Getting adjusted transition into UVa football players
Former local standouts continue
By Andrew Joyner / Daily Progress staff writer
August 18, 2004
Slower is rarely better on any athletic field.
Yet, in a way, the slower things get in UVa football training camp for a trio of local players, it is indeed better.
Initially almost dizzied by the pace of Division I-A football, Virginia freshmen Chris Long (STAB), Bryan Lescanec (WAHS) and Devonta Brown (CHS) are slowly acclimating themselves.
“Things are getting slower every day and that’s a good thing in terms of how fast everything was in the beginning,” said Long, who is listed as defensive lineman on the roster. “You have to pick things up quickly and not think like a freshman but rather a third-year. You just have to keep trying to learn. That’s the toughest thing right now.”
As the trio trotted off the practice fields Tuesday, one had the feeling that the comfort level is increasing or certainly has increased since the first practice.
“It’s a big step. You really need study time to learn everything. … I came in with the notion that I was going to be blown away from the beginning and that I just had to accept that. I think it will blow just about anyone away,” said Lescanec, the Central Virginia Boys’ High School Athlete of the Year who was both a football and baseball standout at Western Albemarle. “Everything is just 100 times faster from reacting to making decisions to everything.”
The versatile Lescanec, a walk-on, has practiced at a variety of positions in the early going from punter to fullback/runningback to long snapper. The area in which the sheer speed of the game at this level has most impressed Lescanec have occurred during his reps at fullback.
“You try to run through the holes and they are much smaller and close much quicker. That’s definitely something you have to learn,” said Lescanec, who played in a single wing alignment at WAHS, an offense essentially not used at the college level.
Unfortunately for the trio’s third member, slower hasn’t had the positive connotations but rather the normal negative ones.
Brown, a linebacker, came to camp out of shape and failed his initial fitness test. That led to some “involuntary” laps around the practice field while the rest of his classmates and teammates practiced.
“It started out pretty awful for me because, as you know, I didn’t pass my fitness test and now I’m late getting back up to par,” Brown said. “Right now, I’m just trying to develop as a player and my ears are open to everything.”
As Brown listens intently, he does acknowledge some embarrassment in regard to his early practice performance.
“Yes. It was a little embarrassing but it’s all my fault. I don’t blame anyone else but me. I need to do the things to prepare myself for college football,” Brown said.
While the trio must get acclimated to college life just the same as the rest of their classmates, there are subtle nuances that point in fact they are not just like the rest of the freshmen.
Among the attendees at Tuesday’s open practice were several family members of both Long and Lescanec and their orientation to college certainly does not need a road map.
“I told my dad not to come out here,” Lescanec quipped. “It is comforting of course to be nearby and have friends wishing you luck and what have you. You do have to be aware that the spotlight is on you as much if not more than other players because you did grow up here and you have those people supporting you.”
Added Long: “This is a big family here anyways but I think with some of the local guys here like me, Bryan, Devonta and [former CHS standout] Chris Johnson, it’s kind of like a sub-family. I think it’s good to have those guys around.”
Brown, however, was poignant as he noted that they may be playing in their hometown but home seems like a long way away.
“My home is 10 minutes away from here but it’s a whole different world. It’s basically like being in California. We are here all the time and then the dorms after that. We’re confined in this space. I don’t feel like I’m at home,” chuckled Brown.
Notes. Sophomore linebacker Amhad Brooks was not a participant in Tuesday’s practice. … The camp’s final open practice will be this morning with drills beginning at approximately 8:45 a.m.
'Personal issues' muddle Brooks' absence
By Andrew Joyner / Daily Progress staff writer
August 19, 2004
Virginia football coach Al Groh said Wednesday that sophomore linebacker Ahmad Brooks “has personal issues that he is dealing with” and that explains his absence from practice since Monday.
Brooks missed his second straight day of practice Wednesday and, in an understatement, his absence was quite noticeable and led to a whirlwind of speculation.
While shedding light on Brooks’ status, Groh did not necessarily halt that speculation completely as he declined to say when Brooks would rejoin the squad.
“There are some personal issues that Ahmad is dealing with and personal usually implies private. Therefore, out of respect to Ahmad and his family and the team, I won’t have any comment at this time,” Groh said. “I’ve been in constant contact with the family and we are all in complete compatibility in our thinking about this circumstance.”
Brooks, the consensus defensive player of the year at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge when he signed with Virginia in 2002, had 117 tackles last season as a freshman. Brooks is touted in the Virginia media guide as a Butkus Award and All-American candidate this season.
Brooks failed to qualify academically out of high school and spent a semester at Hargrave Military Academy before enrolling at UVa in January 2003.
Brooks’ academic performance during the recently completed summer semesters was immediately a source of speculation for his absence but Groh dismissed any discussions of academics Wednesday.
“I can’t confirm or deny because the summer school grades are not in yet. … I don’t know what the grades are nor does he. For all the players, we don’t have the grades,” Groh said. “As I said, he is dealing with a personal matter and at this time it does not involve academics.”
Prior to his absence, Groh said that Brooks was having his best training camp of his career.
“He had been doing great and this was the best training camp that he’s had. His attitude has been terrific. There are just some things that he needs to have the opportunity to deal with,” Groh said.
Notes. Wednesday’s session was the final practice open to the media and the public. … Virginia will hold its Media Day and Meet-the-Team gathering today at 3:30 p.m. at Scott Stadium.
Cavaliers improve non-ACC schedule
2004-05 slate unveiled for UVa men's hoops
By Andrew Joyner / Daily Progress staff writer
August 19, 2004
Among the priorities for the Virginia men’s basketball team entering the 2004-05 season was to substantially upgrade its out-of-conference schedule.
The Cavaliers have indeed done that and will almost immediately feel the effects of that improved slate.
After opening the season on Nov. 19 against Robert Morris, Virginia will enter a late-November, early-December schedule that’s arguably the toughest prior to the New Year in Gillen’s six-year tenure.
The Cavaliers will host Arizona on Nov. 21 and a week later host Richmond on Nov. 28. Both those schools were NCAA Tournament participants last season.
On Dec. 1, Virginia travels to Northwestern as part of the ACC/Big 10 Classic and then will face Auburn on Dec. 3 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. In what will be the conclusion to a hectic stretch, the Cavaliers will travel to Iowa State on Dec. 6 and then return home Dec. 8 to host Furman. After those four games in seven days, the Cavaliers will have a 15-day exam break that will end with a contest against Loyola Marymount at U-Hall on Dec. 23.
Virginia then enters ACC play on Jan. 2 when it hosts Wake Forest.
In the new ACC schedule, Virginia will always face Maryland and Virginia Tech twice in a season and then play four other schools twice on a rotating base while playing the remaining four once.
This season, Virginia will play North Carolina, Wake Forst, N.C. State and Florida State twice. The Cavaliers will travel to Georgia Tech (Jan. 8) and Duke (Jan. 16) and host Miami (Jan. 12) and Clemson (Jan. 22).
The Cavaliers remaining non-conference games include Appalachian State (Nov. 24) and Western Kentucky (Jan. 5). The Cavaliers are expected to travel to Providence for their remaining non-conference game but the date and time for that game has not yet been finalized.
Contact Andrew Joyner at (434) 978-7248 or email@example.com.
2004-05 VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Date Opponent Time TV
Nov. 5 LEHMAN COLLEGE (Exh.) 7:30 p.m. -
Nov. 12 MARYMOUNT U. (Exh.) 7:30 p.m. -
Nov. 19 ROBERT MORRIS 7:30 p.m. -
Nov. 21 ARIZONA 5 p.m. FSN South
Nov. 24 APPALACHIAN STATE 8 p.m. Comcast
Nov. 28 RICHMOND 1 p.m. Comcast
Dec. 1 at Northwestern 9:30 p.m. ESPN2
Dec. 3 vs. Auburn 7 p.m. FSN South/Sunshine
Dec. 6 at Iowa State 7 p.m. ESPN2
Dec. 8 FURMAN 7 p.m. -
Dec. 23 LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 7:30 p.m. -
Jan. 2 WAKE FOREST 5:30 p.m. Fox Sports Net
Jan. 5 WESTERN KENTUCKY 9 p.m. Comcast
Jan. 8 at Georgia Tech 8 p.m. Raycom/JP Sports
Jan. 12 Miami 7:30 p.m. -
Jan. 16 at Duke 8 p.m. Fox Sports Net
Jan. 19 at Maryland 9 p.m. Raycom/JP Sports
Jan. 22 CLEMSON 7:30 p.m. -
Jan. 27 at Virginia Tech 8 p.m. Raycom/JP Sports
Jan. 29 NORTH CAROLINA Noon ESPN
Feb. 5 at N.C. State 8 p.m. Raycom/JP Sports
Feb. 9 FLORIDA STATE 7:30 p.m. -
Feb. 12 VIRGINIA TECH Noon Raycom/JP Sports
Feb. 16 at North Carolina 7 p.m. ESPN
Feb. 19 MARYLAND 3:30 p.m. CBS
Feb. 27 at Wake Forest 2 p.m. Raycom/JP Sports
March 2 N.C. State 9 p.m. RSN
March 6 at Florida State 2 p.m. Raycom/JP Sports
March 10-13 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
UVa's Brooks on leave of absence
oach Al Groh declines to discuss star linebacker Ahmad Brooks' "personal issues."
By Doug Doughty
The Roanoke Times
Preseason All-America linebacker Ahmad Brooks has taken a leave of absence from Virginia's football team, head coach Al Groh said Wednesday.
Groh was responding to questions about Brooks' absence from practices Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon. Brooks last practiced with the team Monday night and has returned to his home in Woodbridge, Va.
"There are some personal issues that Ahmad is dealing with," Groh said. "Personal also usually implies private. Therefore, out of respect to Ahmad and his family and the team, I will not have any comments at this time.
"I have been in constant contact with the family and we all are in complete compatibility in our thinking about this circumstance."
Groh declined to discuss Brooks' status for the Cavaliers' opening game Sept.4 at Temple. When the subject was raised a second time, Groh said that the personal issues or issue did not involve academics.
"At this time, it does not," Groh said. "It could be, depending on the grades, and it could not be. Summer school grades are not in. We don't know what the grades are, nor does he. We have inquired and the last we heard, for all the players, we don't have all the grades.
"He's been doing great. This is the best training camp that he's had. His attitude has been terrific. There are just some things that he needs to have the opportunity to deal with."
In Brooks' absence, fifth-year senior Richie Bedesem has been working with the first team in practice. Bedesem started the first four games of the 2003 season, next to Brooks, before suffering a knee injury.
Bedesem did not participate in spring practice after undergoing surgery.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Aug 19, 2004
NOTICE SERVED: Sophomore cornerback Marcus Hamilton continues to work with the first team, but in practice Tuesday afternoon and yesterday morning, he wore a blue jersey. Hamilton wore orange in the Cavaliers' first few open practices, which marked him as a defensive starter.
"One of the most important characteristics of a first-team orange-jersey [defender] is dependability," Groh said, "and Marcus has had the ball thrown over his head twice in some situations where he probably should have been more alert. That's what brought about that color change."
GOOD-HANDS TEAM: Groh considers junior tight end Heath Miller and redshirt freshman wideout Emmanuel Byers the "best pass-catchers" on the team. Redshirt freshman tight end Jonathan Stupar isn't far behind.
"Jon's a real natural catcher," Groh said. "He makes some of those Heath Miller-type of tight end catches where the ball kind of sticks to his hands."
Stupar, whose father played at Penn State, is a nephew of former NFL quarterback Jeff Hostetler. With senior tight end Patrick Estes (Benedictine High) sidelined with an undisclosed injury, Stupar's workload has increased recently.
"I think Stupar realizes it's time for him to step up and play," Miller said.
COME ONE, COME ALL: From 3:30 to 5 p.m. today, fans can meet and greet the Virginia players at Scott Stadium. Activities will include an autograph session and locker-room tours. The event is free and will be held rain or shine.
FITNESS FIRST: In his first two seasons at Virginia, tailback Wali Lundy rushed for 1,755 yards, caught 87 passes and scored 24 touchdowns, but he had to deal with hamstring and foot injuries.
Not surprisingly, then, the objective of his offseason workouts was "staying healthy," Lundy said. "I wanted to get in the weight room and get stronger so I can keep all the nagging injuries away."
CENTERFOLD MATERIAL? Playboy's football All-Americans for 2004 include two Cavaliers: Miller and senior offensive guard Elton Brown.
Miller said yesterday that he "got a packet" from Playboy on Tuesday. "The [team] picture's all right," he said.
As for the rest of the magazine, Miller said offensive guard Brian Barthelmes "came over and tried to steal it from me last night, and I told him he had to get Big E's." - Jeff White
Concerns at safety have eased at U.Va.
Hardy's recovery, Weeks' transformation leave Groh smiling
BY JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Aug 18, 2004
CHARLOTTESVILLE The University of Virginia's most experienced safety, Jermaine Hardy, had surgery to repair his right knee Jan. 6. Marquis Weeks was still a tailback at that point and hadn't played defense in a game since 1999, when he lined up at cornerback for Conestoga High outside Philadelphia.
No wonder Al Groh had concerns about his last line of defense as the 2003-04 school year ended. One of his team's projected starters at safety was Hardy, and his knee was throbbing as he sweated through rehab. The other was Weeks, and his head was spinning as he tried to learned the nuances of a new position.
Four months later, Groh's worries have eased.
"Certainly the position is looking a lot better than it did in April," he said Sunday.
Hardy, a senior from Roanoke, was cleared for contact last month and is "showing no residual effects from his surgery," Groh said. Weeks, who'll play as a graduate student this season, is "way ahead of where he was on the last day of spring practice," Groh said.
With the Sept. 4 opener at Temple looming, Weeks knows he's racing the clock in his bid to transform himself into a major-college safety.
"I think I'll beat the clock, though," he said. "I've spent a lot of time going over everything. I think I've learned a lot. By the time the season comes around, I think I'll be real comfortable."
Hardy is one of two returning starters in the secondary. The other one, though, is sophomore cornerback Tony Franklin, and he wasn't promoted to the first team until game No. 7 last year. Hardy, who had 97 tackles in 2003, not only has to worry about getting back in shape, he has to tutor his less experienced teammates.
"I've got a lot of responsibility right now," said Hardy, who as a precaution is wearing a brace on his right knee during training camp. "I'm the only one that's really been playing for four years back there. Plus, I know the defense, so I've got to tell Weeks and some of the younger players what to do back there. But they're my teammates, so I'm going to help them out as much as possible."
Of Virginia's seven scholarship safeties, three are true freshmen, and two are sophomores. Lance Evans and Robbie Catterton were pressed into action because of injuries to teammates last season, and Groh has liked what he's seen from them this summer.
"Both of them are starting to show signs of being the players that we thought they could be," Groh said.
Hardy tore his ACL on Sept. 6, 2003, against South Carolina. That was also the game in which promising safety Willie Davis suffered what turned out to be a career-ending injury, and Hardy didn't want to add to the Cavaliers' woes in the secondary. So he played the final 11 games of the season with an injury he knew would eventually require major surgery.
You think he's happy to be moving easily again?
"It feels so much better right now," Hardy said. "Last season when I was breaking on [out patterns] and stuff, I didn't know if my knee was going to give out. Like in the Wake Forest game, it gave out on me. Now I can break on it and not really worry about anything."
Cavs' Brooks Misses 2 Practices in a Row
Linebacker Has 'Personal Issues'
By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 19, 2004; Page D01
Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks, a freshman all-American last season, missed his second straight day of practice yesterday, and Cavaliers Coach Al Groh said the star player is dealing with "personal issues," but wouldn't say when, or if, he expected Brooks to rejoin the team.
The player's father, former Washington Redskins defensive tackle Perry Brooks, said yesterday that his son was unavailable to speak to a reporter. Asked why Brooks had missed the Cavaliers' last two practices, Perry Brooks said, "We'll let you know in time."
Linebacker Ahmad Brooks missed his second practice after getting into an argument with Cavs Coach Al Groh during Monday's session. (Andrew Shurtleff - The Daily Progress)
Asked if his son intended to return to the Cavaliers, who are ranked 16th in the preseason Associated Press poll and considered a dark horse to challenge Florida State and Miami for the ACC championship, Perry Brooks again said, "We'll let you know in time."
In a teleconference with reporters yesterday, Groh wouldn't say whether he expected Brooks to return to the team before the Sept. 4 opener at Temple.
"There are some personal issues that Ahmad is dealing with," Groh said. "Personal also usually implies private, so out of respect to Ahmad and his family and the team, I will have no comment other than to say that I have been in constant contact with his family and we are all in complete compatibility with regard to our thinking about this circumstance."
Groh said Brooks hasn't received his grades from summer school but indicated the player's issues aren't related to academics.
Bill Brown, who coached Brooks in football at Hylton High School, said he didn't "personally think" Brooks would miss the upcoming season.
"There are some personal issues that he's just got to get worked out," Brown said. "I think he's working through those things right now. It isn't any kind of confrontation with the team. It's something very personal that Ahmad is working through."
Brooks, 20, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge on July 29, 2003. Prince William General District Court Judge Wenda K. Travers sentenced Brooks to six months' probation, 24 hours of community service and ordered him to undergo substance abuse screening. According to court records, Brooks completed the requirements of his probation and the charge was dismissed Jan. 26.
Brooks, 6 feet 4, 249 pounds, started all 13 games at inside linebacker last season and set a Virginia freshman record with 117 tackles. But he has spent much of the Cavaliers' training camp working on the second-team defense, behind senior Rich Bedesem, and Groh has offered little explanation as to why Brooks hasn't been on the first team. Along with sophomore Kai Parham and junior Darryl Blackstock, Brooks was expected to lead one of the nation's top linebacking corps this season.
"He's been doing great," Groh said of Brooks. "This is the best training camp that he's had. His attitude has been terrific. There's just some things that he needs to have the opportunity to deal with."
The Cavaliers, 8-5 and 4-4 in the ACC last season, are ranked No. 16 in the preseason Associated Press poll and were picked to finish third in the conference behind Florida State and Miami.
Brooks was named USA Today's 2001 national defensive player of the year after his senior season at Hylton High School and was the Post's 2001 All-Met Defensive Player of the Year. He was ranked the nation's number one linebacker by most recruiting services and signed with the Cavs after also considering Florida State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. But Brooks failed to qualify academically and enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., before enrolling at Virginia in January 2003.
Special correspondent Jim Reedy contributed to this report from Charlottesville.