temple on Sept. 4. Basically, the running back from Newport News is ready to do whatever it takes to get back on the football field.
“I want to be one of the most versatile players we have,” Johnson said Friday. “If they want somebody to work at some other position or to try something else, I want to be that guy.”
Excuse Johnson if he sounds a little anxious to get back in the fray. But who could blame him?
Johnson made an immediate splash as a true freshman for the Cavaliers in 2002 - he gained eight yards on the first carry of his career in his very first game against Colorado State. In total, he gained 133 yards rushing that year and averaged 5.1 yards per carry despite having an ankle injury that cut his playing time early on.
Johnson also showed blazing speed as soon as he stepped on the field, a commodity that, at the time, had been missing from the Cavaliers’ roster.
Despite the flashes of potential, Virginia coach Al Groh approached Johnson, asking him to redshirt. At first, he didn’t want to but agreed after hearing his coach’s reasons.
“It was hard mentally,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to do it at first, but I talked with Coach Groh and I trust him and I know it was in my best interest.”
If the spring practice session provides any indication, the move appears to have been the right one. Johnson was the co-recipient of the Rock Weir Award as the most improved player during spring practice.
The running back has put on several pounds of muscle, between 9 and 10 pounds - he weighed in before Friday’s practice at 200 even. Johnson ran indoor track and said “I don’t think I’ve lost any speed.”
That speed, of course, is the part of his potential that is so captivating. That speed may pay great dividends for the Cavs on special teams this year as well - Johnson is among the candidates to return punts and kicks, something he is very comfortable with doing. He did both in high school and also got some chances as a UVa freshman, averaging 20.3 yards per punt return.
“I think of [returns] like a fifth down on offense. It’s just like first down for me,” Johnson said. “You can eliminate the next three or four downs if you can get in the end zone on that one.”
So does Johnson think of the return game as a place for him to make big contributions this season?
His answer: merely a knowing smile and an enthusiastic set of nods.
The year of the ACC. Much of the attention and hype for college football this offseason has been focused on the new ACC.
When Miami and Virginia Tech officially joined the conference July 1, the ACC was instantly upgraded as a football conference. Count Johnson among those who believe it is more than an upgrade.
“It’s a great year to be playing in the ACC. You’re playing in the best conference out there in my opinion,” Johnson said. “We have 2 of the top 5 teams [in the country] every year in our conference with Miami and Florida State. Clemson’s on the rise, Maryland has a good team. There are a lot of good teams in the conference. It’s not going to be easy against anybody.”
In the preseason Associated Press poll, five ACC teams are in the top 25 while two are in the top 10. FSU was fifth, Miami sixth, Clemson 15th, Virginia 16th and Maryland 22nd.
Big props for ‘Big Money’. One of former Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub’s favorite targets was Heath Miller, who has been given the nickname “Big Money” by his teammates.
UVa quarterback Marques Hagans thinks highly of Miller as well.
“It’s always good to have the best tight end in the nation on your team,” Hagans said Friday. “It makes it a lot easier as a quarterback.”
Looking for Orange? Any Cavalier fan still looking for orange game-day attire has another option on the shelves. The Virginia Department of Athletics has released an official fan t-shirt for the 2004 season bearing the slogan “Orange Fever.”
The Orange Fever t-shirt is $9.99. It is available at the UVa Bookstore, www.virginiasports.com or 1-800-759-4667. The shirt will also be on sale at the Meet the Team event on Aug. 19 (3:30 to
5 p.m. at Scott Stadium) and at the home opener against North Carolina on Sept. 11. The game with UNC comes at the end of Paint the Town Orange week in Charlottesville.
Staying true to his mother's message
With the guidance of his mother, UVa's Elton Brown has overcome some tough times in high school to become the ACC's top offensive lineman.
By Doug Doughty
The Roanoke Times
Ask for an adjective to describe 6-foot-6, 330-pound Virginia offensive lineman Elton Brown and it doesn't take long for his mother to come up with "obedient."
There are worse things you could say about a person.
Robin Brown Miller also says of her son, "Elton is a very sensitive kid," which speaks to the torment he experienced before he ever played a college football game.
Brown played in one game as a senior at Hampton High School, one of three high schools he attended over a span of three semesters. Brown, 2003 winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy that goes to the ACC's top linemen, had few options when it came time to choose a college.
"I was being recruited by Maryland and I was being recruited by North Carolina," Brown said, "and, when it came down to the come-down, both sent me a letter saying, 'We're no longer recruiting you; we're no longer interested in you.'
"Every time I step on the field and I'm playing Maryland or North Carolina, or even if I'm not playing Maryland or North Carolina, it runs through my mind. I got into an unfortunate incident in high school and a lot of people backed off because of it."
In the winter of 1999-2000, Brown was found guilty of malicious wounding, a charge that would have constituted a felony if he had not been a juvenile. It meant he could not return to Heritage High School, at the time a budding Newport News football power.
Brown spent the second semester of his junior year at Warwick High School in Newport News; then, when he was told he could not play for another Newport News high school, he transferred to Hampton. It was the postseason before he was cleared to play for the Crabbers.
"I give all the credit to my mother," said Brown, who, even now, speaks to his mom two or three times a day. "There were a lot of times when I was ready to throw in the towel, but every time I wanted to throw in the towel, she was there to pick it up for me."
Eventually, in the summer of 2000, charges against Brown were suspended. His mother was there every step of the way.
"I think it hurt me more than it did Elton," she said, "because, up until that incident happened, Elton had never been in any kind of trouble. I went to the whole trial. I sat in court and heard the boy who got beat up testify. Not only did Elton not participate in the beating, but he wasn't outside where the beating took place.
"I told the judge, 'I wasn't there, your honor, but here's my mother's brag book.' I had report cards from kindergarten through the 11th grade, when this happened. Good citizenship, honor roll, perfect attendance. The kid [that prosecutors] were portraying was somebody totally different. The schools that backed off Elton, they didn't know him. They only knew what they read."
In its summary of the testimony, the Newport News Daily Press reported that Brown took a swing at the victim, Heritage tennis player Justin Reid, and missed. Until the sentences were suspended, Brown actually faced more potential jail time than two Heritage football teammates, classmates, who delivered the punches that broke Reid's jaw.
"They want Elton to pay for all the athletes committing crimes that you read about in the newspaper," defense attorney Dan Mitchell argued at the time.
In relation to his high school career, on hold seemingly forever, Brown's college career has flown by. He has been a starter at offensive guard since the final month of his freshman year and probably could have left after his junior year. After seeking feedback from the NFL on his draft potential, he was told that he would have been drafted no later than the third round last April.
"I never considered it because he's so close to his degree," his mom said. "That's what I mean when I say he's a very obedient child. I don't know too many football players, if their mom had said, 'Go back to school,' that they would have gone or not. He didn't give it a thought. He went on back."
If anybody knows degrees, it's Robin Brown Miller. A single mom until she re-married when Elton was 17, Robin Brown Miller has three degrees - in business administration, public administration and nursing - and is working on a fourth, in human resources, in a satellite program offered through St. Leo's University in Florida.
She also knows football and takes a little of the credit for her son's toughness.
"I always wanted to play football," said Robin, a 6-footer who ran track at Ferguson High School, now closed. "Women couldn't play football, so I always said, 'If I have kids, they're going to play football. As a kid, Elton didn't want to play football. He quit.
"He said, 'I'm not going to play because they're hitting.' I was like, 'Either you go out there and hit, or I'm going to hit you.' When he first started playing, there was all this holding, holding, holding. I said, 'Stop holding and just knock 'em out.'"
Despite his size, Brown is a technician and, Groh says, a student of the game.
"He's a football guy," Groh said. "He enjoys football, he follows football, he knows the different teams and what's going on across the country. He's intrigued by the game itself. He's a very introspective, very thoughtful, very bright kid."
His mother says Brown could have graduated in December if not for a course in his required major, anthropology, that is not being offered during the fall term. To take his analogy one step further, he's picking up his own towels these days.
"At times, he felt he was defeated," Robin said. "He'd say, 'Momma, let it go,' but as I explained to him, 'First of all, don't ever speak defeat in my house.' Being a single parent, raising two sons, working two and three jobs, going to school full time and making all the football games, times got tough. You've just got to find the inner strength to hang in there a little while longer."
For a message like that, it's smart to be obedient.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Aug 15, 2004
LAGGING BEHIND: With Marques Hagans having won the starting job at quarterback, a three-man battle for the backup spot was expected to unfold during Virginia's training camp.
That hasn't happened. Sophomore Anthony Martinez's poor performance in the conditioning run that all players must complete at the start of camp - a 300-yard shuttle - has left the former Patrick Henry High star well behind sophomore Christian Olsen and redshirt freshman Kevin McCabe in the rotation.
"It's a real test of stamina and endurance," Cavaliers coach Al Groh said of the shuttle run, after which it "looked like Anthony needed some more work."
As he did Friday, Martinez spent practice yesterday on the sideline with Virginia's strength coaches, doing various conditioning drills.
Olsen is running the second-team offense. McCabe has been working with the third team, and true freshman Scott Deke also has taken some snaps.
GONE FOR GOOD: Groh confirmed yesterday that wideout Shannon Lane is no longer on the team. Asked about the status of Lane, Groh said, "How is it that [former Steelers coach] Chuck Noll used to say it? I think Shannon's decided to pursue his life's mission."
And that is?
"You'll have to ask Shannon that," Groh said.
NAME TO REMEMBER: Standouts at Friday's practice - the first one open to fans and the media - included junior wideout Imhotep Durham, a walk-on from Brooklyn, N.Y. Durham, a computer-science major, made two memorable catches. Given the attrition in the receiving corps, which lost returning starter Ottowa Anderson to academic ineligibility, his chances of playing this season have increased.
"Last year on the [scout] team against our defense he was a challenge for them every day, so he kind of distinguished himself in that area," Groh said of Durham, whose high school did not have a football team. "He's like one of those Boston Marathon guys: He's got great stamina, and he never seems to wear out."
SPEED TO BURN: If the Cavaliers were to race 4x100 relay teams made up of the fastest players at each position, the safeties "would have a chance to win it," Groh said. "I don't think we'd be able to make a statement like that in the past."
Newcomers at safety include senior Marquis Weeks, a converted tailback, and freshmen Nate Lyles, Jamaal Jackson and Bud Davis, all three of whom starred in track as well as football in high school.
Of the freshmen, Chicago native Lyles was the most highly regarded coming out of high school and might be the most likely to play this season.
"He's very eager," Groh said. "It's a little bit difficult to hold him down. He's like a colt in the corral. He wants to get out and run."
HIGH ACHIEVERS: U.Va. placed 224 student-athletes on the ACC's academic honor roll in 2003-04, the third-most of any school. To earn honor-roll status, a student-athlete must play a varsity sport and post a grade-point average of at least 3.0 for the full academic year.
Duke had 369 representatives on the ACC honor roll, followed by North Carolina (244) and Virginia. Maryland was fourth with 203. - Jeff White