Daily Bull hat tip to David Teel of the Daily Press for today's lead
Before anyone gets too worked over this, recall that USC probably has one of the best backups in the country in Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain...
Mark Sanchez's knee injury muddies waters at USC
Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times
USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was carted off the field today shortly after the start practice with a possible injury to his left knee
Starting quarterback dislocates left kneecap before practice and could be out for opener, perhaps longer. Doctors rule out bone, ligament or cartilage damage.
By Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 9, 2008
USC's quarterback situation for the season opener and possibly
beyond became muddled Friday when starter Mark Sanchez suffered a dislocated
left kneecap while warming up for practice.
Sanchez, a fourth-year junior, threw a pass to teammate Clay Matthews, as he does every day before stretching exercises, but then crumpled to the ground.
Team trainers helped Sanchez to the sideline, where he said the kneecap was put back into place. He was later carted from the field and taken for an MRI exam and X-rays.
Sanchez, on crutches and wearing a long brace on his left leg, expressed disappointment but also relief after returning to campus and meeting with team doctors, who informed him there was no ligament, cartilage or bone damage. He will begin rehabilitation Monday and Coach Pete Carroll said the quarterback's status was day-to-day.
"Just scary, frightening," Sanchez said of his initial thoughts when his knee gave out. "But the way they said some of these things happen it could be a lot worse. This is really the best-case scenario."
Said Carroll: "We lucked out."
Sanchez, 6 feet 3 and 225 pounds, appeared in seven games last season, including three starts in place of injured senior John David Booty. He completed 69 of 114 passes for 695 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions.
Asked if he would be ready for the Trojans' Aug. 30 opener at Virginia, Sanchez said, "Hope so, got to hope so. And work to get back. But we'll see. I'm trying to get back before that so I can practice."
Sanchez's uncertain status elevates sophomore transfer Mitch Mustain and redshirt freshman Aaron Corp to compete for the starting job. Both appeared a bit shaky in the immediate aftermath of Sanchez's injury before rallying and performing well during the second half of practice.
Carroll said the injury provided an "extraordinary moment" for the Trojans' backups.
"My thought is we have a guy like Mitch and a guy like Aaron that can jump in and take their shots at this thing until Mark's back in here and battling with them," Carroll said. "This is an opportunity and how we deal with it and how we handle it is important. Not the fact that something happened."
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian indicated Mustain was next in line but said Corp would also compete for the spot.
"These two guys are more on the athletic side -- they really like to get out of the pocket and do things out of the pocket," Sarkisian said.
Mustain was 8-0 as a freshman starter at Arkansas in 2006. On Thursday, Mustain had said he did not think it would be possible to unseat Sanchez as the starter for the opener, but that he would be prepared if needed.
Mustain called Sanchez's mishap a "freak" injury.
"We hate that it happened. We hate for it to happen like that, especially, but we got an opportunity today to kind of show what we could do and had to take care of it," he said.
Corp starred at Orange Lutheran High and was the standout performer during the Trojans' spring scrimmage in April. On Friday, he passed for three touchdowns during the team's final drill.
"This is an opportunity," he said. "I'm thrilled but at the same time you have to feel for Mark."
Judging the schedules by 'winnability' factor
While we’re at it, where is Grassfield High School?
By Doug Doughty
If it appears that this column sometime appears out of thin air, this week’s edition would be a perfect illustration.
I’m not sure what I would have written if not for an 11 a.m. phone call from Tucker McLaughlin, beefy but venerable sports editor of The News & Record of South Boston.
McLaughlin is the kind of guy who forms a firm opinion of a basketball team’s NCAA Tournament chances in November, so you can be sure that he knows exactly how the Virginia Tech and Virginia football teams will finish.
When I told McLaughlin that I thought Virginia might surprise some people because its schedule isn’t the toughest, he argued that the Cavaliers might have the toughest schedule in the ACC, noting that UVa plays the Nos. 1 and 2 preseason choices in each division, as well as three non-conference opponents who played in bowls last year (Southern Cal, Connecticut and East Carolina).
On first glance, it appears he had his facts straight, but who thought we would see the day when Florida State wasn’t picked No. 1 or 2 in the Atlantic Division? (The Seminoles were a preseason choice for third behind Clemson and Wake Forest).
I don’t know how I would pick Wake ahead of Florida State, particularly when the Deacons have to go to Tallahassee, Fla., but maybe I put too much stock in the home-field advantage. After all, the Deacons thrashed the Seminoles two years ago at Doak Campbell Stadium, 30-0.
IN ANY CASE, I countered McLaughlin’s assertions about Virginia’s schedule by posing my “winnability” theory. If you look at UVa’s schedule and rank every game 1-12 in terms of winnability, I can only find two games that the Cavaliers can’t win.
Here’s the Virginia “winnability” factor, which I’ll follow with Virginia Tech’s.
1. Richmond. Can't see Al Groh letting former aide Mike London beat him, especially in the Cavaliers’ home opener, but Richmond should have won at UVa in its last meeting.
2. At Duke. I've picked UVa to lose at Wallace Wade a number of times. I've usually been wrong.
3 East Carolina at home. Payback involved here. Cavs won’t look past Pirates.
4 Maryland at home. Cavs won at Byrd last year.
5. Miami at home. The Hurricanes would have to be 49 points better.
6. North Carolina at home. Maybe it's time for the streak to end, but numbers are on UVa's side.
7. At Georgia Tech. The Cavs have won at Grant Field against better teams than this one.
8. At Wake. Check out Virginia's record at Groves over the years. It's pretty good.
9. At Connecticut. Talent level is pretty even
10. Clemson at home. The Tigers could be in a must-win situation that late in the season. They're not good in those situations.
11. At Virginia Tech. Will Groh ever win at Lane Stadium?
12. Southern California. The season really begins in Week 2.
THE SUBJECT OF Virginia Tech’s “winnability” factor was posed Friday at the SEC Roundtable, where Salem High School golf coach Thad Snyder provided a wallet-sized Hokies’ schedule. There was some meaningful dialogue until Greg Roberts, who couldn’t look more dopey with a Bluetooth attached to his ear, received a series of phone calls that put a damper on the occasion.
With less help than I could have used, here’s the Tech schedule, with the games ranked according to winnability:
Western Kentucky. I’ve pulled up the “Opponents’ Quick Facts” page in the Tech media guide and I’m still not sure whether the Hilltoppers are Division I-A. After a 7-5 season in 2007, I think they’re still on I-A probationary status till 2009.
Furman. The Paladins are definitely I-AA and they’ve won at North Carolina as recently as 2006, but they were only 6-5 last year and lost 13 starters.
Duke. In four seasons of ACC play, Tech has beaten this Coastal Division “rival” by a combined score of 165-31, including 77-17 in Blacksburg.
Maryland. In their two ACC meetings, Tech has routed the Terrapins 83-12, including 55-6 in their only conference meeting in Blacksburg.
Georgia Tech. Thad Snyder points out that the Hokies get Georgia Tech early in the season, which will give the Yellow Jackets less time to adapt to Paul Johnson’s system. Besides, Johnson was 2-10 in his first season at Navy.
Virginia. Once more, will Al Groh ever win at Lane Stadium?
At Boston College. I’ve been to Alumni Stadium only once but didn’t find it particularly intimidating. Besides, who’s the Eagles’ quarterback?
At Miami. The Hokies are good on the road and I’m not sold on Randy Shannon.
East Carolina in Charlotte, N.C.: The Pirates should have considerable support at Bank of America Stadium and gave Tech fits last year at Lane.
At North Carolina. Not sure that Tar Heels are worthy of their second-place Coastal choice, but Butch Davis has Carolina on the rebound.
At Nebraska. This might be the toughest environment Tech will enter this season and it’s certainly the longest trip.
At Florida State. Tech might be the overnight favorite if the oddsmakers were setting their lines today, but the trip to Tallahassee, Fla., comes at the end of a stretch in which they play four of five games on the road. Besides, FSU should have all of its suspended players back by that point. That said, if Florida State in Tallahassee is the Hokies' tough assignment, you can look for another banner season.
I NEED TO SEND out some props to Brian Mohr, who oversees the Virginia Tech site (HokieHaven.com) on rivals.com. Until I checked out Mohr’s rating of the top 100 seniors in Virginia, I didn’t realize that North Carolina had taken a commitment from Curtis Campbell, a 6-2, 205-pound defensive back from Grassfield High School in Chesapeake.
Heck, I didn’t even know there was a Grassfield High School.
What struck me about Mohr’s rankings and some others that have come out in the past month is how high he had another Carolina recruit, Bryn Renner, a quarterback from West Springfield High School.
I’ve been inclined to list Renner in the middle of the top 25 and maybe lower (in the 15-20 range), but Mohr had him seventh. I think what’s hurt Renner in some evaluations is the uncertainty about another West Springfield product, Peter Lalich, who has yet to seize a quarterback vacancy at Virginia that has been open for the taking.
Was Lalich, a consensus choice as the No. 2 prospect in Virginia in 2006, a “system” quarterback? If he was a system quarterback, does that mean Renner is a system quarterback because he comes out of the same system? In all fairness to Lalich, it’s too early to look at him as a bust.
As Al Groh says, name another Virginia quarterback who has had to play as early in his career as Lalich did?
Tech will extend U.Va. hex; other pigskin picks
Sunday, Aug 03, 2008 - 12:07 AM
By BOB LIPPER
Hear ye, hear ye! Only 25 days remain till the college season's
first kickoffs - can't wait for that Charleston Southern at Miami clash - and
it's time to sort through data and tea leaves.
For openers, Virginia has no throwers and Virginia Tech no catchers. The ACC's Coastal Division both call home has no muscle. Clemson's toes are exposed enough to get stubbed again. The national champion will come (again) from the league that's south of the ACC geographically but way north in competitive sinew.
Moving along, here are a half-dozen uneducated guesses, none guaranteed to pass inspection between now and early January:
Our commonwealth's two heavyweights face stiff opening tests - but Tech's is dicier. Nobody expects U.Va. to beat Southern Cal - and it won't. But the Trojans are breaking in a new quarterback and new lines and traveling three time zones, and they'll be peering one week into the distance at Armageddon against Ohio State. Ergo, the margin might not be as wide as talent levels suggest.
Tech, on the other hand, is headed for a speed bump in Charlotte against East Carolina. The Pirates return 18 starters to the Hokies' 11 and are itching to take down a BCS-conference opponent. Frank Beamer will call ECU "scary" and "legit" - but he calls everyone scary and legit. He's right about the Pirates, though. They're scary enough to win this matchup.
Clemson oozes talent and has a schedule that sets up nicely - no Hokies on the itinerary, no true road game till October - but it'll be a tease as usual. The Tigers will lose their Atlanta-based opener against Alabama and later fall at Wake Forest or Florida State - maybe both. They'll slog to the league championship game against Virginia Tech and win it, but (again) the ACC won't have a national contender.
Tech will extend its mastery of Virginia to five consecutive wins and nine in a 10-year span. It's a simple equation: Better players plus superior coaching staff equals stranglehold. Other area rivalries have become similarly one-sided. Georgia has seven consecutive wins over Georgia Tech, Florida four against FSU, Auburn six over Alabama. Like Tech-U.Va., those trends will continue.
Georgia has a ferocious schedule - road tests at Arizona State, LSU and Auburn and that world's largest, umm, tea party thing against Florida in Jacksonville - but the depth chart to navigate it. Give the Dawgs a regular-season loss - say, to some Tigers in Baton Rouge or Auburn - but forward them to the BCS championship game in Miami.
There, they'll meet Ohio State, which will squeeze past USC and steamroll the Big Ten but lose a BCS final for the third consecutive year to an SEC opponent with more speed and firepower.
It says something about the ACC that North Carolina - 4-8 a season ago and with no el supremo QB or runner on the roster - is being touted for a possible leap forward. And it could happen. The league's scheduling rotation has the Tar Heels avoiding Clemson, Wake and FSU - the Atlantic Division's three highest-rated teams. UNC also will either beat Tech at home or win in Charlottesville for the first time since 1981.
If I'm U.Va.'s Al Groh, I'm worried about (1) my players' growing rap sheet and (2) the ACC opener at Duke. The Blue Devils have dropped 25 consecutive ACC starts, but they'll have the best QB and receiver on the field that day, not to mention new coach David Cutcliffe's guidance and creativity. Did I mention he's an SEC guy? Those cats know a thing or two about football.
Cavs mourn death of teammate Bradley
Groh and Peerman recall contributions to 2004,'05 teams
Saturday, Aug 09, 2008 - 12:07 AM
By JEFF WHITE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
CHARLOTTESVILLE - The news of Kevin Bradley's death hit the
University of Virginia football program hard this week.
Bradley, who played at U.Va. in 2004 and '05, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C, police said. Fayetteville police Lt. David Sportsman said investigators were unable to determine the source of the gunshot. Bradley was 22.
"It's a very sad thing, and everybody here is very somber about it," Virginia coach Al Groh said yesterday. "There's still a significant amount of kids on the team who were quite friendly with Kevin."
Those players include tailback Cedric Peerman, who entered U.Va. with Bradley in 2004.
"He was one of the nicest guys you would ever want to be around," Peerman said. "It was definitely a big blow to a lot of the guys on the team, especially the senior class.
"Our hearts go out to the family. . . . We're just praying to the Lord that he'll work everything out."
His mother reported Bradley missing 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.
Bradley 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 was reported missing.
At Virginia, Bradley played fullback, but he was best-known for the zeal he showed on special teams. He was placed on academic suspension before the 2006-07 school year and never returned to U.Va.
"Kevin wasn't a fancy guy," Groh said. "It was all about football with Kevin. He was a good teammate, tough kid, hard worker and was well-appreciated around here."
Bradley's death leaves Cavs shaken
By Doug Doughty
Al Groh described the mood in Virginia's football office as "somber" after coaches and players learned of the death of Kevin Bradley, a Cavalier letter-winner in 2005.
Bradley, who was suspended by the Cavaliers prior to the 2006 season and did not return to the team, was reported missing July 2.
Police in Fayetteville, N.C., told reporters Thursday that the North Carolina Medical Examiners' Office had identified Bradley's remains and determined that he had died from a single gunshot to his head. A police spokesperson said it is undetermined at this point in the investigation if the wound was self-inflicted.
His body was found July 26.
Bradley, who played at Seventy First High School in Fayetteville, committed to Virginia in the winter of 2004 and played for the Cavaliers as a true freshman. He primarily played special teams but also saw time at fullback, starting for the first time against Minnesota in the 2005 Music City Bowl.
Police said Bradley was bipolar and schizophrenic and had not been taking prescribed medication prior to his disappearance. He had taken a handgun belonging to his stepfather.
"It's a very sad thing," Groh said. "There's still a significant amount of kids on the team who were quite friendly with Kevin. Kevin wasn't a fancy guy. It was all about football with Kevin. Good teammate, tough kid, hard worker. He was well-appreciated around here."
Groh said that three walk-ons have been placed on scholarship, including sophomore Staton Jobe, who started 12 games at wide receiver as a redshirt freshman.
Also getting grants were senior wide receiver Cary Koch, who caught a touchdown pass last year at North Carolina State, and junior Hall Simmons, who has not played in a game but is listed as UVa's No. 2 fullback. Koch began his career at Tulane, where he had 23 receptions in 2005.
The depth chart in Virginia's media guide lists senior Scott Deke, junior Marc Verica and sophomore Peter Lalich in that order at quarterback, without the "or" that separates contenders at some of the other positions. However, Groh said the listing was based on seniority and "they're all the same."
UVa coaches, players stunned by death of former fullback Bradley
It's unclear if the gunshot wound was self-inflicted.
By NORM WOOD | Daily Press
2:04 PM EDT, August 8, 2008
Virginia's football coaching staff and upperclassman players
were stunned this week after learning of the death of former teammate Kevin
Bradley was found dead July 26 in Fayetteville, N.C., the victim of an apparent gunshot wound to the head. He was a native of Fayetteville, where he had been reported missing July 2 by his mother. He was 22.
"It's a very sad thing," UVa coach Al Groh said. "Everybody here is kind of very somber about it. There's still a significant amount of kids on the team who were quite friendly with Kevin. Kevin wasn't a fancy guy. It was all about football with Kevin -- a good teammate, hard worker and was well-appreciated around here."
Bradley played special teams for UVa in 2004 and '05. He was suspended from UVa in '06 and taken off the team's roster. He never again played at UVa.
"When I first heard about it, I was shocked," said UVa running back Cedric Peerman, who was part of the '04 recruiting class that included Bradley. "I couldn't believe it. My first initial thoughts were of the first days of seeing (Bradley) touring the campus and everything, and seeing this guy that was so big and so muscular, but he was one of the coolest guys. He was one of the nicest guys you would ever want to be around, so it was definitely a big blow to a lot of the (UVa players) on the team, especially this senior class."
Bradley made his only UVa start in the Music City Bowl in 2005. 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, 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 2005 and caught a 3-yard pass against Temple later that season.
Cavaliers mourn fallen teammate
Virginia football notes
Date published: 8/9/2008
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
When Cedric Peerman first saw Kevin Bradley on the University of Virginia's campus, he was immediately taken aback by his muscular frame.
After talking to Bradley, Peerman realized his football teammate was more than just a physical specimen.
"He was one of the coolest guys. He was one of the nicest guys," Peerman recalled. "You wanted to be around him."
Bradley was recently found dead from a single gunshot wound to the head in Fayetteville, N.C. He was 22.
According to The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, it's unclear if the former Virginia fullback and special teams ace died from a self-inflicted wound. His remains were found on July 26. On Thursday, a Fayetteville police spokesman identified the remains as Bradley's.
Peerman said Bradley's death is "a big blow" to the team, especially the senior class, many of whom entered Virginia with Bradley.
Bradley was suspended from Virginia in 2006, and he didn't return to school. He made one start in his two-year career, but head coach Al Groh said he was a valuable member of the team.
"It's a very sad thing, and everybody here is very somber about it," Groh said yesterday. "Kevin wasn't a fancy guy. It was all about football with Kevin. He was a good teammate, a hard worker. He was well-appreciated around here."
Last Saturday, Jared Green presented his father, ex-Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Now Jared Green is finally making himself known to Groh.
Green is a Virginia redshirt freshman wide receiver. Groh said Green was extremely raw last year because his Oakton High School offense didn't feature much passing.
"He was like a newborn," Groh said. "But he had a good work ethic right from the start, a good want-to. Now he's starting to show a little bit of polish in his game to go along with the natural speed he obviously has."
Next in line
Two former Fredericksburg area players are listed as backups on the Cavaliers' depth chart. North Stafford grad Patrick Slebonick, a junior, is the second-string left guard behind Zak Stair. Massaponax grad Anthony Mihota, a redshirt freshman, is the top backup to Jack Shields at center.
Receivers Staton Jobe and Cary Koch have been awarded scholarships after spending last year as walk-ons. Fullback Hall Simmons has also been placed on scholarship.
Virginia mourns Bradley
By Jay Jenkins
Published: August 8, 2008
The Virginia football family is in mourning.
Former Cavaliers 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.
“It’s a very sad thing,” said Virginia coach Al Groh. “Everybody here is very somber about it. There’s still a significant amount of kids on the team who were quite friendly with Kevin.
“Kevin wasn’t a fancy guy — you know, it was all about football with Kevin. Good teammate, tough kid, hard worker and was well appreciated around here.”
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 Examiner’s office.
The former Cavalier suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was not taking medication, his mother told 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, he made an immediate impact at Virginia on special teams in 2004 and 2005 as a wedge blocker and registered five career 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. He was suspended prior to the 2006 season and never returned to the Cavaliers’ roster.
Quarterback race wide open
By Jay Jenkins
Published: August 8, 2008
When Virginia opened training camp earlier this week, quarterback Scott Deke strapped on his chinstrap and ran the first plays with the first-team offense.
He can thank his birth certificate for the opportunity.
Virginia coach Al Groh said Deke, who will turn 23 in November, was given the honor based on his “seniority” over sophomores Pete Lalich and Marc Verica.
“We went in on a seniority basis,” Groh said earlier in the week, “and here for a little while probably we’ll stay that way.”
From using a two-quarterback system to finding a single option as the replacement for former starter Jameel Sewell, the practice play from the trio will determine the course of action.
“We have got an idea of how well that position has to do for us to be successful and however many [quarterbacks] it takes to do that … if it’s best done by one person, we will do it by one, if we can best do it by using two quarterbacks then we’ll use two quarterbacks to do it,” Groh said.
Lalich is the lone player in the mix to have attempted a pass in a college game — as a true freshman last year, he appeared in eight games and completed 35 of his 61 passes. The coaching staff, however, has been reluctant to peg the right-handed Springfield native as the starter.
“Pete’s got the most arm, that’s for sure,” Groh said. “Pete’s made a lot of improvement from the spring.”
Deke played 106 seconds and two plays last season against Pittsburgh after the result was clear and appeared headed to the business world until Sewell was placed on a school-imposed academic suspension.
“Scott had a real good offseason. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team. This is his fifth year so he’s got a pretty good understanding of what we’re doing,” Groh said.
Verica, who redshirted in 2006, could be a wildcard in the equation, having never been seen in game action.
“Marc has come quite a ways in the last year,” the coach said. “It’s clear that his understanding and grasp of the overall scheme is not as high as Scott’s, but he’s made a lot of progress in that area.”
More importantly than the order at this point, Groh said he likes the unit as a whole.
“Overall, this has been a real good group,” Groh said. “They’re fun to work with. They were all excellent during the summer.”
The intensity of the battle was expected to be amped up Friday night, the first time that the squad was allowed to don full pads.
Who would the players prefer to see at quarterback?
Cedric Peerman said taking a handoff from any one of the players in the mix was ideal.
Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, however, took a different approach.
“Do I have a favorite? No,” the junior said with a chuckle. “I don’t know if that’s my place to answer that. Don’t get me in trouble.
“Coach Groh is our coach and he does a great job of monitoring all that.”
This morning’s practice, which starts at 8:35 a.m., will be open to the public. … Groh said wideouts Staton Jobe and Cary Koch and tailback Hall Simmons were awarded scholarships for the season.
McMullen gets third chance
After a year out of the NFL, the Redskins give former Virginia receiver Billy McMullen a shot.
By Zach Berman The Washington Post
August 9, 2008
WASHINGTON - Washington Redskins wide receiver Billy McMullen
used to command attention. With rare size and exceptional college career, he was
expected to produce quickly as a third-round draft choice by the Philadelphia
Eagles in 2003.
Then the Richmond native who set team records at the University of Virginia wilted under the spotlight of the NFL. His failed make the transition to the professional level and meet the expectations of impulsive Eagles fans.
After three unproductive seasons in Philadelphia, McMullen was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a reunion with Vikings coach and former Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress. McMullen had 23 receptions for 307 yards and two touchdowns in 2006 — not enough to make the team the following season. The Vikings released McMullen, and he spent last season out of football.
"I ain't going to say it makes you hungrier," said McMullen, who stayed in Richmond and at times could not bear to watch NFL games on television. "But it makes you realize how much you love the game, how much you like to compete with the best players in the world."
Now McMullen is with the team closest to his hometown in a state where he once starred. He looks at rookies Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, second-round picks saturated with expectations. McMullen was once like them, a player fans came to training camp clamoring to observe because he could become the big, physical wide receiver their beloved franchise badly needed.
So far, it hasn't worked out for McMullen. He has been given his third opportunity, and though he refuses to admit it, it might be his last.
"Nothing's changed," McMullen said. "I just got more focus on what I got to do and stop trying to do too much. Just do what I was called to do."
Hidden in McMullen's words is exactly what has changed since he was a rookie who arrived at Eagles' training camp as the first player in to lead U-Va. in receptions in four straight seasons.
He was a valuable draft pick at a position of need who had been one of the most productive wide receivers in the ACC. But McMullen lost track of what earned him the expectations in the first place.
"I think I was trying too hard," McMullen said. "Being a rookie, I was trying to impress too many people. Of course, you got to set your own goals, but I was trying to impress my coaches and impress other players, and I forgot how to play the game."
McMullen's hands became suspect. As he adjusted to a complicated playbook and the fast pace of the NFL, McMullen struggled in the one aspect of the game most essential to a wide receiver: catching the football.
At 6 feet 4, 215 pounds, McMullen's ineffectiveness became frustrating. In his first two seasons with the Eagles, he was inactive for a combined 16 games. In the decisive third and final season with the Eagles, McMullen caught 18 passes for 268 yards and 1 touchdown.
Philadelphia traded him the following spring, cutting losses on a failed project.
"Too much things around your mind, as far as trying to figure out the playbook," McMullen said of what plagued him in Philadelphia. "You forget about the basics, like catching the ball. My first year I had a rough time catching the ball, because I was trying to do too much. But as you get older, you relax. You play the game and you have a good time doing it."
McMullen provides insight for Thomas and Kelly. They, like he once did, enter with expectations. They, like he once did, bring size to a receiving corps in need of it. And McMullen does not want to see them fall victim to the problem that plagued him early in his career.
"I just talk to (McMullen) about his previous experience and how things was," Thomas said. "He told me they were humbling and helped him learn a lot, going to different places."
The experience is helping McMullen through Redskins training camp. He is taking what he learned elsewhere, combining it with his natural abilities and fighting to last on a roster restocked during April's draft.
His confidence brims from learning a similar offense to the one Redskins coach Jim Zorn brings from Seattle. Like Zorn, Childress, McMullen's head coach in Minnesota, came from the coaching fraternity that includes the Seahawks' Mike Holmgren.
McMullen can line up at all wide-receiver positions, from split end to slot.
"He clearly has more experience and is playing fast more than the younger guys," Zorn said. "No question."
It is an offense that dates from McMullen's college career, when former Redskins quarterback coach Bill Musgrave was offensive coordinator at Virginia from 2001 to '02. For much of McMullen's football career, he has practiced in a system with fundamental similarities to his current situation.
"It's pretty much the same offense," McMullen said. "Just different words here and there."
Of course, the offenses were similar in Philadelphia and Minnesota, as well. And even as the numbers stack against him in Washington with returning starters and high draft picks all but guaranteed roster spots, McMullen sticks to an edict from his time as a high draft pick and hopeful starter: Stop worrying, focus and play football.
"I can't go back," McMullen said. "So here I am now."