Departure could open way for freshman
By Doug Doughty
The Roanoke Times
Nate Lyles, one of the most talked-about freshmen during preseason drills at Virginia, could be the beneficiary as the Cavaliers seek to fill the void left by the departure of sophomore Robbie Catterton.
Catterton, who had an interception for the Cavaliers in the Continental Tire Bowl, was in a battle for playing time before informing coach Al Groh that he was leaving the team.
Catterton has been listed No.2 at one of the safety spots, a position that now could be filled by Lyles, an all-state defensive back last year in Illinois.
"He was kind of in the process of doing that," Groh said Monday. "Maybe the presence of these young safeties had something to do [with Catterton's departure]. Who knows?"
Of the six scholarship safeties in the UVa program, three are true freshmen - Lyles, Bud Davis and Jamaal Jackson.
"I told one of them at the end of last week, 'Get over any stage fright you might have because you're going to Philadelphia and play in the first game,'" Groh said.
It's possible that a second freshman safety also could play in UVa's opener Sept.4 at Temple.
"I haven't told the other one yet, but we'll probably be telling him soon, too," Groh said. "If we take him, it would be our plan [to play him], either on special teams or defense."
There was a hint of frustration in Groh's voice as he discussed Catterton's decision.
"He's kind of moved in that direction a couple of other times before," Groh said. "We've had conversations and he's come back, so I wouldn't say it's a shocking development."
Catterton, who joined UVa's baseball team late in the 2004 season, did not return a voice message left at his home.
No word on Lane
Catterton became the second player to leave UVa during preseason drills, following another Virginia Beach native, wide receiver Shannon Lane. Chris Beatty, who coached Lane at Salem High School, said he was not aware of Lane's plans.
"I haven't spoken to him," said Beatty, now the head coach at Landstown in Virginia Beach. "I do know that he was unhappy as far back as last year, when they first moved him to cornerback."
Lane, who was redshirted in 2003, was invited to return to wide receiver before fall practice.
Walk-on linebacker Jon Copper from Northside High School and Fork Union Military Academy said he has noticed a big change from the three-hour practices he once experienced under Northside coach Jim Hickam.
"In high school, if you made a mistake, you kept running the play over and over until you got it right," Copper said. "Here, you make a mistake and the horn blows [directing players to the next drill]. You go back and watch the play on film that night."
Copper caught Groh's attention Monday when he stood up the ballcarrier in a 3-on-3 drill.
Odds and ends
One-time Virginia recruit Stefan Orange, who left the program after redshirting in 2002, has dropped off the team at James Madison after going through spring practice with the Dukes. ... Patrick Estes, who has been a valuable contributor despite playing in the shadow of fellow tight end Heath Miller, has been sidelined by migraines. ... Groh said that junior Kwakou Robinson is the backup at both defensive end spots and either could sub for nose tackle Andrew Hoffman or replace Brennan Schmitt if he moves from end to nose. ... Virginia recruit Aaron Clark said at Rockbridge County media day that Wildcats coach Billy Mills has set a goal of 15 sacks for him. Clark, indisputably lean at 6-foot-6 and between 220 and 225 pounds, had six sacks among his 24 tackles for loss last year.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Aug 24, 2004
LOCAL APPEARANCE: Nothing against the Siegel Center, but Virginia had hoped to play Auburn in men's basketball at the Richmond Coliseum this season.
To help make up for the debacle that occurred when U.Va. and Michigan State met there Nov. 28, 2001 - "Bambi on Ice," Pete Gillen called it - the Coliseum offered to let Virginia play five rent-free basketball games at the arena. But the Coliseum wasn't available on the dates that worked for Auburn and U.Va. in 2004-05, so those teams will meet Dec. 3 at Virginia Commonwealth's Siegel Center.
The Cavaliers beat the Tigers 77-72 on Dec. 8, 2001, in Birmingham, Ala. Like Birmingham, Richmond is considered a neutral site under the terms of the contract between the schools.
U.Va. officials also considered playing the game in Roanoke or Washington but "felt as though our last outing in Richmond was an abbreviated one," Athletic Director Craig Littlepage said, "and we did want to get back there."
Littlepage said the games Virginia has "available to use at the Coliseum will be part of our future schedules, hopefully as soon as [2005-06]."
The nationally televised ACC/Big Ten Challenge game between U.Va. and Michigan State in 2001 had to be stopped early in the second half because of condensation on the court. Unseasonably warm weather had combined with the hockey ice underneath the court to create dangerously slick conditions. The game had attracted a crowd of 11,666 to the 12,500-seat Coliseum.
Coliseum officials later pledged to remove the ice underneath the court for any future U.Va. basketball games at the arena.
LINEBACKER U? Three of the linebackers in Virginia's 3-4 defense enter the season as all-ACC candidates: junior Darryl Blackstock and sophomores Kai Parham and Ahmad Brooks, all of whom are considered future NFL material. Some publications are touting the Cavaliers' corps of linebackers as the nation's best.
"That's what we've been aiming for," coach Al Groh said. "We think that there's every reason that this could be the best place in the country for linebackers to play. You know, four of them play instead of three. Three of those four are still in on the nickel [defense]. It's a scheme that has proven that it works on the highest level . . . It's won four Super Bowls."
IN THE CREASE: Attackman Conor Gill has been named MVP of Major League Lacrosse. Gill, who was a three-time All-American at U.Va., plays for the Boston Cannons, who lost to the Philadelphia Barrage in the MLL championship game Sunday.
Gill, the MLL's rookie of the year in 2002, recently joined Virginia coach Dom Starsia's staff as a full-time assistant. Joining Gill on the all-MLL team was another former Cavalier: midfielder Jay Jalbert, who plays for the Long Island Lizards. - Jeff White
U.Va.'s Catterton departs for JMU
Playing time was pivotal element in decision to transfer
BY JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Aug 24, 2004
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Safety Robbie Catterton has left the University of Virginia and enrolled at James Madison University. Because JMU's football team competes in the NCAA's Division I-AA, the 6-2, 200-pound sophomore is eligible to play immediately.
Catterton, a graduate of Virginia Beach's Kellam High, was one of seven true freshmen to play for U.Va. last season and had a key interception against Pittsburgh in the Continental Tire Bowl. He'd been working with Virginia's second-team defense during training camp, but true freshman Nate Lyles was challenging him for playing time.
"He thought he played pretty well last year, but the signals he was getting from the coaching staff was he just was going to be a special-teams performer," Catterton's father, Rob, said last night.
"He enjoyed everybody up there, and he's got some great friends and he really enjoyed every member of the coaching staff. But the bottom line is, every kid wants to play."
The elder Catteron said his son was granted his release after a Saturday night meeting with U.Va. coach Al Groh. Catterton starts classes at JMU today.
"It was done quick," Rob Catterton said.
Catterton is the second player from Virginia Beach to have left Groh's program this month. The other was reserve wideout Shannon Lane, a Salem High graduate who redshirted last season.
Catterton's decision "wasn't a shocking development," Groh told reporters yesterday morning.
"He's kind of moved in that direction a couple of other times before, and we've had conversations with him, but he's come back."
Virginia has three true freshmen working at safety - Lyles, Jamaal Jackson and Bud Davis. Two are likely to play in the Sept. 4 opener at Temple, Groh said. One presumably will be Lyles. Groh declined to identity the other one.
Cavs aim to avoid practice injuries
By Jay Jenkins / Daily Progress staff writer
August 24, 2004
The Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos will have played five preseason games by the time that the NFL’s regular season kicks off. The other 30 teams will play four exhibition games before the first official game.
While the revenue from the games is good for the owners, the extra action in games can prove costly to players from the NFL’s biggest stars to players fighting for a roster spot.
Last year, Atlanta Falcons quarterback and former Virginia Tech star Mike Vick was sidelined for 11 regular-season games after he broke his right fibula in a preseason game. Earlier this month, former UVa and current Kansas City Chiefs tight end Billy Baber injured his knee in a scrimmage with the Minnesota Vikings.
Virginia coach Al Groh has seen it happen to his teams in the NFL and has taken the necessary actions to try and prevent that from happening to the Cavaliers’ roster in the preseason practice period.
“You just look at the NFL teams every year that have essentially four scrimmages and it is a shame to see a first-team player, a guy who is going to be a primary guy for them get lost before the season even counts,” Groh said. “That is kind of our thinking on it and how we are trying to avoid problems.”
With that in mind, Groh has not in the past and said he will not hold complete scrimmages the remainder of camp this year during preparations for the Sept. 4 opener at Temple.
Instead, Groh has had his team working on getting physical while avoiding scrums that can lead to injuries.
“We have done some work here in this camp that we haven’t done in the past, but it has been kind of close quarters things that eliminate the piles and the flying shots … from which a lot of injuries come,” Groh said in Monday’s teleconference. “We try to get a lot of our contact, our … really heavy work doing that and we try to practice at a high-tempo, but without tackling runners to the ground or allowing offensive or defensive players to go on the ground. There is a big emphasis that part of their job on every play is to stay on there feet.”
Groh hopes that translates to a healthy roster in the season opener.
“The purpose for all of this is to try to get our team to the game,” Groh said. “Our feeling is that we could have the greatest practice, see all sorts of improvement and if we lose a player that is important to us during the course of that practice, maybe all the good that we did can’t add up to as much as the loss that we had in terms of personnel. We are trying to avoid that situation.”
Groh also hopes the new practice procedure will help his team get tougher.
“We want to practice to our strengths,” Groh said. “I think we now have the chance to be the most physical team that we have been. We are just trying to put an emphasis on in practice, what we have a chance to be very good at. We have a chance to be a physical team, so we are practicing being a physical team.”
Catterton headed to the Valley. Sophomore Robbie Catterton found himself doing something odd on Monday night - preparing for his first day of school. Only it was not at Virginia, but instead at James Madison.
Catterton’s father, Rob, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that his son had elected to transfer after seeing signals from the coaching staff that he would be used mainly as a special teams player this season. He also said his son was granted his release after a meeting Saturday night with Groh.
Since Catterton is transferring from a NCAA I-A school to a Division I-AA school (JMU), he will be eligible to play for the Dukes this fall.
Groh confirmed Monday that Catterton had left the team. The sophomore safety has, “quit the team,” said Groh. “So he is no longer with us.”
Last season, Catterton saw action in
10 games and had an interception in Pittsburgh’s first drive of the second half of the Continental Tire Bowl.
According to Groh, Catterton had contemplated leaving the team in the past and the move did not surprise the coaching staff.
“Actually, he has kind of moved in that direction a couple of other times before and we have had conversations with him and he has come back, so I wouldn’t say that it is a shocking development,” Groh said.
Groh also said that before Catterton left the team, he was being pushed for a spot on the two-deep by true freshman Nate Lyles. Virginia also has Jamaal Jackson and Bud Davis fighting for time behind starter Marquis Weeks.
“He was kind of in the process of doing that,” Groh said. “Maybe the presence of these young safeties had something to do with it. Who knows?”
Groh said it is possible for more than one of the freshmen safeties to see action and he told one of them last week to be prepared to play against Temple.
“Probably a couple of these young safeties will play,” Groh said. “I told one of them at the end of last week, ‘Get over any stage fright you might have because you’re going to go to Philadelphia and play in the first game.’”
Groh would not name the player that he spoke with since he may need to give a similar pep talk to another rookie following Catterton’s decision.
Catterton was the second player from the Tidewater area to leave the team since preseason practice started. Shannon Lane, who was practicing with the wide receivers, left the team last week.
Back to school. For the second straight season, the UVa football players will have started classes when the season officially opens.
Groh said that the coaching staff has taken that into account, as it is part of the reason they are starting game preparation for Temple on Friday.
“We do make a little bit of an acknowledgement towards that. Tuesday and Wednesday [the first week of classes] sometimes can be pretty scrambled days for them, especially the younger guys that have not been through it before and obviously somewhat of a distraction towards practice issues and gameplan issues,” Groh said. “We try to get the gameplan in with the players before the registration and the first day of classes.”
Haley on the upswing
Virginia linebacker poised to have strong senior season
By Andrew Joyner / Daily Progress staff writer
August 24, 2004
Critics are usually the ones that use terms such as up-and-down and uneven to describe the careers of athletes.
There are rare instances when athletes use them about themselves.
Put Virginia senior linebacker Dennis Haley in that category.
“I think my career here has been up-and-down. I’ve had some struggles and I’ve overcome them and become a better person,” Haley said.
With that said, Haley is quick to point out that he feels that he’s on the “up” side on those swings right now.
“Yes. It’s great to be going up,” Haley said with his signature wide smile.
Haley came to Virginia in 2000 after a solid prep career at Salem High School in Salem. Haley redshirted his initial season in 2000 and then played sparingly in 2001, mostly on special teams.
In 2002, Haley entered the season after a strong training camp poised to assume a starting position at outside linebacker. Haley played ever so briefly after starting the opener against Colorado State - he made one tackle - but would not play at all the rest of the season because of personal and academic issues. He did practice with the team during that period.
Last season, Haley had clearly his best performances as he finished with 36 tackles, best among non-starters. In his top performance, Haley had six tackles, forced a fumble and registered his first career sack against Western Michigan.
“I’ve had a lot of stress and a lot of things that I’ve gone through and without family and God, I wouldn’t have gotten through it. It would not have been possible,” Haley said.
A smile seems to be permenantly fixed to Haley’s face these days. Haley, who graduated in May with a degree in anthropology, will compete this season as a graduate student and is expected to compete for the starting position as outside linebacker.
Earlier in the preseason, Virginia coach Al Groh said that Haley is solidly entrenched as a starter and that others competing for the position “will just have to earn their time.”
The defense that Haley is expected to start on is singled out as one of the strengths for the Cavaliers in 2004 and specifically the linebackers. According to Haley, the talented groups gets better each day from essentially internal propulsion.
“We make the competition. We are out there every day pushing ourselves to be better. All of us can play at any point and at any time. The starters are good and the backups are just as good,” Haley said. “We are all ready to play at any point. It’s not like any of us are better than the others but rather there are just different points on the learning curve.”
As with other members of the defensive unit, there seems to be a cohesion and pride developing regarding their reputation.
“We’ve read and heard a lot of things but we have to stay focused as a team and not let anyone dictate how we are going to be. We have to produce as a unit and play hard and then everything will fall into place,” Haley said.
If his on-the-field performance is thriving for Haley and past off-the-field issues have been long-since resolved, there is another item that has brightened Haley’s disposition.
Haley recently got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Kim Bishop. If there is one potential snag, it is Bishop’s family’s allegiances.
“Her family is from Christiansburg and they grew up big Tech fans and I’ve been in the process of converting them,” Haley said.
Schmidt a force on and off field
By Kris Wright / Daily Progress staff writer
August 23, 2004
When Virginia defensive end Brennan Schmidt walked around the corner to meet the fans at “Meet the Team Day” on Thursday, he immediately drew everyone’s attention. After all, he is entering his third year as a starter and he is a captain.
Of course, those things aren’t really what got everyone buzzing. Schmidt’s hair was responsible for that. The 6-foot-3, 269-pound defensive end walked in with a buzz-cut Mohawk - let’s just say if a man that size swapped his orange and blue uni for a leather vest with ‘Schmidt Happens’ airbrushed on the back, his motorcycle gang wouldn’t be far behind.
“It’s about going all out,” Schmidt said. “Really, it is for fun.”
Schmidt said that being a little wild and crazy is just part of his personality and that there was not any deeper symbolism in the haircut. He’s just a guy who likes to have fun, horse around with his teammates and push the envelope a little.
So is Schmidt a practical joker to boot?
“Sometimes,” he said.
So what’s the best joke he pulled off?
“I’m not sure if I can talk about most of them,” he laughed.
How about a tame one?
“The powder in the locker. Baby powder in the locker is a good one,” Schmidt said. “It’s really hard to clean up.”
While the junior lineman does have his share of fun, it is all business once he hits the field. Schmidt doesn’t consider himself a trash-talker - the fun and games are for after the game.
Besides, there is little time to waste talking to opponents when you’re playing the likes of Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami.
“I do a little bit of that, but I like to be known as the kind of player that talks with his pads not just as a talker,” Schmidt said. “If I’m talking out there, it’s usually with my teammates and trying to get them amped and focused on what we’re doing. … I don’t really say much to the other team.”
So far, Schmidt’s pads have been doing plenty of talking. He has 174 career tackles in two years, which already places him 14th all-time among UVa defensive linemen. He was consistent both years as well, making 87 tackles in each. As a freshman, Schmidt was named a third-team Freshman All-American by the Sporting News.
A season ago, he was second among ACC defensive linemen in tackling with an average of 6.7 per game; teammate Chris Canty was first with an 8.0 average. Schmidt was also second on the team with four sacks and fifth with seven tackles for loss.
With his impressive numbers, Schmidt’s production has earned his team’s respect.
“He’s wide open. He’s [all out, all the time],” fellow defensive line starter Andrew Hoffman said. “He’s got a high motor. I’m sure you’ve heard Coach Groh say something like that I’m sure. He never quits - he’s going 100 percent at all time.”
Going all out all the time is a trademark of not just Schmidt, but the entire defensive line. Canty, Hoffman and Schmidt form one the most experienced and aggressive lines in the ACC.
Suffice to say, Groh is expecting the big three of his 3-4 defense to set the tone this season.
“We have talent and we have experience [up front]. They know what they’re job is and they know how to go about doing it,” Groh said. “They are going to start and they know that [but still] they are driven to improve.”
Virginia fans hope that drive leads to great success and maybe even an ACC title. UVa’s players, meanwhile, just hope that Schmidt doesn’t drive them crazy with baby powder before then.
Virginia builds on success
Recruits flocking to rising program
By LORENZO PEREZ, Staff Writer
After assembling two nationally acclaimed recruiting classes in a row, Virginia coaches watched many of their prized targets for the 2004 season sign elsewhere in February.
Southern California signed wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, Miami grabbed Dwayne Hendricks and N.C. State got running back Andre Brown of Greenville Rose.
So Virginia coach Al Groh and his staff vowed to work not harder, but quicker. With the 2005 national signing day more than five months away, the Cavaliers already have snared commitments from 20 high school seniors for 2005, a nearly full class that recruiting analysts said should hold up as a top-15 class nationally. The commitments are not binding until players sign letters of intent.
Virginia's record the past two seasons -- 9-5 in 2002 and 8-5 in 2003 -- and consecutive Continental Tire Bowl wins have helped convince recruits the Cavaliers' program is on the rise, high school coaches said. And when it comes to recruiting, Southern Durham coach Gordon Walters said, nothing breeds success like success on the field. Two of Walters' current seniors, wide receivers Maurice Covington and Brandon Woods, have committed to the Cavaliers.
"Recruiting success basically comes down to Virginia winning right now, and that appeals to the kids," Walters said.
The ACC media picked Virginia to finish third in the ACC, behind Florida State and Miami. That means this fall, coach Al Groh will be expected to show whether the Cavaliers can translate recruiting progress into something loftier than a middle-of-the-pack finish. Groh is 13-11 in ACC play over three seasons.
"I don't think it's a fully stocked lake yet, but I think the talent pool has increased significantly," Groh said last month about the recruiting gains.
NCAA rules prohibit Virginia coaches from discussing specific players until they sign.
Miller Safrit, who covers football recruiting for TheInsiders.com, said there are signs the Cavs have tweaked their strategy. To generate some momentum this spring, Safrit said, Virginia may have offered scholarships to a few players with more potential than performance at this stage. That may have motivated other recruits to sign, Safrit said.
Next year's class includes widely recruited prospects such as Eugene Monroe, a standout offensive lineman from Plainfield, N.J. But the class also includes players operating slightly lower under the recruiting radar. A defensive end and tight end for Virginia Beach's Kempsville High, Jason Fuller told The (Norfolk, Va.) Virginian-Pilot he wasn't pressured to commit early. But after committing to the Cavaliers in March, Fuller figured that it wouldn't hurt to jump on the bandwagon.
"It's sort of like, the way their recruiting is going, if you don't jump on the train now, the train might leave you," Fuller told The Virginian-Pilot.
Jeff McGowan, Fuller's coach at Kempsville, said that Virginia coaches stood out as far as their personal attention to individual recruits.
"Every coach at UVa sent him a handwritten letter, and every coach there knows him by name," McGowan said of Fuller's decision to verbally commit to Virginia. "I've been on recruiting trips [with players] where you feel like nobody knows your name."
In-state recruiting probably was helped by the Cavaliers' 35-21 home win last season against Virginia Tech -- the first in five years against the Hokies.
"We're definitely going to use that, and the momentum we got winning the bowl game and try to springboard into this season," Virginia senior defensive end Chris Canty said.
For the second year in a row, Virginia will return all three of its starting defensive linemen. The linebacking corps features a trio of young stars -- junior Darryl Blackstock and sophomores Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham -- who combined for almost 300 tackles last year.
On offense, Virginia's short passing game will have plenty of targets in preseason All-America tight end Heath Miller and running backs Wali Lundy and Alvin Pearman, and the Cavs return a veteran offensive line. What Virginia won't have is quarterback Matt Schaub, who completed 70 percent of his passes his final season.
Instead, they'll rely on junior Marques Hagans, who served as Schaub's backup as well as playing receiver and returning punts.
Seniors such as Canty and Elton Brown, an All-America candidate at offensive guard, said they can see a day coming when Virginia doesn't just recruit replacements. Now they're hoping that when they leave, Virginia will have as much ease as Miami or Florida State would in replacing them with blue-chip stars.
The nose knows
Hoffman excels in the trenches
In the Huddle
Virginia coach Al Groh says playing nose guard is nowhere for sissies.
"It takes a man to get in there," the fourth-year Virginia head coach at Thursday's media day, which featured the return of Ahmad Brooks, the non-pareil sophomore linebacker who had been laying out a few days.
Back to the nose: "Some guys can do it, but they couldn't go out on the wing. But there are ends and tackles who wouldn't know what to do if they were moved inside," Groh said.
The man that Virginia has inside is Andrew Hoffman, a 6-foot-3, 284-pound senior from Park View-Sterling, who has been quietly getting this job done for the last three years. He will be the noseguard Sept. 4 at Temple when the Wahoos open what promises to be an exciting season.
"Well, I'll say one thing," said the three-year starter. "It's not the most glorious of sports."
That's because the nose - in the Groh 3-4 defensive front - constantly takes double-teams from guards and centers as the only man in the middle of the defensive line. If he does his job, you likely will not know about it. But when Brooks and sophomore buddy Kai Parham at the inside linebackers are lighting up the ACC leading-tackler lists, you know the young man from South Riding, on the Fairfax-Loudoun County line, has got his nose stuck in there.
Not that he fails to have his highlight reels, too. Last year, for the second straight year, the son of Jim and Janet Richardson and Wayne and Sheila Hoffman played in every game, starting all but one. The year before, 2002, he was a 14-game starter.
His individual total of 56 tackles in '03 tied his alltime best, as he made at least five tackles on six occasions - including eight versus Duke, nine in a comeback win with Wake Forest, nine against Clemson, six versus Maryland and seven against Virginia Tech.
"The last three games last year," Groh said, "he went up against three good centers with Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Pitt, and I'm here to tell you he held his own."
Hoffman was been holding his own for some time.
Under Mickey Thompson, Hoffman learned to play defense the disciplined way. The two terms may seem incongruous when you think of the alltime D greats like Lawrence Taylor, even way back with Sam Huff. But Hoffman said Thompson, Groh and D-line coach Mike London have all taught him how to use his head as well as his hands.
"Hands, that's what the position takes," said Hoffman. "You've got to have quick hands, because you've got to be able to get inside on the center before he has a chance to get to you. Then, you have to turn him sideways at angle, so you have an angle to wedge through and make a play."
Hoffman, a National Honor Society member while at Park View, said he his responsible for everything that happens from the outside shoulders of the two opposing guards in. "Whether it's to plug the hole. Or make the play."
The bright 22-year-old, who was redshirted the year Groh and London arrived - 2000 - said the hands deal goes both ways. Not only must his be fast and strong, he reads the center's appendiges, too.
"Sometimes I can pick it up on tape, or maybe sometimes, I will pick it up in the first quarter," Hoffman said of the way he gauges where the play will go by the amount of pressure the opposition pivot man puts on the ball.
"Or the way he stands, or where he looks."
Hoffman said he can sometimes tell the direction of the ball before it is snapped.
In all, Hoffman, who played offensive and defensive line for Park View, and then began as a true freshman on as a tackle, too, said he likes the position.
"There's something about it," he says. "For one thing, you're in on nearly every play. Or it seems that way. You're right down there and dirty. Sometimes guys poke you, and sometimes you poke them. It gets dirty. They get mad; I get mad, it all comes out in the wash."
Some of his most monumental clashes the last two years have come with Virginia Tech center Jake Grove, who may end up starting the season for the Oakland Raiders, who drafted him in the second round.
Grove was a consensus All-American at center, perhaps the greatest at the spot ever. He was also known for his cheap shots.
Against Temple, the former Tech beast was tossed for cheap shotting a player, and his notoriety spread in his two dominant years in Blacksburg. Even though Hoffman said he neither reads nor listens to media during the season, he knows about Grove. Not only because of the kind of blocker he was, but for his nastiness as well.
"Oh, yeah, I know about that," Hoffman said, rolling his eyes. "I thought I had a good game against him last year. We were toe to toe. To tell you the truth, I had some payback on my mind after what he did to me the year before."
Tech whopped UVa. 21-9 in 2002. Last year, the Cavaliers reversed the board, 35-21, at the same Scott Stadium where the NG did interviews on Thursday.
"To tell you the truth, I'm proud of him," said Hoffman of his old nemesis. "I'm glad he was picked so high, and that he has a chance to play with the Raiders. It makes me feel good."
Obviously, Hoffman, like everybody else gathered here for media day dressed in orange and blue, thinks of playing for pay some day. And even going nose-to-nose with Grove doesn't give him drive, he has the Redskins to consider, too.
A lifelong fan, he said he's glad Joe Gibbs back. Actually, Hoffman's great uncle works with Gibbs on an orphanage project in Northern Virginia and could give him a tip.
The only tip the big guy is thinking of now, he said, is the Owls. The other stuff, including a rematch with Tech and Lane Stadium and the burgundy and gold, is on hold now.
While Andrew Hoffman fights to get those burly centers' hands off of him.