Coach says Harris is leaving
By Doug Doughty
Will Harris has been released from his basketball scholarship by the University of Virginia and already has been in contact with other schools, according to Jason Smith, who coached Harris at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.
Harris missed most of the 2007-2008 season with a back problem but teammates have described him as close to 100 percent in recent pick-up games.
"Will actually loves Virginia, loves the university and everybody in Charlottesville," Smith said. "He had a great relationship with the coaches and all of his teammates.
"He was a great ambassador for the university; I just think he wants a little bit different role for his last two years in college. I think he just wants to go to a program where he can shine a little bit more."
Harris played more than any other UVa freshman in 2006-2007, when he averaged 3.6 points and 3.2 rebounds, but he played in only nine of 33 UVa games this past season.
Harris (6 foot 6, 245 pounds) was viewed as something of a "tweener," not tall enough to guard 6-9 or 6-10 power forwards but a little too stocky for the wing. The back injury prevented him from altering that perception.
"That's just a small portion of it," Smith said. "When I spoke to Will about a week and a half ago, he said he was back to 100 percent and playing every day. Adrian Joseph told me [Monday] that Will was playing great."
Smith said it was his understanding that Harris had spoken to Albany and Marist. New Hampshire and Northeastern called Smith on Wednesday.
"I think he would prefer to go to those level," Smith said. "I've had Big East, Atlantic-10, even Big Ten schools call and I've mentioned them to Will. But, again, Will is almost 22 years old. He's not going to get caught up in the level of schools like a 17- or 18-year-old kid might.
"He'd definitely be a match-up problem for schools in the America East or the MAAC."
Smith said he cannot envision Harris changing his mind and returning to UVa.
UVa coach Dave Leitao has been in Costa Rica and has not addressed the Harris situation. However, Harris' departure would free up a scholarship for either Calvin Baker, who transferred from William and Mary without a grant, or Tunji Soroye, who qualifies for a hardship appeal that would enable him to return for a fifth year.
Is nose tackle a one-player job?
Collins prepared to handle the role, but Jenkins could help
Thursday, Aug 07, 2008 - 12:07 AM Updated: 08:29 AM
By JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Nate Collins is preparing as if he'll be
asked to take every snap at nose tackle for the University of Virginia football
team this season.
Cavaliers coach Al Groh hopes it won't come to that. How much relief Collins gets, however, depends on the development of Nick Jenkins, a 6-3, 285-pound freshman who redshirted last season.
A season ago, the Cavaliers ranked 16th nationally in scoring defense and 23rd in total defense, in large part because of their line's stellar play.
Ends Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald showed up most often in the highlights, but nose tackles Allen Billyk (38 tackles) and Collins (31) also distinguished themselves in U.Va.'s 3-4 scheme.
With Billyk gone, Collins, a 6-2, 290-pound junior, moves to the top of the depth chart. Collins estimates he was in for about 40 percent of the Cavaliers' defensive plays in 2007. A similar arrangement would be ideal for U.Va. this season, and Jenkins appears ready to spell Collins.
"Nick is one of those coming-on young players," Groh said yesterday. "He's got his eye on playing time, very clearly, and is working hard to get some of it. I think everybody can see that, the coaches, other players. . . . Frankly, Nate can probably see that. That's good for Nate."
Jenkins, a graduate of Good Counsel High in Wheaton, Md., was one of the more heralded recruits to sign with U.Va. in 2007. A longtime weight-lifter, he was physically mature enough to play as a true freshman, but with Billyk and Collins back, U.Va. had the luxury of giving Jenkins time to learn the techniques of a 3-4 nose tackle. He already had the intangibles.
"We love his toughness," Groh said.
Collins wasn't nearly as touted as Jenkins. He graduated from King & Low-Heywood Thomas, a small private school in Stamford, Conn., not known for producing major-college football prospects.
As a 12th-grader, Collins spent more time at fullback, linebacker and quarterback than he did on the defensive line, so he faced a steep learning curve at U.Va. Yet, he was the only true freshman to play for the Cavaliers in 2006, a testament to his speed and athleticism.
As a sophomore, Collins contributed one of Virginia's most memorable defensive plays, batting down a two-point conversion pass that would have pulled North Carolina even with 1:57 left. U.Va. held on to win 22-20.
"Most of the plays he's been able to make for us have been on athletic ability and effort," Groh said. "He's continuing to learn to play the point of attack more physically, where his early game was based more on athletic ability and running to the ball."
Collins said he has added some weight this offseason while losing "a lot of body fat, and I got a little stronger."
His role has changed, too, and not only because of Billyk's departure. Long and Fitzgerald also are gone, which means Collins suddenly is one of the old men on the line. He says he's ready for the added responsibility.
"I don't know what the coaches have in mind with playing time, but I'm going to just make sure I'm prepared to play 100 plays if that's what it's going to take in a game," Collins said. "If the coaches feel there should be a rotation, that's all right, too."
Gottschalk bulks up
By Doug Doughty
As if Virginia didn't have enough issues with its defensive line, the Cavaliers went through spring practice without a leading candidate for one of the end spots vacated by Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald.
Sophomore Sean Gottschalk may have missed some valuable scrimmage time in the spring but it wasn't a wasted offseason.
Gottschalk, who previously may have appeared a little undersized, was in the 285- to 290-pound range when he reported for camp earlier this week.
Gottschalk played in nine games in 2007 but required shoulder surgery after the season.
"He's full go," UVa coach Al Groh said Thursday. "Not unexpectedly, he's a little rusty. With players who did miss time, where it shows up most noticeably is in reaction time and footwork. Those are two areas that Sean is working at getting refined.
"He has really been very diligent. Whatever he can do, he's been doing, before the surgery and after the surgery. He's shown tremendous work effort during the summer. If he continues with that, that's all we can ask of him."
To the suggestion that Gottschalk lacks the frame of fellow defensive end Alex Field, Groh responded, "He does now."
Gottschalk and Field, who last year was listed at 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, are among those who have benefitted from the addition of Virginia's first full-time sports nutritionist, Rob Skinner.
"He got here during the latter part of last season," Groh said. "We were really determined during the summer that we were going to take full advantage of his presence. He conducted quite a few classes on food selection, how to shop and how to cook. A lot of players have testified to the way it has changed their perspective."
Starting offensive tackle Will Barker is scheduled to be in Charlottesville General District Court on Aug. 26, five days before UVa's season opener against Southern California. Barker and fellow O-lineman Dave Roberts, a walk-on, were charged July 26 with petty larceny.
Barker and Roberts also were charged with underage possession of alcohol and using a fake ID, the same charge levied against Cavaliers quarterback Peter Lalich less than two weeks before that.
"There's certain things that we weren't pleased with and we've dealt with them internally," Groh said in a teleconference earlier this week, "but, frankly, there are plenty of people out there who want to stir it up. I don't necessarily need to contribute to that."
Groh would not disclose if either of the incidents would result in a loss of playing time.
"We'll just handle all that internally," he reiterated.
Reyering a natural
Although many football place-kickers have a soccer background, Yannick Reyering is bidding to become the first UVa soccer player to kick for the Cavaliers' football team since Jeff Gaffney in 1986.
Normally, the two seasons coincide, but Reyering's soccer eligibility has expired and a torn anterior cruciate ligament prevented him from going to camp with FC Dallas, which selected him in the second round of the Major League Soccer Draft.
"I put it out there as an alternative because of his injury," UVa men's soccer coach George Gelnovatch said, "but also because he's well-suited. He strikes the ball as good or better than anybody I've ever seen.
"He's got a lot of leverage. He's big [6 foot 5]. He took all of our penalty kicks, which takes a lot of mental concentration.
"Given his injury and the fact he needed another semester of school, this wasn't a bad thing at least to explore."
Actually, there was another UVa soccer player who turned to football, ex-starting goalie Ryan Best, but Best gave up soccer to concentrate on football.
Help on way
Gelnovatch, whose program is less than two years removed from an appearance in the NCAA semifinals, said he has his youngest team in almost 10 years and is hoping for a boost from three Division I transfers.
Included in that group is Matt Weiler, a transfer from the University of Kentucky, whose men's soccer team competes in Conference USA (the Southeastern Conference doesn't have enough teams). Weiler also played football at Lake Braddock and his father, Chris, had 44 receptions for Navy in 1984.
The Cavaliers also picked up 6-4 defender Jordon Evans, who started 28 games in two seasons at Richmond and was named to the 2006 All-Atlantic 10 tournament team.
All of the transfers will have instant eligibility.
After making its fifth NCAA appearance in five seasons under Brian O'Connor, Virginia's baseball team finds itself in a rebuilding mode after the loss of three prominent juniors and at least one signee.
Former All-ACC pitcher Jacob Thompson signed last week with the Atlanta Braves, who had selected him in the fifth round of baseball's free-agent draft. He joined second baseman David Adams and All-ACC shortstop Greg Miclat in passing up their final season of college eligibility.
Adams was selected in the third round by the New York Yankees and Miclat in the fifth round by Baltimore.
The Cavaliers also lost first baseman Tyler Massey, a signee from Chattanooga, Tenn., a 14th-round Colorado Rockies pick whose $525,000 bonus was well above the norm for that round.
The Cavaliers also are in jeopardy of losing Unionville, Pa., slugger Peter Hissey, who was Boston's fourth-round pick. The Red Sox have until next Thursday to sign Hissey.
Groh on Favre soap opera: ‘Huh’
By Jay Jenkins
Published: August 7, 2008
Al Groh has often said that he is merely focused on coaching his
Any question regarding the Virginia football coach’s attention to the smallest details was answered Wednesday afternoon.
Despite having held just three practices, each of which was without full pads, Groh apparently was so tuned into the Cavaliers’ camp that he missed the latest development in the world’s most over-hyped sports drama.
The former head coach of the New York Jets had no idea that his old employer had landed quarterback Brett Favre through a late-night trade Tuesday.
“I didn’t know that, no. Huh,” Groh said. “That’s interesting.
“I am kind of bunkered down right now.”
Groh had reason to be analyzing his most previous practice. Wednesday’s session, he said, was “devoted almost entirely to special teams.” With players taking exams on Wednesday and today in the final session of summer school, getting in the special teams work provided a change of pace.
“Realizing their concentration was going to be split between two things, we didn’t do any installation [of the playbook],” Groh said.
For now, the kicking game is an area of concern with a complete makeover needed.
For better or worse, true freshman Jimmy Howell will likely be given the punting duties that were handled in 2008 by the combined efforts of Chris Gould and Ryan Weigand.
While it remains early in the process, Groh did offer a first impression of his new punter.
“[Howell] is a very mature kid for just being a first-year player,” Groh said. “He’s big, a real good-sized kid for that position. He has real good flexibility, which is an important factor at that position.”
Howell could add a wrinkle into the special teams playbook — he was an accomplished quarterback in high school and has said he would even welcome trying to play tight end, of which he fits the mold at 6-foot-6 and 238 pounds.
The situation at placekicker is different with a host of players fighting for roles handling placement kicks and kickoffs.
Chris Hinkebein, who is on scholarship, redshirted last year and may have the early edge, but struggled with consistency during spring practice. The woes in practice only fueled the desire to seek out contingency plans.
Rob Randolph may be a sleeper in the mix. The true freshman walk-on was recruited by programs such as Miami and Hawaii before electing to gamble on earning time at Virginia.
Groh said his first impression of Randolph was “positive.”
“He hits a nice, clean ball,” Groh added.
A converted soccer player, Randolph set a program record in high school with a 50-yard field goal and was near perfect on over 100 extra-point attempts.
Another player with a soccer background, former Cavaliers striker Yannick Reyering, is also in camp trying to latch on in another sport after completing his eligibility for soccer coach George Gelnovatch.
“He has a strong interest [in football],” Groh said. “He has performed in competition — he was the leading scorer on the soccer team last year. Even though it is a different circumstance, he has clearly had the ability to kick the ball with velocity and accuracy. “He had an interest in pursuing it. It was pretty quick — we were interested and he was interested so we both agreed, ‘Let’s go.’ It is not a circumstance where there is a player who could perhaps contribute something to us, but we have to talk him into it. The interest is certainly very mutual in this circumstance.”
Virginia could also use a spike in its return game. After losing kick returner Cedric Peerman last season in the sixth game, the Cavaliers struggled to gain excellent field position.
That could change, Peerman said, thanks to the addition of the players that redshirted last year and the development of the sophomore class.
“I think we are going to be fine,” the senior said. “The younger guys might not have a lot of experience doing it but they have seen guys step up before. They saw how Mikell [Simpson] stepped in and played a huge role on our team last year so it gives guys confidence that they can help.
“Maybe that will not help in as big of a role, but more so as a special teams guy. That is just as important as what Mikell did.”
Should Virginia need to find an in-season replacement for tackles Will Barker or Eugene Monroe, the answer would likely come through a seasoned-veteran.
“Probably that player now would be one of the first five and that would be Zak Stair,” Groh said.
Currently listed as the starting left guard, Stair has experience at all five positions on the line.
Landon Bradley, a redshirt freshman tackle, could alter that plan if he progresses throughout the season. Bradley worked last season strictly behind Eugene Monroe on the left side.
Another addition coming
Virginia added six walk-on players for training camp, and at least one more is on the way when fall classes commence.
J.C. Poma, a high school standout at quarterback at Henrico High in 2006, plans to join the program when Groh is allowed to add players. The NCAA mandates that only 105 players can report to training camp, but the number can climb after classes begin.
Poma, who was a walk-on first baseman with Virginia’s baseball team, knows about number-crunching policies. New NCAA rules limiting baseball rosters to just 35 players starting in 2009 left him as a roster casualty.
At one point in Poma’s high school career he appeared headed to Davidson for football after verbally committing to the Wildcats, but later picked baseball as his college sport of choice.
He's a rookie in name only
New coach is casting a veteran's shadow as UR goes to work
Thursday, Aug 07, 2008 - 12:07 AM Updated: 08:28 AM
By JOHN O'CONNOR
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
The new coach is, evidently, not acting like a new coach. Mike
London, 47, was named the University of Richmond's head football coach in
January. The former Spiders defensive back, a former assistant at UR, Virginia,
William and Mary, Boston College, and with the Houston Texans, has never before
been a head coach.
"He definitely does not show it," said UR receiver Kevin Grayson. "He came right in and you would think he had been a head coach his whole life, the way he was like, 'This is how we're going to do things.' He laid it all out for us and no one has questioned anything he's done.
"We're fully behind him and ready to roll."
As the Spiders, 11-3 last year and co-champions of the Colonial Athletic Association, prepare for their Aug. 30 opener at Elon, a conversation with London:
Are you ready to go as a coach?
"With preparation and planning and all that, you feel like, 'OK, I've done everything I've seen some good coaches do.' Now it's just time to play the games and see [what happens] when the score starts to count."
Wouldn't it be easier to take over a program that was 3-8 last season? The Spiders are picked to win the CAA South.
"I don't even pay attention to the preseason expectations. I know that's good fan talk and everything, [but] I just do what we've got to take care of. We've got to block and tackle better than the other team."
How about terminology, etc.? Do you try to change that with a partially new staff or try to keep it as similar as possible to that used by former UR coach Dave Clawson?
"You change the terminology, but you try to fuse the concepts, so now you can say, 'It's just like this, same as.'"
Were you ready to be a head coach in previous years and just didn't have the opportunity, or did the opportunity mesh with you being ready to be a head coach?
"I had interviewed for head [-coaching] jobs. It's all about timing. This time, the timing was right. It was perfect. The stars were aligned. I'm blessed with the opportunity to be here. I've been ready, but now is the time that I have to perform and be a head coach, and I'm looking forward to that."
When coaches change from assistant coach to head coach, the story goes that relationships change with players. Have you found that to be the case?
"I'm the same way I was anywhere else I've been. When you ask the question, 'How are you doing?' then you've got to be able to listen to the answers, because there are some tough answers these guys give you. They're real-life situations. The relationships probably matter more now than they ever have."
Your reputation at previous stops as a recruiter was excellent. Can you keep a hands-on approach to that as head coach?
"It's just my personality. I'm just going to keep doing what I do."
Former Cavalier fullback Bradley found dead in North Carolina
By Jay Jenkins
Published: August 8, 2008
The Virginia football family is in mourning.
Former Cavalier fullback Kevin Bradley, 22, was found dead as a result of a single gunshot wound to the head, Lt. David Sportsman, a Fayetteville (N.C.) spokesman announced to reporters on Thursday. It is unclear at this point, investigators said, if the wound was self-inflicted.
Bradley, who made his first and only start during his playing career at Virginia in the Music City Bowl in 2005, had been reported missing by his mother on July 2. His skeletal remains were found July 26 by three teens walking in the area of the body, which was confirmed to be Bradley this week by the North Carolina State Medical Examiners office.
The former Cavalier suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was not taking medication, his mother told the police. She also said her son took a gun belonging to his stepfather before he went missing.
An all-state player out of Seventy First High School in Fayetteville, Bradley played in the North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl after his final prep season. Rated as high as the 23rd-best player in the state by a publication, Bradley made an immediate impact at Virginia on special teams in 2004 and 2005 as a wedge blocker and registered five tackles.
Bradley also returned a kickoff for seven yards against Boston College in ‘05 and caught a 3-yard pass against Temple later that season. A suspension from school prior to the 2006 season removed Bradley from the program’s roster, and he never returned.
Former Virginia basketball star seeks Olympic medal as coach
Dawn Staley won three Olympic golds as a player, and she'll use that experience to help coach the U.S. to another medal.
By Mark Berman
Dawn Staley led Temple to six NCAA tournaments in eight years of coaching. She left the Owls in May to take over as head coach at South Carolina.
Dawn Staley was the flag bearer for the United States four years ago as she and her fellow athletes marched in the opening ceremonies of the Athens Olympics.
Staley is a proud member of the U.S. delegation once again. After winning three Olympic gold medals as a player, the former Virginia basketball star will be at the Summer Games this time as an assistant coach.
"For me to still be a part of [USA Basketball], no matter what role, it's an honor," Staley said in a recent phone interview from the team's training camp at Stanford. "It's an organization that I relish being a part of. It's a basketball utopia where everybody comes together for a common goal, and you work towards that every single day.
"I love the USA Basketball system and the mission of it -- to win gold medals doing things the right way."
Staley won gold in Atlanta, Barcelona and Athens. In 2004, she was chosen by all the U.S. team captains to carry the flag into the opening ceremonies.
"Winning my first gold medal is always going to be embedded in my heart, but ... carrying the flag into the opening ceremonies is something that you just don't dream of," she said. "It's something that I'll continue to relish."
As a coach instead of a point guard, she won't be entitled to a medal this time. But there is one benefit to being on the staff instead of running a fast break.
"It's not as exhausting," she said with a laugh.
After coaching at Temple in her hometown of Philadelphia for eight years, Staley left the Owls in May to succeed Virginia Tech graduate Susan Walvius as South Carolina's coach.
She has moonlighted as one of Anne Donovan's three assistants on the U.S. team since 2006. In 2007, she served as head coach for a squad of U.S. college players that won gold at the Pan American Games.
Staley, 38, would like to be the Olympic head coach one day.
"I'm an athlete. I'm a competitor. You always want to be the very best in your profession," she said. "That would probably be the highest honor that could ever happen to me as a coach."
In Beijing, Staley will be coaching some of her former Olympic teammates.
She said they listen to her, just as they did when she was their point guard.
"The players that I played with really respect my basketball mind," she said.
"That doesn't stop just because my role has changed."
Staley is looking forward to sharing her experiences with the new Olympians on the team.
"I try to give my insight whenever possible, especially to the first-timers because they don't quite get it -- and they won't get it until they're thrown into the fire of the Olympic Games," she said. "You've got to be able to handle adversity."
The U.S. will begin play Saturday against the Czech Republic.
The Americans are hoping for a better finish at the Olympics than they had at the 2006 World Championships, where Staley was on the coaching staff of a team that won bronze.
"It's gold or failure," she said.
"We always have the targets on our back. We know with that [favorite role] comes the pressure of winning. Everybody's been in situations before where they were expected to win, but just not on this big stage."
The U.S. team includes such stars as Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Diana Taurasi. Staley said it might be even more talented than the three Olympic teams she helped win gold.
Staley retired as a WNBA player two years ago. She said she won't get the itch to play again while watching the Olympics from the bench.
"I'm very comfortable in my skin, being in the position that I'm in," she said. "I feel pretty good about the team that we're taking in to Beijing and I know that we're capable of bringing back gold."
When she returns from Beijing, she will resume her new quest of turning South Carolina into a contender in the rigorous Southeastern Conference.
"It was time for me to move on and challenge myself in a different way," said Staley, who led Temple to six NCAA tournaments.
Staley has a total financial package at South Carolina worth $650,000 a year, not including incentives. By comparison, UVa coach Debbie Ryan has a total financial package of about $440,000 a year.
So has Staley risen to a perch loftier than her alma mater? Will she be staying put, even if UVa approaches her whenever Ryan retires?
"I'd like to think that anywhere I am, we've got a shot at winning the national championship," Staley said. "I don't know what the future holds. ... I can't tell you where I'm going to be 10 years from now."
She just hopes the future brings another gold medal to the U.S. this month.