Recruiting spree worth the risk, Groh says
By DOUG DOUGHTY
The Roanoke Times
The start of the college football season is usually accompanied by a lull in recruiting, which is a good thing for Virginia.
The Cavaliers couldn’t possibly continue at the breakneck pace they were keeping.
It’s noteworthy enough that Virginia has more commitments, 22, than any other Division I-A program. On top of that, UVa has been sitting at 22 since July 26.
The Cavaliers’ recruiting “strategy” has been a topic for debate among rival coaches and the media, but head coach Al Groh is quick to provide some clarification.
“If our intent had been to have a lot of commitments by July 1, then that would be one circumstance,” Groh said, “but we didn’t set out to get a lot of commitments by a certain date.
“We set out to get particular players. That it’s worked out with those players on this time frame has brought about the circumstance that we’re in. These were targeted players from the outset.”
Groh’s mandate to his staff was to wrap up its junior evaluations by the end of April and make offers before the annual May period when college coaches can go into high schools.
“Only a few players have more than one or two offers at that point,” Groh said, “but, if you wait till June 1, the same player might have nine offers and then it becomes a real rodeo.”
At one time early in the summer, Virginia had more commitments than the other 10 ACC schools combined.
“I hope Virginia doesn’t fall into the Penn State trap,” said Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor for TheInsiders.Com. “It’s OK if they’ve got the right guys. If their evaluations are really strong and correct, then they’re in the catbird seat.”
Wallace can’t remember a team with more commitments before the season than Virginia’s 22, “but Penn State was up around the high teens,” he said. “You also noticed, at the end of Penn State’s recruiting, you didn’t really see [the Nittany Lions] battling for any game-breaker types.
“Clearly, when you look at Penn State now, you see a lack of game-breaking athletes [and] a lack of speed. I don’t say that I anticipate that for the University of Virginia, but there’s no question that some of the best athletes just aren’t going to commit early.”
At least judging by SuperPrep, a magazine that Wallace has edited for 20 years, Virginia has recruited mostly high-level prospects. The Cavaliers have commitments from six preseason SuperPrep All-Americans, two of whom were rated among Wallace’s preseason national Top 50, Plainfield, N.J., offensive lineman Eugene Monroe and Jersey City, N.J., cornerback Mike Brown.
Monroe is rated the No. 1 offensive lineman in the country by SuperPrep.
“I’ve had college coaches tell me that he could go into an NFL camp and legitimately hold his own,” Wallace said.
West Virginia assistant Bill Stewart, once the head coach at VMI, recruits Virginia for the Mountaineers and thinks he has a good feel for the 11 in-state players who have committed to the Cavaliers.
“Good golly, Miss Molly, they’re tearing it up,” said Stewart, interviewed at a point when UVa had 17 commitments. “I don’t care who you talk to, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, UCLA, when you’ve got 17 commitments, it sounds like things are going pretty good to me.”
There is one drawback when you’ve got 22 commitments is August. It leaves a school with only three slots under the NCAA’s 25-scholarship NCAA cap.
West Virginia doesn’t have as many early commitments as Virginia, but the Mountaineers did take a commitment from North Babylon, N.Y., running back Jason Gwaltney, the top-rated running back in the Northeast.
“If it’s a good match or a good marriage, you go with it,” Stewart said. “If these guys are, quote, no brainers, I don’t know how you could turn a good one -- or a great one -- down.
“These early commitments are a new trend and there’s another new trend, the one-day camps that a lot of us have. Sometimes, you have to offer to get them here. And, if you offer, then you better be able to take their commitment.
“The last thing you want to do is offer a kid at, say, Northside, and then have to go back to Roanoke and say, ‘Coach [Jim] Hickam, we don’t really want to take him just yet.’ ”
Some schools have gotten around the numbers crunch by taking players at mid-year, a practice that has come to be known as gray-shirting. Derrick Williams, a Greenbelt, Md., quarterback and wide receiver whom SuperPrep rates the No. 1 prospect in the country, says he wants to graduate from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in December and enroll in college for the second semester.
If that takes place, the college of Williams’ choice would have the option of counting his scholarship toward either its 2004 or its 2005 limit.
Virginia Tech and Virginia are among the 13 schools on Williams’ most recent list and the Cavaliers would benefit, numbers wise, from having him enroll at midyear. Since 1995, however, the only recruit to enter Virginia at midyear was current linebacker Ahmad Brooks in 2003.
“The principal reason for that was [admissions officials] were comfortable with Ahmad’s transcript out of high school,” said Groh, referring to the journey that took Brooks, a 2002 Hylton High School graduate, to Hargrave Military Academy. “Right now, I don’t think it’s the philosophy of the university to do it.”
Groh’s pitch to would-be January enrollees, including 2004 signees Olu Hall and Brandon Albert at Hargrave, is that the Cavaliers have started 14 freshmen over the past two seasons, “most of them true freshmen,” he added, “so, obviously, we don’t think you need that other semester to get them ready.”
Recent recruiting classes have left Virginia depth-shy at wide receiver and the Cavaliers’ involvement with at least six uncommitted preseason SuperPrep All-America running backs would suggest a priority in that area. To take even two would come close to putting the Cavaliers out of business for the year.
“There is a stop point,” Groh said. “There could be a circumstance where a player has been targeted and offered amd there might not be enough room on the bus, but I’m very comfortable with where we sit right now.”
Schaub subs for Vick, leads Falcons to win
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published August 29, 2004
The less the Atlanta Falcons see of Michael Vick, the more they like Matt Schaub.
For the second straight week Schaub, the former University of Virginia quarterback, passed for three touchdowns and the Falcons beat the visiting Cincinnati Bengals 37-10 Saturday night.
Vick, expected to play the first half, was held out after aggravating a hamstring injury during pregame warmups.
"Michael's hamstring was tight during warmups, and we decided not to play him," said Atlanta coach Jim Mora.
Guiding the Falcons to a 27-7 halftime lead, Schaub completed 14 of 20 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
"We got off to a great start, and that always helps build confidence," Schaub said.
Ty Detmer and David Rivers took over at quarterback for Atlanta in the second half.
Vick is only 5-of-9 for 35 yards in limited preseason action. The Falcons play their final preseason game at Washington on Friday night.
Vick first strained the hamstring on Aug. 5, and he irritated the injury in last week's win over Minnesota.
Atlanta rookie cornerback and former Virginia Tech star DeAngelo Hall left the game late in the first half with a left hip injury.
Schaub shines again as Falcons shred Bengals
By MATT WINKELJOHN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 8/28/04
The Falcons have done it both ways in the past two weeks, and if given a choice in the future, they'll surely opt for Saturday's path to success whether quarterback Michael Vick is playing or not.
What team wouldn't choose to come out, put its collective boot on an opponent's throat from the start and then keep stomping as Atlanta did in a 37-10 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals in the Georgia Dome?
It was less stressful, to be sure, than when the Falcons fell behind 17-0 to Minnesota eight days earlier before rallying for a 27-24 victory.
And it was exactly what coach Jim Mora had in mind.
He said this was the Falcons' most important preseason game, the one in which they most wanted to imitate their regular-season selves. So after scoring first -- 2 minutes, 2 seconds into the game -- then forcing a fumble and scoring again moments later, and sprinting in general to a 27-7 halftime lead, hey, everybody was grinning.
Yes, it was an exhibition game, but it was one both coaches said they were taking seriously, at least during the first half.
"That's what we worked on this week: start fast, come out swinging, that was our motto," defensive tackle Ed Jasper said. "We've just got to keep rolling with it."
There was a common thread in the past two games, and it left this question: Is Mora playing his rookie quarterback too much? What if the guy gets hurt?
Vick didn't take a snap Saturday, a last-minute scratch because of a nagging right hamstring injury. So Schaub completed 14 of 20 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns, giving him six scoring passes (and 30 completions in 39 attempts with no interceptions) in the past two games.
Vick, meanwhile, has completed five passes in nine attempts in the preseason.
But enough chatter about the glamour guys. How about that starting defense?
Just five plays after Schaub's 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dez White, strong safety Bryan Scott registered the first of two first-half sacks, forcing Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to fumble. Defensive tackle Rod Coleman recovered, and moments later Atlanta led 10-0.
For the first time this preseason, the Falcons' starters appeared to have a firm grasp on their new offensive and defensive schemes.
"Guys are starting to jell and feel comfortable with what we are doing," Scott said. "Each week we're continuing to get better."
Except for an 87-yard scoring drive in the second quarter, Cincinnati mustered just 64 yards of total offense in the first half, when both teams played their starters. And the key play on that drive, a 52-yard pass, came when cornerback DeAngelo Hall suffered a left hip injury in coverage.
The Falcons (2-1) harassed Palmer often, benefiting from the presence of starting ends Patrick Kerney and Brady Smith for the first time this summer. Reserve cornerback Aaron Beasley added a second-quarter interception -- when Palmer was chased again -- to set up another score.
Reserve quarterback Ty Detmer (4-for-5 passing, 44 yards), who's now No. 3 on the depth chart whether Mora will admit it publicly or not, engineered a six-play, 55-yard drive on Atlanta's first possession of the second half. T.J. Duckett wrapped it up with a 6-yard run for a 34-7 lead. The starters were out, but the vibe was still on.
As gaudy as some numbers were, they could've been better. Schaub had a 44-yard completion to Peerless Price (who also caught a 53-yard touchdown pass) wiped out by a penalty, and Allen Rossum had a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown canceled by another infraction.
Mora worried about minor details, but allowed himself to be encouraged, too.
"That's how we've got to play as a team," he said. "We just talked about starting fast, and we were able to come out and start fast and . . . keep it rolling."