Pearman gets new position
By Doug Doughty
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Andrew Pearman, listed at 168 pounds in Virginia's football media guide, wants it known that he now weighs 176.
He'll need ever bit of it as a newly reborn running back.
"It was the day before practice started and coach [Al] Groh told me, 'You'll be meeting with Poindexter,'" said Pearman, younger brother of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Alvin Pearman.
That's running backs coach Anthony Poindexter, who also tutored Alvin Pearman at UVa.
The younger Pearman returned punts and was a wideout in 2006, catching seven passes in UVa's first four games.
He suffered a knee injury while fielding a punt at Georgia Tech, underwent arthroscopic surgery and then left the team for personal reasons.
"There was no chance I wasn't coming back," said Pearman, who did not return to school until the summer. "The only thing I'm doing differently is I'm having fun."
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said the uncertain status of redshirt freshman back Keith Payne contributed to the decision to move Pearman to running back.
Payne was suspended from team activities by Al Groh during the summer. Payne subsequently has rejoined the team after a favorable review of his academic work, but Pearman remains at running back.
He provides a different look from power backs Cedric Peerman, Raynard Horne and Payne, wowing the crowd as he weaved through the defense at Saturday's open practice.
"As spectacular as it looked from the hill, you should have seen the end-zone tape," Groh said.
"It's a great switch," said Pearman, who was a running back from the seventh grade until he enrolled at the University of Hawaii, where he was moved to wide receiver. "It's very exciting just to be out here in general."
Pearman, who sat out the 2005 season after transferring to UVa, enters his fourth year of college with only the four games to his credit. As a senior at Providence High School in Charlotte, N.C., he rushed for 2,273 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2003.
If it didn't hurt his speed, he'd like to carry more than 176 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame, "but, I'm never going to be the kind of back who runs over people," Pearman said.
Not shying away
Kyle Long, younger brother of Cavaliers' co-captain Chris Long, showed up for UVa's annual Meet the Team Day in a Virginia football T-shirt and had been spotted at practice sessions earlier in the week.
Kyle Long was considered the top football prospect in the state and had attracted considerable UVa interest for football until he gave Florida State an oral commitment for baseball at the start of the summer.
While Chris Long signed autographs for fans who waited up to an hour, both Kyle Long and the boys' father, Howie, were also the object of autograph seekers they did not disappoint.
Howie Long is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a Fox NFL analyst.
Through the cracks
Another player who turned heads Saturday was Dontrelle Inman, a 6-3, 185-pound wide receiver from Batesburg-Leesville (S.C.) High School, where he missed much of his senior year following a knee injury and caught only 18 passes.
The injury may have cut down on the recruiting interest Inman attracted, but Groh said the Cavaliers were surprised that Inman wasn't more heavily recruited even before the injury. The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., named him the player of the year in his classification as a junior, when he had 31 catches.
Odds 'n' ends
The Carolina Panthers have signed former UVa safety Jermaine Hardy, a graduate of William Fleming High School. It is the second Panthers stint for Hardy, a four-year letterman and a co-captain of the 2004 Cavaliers. ... Defensive end Kevin Crawford, a redshirt sophomore, has left the program. Crawford, a graduate of Gar-Field High School in Prince William County, played in five games last season. ... Maurice Covington is Virginia's most experienced wide receiver in the absence of Kevin Ogletree, who underwent reconstructive knee surgery in the spring, but Covington has seen Ogletree running and knows he is tempted to play this fall.
Monday, Aug 13, 2007 - 12:07 AM
Redshirt season for Matoaca product Burd
Virginia held media day at Scott Stadium yesterday, and freshman wide receiver Kris Burd proudly wore jersey No. 18. Don't expect, however, to see the Matoaca High graduate on the field this season.
Burd, who was the Central Region's offensive player of the year in 2006, hurt his back while lifting weights in the spring. He had surgery Friday to repair a herniated disk and will redshirt this season.
"I thought I was going to come in and make a difference [right away], but stuff happens," said Burd, who expects to be ready for the start of spring practice.
"I feel I'm going to come back stronger and in great shape," Burd said. "I don't have to worry about an anchor holding me back."
Burd will room this school year with Henrico High graduate Corey Mosley, a freshman safety.
U.Va. practices: a place for legends
Howie Long isn't the only football legend who checks out U.Va. practices. Also in attendance Saturday night was former Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, whose son Jared is a first-year wide receiver.
"My dad has been there for me from day one, and he really has a lot of input into everything I do," the younger Green said yesterday. "Everything he does, I try to do."
Long's eldest son, Chris, is an all-ACC candidate at defensive end for the Cavaliers. Autograph seekers flocked to Chris Long's table during the Meet the Team event yesterday. Fans also were spotted asking his "little" brother - 6-7, 280-pound Kyle - to sign.
A senior at St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Kyle Long has committed to play baseball at Florida State.
Condition of players is pleasing to Groh
Virginia's players reported to training camp, which opened last Monday, in exceptional shape.
"Every player on the team made his assigned weight. Every player," coach Al Groh said. "It might seem like a small thing from outside, but for us, it's indicative of how they've gone about everything: how disciplined and precise and how right on they were with things. That's probably fairly unusual that every player made his weight, on any team."
Versatile Hall draws coach's praise
Vic Hall has quickly established himself as one of Groh's favorite players. Hall, a sophomore from Gretna High, is heading into his first season as a starting cornerback at U.Va. He also holds on extra points and field goals and plays on virtually every special-teams unit.
"All the good things that happen with Vic Hall, it's just Vic being Vic," Groh said yesterday. "He's got a special quality that's much easier to see than it is to define . . . He's got a really nice combination of confidence and humility."
Because Hall is adept at so many tasks, Virginia coaches can be tempted to overuse him, defensive coordinator Mike London said.
"It's like one of those old-time store scales," he said. "We keep throwing another rock on Vic's scale, and it just keeps getting heavier and heavier and heavier. He likes it, the more the merrier, but obviously . . . there's got to be a point where we say enough is enough. It's not in his or the team's best interest to keep adding on."
Hall's cousin Cook has pro potential
The Cavaliers' other starting cornerback, Chris Cook, is a cousin of Hall. Cook, a 6-2 junior from Heritage High in Lynchburg, is also one of U.Va.'s top NFL prospects.
As cornerbacks go, Cook is "in a different category in terms of size and speed," Groh said. "As a 205-, 210-pound corner he runs very well . . . At this level or other levels, there are not too many corners of that size who also have the physical skills to play it."
Freshman Inman is likely to play
Newcomers who have stood out thus far and are likely to play this season include freshman Dontrelle Inman. He's a 6-3, 185-pound wideout from Batesburg, S.C.
"That's my expectation," Inman said. "That's one of the reasons I came to Virginia: to try to compete for a spot on the field." - Jeff White
Cavaliers look for big-play potential to spark offense
By ED MILLER, The Virginian-Pilot
© August 13, 2007
Virginia’s longest run from scrimmage last season?
Mikell Simpson thought about the question for a few seconds before taking a stab.
“Maybe 34 yards?” Simpson answered tentatively.
Actually, it was 36 yards, on a quarterback draw by Jameel Sewell against Maryland. The longest run by a Cavaliers running back was 29 yards.
Virginia was the only ACC team not to break a run of at least 40 yards last season. The Cavaliers’ longest pass play was a 51-yard completion to Kevin Ogletree, who is expected to miss the upcoming season with a knee injury. Ten of the ACC’s other 11 teams completed longer passes.
There are many ways to quantify Virginia’s offensive struggles . The Cavaliers ranked 113th in the nation in total offense, at 257 yards per game, and 110th in scoring offense, at 15.1 points per contest.
Beyond the numbers , the simple truth was this: The Cavaliers didn’t scare anybody. A young quarterback and offensive line and a lack of speed at the skill positions resulted in fewer big plays than any team in the conference.
“Explosive plays are a big part of scoring,” coach Al Groh said Sunday. “The methodical 16-play, 4-yard-per-play drive is pretty hard to put together often enough to score a lot of points.”
Does Virginia have what it takes to produce more big plays this season ? Not surprisingly, the players think so.
But there’s reason to believe it’s not just idle pre season chatter. With a veteran offensive line, a quarterback who is a year older and wiser and an influx of speedier players, the Cavaliers might not have to work so hard to reach the end zone.
Where might Virginia turn for the occasional long ball? Here are five players with big-play potential.
Mikell Simpson, sophomore tailback/wide receiver
“We’ve got a lot of home run hitters this year on offense,” Simpson said.
Virginia is counting on Simpson, a 6-foot-1, 197-pound sophomore, to be one of them. Rated one of the nation’s top 15 running backs in high school, Simpson appeared in six games as a tailback last season and ran for 56 yards on 13 carries. This year, the Cavaliers have created a hybrid running back/wide receiver position designed to get him the ball “in space,” where he can use his quickness to make plays.
“Mikell is like a Percy Harvin of the Florida Gators,” Sewell said. “When you’ve got a playmaker who can play different positions, who’s got speed, who can catch the ball, you’ve got to use him.”
The comparison to Harvin, a former Landstown High School star, could be a bit premature. But Virginia has high hopes for Simpson, who was voted the team’s most improved offensive player during spring drills.
Andrew Pearman, junior tailback/wide receiver
Like Simpson, Pearman is working at two spots. At 5-10 and 176 pounds, he’s not an up-the-gut runner, but he may be the shiftiest player on the team.
Pearman returned to the team after withdrawing from school for personal reasons last September. A junior, he could be ready to blossom.
“Me and Mikell, we’re both not huge guys,” Pearman said. “We have our own styles of running. Coach Groh understands that and he’s going to put us in the position that he thinks is going to help out the team.”
Tom Santi, senior tight end
A tight end as a big-play threat? In Santi’s case, the label fits.
Slowed by injuries last year, Santi showed what he’s capable of in the 2005 Music City Bowl, when he caught five passes for 128 yards, including grabs of 55 and 43 yards. On the season, he averaged 18.8 yards per reception.
“When you think of a tight end, you don’t normally think of speed,” Sewell said. “But Tom Santi’s got speed.”
Cedric Peerman, junior tailback
A junior, Peerman played behind power runner Jason Snelling last year. He emerged from spring as the starter at tailback and has looked sharp in camp so far.
Although he hasn’t shown it much in 116 career carries, Peerman has excellent speed. He was a two-time Virginia state champion in the 100 meters at William Campbell High School and spent part of the spring with the Cavalier track team, working on his running technique.
Peerman averaged 27.3 yards on kick returns last year, fourth-most in the ACC, and broke one 62 yards against Florida State. If he can run more decisively, he has the burst the Cavaliers have lacked in recent years.
Maurice Covington, junior wide receiver
With Ogletree out, wide receiver is the most unsettled position on the team.
Several young players have looked good in camp. True freshman Dontrelle Inman is a rangy 6-3 and 185 pounds and has turned heads with his toughness and sure hands. Speedy redshirt freshman Staton Jobe has also played well in spurts, and Chris Dalton, another redshirt freshman, is the fastest player on the team.
But with two years in the system, Covington is the most experienced receiver on the roster . Although he has just 11 career receptions, at 6-4 and 215 pounds he has intriguing size. Plus, he has been vocal about filling the gap left by the loss of Ogletree.
“I’m here to catch balls,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I can’t wait to get on the field and make big plays.”
Cavs' versatile duo
Two hybrid tailbacks/ wide receivers think they can provide Virginia with the playmakers that it badly needs.
BY MELINDA WALDROP | 247-4634
August 13, 2007
CHARLOTTESVILLE - His name is Mikell Simpson. But Virginia
quarterback Jameel Sewell said the Cavaliers' wide receiver/ running back hybrid
can be identified by a more recognizable moniker.
"Mikell is like a Percy Harvin of the Florida Gators," Sewell said. "When you've got a playmaker like Mikell, who can play different positions, who's got speed and the ability to catch the ball, use him. Just use him."
That's what U.Va. has done so far in preseason practice with Simpson, a sophomore who caught one pass for 12 yards and rushed 13 times for 56 yards and a touchdown in six games last season as a freshman. And the Cavs hope that Simpson's slash potential can give them a playmaker that their offense, on paper, is sorely lacking going into 2007.
With leading wide receiver Kevin Ogletree out with a knee injury and unproven talent at tailback, Virginia would welcome someone putting up the 855 all-purpose yards Harvin, a product of Landstown High in Virginia Beach, gained last year as a freshman for the national champion Gators.
"Basically we kind of brought in Florida's offense a little bit and kind of put me in that role," Simpson said. "He excelled in it a lot last year, and I'm just trying to do the same thing, if not better."
On the practice field, the 6-foot-1, 197-pound Simpson has lined up at tailback and wide receiver. He's been in on reverses and rolled out on halfback passes. He's even gotten in some work at punter, one of several positions he played in high school in Harrisburg, Pa.
"We're just trying to do a lot of things that use my abilities in different areas," said Simpson, named U.Va.'s most improved offensive player at spring practice.
Simpson isn't the only multi-threat the Cavs are cultivating. Andrew Pearman, who caught seven passes for 34 yards in four games before leaving the team for personal reasons last year, is back for his junior season and also is lining up all over the field.
"I'll play (wherever) Coach (Al) Groh puts me and try to have as much fun as I can," Pearman said. " ... It feels great to be out here running around with these guys. I really call it my family. I missed them a whole lot, and they supported me so much while I was gone, and they're supporting me when I'm back."
Pearman, at 5-10 and 176 pounds - up from the 168 listed in U.Va.'s media guide - isn't likely to bowl anyone over at the line of scrimmage. But he's shown speed and elusiveness in practice as Virginia tries to find the right combination of skill players.
Ogletree's absence leaves Maurice Covington - with six catches for 45 yards in 2006, compared to Ogletree's 52 for 582 - as the Cavs' leading returning receiver. In the backfield, projected starter Cedric Peerman has impressed so far, but gained just 185 yards on 46 carries while adding another 38 yards receiving in a backup role last season.
With Simpson, Pearman, redshirt freshmen Keith Payne and Raynard Horne and walk-on William Webb competing with Peerman at tailback, the position is as deep as it's been in Groh's six previous seasons at U.Va. But it's far from settled.
Payne returned to the field Friday after his suspension for poor academic performance ended, but has yet to work out in pads. And Horne has demonstrated a determined, straight-ahead running style, but also has been blown up behind the line on several plays by U.Va.'s defense.
"That's up to them, to build our confidence by their performance," Groh said. "Clearly we have more confidence in Cedric. That's why he's the first-team back. Staff-wise, we have the highest level of confidence in Ced because this is the highest level he's performed at. It's a challenge to the others to raise the bar on their game."
And that's what Simpson and Pearman - whose older brother, Alvin, is entering his third year with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being drafted out of Virginia in the fourth round in 2005 - are trying to do.
"I hope I can be the answer man," Simpson said. "I'm not gonna say I am until I get on the field and actually prove it. I'm not the type of person to talk about what I do. I like to show it in my game."
UVA fans mingle with the team
By Whitelaw Reid / email@example.com | 978-7250
August 12, 2007
The grin on Peyton Clark's face was nearly as big as the giant body he was standing behind.
The 6-year-old from Charlottesville was posing for a picture with a life-size cutout of Virginia football star Chris Long - and loving every second of it.
Moments later, Clark waited in line to meet the real Long and collect an autograph.
Clark was on hand with his 11-year-old sister Kristen and 4-year-old brother Dylan - along with hundreds of other orange-clad Virginia fans - for the annual Meet the Team Day festivities Sunday at Scott Stadium.
"We like to bring them out to this every year," said Candice Clark, Peyton's mother. "They get really excited about it. Dylan's been coming to this since he was 2 months old."
Ron Clark, Candice's husband and an Albemarle High graduate, also has been coming to Virginia games since he was a young boy.
But the Clarks were far from the only diehards on hand.
Keith Rodgers, 42, has been coming to games since he was a kid growing up in Portsmouth. Rodgers' love for the Cavaliers was obvious as he posed for pictures in a full UVa uniform, complete with shoulder pads and helmet.
Rodgers said watching the team stumble to a 5-7 record last year - Virginia's worst season of coach Al Groh's first six years at the Cavs' helm - was tough.
"I'm hoping they do better this season," Rodgers said. "I hate to see Coach be [fired] after this year because I think he's done a great job as far as getting the team to stay together and play like a team.
"I think the biggest question mark is making smarter decisions. I think they just need to put last year in the back of their mind and go on forward."
Fans in attendance had the opportunity to meet all the players and coaches. The most popular player at the festivities was clearly Long. The former St. Anne's-Belfield's standout - and son of NFL Hall-of-Famer Howie Long - is expected to be one of the top defensive linemen in the country this season.
Long, a senior co-captain, was second on the team in sacks last season.
"He's amazing," said 10-year-old Ryan Thomas, a sixth-grader at William Monroe. "He's really good."
Another popular player was running back Cedric Peerman, perhaps Virginia's top offensive weapon. Peerman will try to fill the shoes of running back Jason Snelling, who led the team in touchdowns as a senior in 2006.
Peerman and his teammates looked genuinely happy to be mingling with the fans. Ditto for Groh, who stayed at Scott Stadium some 45 minutes after the event had concluded, making sure to sign autographs for anyone who wanted them.
"This just shows that we have a lot of people looking out for us and supporting everything that we're doing day in and day out," Peerman said. "I'm just happy to be out here and give back a little bit - even if it's something like just signing an autograph."
The Cavaliers open their season at Wyoming on Sept. 1. Their first home game will be against Duke on Sept. 8.
Lyles demotes himself
By Jay Jenkins / firstname.lastname@example.org | 978-7250
August 13, 2007
Virginia coach Al Groh is quite positive that he has never seen it happen before.
After Friday’s practice session, the fifth of training camp, safety Nate Lyles essentially “benched” himself.
After donning the coveted orange jersey that denotes a starter’s job security on the first-team defense, Lyles made a statement.
Originally, Groh joked that Lyles might have misplaced his orange jersey.
It wasn’t until after a staff meeting that Groh learned why the senior defensive back jogged out to a pair of practices on Saturday dressed in a blue jersey, which left the defense one orange jersey shy of a full unit.
“They said Nate took himself out,” Groh recounted. “He made a couple of mental errors on Friday that, if you are going to be an elite player, you don’t make those kind of mental errors.”
Lyles provided further clarification on the matter on Sunday at the program’s annual Meet the Team Day at Scott Stadium.
“I didn’t feel like I was playing up to the level that I needed to be to be out there with the guys that were wearing orange jerseys,” Lyles said. “I have been playing since my freshman year, and any mistakes that I have are mistakes that I shouldn’t have made.
“It was like small mistakes that I could have avoided making.”
With 10 of the 11 starters back on defense, high praise has been given in the direction of the entire unit.
The areas of most concern have been squarely placed on the secondary, a spot that boasts Chris Cook and new starter Vic Hall at cornerback and Byron Glaspy and Lyles at safety.
Cook has proven his worth. Hall remains on his way to accomplish the same, leaving the safety position in the spotlight.
“I don’t think [the safety spot] is a question mark,” Lyles said with a smile.
The question, for now, is in regards to the orange jersey with Lyles’ name on it.
“When he thought his game warranted it,” Groh said, “he would put his orange jersey back on.”
Lyles is letting the staff make that decision.
“Whatever the coach says,” he answered.
Sewell on Simpson
Quarterback Jameel Sewell turned heads on Sunday.
Not with his arm. Not with his feet. On this occasion it happened with his mouth.
The moment came after Sewell was asked about Mikell Simpson, who may see time at tailback and wideout.
“Mikell is like a Percy Harvin of the Florida Gators,” Sewell proclaimed.
Simpson, a sophomore from Harrisburg, Pa., rushed for 56 yards on 13 carries last season. He was named the Rock Weir Award winner on offense after spring practice, denoting the most improved player.
Kris Burd, a true freshman wideout, had back surgery on Friday and is not expected to return to practice until spring drills.
At Matoaca High, Burd caught 44 passes for 840 yards and scored five touchdowns. He was a three-star recruit.
UVa Football Notes
Lyles takes himself out of starting spot
By Andy Bitter
August 13, 2007
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Safety Nate Lyles was not wearing his awarded orange starter's jersey at Friday's practice. That was news to Virginia head coach Al Groh. So at the next staff meeting, Groh asked his coaches who demoted the senior.
He got the answer right away: Lyles did.
"I didn't feel like I was playing up to the level that I needed to be out there with the guys with the orange jerseys," Lyles said at UVa's media day on Sunday.
Lyles will determine when he will go back to orange. He said he made small mistakes, mental errors a fourth-year player shouldn't make.
"This is a very, very conscientious player," Groh said.
Conscientious enough to realize he had a sub-par 2006. After returning from a scary neck injury he suffered in the ninth game of the 2005 season, Lyles returned to the field last year and resumed his starting spot. Though he made a career-high 46 tackles and felt fine physically, something wasn't the same.
"His game quickly came back to where he was when he was hurt, but it didn't move on to third-year performance," Groh said. "He was good at the same things and didn't necessarily get better at the other things."
Lyles lost his starter's job to Tony Franklin for the last three weeks of the season. He vowed to get it back in the offseason, knocking on Groh's office door with great frequency to ask what facets of his game needed to improve and what film he should be looking at.
His temporary self-demotion to a blue jersey notwithstanding, he's earned his starting spot back and will be in a safety rotation with Byron Glaspy and the much-improved Jamaal Jackson.
"(Lyles' offseason work) is showing up at this stage with what he's doing," Groh said.
Vic Hall will start at cornerback when the season starts, but that's not all the former Gretna standout will do. The sophomore is also the holder, punt returner and gunner on punts and kickoffs.
"It's like we put him on one of those old time store scales, where we keep putting another rock on Vic's scale and it just keeps getting heavier and heavier and heavier," Groh said. "He likes it. The more the merrier. But ? there has got to be a point where we have to say enough is enough. It's not in his or the team's best interest to keep adding on."
Hall doesn't mind.
"It's never too much," he said. "If you're a football player, you want to help your team succeed. Whatever he puts on the table, I can handle it."
Hall, a record-breaking quarterback at Gretna, isn't on any offensive unit.
Clint Sintim didn't like how big he had gotten in the offseason, so much so that the linebacker dropped 10 pounds off his frame to his current weight of 245.
"I feel the best I've felt in a while," Sintim said. "I feel a lot faster."
The junior had a slight decrease in tackles last year, going from 53 his freshman year to 45, but he increased both his tackles for a loss (nine to 12) and quarterback sacks (three to four). While his numbers were similar, Groh consistently said the linebacker was making large leaps in his development. The same is now true of his conditioning.
"He appears to be coming into his peak physically," Groh said.
Kris Burd, a freshman wide receiver from Matoaca High, had back surgery on Friday. Groh did not say how long he would be sidelined. ? Redshirt freshman tailback Keith Payne returned to practice over the weekend from a summer-long, team-imposed academic suspension. Despite missing some practices, Groh saw a larger benefit. "I think he gained a lot more than what he missed," Groh said. "That was certainly the purpose behind what we did this summer."
- Andy Bitter
A whole new ballgame
Sunday, August 12, 2007
CHARLOTTESVILLE - A handful of people wandered around outside the Virginia Cavaliers locker room looking for Terence Fells-Danzer.
Practice had ended about 10 minutes earlier Friday afternoon and some of Fells-Danzer’s teammates finished up interviews with reporters while others sat around chit-chatting before heading off to dinner. There were a few people waiting around to talk to the former Culpeper County High School star, but he wasn’t one of the players hanging around, cooling off after three hours of practice in 100-degree heat. Someone checked the locker room and he wasn’t in there either; it seemed they missed him.
Then a bystander noticed a blue jersey moving across the turf about 100 yards away across the Cav’s sprawling practice facility. It turned out Fells-Danzer hadn’t slipped out early. The 6-1, 220-pound freshman was on the ground, rolling up and down the field, a punishment for missing curfew the night before.
“In college there’s a lot more you have to do,” he said. “You have meetings and you have to make curfew. In Culpeper you just go home when practice is over. I just got caught up trying to do too much and didn’t make it back in time.”
One of the many lessons learned in his first week as a college football player.
Plenty of changes
Fells-Danzer wasn’t the only former CCHS Blue Devil to begin his college career at U.Va. this week. Fells-Danzer joined the Cavaliers as one of the most coveted prospects in the state.
Rivals.com ranked the Culpeper product as the No. 7 inside linebacker recruit in the entire country.
Curt Orshoski also made the leap for CCHS to U.Va. this year, but took a slightly different path to Charlottesville. Despite being a second-team All-Cedar Run District performer last year - just like Fells-Danzer - the 6-2, 240-pound Orshoski didn’t receive a scholarship offer from the Cavs, but the U.Va. coaching staff liked him enough to invite Orshoski to join the team as a walk-on. There was no free ride for Orshoski, but the Cavaliers did provide an opportunity to play football in the ACC.
Once the Blue Devil pair arrived on The Grounds they began to share more similar experiences. Both players immediately had to adjust to a new position. Fells-Danzer’s size and speed made him a standout running back and outside linebacker in high school, but the coaching staff at U.Va. decided he fit best as an inside linebacker in its 3-4 scheme. Orshoski played on the defensive line and at linebacker during his CCHS career, but is getting a fresh start as a college fullback and said running backs coach Anthony Poindexter has helped him get used to his new spot in the backfield.
“It’s definitely an adjustment, but I’m willing to play wherever,” Orshoski said. “Coach Poindexter is really helping me along.”
Fells-Danzer said learning his new position was similar to being in class. He spends much of his free time studying his playbook and focusing on his increased pass coverage responsibilities.
“It’s a lot more fast paced than when I was at Culpeper,” he said. “There, I had everything I needed sort of right in front of me.”
Despite the fact he still has a way to go before he’s ready to take the field in a game Fells-Danzer said he’s loving the new system.
“The 3-4 is great,” he said. “Where I play is pretty much where everything starts.”
Virginia coach Al Groh said Friday he hadn’t made any decisions as to how many of his first-year players he plans to redshirt this season, but both Orshoski and Fells-Danzer said they can envision themselves earning playing time in the future.
For Orshoski the position change has been encouraging. The Cavs have plenty of depth on defense, but the walk-on is one of only three fullbacks on the Wahoos’ roster. Senior Josh Zidenberg graduates after this season, possibly leaving just Orshoski and sophomore Rashawn Jackson to battle for the top fullback spot next spring.
“You can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Orshoski said. “Some of these guys are a little bit older, so opportunities are going to be available. It’s my job to get out here and try to take advantage of those opportunities.”
For the time being though, Orshoski is just trying to earn respect of the rest of the team.
“You always have to do that in my situation,” he said. “You have to come out and prove to the veterans you belong.”
Fells-Danzer has quite a bit more competition at his position.
The Cavaliers return 13 linebackers from 2006, including redshirts. There are also three other first-year linebackers –– J’Courtney Williams, Aaron Taliaferro and Jared Detrick –– all vying for playing time. Fell-Danzer said unless he’s told 2007 will be a redshirt year, he’s preparing as if he will be on the field when U.Va. opens the season at Wyoming Sept. 1.
“I’m looking to play,” he said. “I’m just going to bring my ‘A’ game and keep working on it.”
As seniors at CCHS, Orshoski and Fells-Danzer were quite a daunting duo at linebacker with each earning all-district honors, but they are figuring out that nothing comes easy at the Division I level. Not even for an athlete that runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and has a 32-inch vertical leap.
“Here it’s not all the time I can use my athleticism to make up for things,” Fells-Danzer said.
His teammates have already gotten a taste of what he can do, but are eager to see him develop into a complete football player.
“Terence obviously has a great reputation,” said U.Va.’s All-American defensive end Chris Long. “He’s so fast and you know he’s a great athlete so I’ll be excited to see what he has.”
For Orshoski it’s taken some time to get used to not having Fells-Danzer playing next to him.
“We’re playing on different sides of the ball now so we don’t even get to see each other as much,” Orshoski said. “It’s definitely a different pace. It can feel like a completely different sport.”
Sewell ready for breakout season at quarterback
CHARLOTTESVILLE - If there’s any more pressure on Jameel Sewell this season Virginia’s sophomore quarterback isn’t showing it.
The Richmond product took over as the Cavaliers’ starter four weeks into the 2006 campaign and steadily improved on the way to becoming one of Sporting News’ Freshman All-Americans. But the Cavaliers finished 5-7 and missed out on bowl game for the first time since 2001, coach Al Groh’s first season at U.Va. Missing out on the postseason though allowed the southpaw quarterback to have surgery in December to repair the injured left wrist he played with most of the season.
Now Sewell is determined to lead the Wahoos back to a bowl game and despite being severely limited during spring practice, he said he’s ready to take a hit when U.Va. opens the season at Wyoming Sept. 1.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” he said. “I know what I have to do and I’m going to do it.”
Sewell passed for 1,342 yards last year and at times dazzled fans with his running ability. But if injury or anything else prevents him from performing well this season the Cavaliers have a highly touted backup. Freshman Peter Lalich came into the Cavaliers’ camp as the No. 5 rated pro-style quarterback in the country according to Rivals.com and the murmurs and buzz among the crowd of approximately 300 fans at U.Va.’s open practice Friday suggested most of the Cavalier faithful showed up just to see the new signal caller in action.
Lalich has occasionally worked with the first-team offense in the first week of practice and looked sharp Friday, completing most of his passes to a variety of receivers running a variety of passes. Lalich said getting to college has been a learning experience, but he’s starting to fit in.
“At first I was nervous, then I started to catch up a little bit,” he told the News-Advance in Lynchburg. “I’m still not there yet.”
Sewell struggled to hit his receivers at times, particularly toward the end of practice, indicating his heavily wrapped wrist might not be 100 percent. Groh said he’s not worried about the incumbent QB.
“He has been progressing nicely,” Groh said. “Everything is going real nicely.”
Lacrosse launched Kerney's NFL path
By Danny O'Neil
Seattle Times staff reporter
Patrick Kerney, defensive end
Height: 6-5. Weight: 272.
Experience: 9 College: Virginia Hometown: Trenton, N.J. Age: 30
What did you bring to pass the time in training camp? "A couple books. 'The Power of One' by Bryce Courtenay. That's what I'm reading right now. Then 'Bias.' That's all I'll probably get through."
You have a pilot's license, correct? "I first got my private license in the 2003 offseason, and then I got my instrument rating in the 2004 offseason."
But you're not planning to fly yourself anywhere this season? "It's a fun hobby, but being based in Atlanta I was able to visit friends all over the East Coast and do the traveling myself. It's just not practical out here."
What's the worst job you've had? "I started working when I was real young. With sisters — and being the baby — they all had money before I did. Being a busboy was the hardest, to be honest. It's not that intense, but it's steady. For eight hours straight you are working, and you don't have a choice."
The one who wouldn't accept his lacrosse scholarship from Virginia without an assurance he could try out for football, too.
What was that kid's name again? Kerney. Patrick Kerney.
That's who assistant coach Art Markos looked for the first day of Cavaliers football practice back in 1995. The 6-foot-5 defensive end visited the school the year before with his parents, arms hanging like rubber bands and eagerness coming out his ears. Kerney showed up as a freshman weighing about 230 pounds. The coach barely recognized him.
"He just transformed in one year like you would never believe," Markos said.
Hardly the last time Kerney exceeded expectations. He has made quite a career of that, in fact. The lacrosse prospect who insisted on being a football project became a first-round NFL pick by the time he left Virginia in 1999. And that as much as anything explains why the Seahawks guaranteed him more than $19 million this offseason to sign him away from Atlanta. Kerney is 30, three years removed from his 13-sack season of 2004 and coming off the first major injury of his career, a torn pectoral muscle. But the Seahawks looked at his history and saw a cornerstone they could plant on the left side of their defensive line.
"He just works so darn hard to try and be the best he can be," said president Tim Ruskell. "And it's infectious. It was infectious in Atlanta. It's going to be infectious here."
Kerney is the classic left end, strong enough to defend the run, fast enough to get to the quarterback. His persistence truly explains his success, though.
"One of his greatest attributes as a player is just his relentlessness," said assistant head coach Jim Mora, who coached Kerney in Atlanta.
That trait got his foot in the door of a football program even though Division I-A colleges weren't lining up to fish him out of high school. At least not to play football. Lacrosse was his ticket.
"Every kid that's ever picked up a stick loves the sport," Kerney said. "You tell a 10-year-old kid you get to run around, sling a ball and whack somebody with a stick, the 10-year-old's gonna' say, 'I'm going to take it.' "
He attended lacrosse camps in the summer, not the football camps colleges use as recruiting tools. He began playing football in the seventh grade, but as much as he enjoyed the sport, he never considered it a realistic path.