Future bright at tight end for Cavs
By Chip Knighton
Published: August 17, 2008
“Tight End U” lost two players at its marquee position in the spring when Virginia pass-catchers Tom Santi and Jonathan Stupar took their talents to the NFL. But the future of the position is in good hands.
UVa coach Al Groh brought in three tight ends in his 2008 recruiting class. While New Jersey prospect Bill Schautz has since moved to linebacker, classmates Colter Phillips and Rod Wheeler are next in line to carry on the Cavs’ tradition.
Phillips, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound prospect from Georgetown Prep in Darnestown, Md., was the first of the two to sign on with Groh. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Wheeler was a late addition to the Cavs’ class after a standout career at powerhouse Highland Springs High outside Richmond.
The Springers have traditionally been known for strong defense and have sent several players to Virginia Tech in recent years, including current defensive star Victor Harris. Wheeler — whose father, also named Rod, played basketball for the Hokies — didn’t feel any pressure to follow the pipeline.
“If you look back, you’ll see that most of the people from Highland Springs went defense,” Wheeler said. “I don’t think Tech really comes to us for offense.”
Phillips’ name should also be familiar to UVa fans. His full name — John Colter Phillips — makes him the third in a series of John Phillipses in orange and blue, including the current starter at tight end. The first John Phillips on the roster was a walk-on quarterback that forced the second Phillips to use his middle initial (M, for Matthew) early in his career.
Colter Phillips, like Wheeler, chose UVa partly for the prominence of the program’s tight ends. Both players hope to be the latest success story out of a group that has included NFL players Santi, Stupar, Patrick Estes and Heath Miller, the patron saint of the position and a current Pittsburgh Steeler.
“It was a big part of the reason why I came here,” said Colter Phillips. “They obviously use their tight ends a lot. But I came here to get a great education and be on a great football team at the same time. It definitely did help with picking the right school.”
The choice was easy for Colter, whose older brother, Andrew, is an offensive lineman at Stanford. The Cardinal and Wake Forest joined the Cavaliers in the younger Phillips’ top three, but it didn’t take long for UVa to separate itself from the field.
“When I came down here for my first visit, I just fell in love with the place,” he said. “My dad was the one who kept me from committing on my visit. I had the offer for about a month or so and visited a couple of other schools, but I just felt that this was the best place for me — for my education and from a football standpoint, and from a social standpoint. There are a lot of great people here.”
Wheeler also considered Syracuse, Connecticut and hometown Richmond before pledging to UVa late in the recruiting period. Upon arriving in Charlottesville, he immediately set about soaking up as much knowledge as possible from his elders.
“John Phillips has taught me a lot,” he said. “When the coaches are showing plays, he’ll be over there talking to me, telling me how to run the plays and the formation. Same with Joe Torchia — he’s really a big help teaching me everything, from the motion to the routes and everything. We have a nice little family in the tight ends.”
Neither player is likely to see much playing time in 2008 behind John Phillips, Torchia, Mark Ambrose and Andrew Devlin. But the coaching staff is high on Phillips and Wheeler and sees big things from the duo when their time comes around.
“So far, they’re basically everything we thought they would be,” said tight ends coach Bob Price. “They’re dynamic out in the field and good, solid blockers. As first-year players, they don’t get a lot of action right now, but they’re studying hard and we expect them to have a good future.”
Cavs’ Jobe gets his reward
By Bart Isley
Published: August 17, 2008
In 2006, Scout tabbed Staton Jobe as a one-star recruit coming out of high school. One measly star.
Jobe didn’t let that label stick for long.
The Westlake High (Austin, Tex.) product just worked his way right up the depth chart at Virginia and into the starting lineup when Kevin Ogletree went down with a season-ending ACL tear. Jobe filled in admirably for Ogletree, hauling in 17 catches for 163 yards in the Cavaliers’ tight end dominated offense.
That’s more production than three of that 2006 class’ top 10 wideouts — Nos. 3, 5 and 7 according to Scout. Those heralded pass catchers got four or five stars next to their names. Jobe didn’t even get a scholarship.
That’s not a problem anymore. The Virginia staff awarded Jobe a scholarship during the offseason, meeting one in a series of goals the sophomore set for himself before coming to Virginia.
“Earning a scholarship was definitely one of my goals that I wanted to achieve in my career here,” Jobe said. “To finally accomplish that is a big step. It was really exciting.”
The sophomore clearly earned the scholarship with a lot of hard work and some clutch performances, including the game-winning touchdown against Georgia Tech. But Jobe is also extremely talented, particularly for a walk-on. He’s blessed with excellent speed (he was a three-time district champion in the 100 meters) and boasts a strong pedigree (both his father and brother played receiver for Texas Tech).
“He’s been thrown in the fire and handled himself well,” Ogletree said. “I’m always impressed with him, he works as hard as anyone.”
It also didn’t hurt that he played under the microscope in high school, where Westlake’s stadium seats over 10,000 and deep trips in the ultra-competitive Texas 5A high school playoffs are almost considered a birthright.
“It was a lot of fun playing down there and it was a really great experience playing in a community like that that values that football team,” Jobe said.
This year, Jobe will start the season behind Ogletree on the depth chart, but will clearly be a factor in the Cavaliers’ offensive plans.
“He’s much more comfortable, he knows the offense better, he’s much more confident and he’s doing a better job setting up his routes,” said Virginia receivers coach Wayne Lineburg. “He’s definitely shown a lot of improvement, and, obviously, playing 13 games last year certainly helped him.”
Jobe proved he was ready to contribute last season as a walk-on redshirt freshman, but now he’ll have to prove he’s worthy of that scholarship.
After last season it’s clear that one must doubt Jobe at their own peril — there’s a pretty good chance he’ll make that move by Virginia’s coaching staff seem like a wise one and further erase the memory of that one-star label.
Monday, Aug 18, 2008 - 12:08 AM
Burd ready to fly
He may not win a starting job this season, but redshirt freshman Kris Burd already is part of Virginia's rotation at wide receiver.
Senior Cary Koch and Burd, a graduate of Matoaca High, are working in the slot. Elsewhere in the receiving corps, sophomore Dontrelle Inman is backing up senior Maurice Covington, and sophomore Staton Jobe is behind junior Kevin Ogletree.
Burd, who's listed at 5-11 and 189 pounds, redshirted last season after having back surgery during training camp. He sparkled in Virginia's spring game, catching seven passes for 64 yards, and he's continued to impress this summer.
"He's doing a nice job," receivers coach Wayne Lineburg. "He's similar to Cary in the fact that he's real nifty at being inside and does some good things inside in the slot. I think that's a better position for him than on the outside. He's got real good quickness on the inside. He's just still learning. Cary knows that spot a little better now than Kris does."
At Matoaca, Lineburg said, Burd was "obviously well-coached. He came in with a good knowledge of the game, and he's just got a good knack for finding spaces and doing things the right way. He's a guy that's going to factor in for us."
Burd said: "It's real fun to be playing again. It's a relief, actually, because just being out there watching makes you hungrier by the second, and now I can show what I can do."
Ball distribution is aim
As a group, Virginia's quarterbacks have little experience, but third-year offensive coordinator Mike Groh compares them to basketball players surrounded by gifted scorers. In Ogletree, tight end John Phillips and tailbacks Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson, U.Va. has four veterans who could contend for all-ACC honors, and fullback Rashawn Jackson is another weapon.
"If you asked Jason Kidd or Chris Paul or any of those guys playing in the Olympics right now, they're probably having a lot of fun, because they have so many guys they can pass the ball to," Groh said.
"That's what we're trying to do. We just want to make sure that we're distributing the ball to our playmakers and let those guys make the plays for us."
Loving the line
Senior Eugene Monroe and junior Will Barker form as good a pair of offensive tackles as you'll find in the ACC. But U.Va.'s other starting linemen from 2007 -- center Jordy Lipsey and guards Ian-Yates Cunningham and Branden Albert (the 15th pick in this year's NFL draft) -- are gone. Their replacements: sophomore Jack Shields at center and sophomore B.J. Cabbell and senior Zak Stair, a converted tackle, at guard.
The U.Va. assistant who oversees the line is Dave Borbely.
"I love this group," Borbely said. "I love them. They've got a great work ethic, they're tough, they strike people, they're working extremely well together, and I think we have a chance to put something together here that hopefully we can surprise some people with."
The next generation?
The line of succession at inside linebacker remains uncertain.
The starters, for the third straight season, are Jon Copper and Antonio Appleby, and both are seniors. Reserves include junior Darren Childs, sophomores John Bivens and John-Kevin Dolce, redshirt freshman Terence Fells-Danzer and true freshman Steve Greer.
Bivens, a former Prince George High star, is the most talented member of that group, but knee problems continue to limit his participation. Bivens sat out both of the team's open practices last week.
-- Jeff White
USC's Joe McKnight is injured again
Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times
USC running back Joe McKnight hyperextended an elbow during Saturday's scrimmage at the Coliseum, a few days after injuring two fingers in a dormitory mishap.
The sophomore tailback, who missed time last week after a door was closed on two of his fingers, sits out practice because of a hyperextended right elbow.
By Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 18, 2008
The misadventures of USC running back Joe McKnight continue.
The sophomore from Louisiana spent Sunday night's practice on a golf cart, wearing a near full-length brace on his right arm. McKnight suffered a hyperextended elbow in the Trojans' scrimmage at the Coliseum the night before, Coach Pete Carroll said.
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McKnight's latest mishap came only a few days after he injured two fingers, including a slight fracture at the tip of one, when a teammate accidentally closed a dormitory door on McKnight's right hand.
McKnight sat out parts of a few practices after that mishap. He was previously sidelined because of a skin irritation.
McKnight declined to comment Sunday.
"It's unfortunate, Joe keeps coming up with something," Carroll
said, adding that McKnight could miss a few workouts.
"He has missed a lot of practice already and it's killing him. He hates the fact that he has. The fingers are fine, he's ready to go, but something else popped up."
McKnight sat out on a night when several players returned from injuries, including tight end Blake Ayles and offensive linemen Alex Parsons and Tyron Smith.
Carroll said he did not know how long cornerback Cary Harris would be out because of a dislocated right shoulder suffered during the scrimmage.
Quarterback battle intensifies
With less than two weeks before the Aug. 30 opener against Virginia, the quarterback derby is moving into a pivotal stretch.
Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain are competing to possibly replace injured starter Mark Sanchez, while Sanchez is working to return in time to play against the Cavaliers.
"I haven't taken any steps back in my rehab so everything is looking good right now, but we'll have to wait and see," said Sanchez, who suffered a dislocated left kneecap 10 days ago.
Carroll said Sanchez was expected to do some running on the field Tuesday and that other elements would be added as he progressed.
Knowing who the starter might be heading into game week was not imperative, according to Carroll.
"Everything is still up in the air and we'll just see," he said. "There's no rush yet."
Both Mustain and Corp said they felt better about their performances in the scrimmage after reviewing film Sunday.
Carroll spent about five minutes on the field after practice talking with Corp.
Asked what they spoke about, Corp said Carroll told him, "Keep working on making plays."
Coming and going
Excuse offensive lineman Zack Heberer if he occasionally hesitates before lining up on the right or left side of the center.
With senior Jeff Byers' status having been uncertain, Heberer had flip-flopped between right and left guard throughout training camp.
"It doesn't matter to me," Heberer said. "It's better to be diverse."
Heberer is expected to return to right guard full-time starting today. Carroll said Byers, who did not play in Saturday's scrimmage, has been cleared to participate in all drills.
Junior linebacker Nick Garratt was awarded a scholarship. . . . Players will move out of the team dormitory today and into their regular housing on and off campus. . . . The team practices today at 4 p.m.
Court documents tie ex-Marshall coach Pruett to academic fraud
Aug. 17, 2008
By Dennis Dodd
CBSSports.com Senior Writer
Court documents filed Friday portray former Marshall coach Bobby Pruett as having direct involvement in academic fraud and overpayment of athletes working while at the school.
Affidavits filed as part of an ongoing lawsuit by former Marshall compliance director David Ripdath tie Pruett to violations that Marshall was penalized for in 2001. Pruett was not named in the original NCAA infractions report.
Ridpath originally sued Pruett and Marshall administrators in 2002 after he was reassigned from his compliance job to director of judicial affairs three months before the NCAA penalties were handed down. Ridpath disputes that the reassignment was listed as a "corrective action" by Marshall in the NCAA case.
The defendants are seeking summary judgment of the lawsuit. The affidavits emerged after Ridpath's lawyers filed a resistance to summary judgment last week in West Virginia federal court.
Pruett, now the defensive coordinator at Virginia, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mike Jenkins, a former Marshall flexibility coach, says in his affidavit "Coach Pruett assured the staff that certain football athletes ... would be eligible for the Fall 2000 season because 'they were guaranteed to get A's ...' "
Jenkins is now on the strength staff at Memphis.
Former Marshall player Sam Goines said that in order to keep his eligibility he was told by Pruett to sign a statement saying he made $12.50 per hour at a local Huntington, W.V. printing company. Goines stated that he, in fact, made $25 "$200 per 8-hour day."
"We were instructed by the coaching staff ... that we should not talk about the job(s) or tell anyone about the job and keep it in the football family," Goines stated.
At issue, now, is whether the NCAA chooses to open a case after its statute of limitations has expired. The NCAA Manual states that a notice of allegations shall be limited to possible violations occurring "not four years before the notice of inquiry is forwarded ..."
The NCAA penalized Marshall for infractions that occurred from approximately 1996 to 2000.
The NCAA states the following are not subject to the four-year limitation: Information that indicates "a pattern of willful violations ..." or "a blatant disregard for" NCAA rules and "an effort to conceal the occurrence of the violation."
The NCAA has gone back into several cases after the statute had expired. One notable case included Jim Tressel's Youngstown State program in the 1990s. However, a veteran college athletic administrator familiar with the Ridpath lawsuit and the NCAA process said it is "not likely" the NCAA would come back in on Pruett.
Marshall was put on probation for four years in 2001, charged with impermissible employment of academic non-qualifiers, academic fraud and lack of institutional control. Scholarships were reduced in football and basketball after it was determined that the non-qualifiers were being employed off campus at four times the normal rate. Pruett retired at Marshall in 2005 after posting a 94-23 record. He was named the Cavaliers defensive coordinator in February.
Ridpath is currently an associate athletic director at Ohio University. He is seeking financial damages from Marshall and Pruett. Ridpath says he was on track to become an athletic director before the transfer of jobs. The damages, if they ever come, could be calculated from the amount of income he lost by not becoming an athletic director.