Thursday, Jul 31, 2008 - 06:07 PM
Cavs hoping for quick decision
After Bethel High point guard Jontel Evans committed to Virginia last month, he was asked about Tristan Spurlock, one of his teammates in the Boo Williams AAU basketball program.
"Hopefully, I can get inside his head," Evans said.
He had plenty of chances to try to sell Spurlock on U.Va. this week in Orlando, Fla., where Boo Williams' top team competed in the 17-and-under AAU national tournament. The Tidewater-based team lost in the quarterfinals yesterday.
Spurlock, a 6-6 small forward from Woodbridge, is ranked No.65 nationally in the Class of 2009 by Rivals.com. He's expected to choose between Virginia and Georgetown.
If Spurlock decides in the next few days, his choice is likely to be U.Va. But Spurlock is scheduled to visit Georgetown on Tuesday, and if he makes that trip, the Hoyas' chances figure to improve significantly.
Evans is Virginia's only commitment thus far for 2009-10. The Cavaliers remain interested in 6-7 forward Marshawn Powell, a rising senior at Miller School, near Charlottesville. But Powell, who's from Newport News and plays AAU ball with Evans and Spurlock, might have to attend a prep school in 2009-10 to bolster his academics.
Three's a crowd?
In senior Cedric Peerman and junior Mikell Simpson, U.Va. has two of the ACC's better tailbacks. Peerman was leading the conference in rushing last year when he suffered a season-ending injury in the sixth game. That created an opening for Simpson, and he finished with 570 yards and eight touchdowns rushing, plus 402 yards and two TDs receiving.
Other tailbacks on the roster include Keith Payne, Max Milien and Raynard Horne. Coach Al Groh, asked if a third tailback might break into the rotation this season, said, "Somebody would have to show that it would be a smart thing to take both of those guys out of the game."
Pros find U.Va. attractive
In Major League Baseball's draft in June, seven of Virginia's incoming recruits were chosen. At the time, Cavaliers coach Brian O'Connor believed only one of those -- Peter Hissey, a fourth-round pick of the Red Sox -- would turn pro this year. But outfielder Tyler Massey recently signed with Colorado, which drafted him in the 14th round.
The Rockies reportedly gave Massey a $525,000 signing bonus, which Baseball America called the highest so far this year for a player taken after the 10th round.
Six players from Virginia's 2008 team were drafted, including O'Connor's top juniors: David Adams, Jeremy Farrell, Jacob Thompson and Greg Miclat. Of those four, only Thompson, a fifth-round pick of the Braves, has yet to agree to terms on a pro contract. The right-handed pitcher might return to U.Va. for his senior year.
Cavs shine in World Games
During the 2008 lacrosse season, U.Va. goalie Adam Ghitelman lost his starting job to Bud Petit, a demotion that caused Ghitelman to lose some confidence too.
After helping Team USA win the Under-19 world championship last month in British Columbia, Ghitelman feels better about his game. He was named the tournament's top goalie.
"This has got to lift his spirits up," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said.
Ghitelman, a rising sophomore who's expected to start for U.Va. in 2009, was "down when he left [Charlottesville] at the end of the year," Starsia said. "He and I talked about it before he left, but even I couldn't shake him out of it. He'd never been on the bench. At first I think he was relieved, but then I think it wore on him as the season went on."
Team USA included three other U.Va. players: Nick Elsmo, Rhamel Bratton and Bray Malphrus. The performance of Elsmo, who rarely played for the Wahoos as a freshman in 2008, was a revelation. Elsmo scored three goals in the United States' win over Canada in the gold-medal game.
"We're just going to have to find a place for Nick," Starsia said.
The Cavaliers recently closed out their recruiting for the Class of 2009, adding a commitment from defenseman Chris Landon, a rising senior at St. Albans School in D.C. U.Va.'s first recruit from the Class of 2010 is Garrett Swankowski, a defenseman from Loudoun Valley High. -- Jeff White
High expectations don't burden U.Va. after offseason woes
Monday, Aug 04, 2008 - 12:08 AM
By JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- After a tumultuous offseason marked by the
arrests and suspensions of key players, the University of Virginia football team
is ready to get back on the field.
Training camp opens tonight for U.Va., picked by the media to finish fifth in the ACC's Coastal Division. As the Cavaliers head into their eighth season under Al Groh, questions surround his program. Here are five of the most pressing ones: 1. Who will take the snaps?
As a true freshman last year, Peter Lalich backed up starter Jameel Sewell at quarterback, and when Sewell was suspended from school for academic reasons, Lalich was expected to ascend to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
Lalich failed to win the job during spring practice, however, and he'll have to battle graduate student Scott Deke and sophomore Marc Verica for snaps in training camp. Groh has said he might use two quarterbacks this year. The Cavaliers are likely to spread the field more this season, which should play to the strengths of Lalich, an accurate passer. But the Grohs -- Al and son Mike, the offensive coordinator -- don't seem sold on Lalich as he enters his sophomore year. 2. Special teams
When Groh met with reporters at the ACC Football Kickoff last month, he clearly wasn't happy with the performances of his kickers and punters during spring practice.
U.Va.'s seniors last season included kicker/punter Chris Gould, who shined in pressure situations, and punter Ryan Weigand, who was second-team all-ACC. Replacing them won't be easy. The new punter is likely to be Jimmy Howell, a 6-6, 238-pound true freshman. Redshirt freshman Chris Hinkebein was considered the heir apparent to Gould when he signed with U.Va. in 2007. Hinkebein struggled with his accuracy during spring practice, however, and he's not a lock to handle field goals in the opener against USC.
Another concern for Groh: The Wahoos ranked 56th nationally in punt returns and 89th kickoff returns last season.
3. Defensive ends
Chris Long (14 sacks) and Jeffrey Fitzgerald (seven) terrorized opposing quarterbacks last season. Both are gone, however, and how well U.Va.'s defense fares may hinge in large part on how much pass rush their replacements can mount.
Pencil in 6-7, 270-pound senior Alex Field, the Cavaliers' No. 3 defensive end in 2006 and '07, for one starting job. Field has three career sacks. The other starter is likely to be redshirt freshman Matt Conrath or sophomore Sean Gottschalk (Deep Run High). Other candidates for playing time include redshirt freshman Zane Parr and juniors Jason Fuller and Kevin Crawford, who was out of school last year. 4. Can the offensive line protect the quarterback and open holes for the running backs?
Starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Will Barker are back, and each is likely to play in the NFL one day. But U.Va. must replace its top guards from 2007, Ian Yates-Cunningham and Branden Albert, and center Jordy Lipsey, and that's a grave concern for a team that must face mighty Southern California on opening day.
U.Va.'s coaching staff loves the potential of sophomore center Jack Shields (6-5, 289) and sophomore guard B.J. Cabbell (6-6, 304), but there's no guard on the roster as talented as Albert, who was a first-round NFL draft pick. Albert's successor is likely to be senior Zak Stair, a converted tackle who started seven games at that position in 2006. 5. Will wideout Kevin Ogletree regain the form he showed in 2006?
As a sophomore two seasons ago, Ogletree caught 52 passes for 582 yards and four touchdowns. He would have been an all-ACC candidate in 2007, but he tore an ACL and missed the season while rehabbing. His absence proved costly for an offense that ranked 90th nationaly in passing yards per game.
From all accounts, Ogletree is fully recovered from his knee injury and looks great. If so, he'll give the Cavaliers a legitimate deep threat who should worry opposing defensive coordinators. A 6-2, 189-pound redshirt junior, Ogletree is the centerpiece of a receiving corps that should be the deepest and most talented of the Groh era.
Brown removed from U.Va. roster
Monday, Aug 04, 2008 - 12:08 AM
By JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- The troubled football career of cornerback
Mike Brown at the University of Virginia officially ended yesterday.
In a two-paragraph release that included no comments from coach Al Groh, the school announced that Brown, who's heading into his fourth year at U.Va., is no longer a member of the team.
Brown, who's from Newark, N.J., hadn't participated in team activities since March, when U.Va. police charged him with three felonies -- one count each of grand larceny, possession of stolen property with intent to sell, and altering serial numbers. A grand jury will hear his case this month.
In April, Charlottesville police arrested Brown, 21, and charged him with DWI and refusing to take a blood/breath test, both misdemeanors.
As a true freshman in 2005, Brown started three games. He was a backup cornerback in 2006 but returned punts and played on U.Va.'s coverage teams. He missed last season while recovering from a knee injury.
Brown, who played at St. Peter's Prep with Rashawn Jackson, now U.Va.'s starting fullback, has had multiple incidents with police in Charlottesville. In April 2006, Brown pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor trespassing in connection with a brawl at a U.Va. fraternity.
Plenty is uncertain for Cavaliers
Off-field concerns, untested QBs and a tough schedule could spell trouble for UVa.
By NORM WOOD | | 247-4642
11:35 PM EDT, August 3, 2008
As preseason practice opens today in Charlottesville, Virginia
coach Al Groh and his staff have no shortage of issues to address. It's going to
be a frantic 31/2 weeks.
There's the situation at quarterback, the continuation of meshing the defense with new coordinator Bob Pruett, breaking in redshirt freshman kicker Chris Hinkebein, re-incorporating some key players returning from injuries … oh, there's also the little matter of game-planning for the Aug. 30 season opener in Charlottesville against Southern California.
With so much on tap, the questions are almost limitless, but here are 10 of the most pressing questions:
Considering all the off-field troubles (arrests, dismissals, transfers) in the offseason, has the team lost its focus?
That's difficult to say until the team gets on the field, but one certainly has to wonder. Groh should get a good feel for his team's level of focus early in practice. If workouts are sharp, it'll be easier to put the problems on the back burner and get on with the task at hand. Preparing for USC is hard enough without additional distractions.
Is quarterback Peter Lalich ready to lead this offense?
Well, he still has to nail down the starting job. Scott Deke and Marc Verica are heading into the preseason ahead of Lalich on the depth chart. Though Lalich is the most talented quarterback on the roster, there's no guarantee he will start against USC. If his July 13 citation for unlawful purchase and possession of alcohol (he's only 20) is any indication, his decision-making skills could use some work.
Who will be the most dependable receiving targets?
Remember Kevin Ogletree? He's back. After missing last season because of a knee injury suffered in spring practice, he is at full strength. The 6-foot-2, 189-pound junior had 52 catches for 582 yards and four touchdowns in 2006.
How is the offensive line shaping up?
With Eugene Monroe and Will Barker back, the tackle spots looked very solid … at least until Barker was arrested July 26 in Charlottesville and charged with petit larceny. There's no word yet on any team-mandated discipline. Isaac Cain is listed as Barker's preseason backup. At the guard positions, Zak Stair and B.J. Cabbell will work in new starting roles, as will center Jack Shields.
Where will the pass rush come from?
It's probably going to shift primarily from the defensive end spots, where Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald are gone, to the linebackers. Don't be surprised if Pruett draws up blitzes for linebacker Clint Sintim (nine sacks last season) from every angle.
Where are the weak spots on both sides of the ball?
Defensive ends Alex Field and Sean Gottschalk and nose tackle Nate Collins are first-year starters. There's very little experienced depth at those positions. On offense, it has to be the quarterback position, which is still up in the air and also doesn't feature much experience.
Who's ready to have a breakout season?
Keep an eye on cornerback Ras-I Dowling. With nine pass breakups last season as a true freshman, Dowling endeared himself to UVa fans. If he continues to improve, the rest of the nation will recognize his unique name.
Who has the most pressure on him this season?
Look no further than the other cornerback position, where junior Vic Hall will be tested. He struggled in some big spots last season (see several plays against Virginia Tech), so some of the more pass-happy teams on the schedule (USC, Clemson) won't be afraid to attack his side of the field.
Who will get the bulk of the carries?
It's probably going to be a whoever-is-the-hottest situation. Junior Mikell Simpson was a revelation last season when he stepped in for Cedric Peerman and Andrew Pearman and accumulated the bulk of his 570 rushing yards and 402 receiving yards in the second half of the season. Peerman, a senior, is back after undergoing foot surgery.
Can the Cavaliers duplicate or improve upon last season's 9-4 record?
Not likely, but few observers saw that record coming prior to last season. The schedule is stout this season. In addition to the home opener against USC, UVa must travel to Connecticut, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, and will play at home against improved Clemson, East Carolina and North Carolina teams. A .500 season might be considered a huge success.
Pastor Peerman: Virginia back’s higher power
By Jay Jenkins
Published: August 1, 2008
In a perfect world, Cedric Peerman would have duplicated his first-half success over the final seven games last season.
Virginia’s bruising tailback churned out 585 yards on the ground in six early-season contests, a pace that, had he sustained it, would have given him the fifth-best season in UVa history.
Eclipsing the 1,000-yard barrier, which has been broken only 13 times in program history, would have placed Peerman in nearly every national award’s watch list.
The school-issued paraphernalia sent to encourage voting for the 21-year-old graduate student could have included numerous catchy slogans, which now could include: Pastor Peerman.
In July, Peerman was ordained as a minister at Charlottesville’s Mt. Zion First African Church.
“It has been a process of seeking out God for a long time,” Peerman said. “I was pretty much raised in a church and I have always been a Christian and followed God.”
Peerman, who remains a member of his home church in his hometown of Gladys, developed and maintains a close relationship with Dr. Earl Pendleton, who is the assistant to the pastor at Mt. Zion. Despite that bond, Peerman said it was ultimately his decision.
“When you get ordained as a minister, it is not something that is presented to you — no one asks you,” he explained. “It is a direct call from God himself. It could be a number of things. It could be a feeling.
“A lot of ministers who have been called have interesting stories — they have dreams, they wake up preaching. It was just a process for me over the course of my life, I guess.”
Peerman said becoming ordained would not change his style on the football field or his personality in the team’s locker room, which boasts numerous Christians. That is important, he said, to ensure that religious tensions don’t crop up among 100-plus players from all walks of life.
“We are not trying to be divisive or anything like that,” Peerman said. “It is just what we believe, and we are not trying to force anybody because if you force somebody to believe what you believe, then I don’t think they really believe it anyway.
“It is completely open — if you want to come pray with us, come pray with us. If you want to come to Bible study, come to Bible study. Being a Christian, coming to God is a choice for yourself that you, yourself, have to make. Everyone has to make it — some people do, some people don’t. That’s just how it is.”
Peerman credits his devout faith with helping him battle through his troubling time last season. In the first half of the Cavaliers’ sixth game, a road win at Middle Tennessee State, he suffered a Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery.
While he was limited in spring practice and did not play in the annual spring game, Peerman said his foot is “100 percent” and he expects to retake his spot as the team’s top kick returner and split carries with junior tailback Mikell Simpson.
“I am ready to go,” he said. “I have been ready to go for a while.”
An even dozen
Virginia, picked by the media to finish fifth in the ACC’s Coastal Division, received 12 votes in the preseason USA Today Top 25 coaches’ poll, which was released Friday.
There were 37 teams that received more votes that the Cavaliers, including four of their opponents (No. 2 Southern Cal, No. 9 Clemson, No. 15 Virginia Tech and No. 23 Wake Forest).
Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina and Georgia Tech also received votes.
It marked the first time the Cavaliers had received votes in the preseason poll since 2005.
Jared Green, a redshirt freshman, is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, today. The wide receiver will introduce his father, former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, at today’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. … Three open practice times have been announced for Virginia’s upcoming training camp. The public is invited to attend on Aug. 9 (8:35 a.m.), Aug. 14 (5 p.m.) and Aug. 16 (8:35 a.m.). Virginia’s annual Meet the Team Day will be held Aug. 10 at Scott Stadium at 3 p.m. and last 75 minutes. Gates open at 2 p.m. … The team will report to the team hotel Sunday and will open practice on Monday.
Harris set to leave Virginia
By Whitey Reid
Published: August 2, 2008
Will Harris’ days at Virginia could be over.
On Saturday, sources confirmed to The Daily Progress that the 6-foot-6 junior forward is hoping to transfer to another school.
Neither Harris nor UVa coach Dave Leitao could be reached for comment.
Harris played in just 15 games during the 2007-2008 season due to an injured back. The Queens, N.Y. native averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in nine minutes per game.
In June, Harris said that his back felt “100 percent, 98 percent of the time” and that he was looking forward to the upcoming season.
“I think we’re going to have a real deep team,” Harris said. “Lots of guys will be able to do lots of different things. Given the situation, I’m going to do whatever coach needs me to do because I feel like I’m versatile enough that I could do anything.
“I just like being on the court. I don’t care where I’m at. As long as I’m on the court, I’m happy.”
But apparently Harris now realizes he may not be on the court very much. Virginia has a number of players on its roster who do the same things as him and playing time might be hard to come by.
In June, Harris said he didn’t have any regrets about not seeking a medical redshirt that would have given him an additional year of eligibility. He was also adamant that he didn’t have any issues with Leitao.
“He’s my man,” said Harris. “That’s my guy.”
Harris, who will turn 22 on Aug. 24, was part of Leitao’s first recruiting class, which also included Jamil Tucker, Solomon Tat and Jerome Meyinsse.
As a freshman, Harris showed some flashes. He had an impressive 14-point, six- rebound performance in an early win over N.C. State.
However, Harris fizzled down the stretch, then injured his back just before the start of last season.
Coming out of high school, Harris verbally committed to Nebraska before changing his mind and taking a prep year at Brewster Academy (N.H.). While at Brewster, Harris committed to Connecticut, but then decided Virginia was the better fit.
The loss of Harris would leave UVa with 12 scholarship players, one below the maximum. Leitao could award the open scholarship to guard Calvin Baker, who had a successful year as a walk-on last season — or he could give it to Tunji Soroye, who is still awaiting word on a medical redshirt.that would enable him to return for a fifth season.
UVa hurler Thompson poised to sign with Atlanta, begin pro
By Jay Jenkins
Published: August 2, 2008
Few players, if any ever, have been able to officially report to a Major League team with a drive shorter than the one Jacob Thompson will make.
Ending weeks of speculation, Thompson told The Daily Progress on Saturday that he intended to sign later in the evening with the Atlanta Braves and would report to the organization’s rookie team this week in his hometown of Danville. The all-time wins leader in University of Virginia baseball history was the Braves’ fifth-round pick, their highest unsigned player left, and was the lone Cavalier that had been drafted not to ink a deal with a professional team.
“It has been up and down this summer and I have been frustrated at times, happy at other times, but ultimately I know that I am making the right decision,” Thompson said. “I had my mind set and I told [Virginia’s coaching staff] that the best decision of my life was coming to UVa and not signing out of high school.”
Thompson signed for a bonus of $195,000, and the contract also includes the remaining money needed for tuition to complete requirements for his degree. The six players drafted ahead of the right-handed pitcher averaged just over $178,000 in bonus money per deal.
During his time at UVa, Thompson typically dominated batters on the mound. In three seasons as a weekend starter he posted a 27-8 mark and ranks fourth in program history with 248 career strikeouts. A consensus All-American as a sophomore, Thompson also started the gold-medal game for the United States in the Pan Am Games last summer against Cuba.
The Virginia native struggled, however, at least by his standards this past season, posting a 6-4 record with a 4.30 ERA. Once considered a sure-fire first-round pick, Thompson slipped in the draft, creating a debate over his future.
Returning to school for his fourth season, however, with hopes of improving his stock would have been a gamble. Only two seniors without eligibility remaining were taken amongst the top 193 picks in this year’s draft and organizations often pay well below slot figures for players without leverage.
“As much as we would have liked to have had Jacob Thompson back in our uniform, in understanding the game of baseball it’s easy to see that this was the move that he felt was best for him,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor. “Jacob may very well be the best pitcher to don a Virginia uniform and we are truly excited for what the future holds for his career.”
Thompson’s last name will not be forgotten at Virginia. His younger brother, Justin, is slated to join the program this fall as a rookie catcher and pitcher.
“I have told my brother nothing but great things about Virginia and its baseball program,” the elder Thompson said. “I don’t regret my decision one bit. I feel like I have three other dads in the assistant coaches up there at UVa and I know that they would do anything in the world for me.
“I had three great years at school pitching in front of the best fans in the ACC and I loved every minute of it. I just feel like it is my time.”