Brooks returns with power
By Jay Jenkins / Daily Progress staff writer
August 31, 2004
Opposing running backs became real familiar with Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks last season.
The sophomore linebacker set a school record for tackles as a freshman with 117.
Now, opposing special teams players might be introduced to Brooks - as a kick returner.
Virginia coach Al Groh said on Monday that it was “quite likely,” that Brooks would get a chance in the season opener to lineup as one of the two deep men on kickoffs.
Brooks is familiar with carrying the football.
In high school, Brooks rushed for 848 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Virginia High School League all-star game
Groh said he has toyed with the idea since he watched Brooks play in high school at C.D. Hylton.
“He’s got great hands, he’s one of the fastest guys on the team and he’s got experience with doing it,” Groh said. “I thought last year it might be a little too much on his plate. Every time he does it in practice there’s quite a buzz on the sideline,” Groh added.
There has also been a buzz around practice in regards to Brooks being listed behind Senior Rich Bedesem on the depth chart at inside linebacker.
When a reporter asked Groh on Monday if Bedesem was better than Brooks at this point, Groh responded with a question of his own.
“What would you think?” Groh said. “You think anybody’s better than Ahmad?”
Groh said that the only reason Brooks has not regained the orange jersey that signifies a starter on defense is because, “This is where I want to put him. I didn’t say he was second team. I wouldn’t list him as second team.”
Since returning to the team on
Aug. 19 from a two-day break that Groh said was for “personal reasons,” the coach said Brooks has played, “very well. He’s played the same since camp started, very well.”
Injury update. Groh confirmed to reporters that redshirt freshman Jonathan Stupar broke his foot in practice and is expected to miss “As long as a broken foot is ... four weeks, five weeks, whatever that is.” Patrick Estes, a senior, is expected to play at tight end against Temple and has practiced every day since preparation for Temple began on Friday. Estes had been sidelined with migraine headaches and stands behind Heath Miller on the depth chart, but in front of true freshman Tom Santi.
Towing the line. The most noticeable change to the Virginia depth chart that was made available to the media on Monday was at left guard.
Junior Brian Barthelmes was moved to the position and replaces expected starter Ron Darden.
‘Bart’ as he is commonly known by his teammates, is one of the most versatile linemen that Virginia has. Last season, Barthelmes started seven games last year at left guard and has seen time at right guard and right tackle.
“This is what happens in training camp. You take a look at different combinations and find the one that you like the best,” Groh said. “That’s Brian - he’s tough, he’s dependable and he’s always resurfacing.”
Barthelmes said he was welcome to the change as long as it means he is playing.
“[The coaches] were like ‘why don’t you take some reps at left guard?’ and I did it,” said Barthelmes, who indicated he is built more like a tackle. “As long as I am on the field, it does not matter. I told them I would play anywhere they wanted me.
“I will play quarterback if they want me to,” joked Barthelmes.
While it is highly unlikely he will ever replace starting QB Marques Hagans, the junior from Parkman, Ohio, said he is just itching to get on the field against someone other than his teammates.
“Don’t get me wrong, camp is fun in its own right but it is nice to get out and go hit some people that aren’t your friends,” he said.
Barthelmes’ move to left guard leaves Darden as the backup at the position and redshirt freshman Eddie Pinigis as the backup for both tackles spots.
Groh said that the 6-foot-7, 290-pounder is a “tough, very tough, hard-working,” player.
The shuffle on the offensive line could rotate again when sophomore Ian Yates-Cunningham returns to action.
Yates-Cunningham, who started the final five games last year at left guard, had offseason back surgery but his condition continues to improve, according to Groh.
“I think he is ahead of schedule, whatever that means,” Groh added.
No punter yet. The ongoing battle for the starting spot at punter is just that, ongoing. Kurt Korte and Sean Johnson are the two primary candidates for the spot and Groh said, “both punters have had a good camp.”
While only one punter is expected to travel to Temple on Saturday, Groh and the coaching staff will benefit from having both punters dressed at four straight home games beginning with North Carolina on Sept. 11 and continuing through the Clemson game on Oct. 7.
“This is another one of these situations that the final determination probably will really only come from game competition. With athletes, that establishes a lot, who plays well in the games,” Groh said. “So we might want to see both of them here during the early going of the season. Each one of them might have a different role. That could happen too.”
Watching the Hokies. Barthelmes found himself in an odd spot on Saturday night, pulling for Virginia Tech. Despite the intense rivalry between Virginia and Virginia Tech, Barthelmes said he wanted the Hokies to win their season opener against Southern Cal.
Virginia Tech did not prevail, as they lost 24-13 to the top-ranked team in the country at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
“I had hoped Virginia Tech won,” Barthelmes said. “I know I am not supposed to because I play at Virginia but they are in the ACC now.
“It was a pretty good game. [Virginia Tech quarterback] Bryan Randall played pretty well. I enjoyed watching. It was nice to see somebody else play other than Virginia.”
Bedesem shows guts for Cavaliers
By Jerry Ratcliffe / Daily Progress sports editor
August 31, 2004
Rich Bedesem is a new man. He is an unselfish man without ego. He is a team player. He plays football with courage.
No wonder that Virginia coach Al Groh has rewarded Bedesem’s effort in training camp after the senior has come back from a second knee injury in his career. Bedesem has been wearing an orange jersey during camp, which means he has been performing at a high level.
Whether he starts or not in Saturday’s opener at Temple isn’t the story. Instead, it is important to recognize what Bedesem is all about.
No quit attitude
It would have been easy, even understandable for the Philadelphia product to have given up early last season when he felt something give in his right knee. Even though he had already suffered one ACL injury in the same knee earlier in his career, Bedesem wasn’t sure it was another.
Tests soon revealed it was his second ACL. It was only the fourth game of the season and the easy way out would have been to have surgery, sit out the rest of the season, then weigh the options.
But that wouldn’t have been Rich Bedesem.
Instead, he played on. He knew it couldn’t get any worse or any better at that point without surgery, so he continued to play.
“I figured I might as well try to help the team as best I could, then get it fixed after the season,” Bedesem said Monday as he prepared for Temple.
He knew he wouldn’t be as effective, but Bedesem brings more to the table than just brawn. He brings smarts.
The son of a coach - his father Richard was a coach on Dick Bestwick’s Virginia staff in 1981 - this gritty inside linebacker has always had a great understanding of the game. He has been more than willing to share that understanding with his linebacker mates and help them learn a defensive scheme that can be overwhelming to young players.
“He’s smart, man,” said linebacker Darryl Blackstock. “Some guys are out there because of their ability, some are out there because they’re smart. Rich isn’t the fastest guy. He isn’t the strongest guy. But he’s determined and tough and he knows where to be at the right time and he knows what to do when he gets there.”
Bedesem, who was born in Charlottesville but returned to Philly after there was a coaching change at the university, has been contributing to the Cavaliers since his freshman year. Only a guy as talented as Ahmad Brooks could knock him out of a starting job.
Brooks, a phenomenal athlete and perhaps the best inside linebacker in the nation as a sophomore, has learned from Bedesem, even though the two battle for playing time at the spot on a daily basis.
“We just try to make each other better,” Bedesem said of the competition. “We talk to each other after a play. Basically, going after someone like that can only make me better.”
His knee is strong again and he said he feels a lot different than last season when he tried to contribute, playing in five games after his injury.
“I still knew what I was doing ... my body knew what to do, it just couldn’t do it,” Bedesem said. “Having a whole offseason to rehab and get my knee strong again makes a world of difference.”
When he did play with the injury last season, his knee would often give. He would push back a blocker, but when the knee wouldn’t hold, there wasn’t much he could do. But he never gave up.
“Once he got hurt last year, Rich might as well as changed his name because he couldn’t play like Rich any more that season,” Groh said. “It was very frustrating for him. That’s why it is so satisfying to see him come back and play the best he has played.”
Bedesem said he isn’t sure this is his best football and that will be determined as the season progresses. That will begin in Philly on Saturday, a 20-minute drive from his home in the northern burbs of the city.
He is a member of the top linebacking corps in the country, two deep at all four spots. Wahoo fans are curious as to whether Bedesem will start ahead of Brooks.
Even Bedesem doesn’t know.
“Whatever happens, happens,” he said.
He is more concerned about the outcome of the game than the outcome of the battle between he and Brooks. That’s why Bedesem has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches.
That’s just Rich Bedesem.
Bedesem making move at linebacker
By Doug Doughty
The Roanoke Times
CHARLOTTESVILLE - To believe the two-deep roster distributed Monday by Virginia, celebrated sophomore inside linebacker Ahmad Brooks will not start the Cavaliers' opener Saturday at Clemson, which is more of a testimonial to fifth-year senior Richie Bedesem than it is an indictment of Brooks.
Bedesem, whose elevation to the starting lineup coincided with a late-season Virginia surge in 2002, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the fourth game of the 2003 season and was unproductive - when he played - for the remainder of the season. "Once Richie got well last season, he might as well have changed his name," UVa head coach Al Groh said Monday. "He couldn't play like Richie any more. Really, he just tried to gut it out, so we would have him there if needed.
"He's very heady, very sharp out there and has done very well. It's very important to him. He was hindered last year, then missed all of the spring, and with all that absence, it's been fun to watch him come back and play clearly the best he's played."
Bedesem, a graduate of Council Rocks, Pa., will be playing 20 minutes from his home when the Cavaliers visit Temple at noon Saturday at 68,532-seat Lincoln Financial Field, home to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bedesem, whose father played at Temple, was an Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies fan as a youngster, but has no regrets at playing in Philadelphia one year after the razing of both teams' former home, Veterans Stadium, which was notorious for its treacherous turf.
"I'm glad they got a new stadium," Bedesem said. "That one was terrible."
Brooks missed two days of practice Aug.17-18 to deal with a "personal" issue, but Bedesem had been practicing with the first defense since the start of preseason drills.
Groh said that Brooks has been playing "very well" and he raised a few eyebrows when asked if Bedesem is a better option at this point.
"What would you think?" Groh asked a reporter. "Think anybody's better than Ahmad?"
So, why is Brooks being listed with the second team?
"This is where I want to put him," Groh said. "I wouldn't say he's second-team. I didn't list him as second-team."
Brooks also was listed fourth among UVa kickoff returners, but Groh termed it "quite likely" that Brooks, who carries 260 pounds over a 6-foot-4 frame, will return kickoffs.
"Coach's play toy," said Groh in describing the possible use of Brooks as a return man. "He's got great hands, he's one of the fastest guys on the team and he's got experience in doing it. Actually, I started thinking about it when he was still at Hylton, watching him in high school.
"I thought last year would have been a little too much on the plate."
Back to Bart
The biggest surprise in the starting lineup involved 6-6, 288-pound junior Brian Barthelmes, who was a backup right tackle before he was moved to left guard, where he will start ahead of sophomore Ron Darden.
Darden (6-4, 327) had taken the No.1 spot after 2003 starter Ian-Yates Cunningham underwent May disk surgery, but Barthelmes has the experience of 16 career starts, 15 of them at left guard.
"It's what happens in training camp," Groh said. "You keep looking at different combinations till you find the one you like the best. That's Brian. He's tough, he's dependable, he always keeps resurfacing."
Groh said earlier in the preseason that he expected Cunningham to play this season "and, from what I was led to anticipate, he's ahead of schedule," Groh said.
With Barthelmes' move to guard, redshirt freshman Eddie Pinigis, a 6-7, 290-pounder from Jefferson Forest, is the top backup at both tackle positions.
"We like what he's done," Groh said. "He's a player of the same ilk as [two-year starter] Mike Mullins was tough years ago. Tough. Really tough. It's really important to him. Hard working."
Said Barthelmes: "It's an honor to be compared to Moon [Mullins]. Everybody around here loves Moon."
Groh's decision to take true freshman tight end Tom Santi to Temple came into clearer focus Monday, when Groh confirmed that promising redshirt freshman Jon Stupar had suffered a broken foot that will keep him inactive for 4-5 weeks. ... The lone true freshman on the two-deep is safety Nate Lyles, described as "pretty advanced" by Groh. "He's always got an idea what to do. It might be the wrong idea, but usually he's pretty close." ... Of another true freshman safety, 6-3, 215-pound Jamaal Jackson, Groh said "he's a real find [with] a very high upside."
Virginia’s four starting linebackers are some of the biggest
By ED MILLER, The Virginian-Pilot
© August 31, 2004
Premise: The best group of linebackers in college football can be found in Charlottesville, Va.
Until recently, that statement would have gotten you laughed out of any sports bar worth its chili cheese fries. Every college football fan knows the nation’s linebacker factories are located in places like State College, Pa.; Columbus, Ohio; and Norman, Okla.
Charlottesville? U.Va.? Puh-leese.
That was then. Look at the linebackers playing at the University of Virginia now.
The Sporting News rates the Cavaliers quartet of Darryl Blackstock, Ahmad Brooks, Kai Parham and Dennis Haley as the best in the nation. Analyst Phil Steele rates the group No. 2, behind Ohio State’s linebackers.
One? Two? It hardly matters. It appears, given the talent on hand and the talent in the pipeline, that there could be a new Linebacker U. on the college scene.
“We think that there’s every reason that this could be the best place in the country for linebackers to play,” Virginia coach Al Groh said.
When it comes to linebackers, Groh’s philosophy is that more is better. While most teams utilize a standard 4-3 defensive alignment — four linemen, three linebackers — Virginia plays a linebacker-friendly 3-4.
The scheme has helped attract top talent to Charlottesville. Brooks and Parham, who play side by side on the inside, were high school All-Americans who became freshmen All-Americans last season. Blackstock was named the national defensive freshman of the year by two services two years ago. Reserves Jermaine Dias and Vince Redd were high school All-Americans.
“I don’t know what everybody else has,” said Haley, a fifth-year senior who has just cracked the starting lineup. “I just know the guys we have are great.”
They certainly look the part. While the average ACC linebacker measures something like 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Virginia’s starters average 6-3 and 248.
“That’s a pretty large group for a team on any level,” Groh said.
Brooks tips the scales at 260 pounds. Parham and Haley are pushing 250. Blackstock, the runt of the litter, weighs 240, up 25 pounds from two years ago.
All of them possess better than average speed. But it’s Brooks, with his rare combination of size and acceleration, who stands out.
“He isn’t just fast for a linebacker,” Parham said. “He’s fast for anybody.”
Brooks led the team in tackles as a freshman last year despite having a tenuous grasp of the defense, he said. Virginia is touting him for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.
“He’s an unusual player in many respects,” Groh said. “The size/speed combination is one of them. He can run from sideline to sideline, he can blitz, and he’s got excellent range in pass coverage.”
Despite all that, Rich Bedesem is listed ahead of Brooks on the Virginia depth chart. Groh said it is not necessarily a case of Bedesem playing better.
“It’s where I want to put him,” Groh said of Brooks. “I wouldn’t say he’s second team. I didn’t list him as second team.”
Brooks’ status may stem from “personal issues” that caused him to miss practice early in training camp.
Parham, from Princess Anne High, started the final nine games after Bedesem injured his knee.
He averaged a tackle every 6.8 plays, the best rate on the team.
Nicknamed “The Hammer” by Groh, Parham said his offseason goal was to add quickness and speed to his game. Strength? He’s got that covered. “He’s the strongest guy on the team,” Brooks said. “He might be the strongest guy in the nation.”
Blackstock burst on the scene two years ago, making a name as a pass rusher by recording 10 sacks, a Virginia freshman record and the most by any freshman in the nation that season.
Blackstock’s sack total dropped to six last year, but Groh said he was a more complete player .
“He’s one of my best students,” Groh said. “There’s nobody up in my office more wanting to look at tape.”
Haley, who has waited four years to start, doesn’t mind being the least-heralded of the bunch.
“If I go out there and play, things will fall in place,” he said.
Bedesem, a fifth-year senior and an apparent starter for the moment, is capable of stepping in for Brooks or Parham. He was starting ahead of Brooks early in training camp, when Brooks was dealing with “personal” issues unrelated to football.
Dias, Redd and Bryan White provide depth.
“We’ve got room for more,” said Groh, who added three high school All-Americans in the 2004 recruiting class. “I don’t know where else you’d rather go play linebacker, to tell you the truth.”
Haley figures that blue-chip linebackers will continue to flock to Charlottesville as long as Virginia plays a 3-4 scheme.
“Four,” he said, “is better than three.”
Owls await season opener with some promising talent
By Kevin Tatum
Inquirer Staff Writer
They have a quarterback with certifiable skills who drew raves from the coaches at Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and West Virginia at the end of last season.
The wideouts in the squad's spread, no-huddle offense are listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and 6-4, 215 pounds.
The new tailback was a junior college all-American who was described in one national recruiting report as a "poor man's Barry Sanders."
And the offensive line averages 6-5 and 302 pounds.
Meet the 2004 Temple Owls.
Coming off a 1-11 season that included three overtime losses, seventh-year coach Bobby Wallace and his players will open their season Saturday by hosting nationally ranked Virginia at Lincoln Financial Field.
Temple hopes the promise it shows on paper will translate into performance on the field.
This will mark Temple's last year as a member of the Big East Conference. Next season, the Owls will play an independent schedule. Temple was picked to finish last this season in the Big East.
"I really haven't talked to the team about a broad scope of season-long goals," said Wallace, who is 17-51 at Temple after enduring the Owls' worst season since he took the helm.
"We've got to win the first game. As you win more games, then you get a better idea of what you're capable of doing. But that has to come later. You have to win a game first."
Much of the optimism in the Temple camp stems from the presence of Walter Washington, the 6-2, 240-pound quarterback. A 2002 junior college all-American, Washington started the last five games in 2003 after the very capable Mike McGann was sidelined by an elbow injury. McGann will back up Washington this season.
After Washington moved into the lineup on a full-time basis, he demonstrated that he can be a big factor in the running game and that he has a strong arm. While getting comfortable in the Temple offensive scheme, Washington completed 110 of 207 passes for 1,265 yards with eight touchdown throws and six interceptions.
A powerful runner who can move the pile, Washington rushed for 579 yards on 156 carries and scored six touchdowns. He finished the season by averaging 315 yards of total offense in Temple's last three games.
Washington became the first Owls quarterback to rush for 100 yards when he got 151 on 26 carries during an overtime loss to Virginia Tech. And his four touchdown runs when Temple lost at West Virginia not only tied a school record for a player at any position, it also set a Big East record for a signal-caller.
"I've improved on my reads, and knowing when to run and when not to run, and when to throw," Washington said earlier this summer.
"Obviously, the quarterback is always the key in an offense, and we feel like Walter has made giant strides from this time last year," Wallace said. "He seems to be playing with a lot of confidence."
While Wallace said his junior quarterback may run as many as 15 times a game this season, the tailback position is being manned ably by 5-8, 185-pound Tim Brown and 6-foot, 210-pound Umar Ferguson.
Brown, who arrived at Temple after helping the City College of San Francisco win a national junior college championship with 1,354 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns, has beaten out Ferguson (319 yards, 4.6 yards per carry last year) for the starting job.
"I just hope to have a good year, and come out and use my God-given ability and run behind the big linemen I have," Brown said. "I think we'll do good. I have high hopes."
Wallace described Brown as being "an elusive runner with dynamic moves who can also catch the ball out of the backfield."
In seniors Phil Goodman (47 catches, 14.4 yards per reception) and Buchie Ibeh (five, 14.6), Washington will have two receivers on the outside who have size, speed and an understanding of how the offense is supposed to work.
The other main players in the Owls' receiving corps are Mike Holly (5-10, 180), Ikey Chuku (6-3, 196), and tight ends Christian Dunbar (6-2, 235) and Anthony Martinez (6-5, 260).
"Offensively, we can be real successful," said Wallace, who has also added junior college all-American placekicker Ryan Lux to his team. "This is the most talent we've had on offense, and the most athletic offensive line we've had since I've been here.
"We had too many opportunities the last couple of years where we got the ball into the red zone and didn't score. This year, we've got some things we'll be able to do better that will help us in that area. We just have to get in a game and see if it works."
Aug. 30, 2004
August 30, 2004
Previewing the game with Temple
Is Temple ripe for an upset?
They've got what all teams really want to have- they have a really good quarterback. If you have one of those, you're in every game. Plus they have 16 junior college players coming in, so their team will be heavily personneled with a lot of players that we don't have much background on. We always like to know who we're playing against as well as what we're playing against. In this particular case, we know more about the 'what' than the 'who.'
Talk about Temple LB Rian "Goo" Wallace:
He's a very good player. He was sixth in the country in tackles last year. He's cut in the mold of our guys- big, tall, can run, 6-4, 245-lb. He certainly would fit right in with us.
Will you change the defense for QB Walter Washington?
We've got to pay special attention to him. There was a game last year when he had 36 carries or something like that. You have to pay attention to that. This is almost like back in the days of the single-wing where the tailback had the ball on every play and it was an exception when he didn't. That's really pretty much the case here. I'd say he?s pretty close to being the principal runner as well as obviously the only thrower.
LG Brian Barthelmes is listed ahead of Ron Darden on the depth chart:
It's just what happens in training camp. You just keep taking a look at different combinations until you find the one that you like the best. That's Brian. He's tough, he's dependable, he always keeps resurfacing. (He moved back to guard) sometime last week.
Does S Marquis Weeks think more like a safety (after playing four years at running back)?
He's got to see like one and think like one. He gets better all the time. It's just how fast can we accumulate the looks. This offense we're playing against is very different in structure from what we run. So he got pretty good exposure through spring practice, training camp. He?s gotten really good exposure to what we do, and that will serve him well down the road. This is another learning chapter for him; that's good. But by the same token, it is so diverse from what we do which means there?s not a lot of continuity in what he's experiencing.
Is Brian Barthelmes a special case?
I think if you've ever met him, you'd say yes. This will be the fourth position he's played here. While we do certainly preach and work to develop versatility, he's taken it to the nth degree for us. That's what makes him so valuable. There's a saying, 'the more you can do,' and he certainly has applied that. He does a lot for us. He?s just a good part of the team personality.
Have you received encouraging news regarding TE Patrick Estes?
He has participated since the game preparation started.
TE Jonathan Stupar is not listed on the depth chart:
He's not; he broke his foot.
Have you put in new things with the returning offensive line?
No, we haven't changed dramatically what we're doing with them. It's more a case of what they can do themselves. Their skill level has increased and their strength level in some cases. Yes, their versatility has increased, but it's the versatility of their techniques and their skills rather than different things we?re doing with the scheme.
Talk about freshman S Nate Lyles:
For a young safety, I'd say Nate?s pretty advanced. He's got an idea all the time. It may not be the right idea, it is a lot. But he's got an idea all the time. That might not seem like much, but sometimes with those young safeties, this early in the season they take a look at some of these formation changes and adjustments that must to be made and they have no idea. He's always got an idea what it should be; he's usually pretty close to it. He's going to be a good player.
Talk about the punting situation:
I think it's whenever we decide to make a final call on it. Both punters (Sean Johnson and Kurt Korte) have had a good camp. This is another one of these situations that final determination will probably only come from game competition. With athletes, that establishes a lot who plays well in the games. So we might want to see both of them here in the early going of the season. Each one of them might have a different role.
Talk about QB Marques Hagans:
Using the previous preseasons as a foundation for him, without which any of the progress this camp could not have been made. Probably the degree of his improvement in these three weeks has been equal to or exceeded any of the time frame that preceded it.
What's he doing better?
I think in his overall awareness and presence.
How has LB Ahmad Brooks played since returning to camp?
Very well. He plays the same as when camp started.
What has CB Mario Moore done to get on the depth chart? He's a spunky kid. He's another first-year player. There's a lot to like about him. He's got a lot of energy. We'll see what happens when we play the game.
Has C Jordy Lipsey turned the corner?
He got off to a slow start last year. His pace has been good here in camp. For all the players who play early, there is a significant jump between the first year and the second year. That jump doesn't occur in three weeks of training camp. There is a process involved in that jump, and he would seem to be in that process.
Talk about the experience of the offensive line:
Elton (Brown) had a very sparse high school background, playing-wise. He came in and started the last four games of his freshman year. D'Brickashaw (Ferguson) started as a true freshman at left tackle and played every play. That's really remarkable to say about a team that won nine games. Just think about all the first-year players who don?t play football and have difficulty with the transition to college- homesick, tough classes, don?t know where to go to buy toothpaste. This guy has played left tackle as a true freshman every snap of the season. (Brad) Butler is much the same way. He came in to start the latter two games and the bowl game. To do what he did, it's quite a remarkable thing on the part of those three players.
Talk about walk-on WR Imhotep Durham:
We have some nice human interest stories here. He's a kid who really had a limited football background before he came on with us. He's very determined. He's got a spirit about him that he wasn?t going to be denied. On the 'show' team all last year, really too far below the surface to see the light, we never dissuaded him for a second. He kept on coming on. He gave us plenty of fits running patterns against the defense and wasn't able to participate in the spring. That didn?t deter him; he came back. He's done a nice job.
How do you approach getting Hagans comfortable as the fulltime quarterback and the need to get the guys behind him some time too?
I'm not even thinking about that. I'm thinking about the quarterback who is going to start the game, and we'll just take it from there. This isn't a preseason game; this one counts. So we're going to play whoever we need to to get the job done.
How good a receiver was Hagans (before he switched back to quarterback)?
He did a good really good job for us at the position. He could catch the ball. That's the really big thing. That's why they're called receivers, not called droppers. Sometimes at that position, you look at height, weight, speed, what?s he do the 40 in, and the guy drops the ball. He's not a receiver. Receiver means you receive the ball. He's very good at that. He caught the ball real well. Besides his obvious athletic ability, that's the big thing that he brought to it.
Are you looking for consistency from WR Emmanuel Byers?
Yes, he's a lot like the other players in his class who have made a progressive move from where they were last year. But they've demonstrated things for the first time. Now you need to see it on an on-going basis.
Impressions of freshman DL Chris Long:
Very positive. I'd say Chris is certainly advanced at the position, technique and strength-wise for a kid coming in. I think he'll probably get some plays on Saturday.
How many freshmen will play on Saturday?
(DE Chris) Long, (S Nate) Lyles, (S Jamaal) Jackson, (TE Tom) Santi, (CB Philip) Brown. I think there's a good chance they?ll all play.
What kind of athlete is S Jamaal Jackson?
We're pretty excited about him. He's a 6-2, 215-lb. safety who can run. He's a real find. He's got a very high upside.
What kind of atmosphere do you expect in a pro stadium like where you'll play Saturday?
I really haven't given it much thought. I would think it would be pretty good. We haven't been up in that area to play. We're hoping that we get a lot of Northeast Virginia fans. It's a holiday weekend. People have extra time to travel. We're hoping we have a large contingency of Virginia fans. From what I can tell, there's good optimism with the Temple program and their fans. There's early season excitement for both teams.
Have you scouted the new Marching Band?
They've been great. The end of the previous week towards the end of one of our practices, they were over on the astroturf practicing. It sounded pretty good to me. They haven't been around, so I asked (director) Bill Pease if they?d like to come over. Some of the players were curious. I asked them if they'd like to come over last Monday night and maybe play a few numbers for the team. After practice, we all gathered up. Everyone was unanimous- they were great. That was only their fourth or fifth day. They did four or five numbers, and the players asked for a couple of encores. They're really good. People are going to enjoy them tremendously.
How has TE Heath Miller improved?
He is better really in every respect. But he was pretty good in all those phases before. I can't equate to this at all, so I'm just making a fantasy example. I guess it would be like some guy at your country club who regularly shoots 78, 79, and everyone says he's one of the best golfers in the club. Now all of sudden he consistently shoots 74, 75. He's doing a lot of little things better to consistently get down there, but everyone thought he was pretty good beforehand. Heath did everything well before. He's doing all those things real well again. He?s progressed in a lot of subtle areas, and I think his game is better in every respect.
Is TB Wali Lundy underrated?
I guess it depends on who?s doing the rating. Not to me. I thought since the moment he walked in here, this guy's a real good back. He?s only played two years. He?s got plenty of time, his best time yet in front of him to establish exactly what his rating is. I've always felt that most players become really good players around their third year, regardless of how much they played beforehand. He's in his third year. He's been pretty good before. He's a real good, solid, versatile back.
He's a left tackle; no, left guard; uh, right guard; left guard
Being constantly switched from one spot to another, Brian Barthelmes has become Virginia's Mr. Versatility. BY DAVE JOHNSON email@example.com 247-4649
Published August 31, 2004
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Virginia coach Al Groh likes versatility in his offense, and it's easy to see his point. The Cavaliers' starting quarterback played wide receiver the last two seasons. Their backup tailback caught 63 passes in 2003. And their all-conference tight end was a high school quarterback.
But nobody is a better example than Brian Barthelmes, who will start at left guard Saturday at Temple. That will be the fourth position he has played on the offensive line - and he's only a junior. He has plenty of time to get a handle on that fifth spot.
"Yeah," Barthelmes chuckled. "If I could just learn center, I'll be good to go."
He has done everything else. He began the 2002 season backing up D'Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle. He was moved in early October to left guard, where he started the final eight games of the season. Then, in the fifth week of the '03 season, Barthelmes started at right guard when Elton Brown was injured. He spent the rest of the fall going back and forth, wherever he was needed.
He was switched in the spring back to tackle, where he was expected to back up Brad Butler on the right side. That's where he was as recently as last week. But when Groh needed someone to fill in at left guard - returning starter Ian-Yates Cunningham is recovering from offseason back surgery - he knew here to look.
"That's Brian - he's tough, he's dependable, and he always keeps resurfacing," Groh said. "While we certainly work to develop versatility, he's taken it to the Nth degree. That's what makes him so valuable for us. There's a saying: 'The more you can do.' He certainly has applied that. He's a good part of the team personality."
That's his niche, you could say. He's not a preseason All-American, like Brown and tight end Heath Miller. He doesn't play the glamour position, like quarterback Marques Hagans or tailback Wali Lundy. But being dependable is a pretty good trait.
"He's one of those guys," Brown said. "He's a hard worker, and whatever you ask him to do he's willing to do. He's a tough guy, tough as nails, and he just likes to get after it. So wherever you put him, that's what he does."
It would be easy to dismiss what he's done by saying blocking is blocking whether you're a left tackle or a right guard. But that would be as foolish as saying tackling is tackling whether you're a noseguard or an outside linebacker. Guards and tackles have different responsibilities, and which side you're on makes a difference.
Barthelmes (pronounced, barth-ul-mess) can explain it.
Guard vs. tackle: "It's a different job description. At tackle, it's more pass block first and then run block. At guard, it's more run block and then pass. So you have to adjust to what they need you to do in there."
Right side vs. left side: "It's the same plays, you just have to learn to change the numbers and change all the calls in your head before you get to the line. Once you do it enough times, you can think about what you have on one side of the line and flip it to the other."
At 6-feet-6 and 288 pounds, good size for either spot, Barthelmes prefers tackle.
"I like it out on the edge," he said. "But I like it in the middle, too, where you can try to maul people. Our coach is real good about having everyone learn every different position so you can be versatile. At first, it was kind of hard.
"But I've been doing it for three years, playing different spots. I've started to learn to flip it over in my mind and do it quickly. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it."
NOTES: Virginia added one and lost one on the depth chart at tight end. Patrick Estes, Miller's backup the last two seasons, returned to practice after missing time with migraine headaches. But freshman Jonathan Stupar, who had been working with the second team, is out with a broken foot. ... Senior Rich Bedesem remains the starter at inside linebacker with sophomore Ahmad Brooks still listed as his backup. Brooks also has been working as a kickoff return man. Groh said he'll likely play at Temple.
Linebacker Brooks Will Also Be a Kickoff Returner
By Jim Reedy
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, August 31, 2004; Page D07
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Aug. 30 -- Inside linebacker Ahmad Brooks will debut as a kickoff returner when 16th-ranked Virginia opens the season Saturday at Temple, but he might not start the game at his usual position.
Brooks, who missed two days of training camp for undisclosed personal reasons, has played "very well" throughout the preseason, Coach Al Groh said Monday, but the orange starter's jersey he wore all last season remains with senior Rich Bedesem.
Groh gave largely cryptic explanations why Brooks, a supremely talented player who led the Cavaliers with 117 tackles last season, isn't listed as a starter. He brushed aside the notion that Bedesem is simply a better linebacker right now.
"What would you think?" Groh said. "You think anybody's better than Ahmad?"
Then why is Brooks working with the second team? "This is where I want to put him," Groh replied. "I wouldn't say he's second team. I didn't list him as second team."
Bedesem and Brooks are more like 1-A and 1-B at the position, Groh said.
Of more interest to Groh was the likelihood that Brooks, who also played running back at Hylton High, would be part of the rotation at kickoff returner this season.
"He's got great hands, he's one of the fastest guys on the team and he's got experience in doing it," Groh said of the 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore. "Every return that he has had in practice, there's quite a buzz on the sideline."
Barthelmes, on Guard
Throughout preseason training camp, offensive lineman Brian Barthelmes proclaimed himself pleased with his new position.
"I love tackle," he said. "Tackle's great."
Yet Barthelmes also pledged his willingness to return if needed to guard, where he started 16 consecutive games in 2002 and '03. Last week, the Cavaliers did just that, shifting the 6-6, 288-pound junior from right tackle to left guard and reinstalling him in the starting lineup ahead of sophomore Ron Darden.
"That's just what happens in training camp," Groh said. "You just keep taking a look at different combinations till you find the one that you like the best."
In the past two seasons, Barthelmes has played every position on the line except center.
Ian-Yates Cunningham, the sophomore who bumped Barthelmes from the starting lineup for the final five games last season, is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from back surgery in May and should also contend for the left guard job when he returns.
Stupar Has Broken Foot
Virginia's tight ends, potentially as deep a group as any on the team, took a hit last week when third-stringer Jonathan Stupar, an athletic redshirt freshman, suffered a broken foot that will keep him out at least several weeks.
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, senior Patrick Estes, a dominating blocker who often teams with starting tight end Heath Miller in jumbo formations, returned to practice Friday after sitting out because of migraine headaches. . . .
Saturday's game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia will be a homecoming of sorts for the 19 Cavaliers who hail from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware, making demand unusually high for the four complimentary tickets players receive for each game.
"It's real exciting," said fifth-year safety Marquis Weeks, a Berwyn, Pa., native who estimates his cheering section will number about 50 people. "When it came time for all the tickets to be dealt with, I was trying to get as many as I could right away."
Richmond Times-Dispatch Aug 31, 2004
HOMECOMING: Safety Marquis Weeks is from Berwyn, Pa., about a half-hour drive from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Linebacker Rich Bedesem hails from Holland, Pa., about a 20-minute drive from the Eagles' stadium.
Both are fifth-year seniors, and they'll finally get to play close to home Saturday when 16th-ranked U.Va. opens the season against Temple at The Linc. Each expects to have about 60 supporters on hand.
Once Boston College joins the ACC, games in the Northeast won't be so rare for the Cavaliers. For now, though, Saturday's opener is a treat for many Virginia players, including linebacker Jermaine Dias, a redshirt freshman from Hackensack, N.J.
"I asked him the other day, 'How many buses are they running from Hackensack?,'" Groh said. "He said, 'The whole town.' That might be a bit of a stretch, but . . . "
ON THE MEND: Promising tight end Jonathan Stupar, a redshirt freshman from State College, Pa., recently broke his foot and is likely to be sidelined "four weeks, five weeks," Groh said.
Some good news for Virginia: Tight end Patrick Estes returned to practice last week, Groh said. A 6-7, 285-pound senior, the former Benedictine High star missed much of training camp while dealing with migraine headaches. True freshman Tom Santi also was listed on the depth chart at tight end yesterday, along with junior Heath Miller and Estes.
ON THE AIR: A new half-hour TV show devoted to U.Va. athletics, Cavalier Sports Weekly, makes its debut Sunday. A U.Va. student-athlete or coach will serve as host of each show. The honor this weekend goes to senior tailback Alvin Pearman.
Sunday's show will include a segment on U.Va. defensive end Chris Canty. Look for rare footage of Canty from his days as a schoolboy in Charlotte, N.C.
The show will air each Sunday through April 17, except for Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. In Richmond, it can be seen on Fox affiliate WRLH-TV at 11:30 a.m. and on Comcast SportsNet at 12:30 p.m.
MAN OF MANY TALENTS: Groh said it's "quite likely" that star linebacker Ahmad Brooks will return kickoffs this season. "He's got great hands, he's one of the fastest guys on the team, and he's got experience in doing it" at Hylton High," Groh said.
A sophomore from Woodbridge, Brooks stands 6-4 and weighs nearly 260 pounds. "Every return that he's had in practice, there's quite a buzz on the sideline," Groh said.
No wonder. Who's going to want to tackle Brooks at full speed?
"It's going to be pretty scary for those guys," Weeks said.
THAT LOOKS FAMILIAR: Pearman was among the U.Va. players who watched top-ranked Southern Cal beat Virginia Tech 24-13 in the BCA Classic.
"To be honest, neither one really impressed us too much," Pearman said. "We're extremely confident right now, and we want to get out there and play football."
In U.Va.'s win over Tech last season, Pearman ran a wheel route, caught a long pass from Matt Schaub and scored on a 49-yard play. Tailback Reggie Bush scored the Trojans' final touchdown Saturday night on a similar play.
"We were just talking about it," Pearman said yesterday afternoon. "They stole some of [U.Va. offensive coordinator] Ron Prince's game plan to play Tech."
MEN'S HOOPS: U.Va. got unofficial visits over the weekend from two of its recruiting targets for 2005-06: 6-4 Mamadi Diane of DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., and 6-8 Uche Echefu of Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md.
Diane visited with his parents and "had a great time," DeMatha coach Mike Jones said yesterday.
Accompanying Echefu was his close friend Tunji Soroye, a freshman center at U.Va. Echefu and Soroye are from Nigeria and played together at Montrose last season. - Jeff White