A tough act to follow
Cavs' Pearman will carry the ball and a significant burden
Friday, Aug 24, 2007 - 12:05 AM
By JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
CHARLOTTESVILLE Andrew Pearman looks like his brother, sounds
like his brother and wears the same jersey number -- 21 -- his brother wore at
the University of Virginia.
Time is running out for Pearman to play like his brother did for the Cavaliers.
Alvin Pearman, now a third-year tailback with the Jacksonville Jaguars, rushed for 2,394 yards in four seasons at Virginia and was named first-team all-ACC in 2004.
His kid brother, Andrew, is a U.Va. junior who, for various reasons, has appeared in only four college games. But he's back at tailback -- his position during an illustrious high school career in Charlotte, N.C. -- and he's impressed a coaching staff that has been reluctant to get too excited about a player who has yet to deliver on his enormous promise.
"Wherever we want to line him up, [opponents are] going to have to be conscious of where 21 is," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said.
From Providence High, Pearman went first to the University of Hawaii, where he redshirted as a freshman in 2004 while practicing at wide receiver. He transferred to U.Va. in '05 and sat out the season according to NCAA rules.
Wideout was still his position when Pearman's long-awaited college debut came last season. A storybook tale, it wasn't. He finished an abbreviated season with seven receptions for 34 yards and 10 punt returns for 60 yards.
In Virginia's fourth game, against Georgia Tech on Sept. 21, Pearman suffered a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. He returned to practice in October but didn't play again last season. Undisclosed personal issues led him to withdraw from U.Va. and move back in with his family in Charlotte.
Pearman re-enrolled at U.Va. this summer and rejoined the football team.
"I want to thank all the coaches and all my teammates for all the support they've given me," he told reporters early in training camp. "I've really missed all these guys, and I'm really glad to be back, and maybe I can give you guys something to write about when I start making some plays."
He's still an option at receiver, but tailback looks like a permanent home for Pearman, who rushed for 2,273 yards and 32 touchdowns as a Providence High senior.
"That always has been his natural position," Virginia head coach Al Groh said, "and with him coming back to football, we tried to put him back at his natural spot, where he's had the most success."
Upon his return, Pearman recalled, "I sat down and talked to Coach (Al) Groh, and he told me, 'Look, you need to go out there and have fun. Go back to the days you weren't playing organized football, when you were out there in the yard playing with your buddies.'
"And that's what I did. I love these guys out here, and I'm having a blast."
Cedric Peerman, a junior, will start at tailback in an offense that in 2006 was notable for its lack of playmakers. The longest run by a U.Va. tailback was a 29-yarder by Jason Snelling. Behind Peerman on the depth chart are 6-3, 234-pound redshirt freshman Keith Payne and the 5-10, 170-pound Pearman, backs who couldn't differ much more in size or running style.
Pearman's game is all about quick cuts and breakaway speed, and his red-zone bursts at an open practice Aug. 12 elicited oohs and aahs from the gathered spectators.
"If you liked them from the hill last night, you would have liked them even more from the end-zone camera," Al Groh said the next day. "They were fun to watch."
Pearman said: "It's coming back to me. I'm just having a lot of fun now."
Lalich getting crash course
Woodberry Forest standout living up to his name
By Doug Doughty
It’s easy for me to question how much a reporter can gain from monitoring an open football practice, particularly since I attend so few of them myself, but one aspect of Virginia’s practice Saturday morning jumped out at me.
True freshman quarterback Peter Lalich was getting a lot – a lot – of repetitions.
Junior Scott Deke might be listed as the No. 2 quarterback behind Jameel Sewell, but if Sewell were to be sidelined for any appreciable length of time, nobody should be surprised if Lalich steps in.
In many respects, it’s similar to the situation at Virginia Tech, where Ike Whitaker was moved to wide receiver this week and true freshman Tyrod Taylor was installed as the No. 2 QB. Deke isn’t a candidate to move to another position, but the Cavaliers clearly want to have Lalich ready.
Does Lalich play in a mop-up role? That’s the same question that Virginia Tech faces with Taylor, except that Tech is likely to be in a few more mop-up situations.
As opposed to the Hokies, who open the season as 24 ½-point favorites against visiting East Carolina, Virginia is a four-point favorite against host Wyoming.
Yet, even Virginia coach Al Groh admits that he has never given as many repetitions to a true freshman quarterback.
“He’s done a very good job relative to where he started and what he’s had to deal with,” Groh said Thursday in a teleconference.
“Everyone’s been impressed with his diligence and his study. He’s come in and really worked to get on top of things and made improvement on a daily basis.
“But, how many true freshman quarterbacks do you see around the country who are playing? That’s just a challenge, although he seems for us to be ahead of the curve, but it’s a big curve to be on.”
Matthew Stafford was 6-2 as a starter for Georgia last year as a true freshman. He directed the Bulldogs to victories over No. 5 Auburn, No. 16 Georgia Tech and No. 14 Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
It must be noted, Stafford enrolled at Georgia for the second semester of the 2005-2006 school year, which enabled him to go through spring practice with the Bulldogs.
Few ACC quarterbacks have performed as well as a true freshman as North Carolina State’s Philip Rivers did in 2000, but Rivers was another player who left high school after the fall semester of his senior year.
“That’s not a possibility here,” Groh said. “Those guys had not only 15 days of practice but a lot of time being around the staff and looking at tape. That’s such a big head start for them.”
However, it’s not unprecedented for a true freshman to start without the benefit of spring practice. Thaddeus Lewis was a second-semester graduate from high school in 2006 and started the last 11 games for Duke as a true freshman, passing for 2,134 yards.
Of course, that was a Blue Devils team that finished 0-11, but you can’t pin all of that on Lewis.
In my memory, the last true freshman to start at quarterback for Virginia was Scott Gardner in 1972. By the time his career ended, he was the leading passer in school history and would keep that distinction until passed by Shawn Moore in 1990. Gardner remains third behind Moore and No. 1 Matt Schaub.
GROH HAD AN INTERESTING observation Thursday when asked about Sewell by Laramie (Wyo.) Boomerang Sports Editor Bob Hammond.
“When he took over last year, he just brought an increased level of ability at the position,” Groh said. “However, when he did that, he was also the most inexperienced of the quarterbacks on the roster. That was an issue for quite a while.
“What he brings now – and there’s more to come yet – is the highest level of confidence at the position that we’ve had since Marques Hagans left. That is, his personal confidence. I’m not necessarily speaking of other people’s confidence in him.”
Hammond started out by asking if Groh could remember another time when both starting quarterbacks have been left-handed, as will be the case for the Cavaliers and Cowboys, who will go with sophomore Karsten Sween.
“I’d really have to close the door and take no interruptions and think for a long time,” Groh said.
Actually, the Cavaliers faced a left-hander, Pittsburgh’s Tyler Palko, in the opening game of the 2006 season. However, Sewell wasn’t starting for the Cavaliers at that time.
NOBODY REALLY MENTIONS fullback Rashawn Jackson when talking about Virginia’s offensive weapons, but it was hard not to notice Saturday when Jackson neatly pulled in a screen pass and rambled down the left sideline, only to put an inside move on the last defender.
Jackson has good hands and he was a SuperPrep All-American as a running back at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J. However, Groh didn’t have a flattering first impression when Jackson moved from linebacker to fullback in the spring.
“He was too fat,” said Groh, noting that Jackson and all of his teammates came to camp at or below their required weight.
CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE Dave Melesco, who is big in Rocky Mount and Danville and most other venues he frequents, reports that the star player at Woodberry Forest is sophomore running back Ed Reynolds Jr., whose father, Ed, was a defensive end for the Cavaliers in the early 1980s and also played in the NFL.
Melesco, a UVa law grad and football season ticket-holder, has a 6-foot-5, 245-pound son, John, who will be a junior offensive lineman for Woodberry this season.
UVa's Sewell on O'Brien list
3:44 PM EDT, August 22, 2007
Virginia sophomore quarterback Jameel Sewell is one of 35
quarterbacks featured on the 2007 Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award watch
The award, named for the first player to win the Heisman, Maxwell and Walter Camp trophies in the same year, is given each season to the nation's best quarterback.
Sewell, an honorable mention freshman all-American according to The Sporting News after passing for 1,342 yard and five touchdowns, is joined on the list by the likes of Texas' Colt McCoy, Southern California's John David Booty and Michigan's Chad Henne. Also on the list is Karsten Sween of Wyoming, the team U.Va. opens its 2007 season against on Sept. 1.
Sewell has Cavalier company on preseason watch lists. Defensive end Chris Long has been tabbed as a potential candidate for the Chuck Bednarik Award (nation's best defensive player), the Bronko Nagurski Award (outstanding defensive player) and the Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end of the year). Senior Tom Santi is on the watch list for the John Mackey Award, given to the country's best tight end
Looking for a bit 'Mo'
Covington hopes to fill big role
By Jerry Ratcliffe / email@example.com | 978-7251
August 24, 2007
Last season, Virginia was one of the worst passing offenses in the country, and with good reason.
The Cavaliers went through two quarterbacks before Coach Al Groh settled on redshirt freshman Jameel Sewell. The rookie spent half his time either ducking the pass rush or running for his life because of a young, inconsistent offensive line.
Fast-forward to the final week of training camp and Sewell & Co. are hoping to become one of America’s most improved passing attacks. With a line that appeared to solidify during the second half of the ’06 campaign and Sewell coming of age, the Wahoos are hoping their finish (104th out of 119 teams) is a thing of the past.
Losing the most productive receiver from a year ago didn’t help when wideout Kevin Ogletree went down with a serious knee injury early in spring practice. He could sit out the entire season, which forces someone to step up into his role.
The good news is there are several candidates for the job, and throughout the past couple of weeks of practice there have been flashes of brilliance from a number of them, including junior Maurice Covington. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Covington fits the mold of former big targets that have brought Virginia’s passing game to life.
Groh has praised the native North Carolinan’s progress, but the receiver still must prove himself under fire. He has but 11 receptions in two seasons, four of those coming against Florida State last year.
“The offensive coaches have been very positive on a day-to-day and a play-to-play basis about [Covington],” Groh said. “He seems to be maturing and coming into his own. He has shown more versatility to his game than previously. In every respect he is turning into a better player.”
UVa’s offensive coordinator Mike Groh, son of the head coach, believes it will require a group effort to replace Ogletree’s production, but he is putting a lot of hope in Covington’s development.
“Maurice is the only one of our wide receivers with production in games, so we hope he will step up,” Mike Groh said.
There are plenty of other candidates that will battle for playing time, including true freshman Dontrell Inman, Chris Dalton, Staton Jobe, Jared Green, Mikell Simpson and others. Covington has caught the eye of not only the coaching staff but of Sewell, who has connected with the big receiver for several touchdowns in practice.
“To see Maurice step up like he’s done is great,” Sewell said. “He’s catching a couple of touchdown passes every day and that’s what we need. We need a lot out of him.”
Virginia must get production from its wide receiving corps to complement its short passing game that features its strong group of tight ends and its running backs.
Covington, who said he has worked hard in the offseason in terms of learning the plays and running more precise routes, believes he has made strides.
“Playing behind Fontel Mines for two years, I feel like it’s my turn to step up and make plays,” Covington said. “I’m a pretty big guy and I can go up and get the ball. I use my size to my advantage.”
With a 37-inch vertical leap, he definitely has the size to take balls away from shorter cornerbacks, and his confidence has grown because of his success in practice against what he believes are the best defenders in the ACC.
“Being able to catch those passes on a defense like ours, which is probably among the top 20 in the country, gives me a boost,” Covington said. “I feel that if I can get open and catch balls against guys like Chris Cook and Vic Hall, then I can do it against anybody in the conference or anywhere else.”
Mike Groh said that Covington has been very purposeful in his training camp and is in the best shape of his young life.
“He can run all day long and he’s imposing with his size and leaping ability,” Mike Groh said. “We’re looking for mismatches out there and he gives us a presence on the perimeter.”
That also includes blocking on the edge, something that Covington has accomplished in camp and realizes is important in order to spring running plays, something Virginia didn’t do much of last season.
“I concentrate as much on blocking as I do catching the ball because every play isn’t a pass play,” Covington said. “I’ve worked hard since last season at getting my speed down and playing fast. But it’s just as much about execution, knowing who you’re supposed to block, knowing what routes you’re supposed to run. A quarterback is going to trust a guy who always runs his routes precisely and gets open.”
While Sewell will likely distribute the ball to several receivers, the Cavs desperately need a wideout that can keep the defense honest and pose somewhat as a deep threat or at least a potential weapon to out-leap defenders on fade patterns in the end zone.
“I think we have three tight ends that everybody in the country would like to have,” Mike Groh said of returning threats Tom Santi, Jon Stupar and John Phillips. “It would behoove us to try to find ways to get them touches.”
Groh pointed out that because the offensive line isn’t as much of a question mark as last season, the Cavs should be able to mount a consistent running game, which in turn would remove some of the pressure from their passing attack.
Virginia ranked 110th nationally in scoring offense in ’06 with an average of 15.1 points per game. The Cavs, which scored only two more points than an 0-12 Duke team, actually scored three fewer touchdowns (21 to the Devils’ 24). Only eight of those scores came via the passing game for UVa.
That’s a fact that hasn’t escaped the Cavaliers’ critics, who remain skeptical that they can put points on the board this season.
“We talk about that every day in meetings and we talk about it amongst ourselves,” Covington said of the criticism. “Everybody is saying that our defense is so good but that we’re just OK on offense, that we don’t have any receivers, that we don’t have anybody stepping up. We can’t wait to prove everybody wrong.”
Should Virginia’s wide receivers accomplish that mission, the Cavs could be an offensive force to be reckoned with, particularly in the early going.
Covington could be one of the keys in unlocking that success. If he doesn’t, then the question mark will continue to grow until someone provides the answer.
Inman making headway
By Todd Merchant / firstname.lastname@example.org | 978-7236
August 24, 2007
Last season, Virginia coach Al Groh made a conscious decision to redshirt as many of incoming freshman as possible. He did a nearly flawless job of that as only one true freshman saw any action - nose tackle Nate Collins.
This year, Groh is going to have a more difficult time pulling off that feat. It’s not because the Cavs don’t have enough talent or depth among the veterans. The quirk this season is that Groh has several rookies who are so skilled that they are already vying for some playing time.
Most interesting among these first-years might be Dontrelle Inman, a wide receiver out of Batesburg-Leesville High School in South Carolina. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound flanker was seen
taking his share of reps with the second-team offense during the recently concluded training camp.
While there is a noticeable dearth of experience at the receiver spot - especially since standout Kevin Ogletree was sidelined with an injury - the biggest reason for Inman’s rise up the depth chart is simply his skills.
“[Inman] has got that little show of confidence about him that he feels as if he belongs on this level … belongs playing,” Groh said. “A lot of kids, when they come in, they kind of size things up and they usually see it correctly, but they can see that this league is a little fast for them right now.
“He seems to have that confidence in himself.”
His teammates are already starting to gain confidence in Inman.
“Right away, I knew he was an athlete,” Ogletree said. “Being around as much sports and football as I’ve been around, it’s not that hard for me to notice a guy that has that comfort level, and he looked like he had it right away.
“He does a lot of things well. He’s fairly quick for his size, and when he gets the ball, he’s elusive.”
Coming out of high school, Inman was rated among the top 25 players in South Carolina by a slew of publications. Nationally, he earned a No. 29 ranking among wide receivers by ESPN.com and a No. 16 billing at safety by Tom Lemming.
That’s especially impressive considering he missed the last half of his senior season with a knee injury. During the sixth game of the year, while blocking a punt, a player fell on his leg and he tore his lateral collateral ligament.
After winning a state championship as a junior, Inman was forced to end his prep career on the sidelines.
“It was crazy. I was trying to be a leader and everything and I wanted to be on the field,” he said. “I just had to make the best of it - I was still trying to be a leader even though I was hurt.
“It lets you know that your whole life can’t be based on football. You’ve got to always have a backup plan.”
Inman had been receiving a lot of attention from Georgia Tech, Maryland and South Carolina, but after the injury, Virginia was one of the few schools that did not shy away.
“[UVa] showed me the most love, once I was injured, out of those schools,” he said.
Now in Charlottesville, Inman is just trying to get acclimated to college life, while learning the West Coast offense, which seems to give everyone a lot trouble.
“I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty hard,” said junior wideout Maurice Covington of grasping Virginia’s system. “It took me a year. I’ll try and help him out with the intricacies.”
While Inman likely has a ways to go in fully understanding the offense, he appears to be making up for it with his athleticism.
“He is a natural catcher and he goes and gets it,” Groh said. “He plays like the ball belongs to him.”
It may not be long before Groh is penciling Inman into his starting roster.
“Anytime you have somebody who you think can make some plays next to you, it can only make your offense better,” Ogletree said. “And we’re more than happy to have him around.”
UVA FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Receivers
By Jay Jenkins / email@example.com | 978-7250
August 24, 2007
Heading into last season, Virginia’s ability to move the football through the air appeared to be a strong suit.
Seniors Fontel Mines and Deyon Williams, coupled with some proven talents at tight end, gave the impression that passing the ball would be successful.
That changed long before the season opener. During training camp, the team’s medical staff discovered that Williams, the leading receiver in 2005, had a stress fracture in his foot. Williams elected to burn his final year of eligibility to play in just six games, catching 10 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
While Mines excelled in the blocking game, he narrowly missed matching his output from his junior season. Mines’ contribution was steady, but he did not finish with more than 35 receiving yards in a game.
The biggest surprise for the offense arrived from a player that made just seven receptions as a rookie in ’05. In fact, Kevin Ogletree’s 52-catch season last year ranked ninth all-time in program history.
The sophomore, who finished with 582 yards receiving, enjoyed his best game against Maryland - he torched the Terps’ secondary for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
Place blame on the revolving quarterbacks early in the season and on the poor play from the offensive line, but finishing 104th in the nation and 11th in the ACC in passing offense was unacceptable.
* Williams finished his career tied for 15th in program history with 1,237 yards receiving.
Sure, those were positive numbers from a player deemed a three-star recruit, but left many wondering what a redshirt season would have done for the 2007 team.
Williams was signed by the Washington Redskins in April but was released in the middle of May. He remains hopeful of joining a practice squad.
* Mines will be missed from a leadership standpoint as much as anything.
His numbers throughout his career were never flashy, but he may have been playing out of position. Mines has been playing tight end with the Chicago Bears and scored a touchdown in the team’s first exhibition game. Mines is listed on the team’s depth chart as the fourth option, making the practice team his likely destination.
* Emmanuel Byers had a year of eligibility left, but the wideout was not asked to return. It might not have mattered - he is still recovering from an Achilles injury.
Byers had 10 receptions for 97 yards last year, but he did not make a catch after the sixth game of the year. He also tossed a pair of touchdown passes.
* Mike Robertson made one catch last season but did not return to the team. Robertson, a wide receiver, did not play in Virginia’s last eight games. Also, wide receiver Simon Manka was invited back, but declined the offer.
It seems like a rite of passage.
Prepare for an upcoming season and lose a wide receiver.
In 2003, Michael McGrew was sidelined with a broken leg, an injury suffered in training camp.
Last year in training camp, Williams was diagnosed with a stress fracture.
Another setback came this spring. Ogletree, the team’s leading receiver, tore his ACL in March and underwent surgery to repair the damage.
“He was trying to make a cut and it just gave out on him,” Virginia coach Al Groh said after the injury. “They did the MRI the other night and we just got the results. Because he did not experience too much next-day difficulty we were kind of hoping against hope.
“When I saw it, I thought to myself, ‘Uh oh, I know what that looks like.’ Unfortunately, it turned out to be an accurate visual diagnosis.”
It remains unknown if Ogletree is ahead of schedule in regards to his rehab, but Virginia will not have the playmaker on the field early in the season.
Expect the topic to gain steam if the Cavaliers finish the opening month undefeated.
Replacing Ogletree’s production will not fall onto the shoulders of one player, Virginia offensive coordinator Mike Groh said.
“I think it will be a group effort,” Mike Groh said. “We certainly hope that Maurice [Covington] will be ready to bump and provide some of what Kevin would have provided for this offense on the outside, and we have three excellent tight ends that we plan to use as well as our running backs.
“This group of receivers, albeit unheralded and unknown, has worked as well as any group that we have had and I am excited about their ability to contribute and help us win football games.”
* After patiently waiting in the wings, Covington has been thrust squarely into the spotlight over the past month.
The junior would appear to have the tools to be the team’s No. 1 receiver - he stands 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, has good hand-eye coordination and a 37-inch vertical leap.
For his career, Covington has 11 receptions, five of which came in two games against Florida State.
At this point in training camp, Covington has clearly been the most consistent target.
“He’s in a different kind of shape than he has been before,” Al Groh said. “If you look at him physically, he’s a big receiver now. Stamina and endurance are significant factors in being able to play wide receiver at this level of football.
“There is a definite higher level of confidence on his part.”
* At this point, it appears that walk-on Staton Jobe will start alongside Covington.
Jobe, who is from Austin, Texas, redshirted last season but was singled out during the spring practice.
“[Jobe] has good speed and he has a lot of moxie to him,” Al Groh said in April. “He has got a good commitment to this, he has a good work ethic and you can see his passion for football.”
Add fearless to that list, too.
Jobe may also see time returning punts.
* Be advised: Dontrelle Inman is special.
Inman was a top target for Virginia in its recruiting class and the Cavaliers were one of the programs that remained in hot pursuit of the wideout after an injury to the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), which is the ligament on the outside of the knee.
“At the time that we became very enthusiastic about his skills and our chances here, it was a little surprising to us that, while he did have a good deal of attention, the action wasn’t a little more intense than what it was,” Al Groh said.
Inman is one of the few true freshmen considered a lock to play this season.
* Cary Koch, while nursing a sprained knee, is expected to contribute upon his return.
The Tulane transfer is not on scholarship and caught just one pass last year, but Koch gained valuable experience with the Green Wave as a true freshman.
* Redshirt freshman Chris Dalton is currently running with the second-team offense.
A speedster made for a spread offense, Dalton needs to show improvements securing passes and gaining separation from defensive backs to earn extended playing time.
Similar concerns are attached to wide receiver Chris Gorham, a converted defensive back entering his final season at UVa.
* Much has been made over the past few weeks about how Mikell Simpson and Andrew Pearman give Virginia a unique look on offense.
Both can line up at tailback, their natural positions, or in the slot, and it remains to be seen how the duo will be utilized.
“They have allowed us to explore some things and develop some things that very highly talented but one-dimensional players at that position might not allow us to,” Al Groh said. “They can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. They can catch the ball lined out of the backfield. They can run from the normal tailback alignment.”
* Aspirations of becoming “Tight End U” took a hit last year as the Cavaliers’ three-headed monster - Tom Santi, Jonathan Stupar and John Phillips - combined for 430 receiving yards and reached the end zone only once.
The talent, however, remains in place and improvements on the offensive line should create more opportunities.
“I think we have three tight ends in the country that most people would like to have,” Mike Groh said. “It certainly behooves us to try to find different ways to get all three of those guys touches.
“We will be doing some different things with each one of them to maximize their talents.”
Santi, who has 61 career receptions in 35 appearances, is the most versatile of the bunch.
Stupar, who like Santi is a senior, has the size to be used as a dual threat, either as a blocker or pass-catching option.
Phillips, one of the obvious standouts in training camp, appears primed for a breakout season.
The group remains hopeful that, in unison, the strong reputation for tight ends at UVa returns.
“Last year, there was a lot of different elements that went into our game that we weren’t really used to,” Stupar said. “We weren’t used to staying in and protecting, but whatever the team needs at that time is what you have to do.
“Maybe it wasn’t glamorous, but we have a lot more experience [on the offensive line] and we think we can get back to more of the Heath Miller era.”
Successfully recruiting talented wide receivers remains of great concern for the Cavaliers’ coaching staff.
True freshman Jared Green, redshirt freshman Chris Dalton, Jobe and Inman should be in the fold for years to come, but college programs can never have too much talent at wide receiver.
Expect a continued emphasis in recruiting at this spot.
The results have been much greater at tight end in recent history, which often helps other positions on the field if those incoming players add muscle to their frames.
* Redshirt freshman Joe Torchia may have a tough time finding the field this year with Santi and Stupar back, but it should be a matter of time before his impact is felt.
Torchia appears to have the necessary skills to catch the ball and a greater recognition of what is expected of tight ends at Virginia.
“You just have to work hard and learn the plays and when my time comes I will be ready,” Torchia said. “After spring ball, I had a lot better understanding of the plays and I started getting some reps with the second team.”
* Andrew Devlin and Mark Ambrose enter their first season working with a crowded collection of tight ends.
It remains unseen how long that experiment will last, especially with Devlin and his massive frame.
“[Devlin’s] got plenty of size on him right now to be a tight end,” Al Groh said of the 255-pounder. “If he stayed right there he could certainly be [a tight end]. Not too many come in here and stay the same for four years.
“The expectation is that there is going to be some growth and development with him.”
* Redshirt freshman Zach Mendez-Zfass has impressed teammates with his ability to catch nearly everything thrown his way.
Expect another year of experience to slide the Richmond native in the discussion for playing time.
* Green, the son of former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, is likely headed for a redshirt season.
Speed is Green’s greatest asset.
Fellow true freshman Kris Burd will also redshirt. The wideout had back surgery earlier this month, but should be ready for spring practice.
Cavaliers get hefty home schedule
By Whitelaw Reid / firstname.lastname@example.org | 978-7250
August 24, 2007
By going 16-1 at John Paul Jones Arena last season, the Virginia men’s basketball team set the bar about as high as you can set it. The 16 home wins, which paved the way to a share of the ACC regular-season title, were the most in the program’s history.
Some people may find it hard to fathom Virginia replicating that kind of success this season - especially after the 2007-08 schedule was released on Thursday.
However, Virginia coach Dave Leitao seems optimistic.
“We want to use our schedule to challenge ourselves to be ready for ACC play and hopefully beyond,” said Leitao in a press release. “I think this schedule will provide that challenge.”
Virginia’s 17-game home slate includes first-ever visits to JPJ by Big East powerhouse Syracuse and ACC co-champ North Carolina, plus matchups with Duke, Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia Tech.
But Wahoo Nation, don’t fret too much. Virginia also has its usual assortment of cupcakes.
The Cavs don’t get a rematch with the vaunted University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, but they do play Longwood, Elon, Hampton, Hartford and Howard. None of those schools had a winning record last season in posting a combined 52-95 record.
In the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Virginia will host Northwestern for the third time in the last four years. UVa has won the previous two meetings.
Vermont - whom Virginia opens the season against on Nov. 11 - and Drexel round out the Cavs’ home schedule.
As usual, the road slate figures to be more daunting for UVa, which has gone just 5-17 away from home in Leitao’s two years.
On Nov. 17, Leitao’s squad figures to be walking into a lion’s den when it plays at Arizona. Lute Olson’s squad will surely remember last season’s loss in Charlottesville. The first-ever game in JPJ featured Fourth of July-like pyrotechnics, the CavMan mascot repelling down from the roof and post-game trash talk from Virginia star Sean Singletary that was later pinned to a bulletin board in the Arizona locker room.
After its trip to Tucson and just after Thanksgiving, Virginia will play two games in the Philly Classic. UVa’s bracket reportedly includes Pennsylvania, Seton Hall and Navy. The trip will be a homecoming for Singletary, along with freshmen Sam Zeglinski and Jeff Jones.
After a non-conference tilt at Xavier, who nearly upset Ohio State in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Virginia opens its ACC schedule on Jan. 13 at Duke - another school that will likely be out for payback.
This season will mark the first time since 2004-05 that UVa does not play an ACC game in December.
UVa men’s basketball season ticket holders from last season will receive renewal information via e-mail a week from today and by mail the week ending Sept. 7. Season tickets go on sale Aug. 27 for fans who did not have season tickets in 2006-07. Season tickets can be ordered on line at virginiasports.com or by calling the UVa athletics ticket office at (800) 542-8821 or 424-8821. Fans can also order in person at the athletics ticket office in Bryant Hall at Scott Stadium weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sept. 21 is the priority deadline for all season ticket orders.
ECU buys out Stokes
The university won't create a job for fired basketball coach Ricky Stokes and pays him $250,000 to leave
Lorenzo Perez, Staff Writer
East Carolina University and former Pirates men's basketball
coach Ricky Stokes have agreed to part ways, ECU athletics director Terry
Holland announced Thursday.
Seventeen days earlier, on Aug. 6, ECU announced that Stokes was giving up the head coaching post to become the associate athletics director of basketball, a new position. He acknowledged on Aug. 7 that his move was spurred by his concern that his firing as coach could be imminent after he coached the Pirates to a 14-44 record in two seasons.
Instead, Holland announced Thursday that Stokes will accept a lump-sum payment of $250,000, under the terms of the mutual agreement of termination Stokes signed on Tuesday. No explanation was provided for the two-day delay in announcing the signing of the agreement.
Stokes had been willing to continue working for the athletics department instead of accepting his contract-mandated buyout, Holland said in a news release, yet "we have found creating a new position within our department to be impractical at this time."
Stokes' original contract, which was scheduled to run through April 15, 2010, called for an annual salary of $150,000.
In a statement relayed by the university's chief public affairs officer, ECU chancellor Steve Ballard said he has complete confidence in Holland and that he preferred to let Holland answer questions about the basketball program.
Efforts to reach Holland and Stokes for further comment were unsuccessful.
However, a timeline released by Holland on Thursday shed further light on the university's decision to jettison Stokes, 45, who played college basketball at Virginia for Holland.
On the heels of a 6-24 season, ECU officials decided by the end of April that they did not want to replace the entire coaching staff and disrupt the progress Stokes' staff had made in improving the team's academic performance, Holland said in Thursday's release.
By early July, according to Holland's timeline, a consensus had developed among ECU officials to promote associate head coach Mack McCarthy to acting head coach and move assistant coach Chris Ferguson to associate head coach.
Discussions about Stokes' future and that of the basketball program continued into early August, and Holland initially had not been prepared to announce the shuffling of the staff and Stokes' new role on Aug. 6.
But university officials felt their hand was partially forced, according to Holland's timeline.
"By that time, speculation concerning changes in our basketball program had become so ill-informed that I felt we should clear the air with the August 6th announcement, even though the timing was not optimal as I was out of the country and we did not have a final resolution to several aspects of the changes," Holland said in the release.
No further details were disclosed concerning the nature of the speculation about the program or what changes still needed to be finalized.
Jeremy Shyatt, the former director of basketball operations on Stokes' staff, said he did not know what precipitated Stokes' decision to leave the university.
"Quite possibly, he might have decided he wasn't ready [to move] to the administration side," said Shyatt, who left ECU in the spring to become the director of men's basketball operations at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Asked about the remaining amount of money the university must pay Stokes and three other former Pirates coaches replaced by Holland, ECU trustee David Redwine said it was an unfortunate reality for many major college athletics programs.
"I think the athletic administration probably has a duty to the students and to the alumni and the university itself to try to have the best sports product that we can possibly have and to have the best coaches that we can have," Redwine said. "And when there's a feeling that those coaches are not performing up to that level of expectation, then changes have to be made.
" ... Obviously it doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at the last basketball record that we've had here recently under Coach Herrion and under Coach Stokes and realize perhaps we do need to make some moves to help better that."
Missouri women sells Vick cards chewed by her dogs on eBay
By BRIAN CHARLTON - The Associated Press
Take some trading cards picturing a disgraced NFL superstar. Add
some dog slobber and teethmarks. What do you get?
The most valuable Michael Vick cards — by far — on eBay, that’s what.
Collector Rochelle Steffen of Cape Girardeau, Mo., gave every Vick card she owned to her dogs and let them go to town on the images of the Atlanta Falcons quarterback who is scheduled to plead guilty to a federal dogfighting charge Monday.
Once Monte, her 6-year-old Weimaraner, and Roxie, her Great Dane puppy, were done worrying them, nearly two dozen $1-$10 cards were crumpled, crimped, chewed, torn and generally in a sorry state. Some even had corners missing.
As of Thursday evening, the highest bid on the lot of 22 cards had risen to $455 and more than 2,000 people had viewed the posting. Seventy-seven people already have bid on the auction, which ends Sunday.
The next-most expensive Vick cards — well-preserved specimens from his rookie year — were going for less than half the price of the gnawed ones.
“If I would have had some of his super-duper ones, they would have been right in the mix too,” Steffen said Thursday.
She plans to donate the winning bid money to the humane society of the bidder’s choice.
Since Vick was indicted on federal dogfighting charges last month, former fans have donated Vick jerseys to dog shelters, while others have tried to cash in by selling Vick T-shirts and chew toys for dogs.
“I’m not angry toward him; my anger is toward anyone who would do this to animals,” said Steffen, a college student and artist who wrote a note accompanying her auction to explain it was artistic expression.
“I mean no harm to anyone involved with this auction,” she wrote.
Vick said through a lawyer this week he will plead guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.
The St. Paul Saints, a minor league baseball team known for campy promotions, gave out Vick chew toys Tuesday to the first 15,000 fans with some game proceeds going to the Humane Society. Fans got the St. Paul pig mascot with a No. 7 printed on the back and a tag around its neck with Vick’s picture.
The Atlanta Humane Society also has reported former Vick fans mailing in jerseys — often accompanied by financial contributions and letters of outrage over the charges. Those former fans have suggested the Falcons jerseys become animal bedding or rags to help scrub up the messes that dogs leave behind. Other branches of the Humane Society have said they’ll take donated Vick items to resell on eBay.
Steffen said she hopes to bring more attention to the abuse of animals involved in dogfighting activities.
“The money donated to local shelters makes this whole idea of selling the cards worthwhile,” she said.