Freshman carries early and often for Cavs
True freshman Wali Lundy makes an immediate splash, helping to boost a
Virginia ground attack and show promise for the future of Cav Football
"He's great," sophomore guard Mark Farrington said. "He's got amazing
speed and a good sense of when to cut."
Lundy has gotten more carries than any other player so far this year, and
has proven impressive, spinning and cutting past defenders for an average of
3.5 yards per carry.
Despite playing against a Colorado State defense that would shut down
Colorado's running game a week later, Lundy put up 96 yards in his first
collegiate game, although he had more difficulty with the speed of Florida
"After two games against quality opponents, he's done real well," Virginia
coach Al Groh said. "If he can do that in his first two break-in games, we're
hopeful about the next 42."
Groh has given Lundy every opportunity to break out early in his freshman
year, calling his number 33 times on the ground and five times through the
"I know I wanted to play this much right away, I just didn't know if I was
going to," Lundy said. "Things work out for a reason. I'm getting a chance
right now to show what I can do."
Fans had high hopes for Lundy and fellow freshman Michael Johnson, both of
whom were part of Virginia's highest-ranked recruiting class ever, but, Lundy
doesn't listen to the critics.
"It's not a lot of pressure. I don't think that any of our freshman
recruiting class is feeling pressure," he said. "We've been playing football
all our lives, so we just go out and play and don't worry about the pedestal
that people put us on."
He was named to the All-State team as a wide receiver his junior year in
high school before changing to running back. Entering his first year at
Virginia, he was not the running back most people were talking about. Instead,
Michael Johnson, whose blistering speed earned him accolades from many
analysts, was creating most of the buzz.
He not only has to compete with Johnson for both playing time and the
hearts of the fans, but also with last year's leading rusher Alvin Pearman.
Again, the competition doesn't phase Lundy.
"I feel like anywhere you go, it's going to be competition," he said. "I
thought I might as well go where I felt best. I felt comfortable here, I
thought it was the place for me."
Not only did he quickly assert his presence among the talented young backs,
but also proved his mettle and made an immediate impact at the heart of
Lundy could potetially emerge as the next great back in a tradition of
Cavaliers that stretches back to "Bullet" Bill Dudley and later Barry Word,
and has been highlighted by top names like Terry Kirby, Tiki Barber and Thomas
Of course, Lundy faces a tough road ahead if he hopes to be compared to the
most treasured names in the most fertile position in Virginia football. He is
off to a strong start, and has the opportunity to shatter the career rushing
record held by Jones, who lacked the playing time as a freshman (sitting
behind Barber), that Lundy has seen.
For now, however, No. 33 is happy to focus on the present with only a
hopeful glance at the future.
"It feels good," Lundy said. "Anytime you can come in and contribute to a
team and help a team win, it feels real good. Hopefully we'll start winning
and it will feel even better."
Cavaliers regroup after injury-plagued game
Virginia defense faces loss of Hamilton, new challenges of Gamecock running
attack, quarterback Jenkins
|Cavalier Daily Senior
The status of the Virginia players injured in Saturday's game at Florida State
remains uncertain, Virginia head coach Al Groh told reporters at his weekly
During Virginia's (0-2, 0-1 ACC) 40-19 loss to the fifth-ranked Seminoles
(2-0, 1-0), approximately 10 players left the game with various degrees of
injuries. One of the most severely injured players seems to be cornerback
Marcus Hamilton. The true freshman played in his first collegiate game
Saturday, seeing action on both defense and special teams before being helped
off the field in the fourth quarter.
"He's got a knee injury which was not anticipated that it would require a
surgical repair," Groh said.
Other key injuries sustained during Saturday's game include injuries to
starting left guard Mark Farrington, starting center Kevin Bailey, and
starting linebacker Raymond Mann. Groh did not comment on the extent of these
injuries, but remained cautiously optimistic that those players hurt Saturday
"That would be the hope at this point
but I don't know much more about it now than I did after the game," Groh
With the Florida State game behind them, the Cavaliers face yet another
tough challenge this Saturday, as the South Carolina Gamecocks visit Scott
Stadium. South Carolina will test the Cavalier defense with a new offensive
scheme, one that resembles the scheme Clemson ran last season with Woody
Dantzler at the helm.
"They have a robust backfield," Groh said. "Probably the most dynamic
runner is the quarterback. He's a very dynamic player."
That quarterback is senior Corey Jenkins, a former junior college
All-American at Garden City JC in Kansas. Jenkins carried 20 times for 113
yards in the Gamecocks' season-opening victory over New Mexico State Saturday.
For the Virginia defense to contain the Gamecock running attack, it will
undoubtedly need to improve on its tackling. Thus far, the Cavaliers have
yielded over 170 rushing yards per game mainly because of the team's inability
to tackle and contain opposing backs. With such a young team, it is likely
Virginia's tackling woes can be attributed to a lack of game experience.
"That's the most difficult aspect about early-season games," Groh said. In
practice "you can approximate almost everything else that happens in the game
but you can't approximate the tackling circumstance."
Aside from tackling, he noted placekicking and punt protection as two other
aspects difficult to approximate, and also two areas in which Virginia has
suffered. Against Florida State, punter Tom Hagan had one punt blocked, while
placekicker Bryan Smith missed two extra points.
Although the punting job appears locked up, the kicking job remains open.
"We had a big kick-off last week, and we ended in a dead tie," Groh said.
"But that's not the same as doing it in the game."
Although injuries, poor tackling, and special teams miscues were abundant
against the Seminoles, the Cavaliers did take a number of positives away from
the game. Freshman Wali Lundy continued to impress both coaches and fans.
"He's done a real good job against two quality opponents," Groh said.
Additionally, Groh praised sophomore receiver Ottowa Anderson.
"He really had an excellent game," he said. "He had three good receptions
and a literally 'lights-out' block. His toughness has really developed in a
year's time. If all the players playing as freshmen make as much progress from
one August to the next as he has, then his progress would be a terrific
This week's game will be the last in a brutal three-game stretch that
precedes Virginia's bye week. Although some much-needed rest may be on the
way, the Cavaliers must first deal with a talented South Carolina team ranked
No. 22 in the nation. Although South Carolina presents yet another rude
awakening for Virginia's touted freshman class, Groh sounds confident his
newcomers are up to the task.
"This is the challenge in front of us," he said. "It's a good challenge.
It's a worthwhile challenge. There's a process you have to go through to
become a really good team, and we got that process rolling fast."
Groh can't say, 'There's the kicker'
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Sep 2, 2002
Virginia coach Al Groh said he has learned a lot about his team in
the first two weeks of the season. One position he hasn't found out much
about is kicker.
The Cavaliers have not attempted a field goal in two games, but that's
not all bad.
"I'm never eager to kick field goals," Groh said. "I'm always eager to
In eight trips inside the red zone (the opponent's 20-yard line), UVa
has scored seven touchdowns. The other possession ended with a fumble at
the 1 on Virginia's final offensive play against Colorado State.
Still, Groh said he would like to see one kicker assert himself. The
three candidates - sophomore Bryan Smith, redshirt freshman Kurt Smith and
true freshman Connor Hughes - have been roughly equal during practice. The
team held a kicking competition last week that ended in a tie.
So far, Kurt Smith has handled kickoffs and done a good job. All nine
of them have gone inside the opponent's 5, including a pair of touchbacks
Bryan Smith has been shaky on extra points. He line-drived his first
one through the goalposts against Colorado State, then missed two of three
against Florida State.
Groh hinted that one of the other two kickers will get a shot at extra
points and/or field goals Saturday night against South Carolina.
"You need to establish kick-makers instead of kick-takers," Groh said.
Walking wounded. Virginia's locker room looked a bit like a hospital
ward Monday, with a number of injured players hobbling around.
Junior center Kevin Bailey and junior linebacker Raymond Mann each had
braces on their left knees. Bailey was using two crutches to get around;
Mann had one.
Left guard Mark Farrington, who left last Saturday's game on crutches,
was walking without help but had a heavy brace.
Defensive back Marcus Hamilton, receiver Billy McMullen, linebacker
Angelo Crowell, nose tackle Andrew Hoffman, tailback Alvin Pearman and
safety Chris Williams also suffered injuries that knocked them out of the
FSU game, at least temporarily.
Groh said many players were undergoing X-rays and MRI exams Monday. The
only news Groh offered concerned Hamilton, who appeared to suffer a
serious knee injury late in the game. Hamilton probably will not need
surgery, the coach said.
No coach, no problem. The lack of a strength coach isn't a team
weakness for the Cavaliers, Groh said.
Tony Decker, UVa's head strength coach for three years, resigned
effective last week to take a teaching position at his alma mater, East
Stroudsburg (Pa.) State. He is moving closer to home, at least in part to
care for his ailing father.
Decker helped set up the team's strength and conditioning program for
the next 15 weeks. Virginia likely will wait to replace him until then,
Groh said, because it is nearly impossible to hire a quality strength
coach from another program during the season.
"I think to do so would be to dramatically limit the pool of candidates
available to us," Groh said. "This gives us the opportunity to pursue what
we would consider to be the very best strength coach. We already have a
pretty strong short list."
Free ride. Groh recently granted scholarships to seven upperclass
players who joined the team as walk-ons: seniors Brad Durbin and Heath
Boucek; juniors Ryan Childress, Bryce Coffee and Trey Moeller; and
sophomores David de Laureal and Jon Thompson.
That puts UVa's scholarship count at 80, five below the maximum allowed
for a Division I-A team.
Extra points. Under the team's special-teams points system, junior Ryan
Sawyer has been the most productive coverage man through two games. He has
made four tackles on 11 kicks. … Sophomore receiver Ottowa Anderson graded
out the highest of any player on the team against FSU, Groh said. Anderson
made three catches for 21 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown, and
delivered what Groh called a "lights-out block" on one play. … The
Cavaliers have fumbled 11 times, losing seven. They fumbled 21 times,
losing 10, in 12 games last season.
Defenses give both UVa, South Carolina problems
/ Daily Progress sports editor
Sep 2, 2002
Lou Holtz and Al Groh have one thing in common. Both are staying up
nights trying to figure out a way to make their defenses better.
Virginia fans are familiar with Groh's woes. Lou's are new. Holtz has
turned South Carolina football into a winner. The Gamecocks, ranked 22nd
today, are coming off the best two successive years in South Carolina
football history and a pair of back-to-back wins over Ohio State in the
He has driven Gamecock fans into a frenzy with something like 69,000
season tickets sold before last week's 34-24 victory over New Mexico
State. While USC has fielded what could be Holtz's best offense since
stepping foot in Columbia, the other side of the ball is almost as much of
a question mark as it is here in Charlottesville.
"To be a good defense, you have to be able to stop the run," said Holtz
Ah, there's the rub.
Currently, South Carolina ranks 85th in the country in rush defense,
Virginia 95th out of 117 Division I-A football teams. New Mexico State
rushed the ball 40 times vs. the Gamecocks and averaged 5.3 yards per
carry. Yes, that's the same New Mexico State rated as No. 92 (Lindy's) and
No. 98 (Athlon) in the nation prior to the season.
"On the perimeter, our run defense was a problem as was the quarterback
scrambling," said Holtz. "I don't think there's any doubt we'll see a lot
of plays on the perimeter and a lot of plays isolating our corners one on
New Mexico State had two 12-play drives in the first half and converted
nearly 60 percent of its third-down conversions, leaving Holtz frustrated
with his team's defensive performance.
"There is nobody's job on defense safe with the exception of Langston
Moore [nose tackle], Lance Laury [linebacker] and Jonathan Martin
[safety]," said Holtz. "We have problems in the defensive backfield as
illustrated by the perimeter run coverage, third-down passing and lack of
pressure on the passer."
The Aggies ran the option with great success against the Cocks,
including a 75-yard run that set up one TD. USC's young corners struggled
to fight off blocks on the option, covering the pitch man, and also gave
huge cushions on pass coverage, a sign of a lack of confidence.
"You get deep, but that doesn't mean you've got to cover the first four
rows of the end zone," complained Holtz of his defensive backs. "We would
not be good mailmen because we were in the wrong zip code with [New Mexico
State's] receivers. Their receivers must have felt like Maytag repairmen."
Groh can totally relate to Holtz's problem, although UVa's secondary is
more experienced. It was evident that Virginia was going to make Florida
State win the game with its running attack last Saturday and that's
exactly what the Seminoles did, accumulating nearly 400 yards rushing in a
convincing defeat of the Cavaliers.
But Groh was going to make sure there were no big plays given up by his
secondary if he did indeed have to back them up to the end zone. He wasn't
going to give FSU anything cheap.
"Virginia backed its safeties way back," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden on
Sunday. "Every time we went deep, they intercepted. I think we're going to
start seeing more of the 3-4 defense. If you're in that, it's easier to
drop eight [four linebackers, four defensive backs]. It's very solid. If
you play three down people, you've got four linebackers and you can get a
lot more flexibility of double coverage and dropping back in a certain
The problem with that is defenses can't get as good a rush.
"Thank goodness we have been able to take advantage of the people who
don't bring that defensive back up there to stop the run," said Bowden.
Meanwhile, Holtz will bring potentially his best offense to
Charlottesville, featuring a 26-year-old quarterback in Corey Jenkins, who
Groh typified as almost a throwback to the old single wing QBs. Jenkins
can run (113 yards, 20 carries vs. New Mexico State) and pass (9-18, 166
yards, 1 TD).
Blessed with speed at wide receiver and a bruising fullback in Andrew
Pinnock, protected by perhaps the best offensive line in the SEC and the
Gamecocks have plenty of big play potential.
Don't be surprised if Saturday night's game isn't another thriller-diller
in the fashion of the UVa vs. Colorado State game. The Gamecocks, already
established as a 3 1/2-point favorite, and the Cavaliers might not be able
to stop each other.
Fuller filling many roles for Cavaliers
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Sep 2, 2002
By ANDREW JOYNER
Daily Progress staff writer
Those in the profession call coaching a labor of love.
For Virginia assistant men's basketball coach Walt Fuller, a testament
to that is not just the stacks of rental car receipts that sit on his new
desk in his new office. Nor is it the time he spends away from home on
those recruiting trips that yielded all those receipts.
Instead, it's the time spent in U-Hall with his players. Sometimes it
might be coaching and teaching, sometimes it's prodding, and sometimes it
might be simply talking and counseling. All are integral, if not highly
publicized, parts of coaching.
For Fuller, who in his fifth year at UVa is now Pete Gillen's top
assistant and top recruiter after former assistant Tommy Herrion's
departure to the College of Charleston, the fruits of his labor may lie in
these areas more than any other.
"Right now, Coach Fuller is like a guy you can go to and talk to. He's
always there and he's willing to help people out. If he's got to go out of
his way to do it, he'll do it. At a program like Virginia you have to have
that," sophomore forward Elton Brown said.
That's not to say that sometimes Fuller also has to show another side
to those players.
"He's a coach and he's got do his job. If he's yelling at me and
saying, 'Elton, run down there and run back or do this or do that,' I know
he's doing his job," Brown said. "He was nicer while he was recruiting me,
but at the same time, I understand that's a coach's job. He's doing what
he promised my mom and family what he would do and that's watch over me
like I'm his son and that's what he's been doing."
Gillen calls Fuller "a father figure" and that one of his greatest
assets as a coach is the administer of what Gillen refers to as tough
"Walt has a great relationship with the players. He uses a lot of tough
love with them. He knows when to yell at them and he knows when to hug
them," Gillen said. "Walt is 38 but he's still young enough to relate to
the players. He was a very good player at Drexel, and I think he has an
understanding for their concerns and issues."
Given today's nature of college basketball, an assistant such as Fuller
is a necessity. As Gillen readily admits, a Division I head coach has
responsibilities pulling him in several directions and sometimes coaching
and all that comes with it is just another item on a list of priorities.
"A lot of times I'm the bad guy in terms of playing time and things
like that. Walt is someone they feel that can go and talk to," Gillen
When asked about such a relationship, Fuller laughs slightly and says
the answer probably lies in his own upbringing.
"Some of that might come from the way I was brought up. I came from a
very loving household and a very disciplined household. My father and my
mother, they were the boss and what they said goes," Fuller said. "I just
try to take on a similar mentality and attitude and just be myself. I want
the kids to know that I'm there for them and that I love them. Obviously,
we have some work to do and some business to take care of but at the same
time they're people just like I'm a person and I try to respect them and
get the same respect back from them."
As Gillen noted, Fuller was a solid basketball player in his own right.
During his four-year career at Drexel, Fuller, a Philadelphia native,
helped lead the Dragons to an East Coast Conference Championship and an
NCAA tournament berth during the 1985-86 season. He finished his
collegiate career ranked first on Drexel's list for games played (116) and
was second on the school's career free-throw percentage list (80.5
percent). He was voted the team's Most Valuable Player after the 1985-86.
The transition from player to coach, however, had a slight detour.
From 1987-88, Fuller was still involved in basketball but as a
marketing representative for the Philadelphia 76ers.
But there was something he missed.
"I was a marketing representative and working ticket sales. I always
wanted to be around the game and have a hand in it and that's why I went
to the business side with the Sixers," Fuller said. "Basketball was always
in my blood and I enjoyed more of the hands-on part of it with the kids
and the teaching of the game and the practice. … I think the camaraderie
and being in the locker room and being around the kids is something I
Fuller left the Sixers and returned to his alma mater as an assistant
in the fall of 1988 and stayed there for six seasons before moving to
William & Mary prior to the 1994-95 season. After four years in
Williamsburg, Fuller was hired by Gillen at Virginia in 1998 shortly after
Gillen himself arrived in Charlottesville.
In his time in Charlottesville, Fuller has worked with Virginia's
frontcourt players primarily and has been part of molding that area from
one of Virginia's weakest on-court positions to what likely will be one of
its strongest in the upcoming season.
He also has proved to be a more-than-capable recruiter having been
heavily involved in the recruitment of such current Virginia players as
Brown, freshman Derrick Byars and junior college all-American Devin Smith.
Fuller notes that recruiting at an ACC school like Virginia takes on a
bigger dimension than it did at his previous coaching stops - and that
mounting pile of rental car receipts isn't the only indication of that.
"It's very competitive. At the highest level, there is a small pool of
players, and all the top programs want them. We're fortunate that we have
such a great product here that the school sells itself," Fuller said. "We
have a great program and great tradition. We feel that if we can get a
prospect to visit, we'll have a very good chance. William and Mary, just
like Virginia, is a very good academic school, but it's a different level.
We're competing against the NBA, counterparts in our league and
high-profile programs around the country."
Now, Fuller's recruiting talents will expand as part of his new role.
"Walt is our top assistant coach. He also will be our recruiting
coordinator, a role which is crucial for a college basketball program,"
Gillen said. "Walt has done an excellent job as a member of our staff the
last four years. He has a terrific future in the game and will make a fine
head coach down the road."
His newfound responsibilities also come with that new desk and new
office - and so far he feels the new job is going well.
"It's been a good transition. But at the same time a tough and
challenging transition," Fuller said. "Obviously we we're sorry to see
Tommy go, but it was a great opportunity for him.
"I'm excited about the team and I'm excited about my challenges and
responsibilities. I'd really like to thank Coach Gillen for giving me this
Blackstock standing out for Cavaliers
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Sep 3, 2002
Until recently, Darryl Blackstock's job description on the football
field consisted of one thing and one thing only: sack the quarterback.
"That's all I did," he said. "That's all I've ever done. That's all I
knew how to do."
Stop the run? Defend the pass? Why bother? Blackstock was a specialist,
and in that respect he was something special.
As a senior at Heritage High School, he made 29 sacks. In one season at
Fork Union Military Academy, he made 22 more. When he arrived at Virginia
for preseason practice a month ago, the freshman made it clear that one of
his main goals was breaking Chris Slade's school and ACC record of 40
"Thirty-nine to go," Blackstock quipped after getting his first sack in
the opening game.
Now it's 38. He chopped down Florida State quarterback Chris Rix with
his right arm in the second quarter last Saturday, giving him two sacks in
two games. He also drew a holding penalty after beating his blocker later
in the quarter.
Considering no Cavalier has made more than six sacks in a season since
1998, when Patrick Kerney had 15, Blackstock gives the defense exactly
what it needs: a bona fide pass rusher.
"He's so fast," senior linebacker Angelo Crowell said. "He just flies
after the quarterback."
But that's no longer all Blackstock does. As an outside linebacker in
Virginia's 3-4 defense, he has responsibilities that he didn't have as a
defensive end in high school and at FUMA. He is supposed to stop the run
and make tackles. Occasionally, he has to cover tight ends and receivers
rather than rush the quarterback.
It hasn't been an easy transition, he admits. But considering that "the
whole context of his game has changed," UVa coach Al Groh said, "Darryl's
done a remarkable job."
Through two games, Blackstock ranks third on the team with 15 tackles.
He had seven in the opener against Colorado State, then eight against the
"Me getting tackles is crazy," he said, shaking his head and smiling.
Groh rewarded Blackstock by making him a starter in the second game. In
the opener, he backed up Dennis Haley but was on the field for 59 of 68
plays on defense.
"This guy's a playmaker. He finds the ball and the ball finds him,"
Groh said. "He got schooled on a few plays [against FSU], plays which
accounted for a lot of yardage, but, until he got here, Darryl had played
every down of his career with his hand on the ground."
Blackstock is still learning how to play his new position. In high
school, he lined up at defensive end or tackle and spent most of his time
wreaking havoc in the backfield, leading Heritage to the Group AAA
Division 5 championship as a senior.
Since he doesn't have much bulk at 226 pounds, the 6-foot-4 Blackstock
moved to linebacker at UVa, forcing him to take on different tasks with
mixed results. He tipped one of Rix's passes late in the first half,
leading to a Jermaine Hardy interception. He also was steamrolled on one
play by 248-pound tailback Greg Jones.
"I took a serious shot from Jones," Blackstock said with a smile. "It
won't happen again, I bet you that. He hit me before I hit him. I have to
learn to hit him before he hits me."
Groh's belief in Blackstock's potential is as plain as the number on
his jersey: 56.
Lawrence Taylor, a Hall of Fame linebacker for the New York Giants,
made No. 56 famous. Groh was an assistant coach for the Giants from
1989-91 and has a Leroy Neimann painting of Taylor in his office.
"I will never be the guy who says someone is the next Lawrence Taylor,"
Groh said. "But I will say that we are very excited about Darryl's
There was another reason Groh assigned Blackstock, who wore No. 11 in
high school, the new digits.
"I wasn't going to have any linebacker around here wearing No. 11,"
Groh said. "There used to be a bumper sticker that said: Real men don't
eat quiche. Well, real linebackers don't wear No. 11."
Tight end from small town
makes big impact
Good catch for
Former Honaker quarterback Heath Miller has caught a touchdown pass in each
of Virginia's first two games.
By DOUG DOUGHTY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
If the first two games of Heath Miller's college football career are any
indication, he has a chance to put Swords Creek on the map.
It's not on most of them.
Swords Creek has a post office that serves a population of close to
2,500, but it is a Russell County community with no geographical boundaries.
"There's an elementary school and a post office," said Miller's mother,
Denise, "but no major businesses and definitely not a stoplight."
There isn't even a stoplight in Honaker, located five miles down Virginia
67. Like his parents before him, Heath Miller graduated from Honaker High
School, where he was the Group A football player of the year in 2000, as well as
an all-state baseball player.
There have been years when Group A did not send a single football player
to Division I on scholarship - 2002, for example - but it was hard to overlook
Miller. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, he had NFL size and an arm to match.
If Miller were still at quarterback, it's not inconceivable that Virginia
coach Al Groh would be choosing between three options each week, instead of the
two-headed dilemma he faces now.
No thanks, Miller says.
"I saw what the quarterback of this team has to go through as far as
scrutiny in the paper and [how] he has to perform and be the man who the team
depends on," said Miller, moved to tight end shortly after his arrival at
UVa in the fall of 2001.
"It wasn't hard leaving that all behind."
In the eyes of many, quarterback is football's glamour position, but
Miller isn't exactly hurting for attention at his new spot.
Miller was in such demand Tuesday that Virginia set up a teleconference
for him with six reporters. He was one of the bright spots in a pair of
season-opening UVa losses, catching a
touchdown pass in both games.
Going into the season, the Cavaliers had not completed a touchdown pass
to a tight end since 1999. The streak was broken by a player who had never
caught a pass of any description till he got to
Miller was always a quarterback, passing for close to 5,000 yards and
accounting for nearly 60 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Honaker. He
committed to Virginia in the summer of 2000 with the understanding he would be
given a shot at quarterback.
That was the pledge from then-coach George Welsh and it was reiterated by
Groh when he took over in late December and re-recruited Miller. Even then,
Miller had the look of a tight end.
"I told him," said Doug Hubbard, who's in his 20th year as Honaker coach.
"He knew. We talked about him not playing quarterback. I was disappointed
because I believed in him, but they know their personnel. They've done a good
job with him."
Groh's first decision, after watching veteran quarterbacks Matt Schaub
and Bryson Spinner in the spring of 2001, was to redshirt Miller. Miller was
dispatched to the scout team, where there was a need for somebody to play tight
"It was a couple of weeks into the regular season," he said. "I was just
filling in, but I could see [the move] coming. I knew I had a big frame."
Miller was listed at 6-5, 256 after the players were weighed in late
July. He's closer to 250 now - heavy for a quarterback but ideal for a tight
end, not that he'd ever done any blocking.
"He's one of these guys that really takes to coaching," Groh said. "If a
coach points something out to him during the course of a drill, on the next rep
he's trying to do it that way. And by the second rep, he's making progress on
Miller was rewarded for his diligence with a start in the Cavaliers'
opener vs. Colorado State, getting the nod over classmate Patrick Estes, a high
school All-American at the position. UVa
frequently plays two tight ends at the same time and both had touchdown
receptions at Florida State.
"At this time last year, [Miller] was still at the quarterback position
and so, in less than a year's time, he's playing a game that - except for the
pads that he wears - is totally different than the game that he played
previously," Groh said.
"Now he's got to block guys, he's got to catch balls instead of throw
them [and] go in motion instead of standing under the center. It's been quite a
transition for him."
Miller, one of only two Honaker graduates at
UVa, has handled the off-field and
on-field transition with relative ease. One of his models was another Group A
player from Southwest Virginia, ex-Powell Valley High School and
UVa star Thomas Jones.
"I enjoyed following his career up here," said Miller, second
academically in his graduating class at Honaker. "It probably gave me a little
more confidence that I could play up here, too."
On a good night, there might have been 3,000 people at a Honaker football
game (" Maybe," Miller said). In the first two games of his college career, he
has played in front of crowds of 57,120 and 79,406 - and barely noticed.
"He couldn't care less about the spotlight," Hubbard said. "It's no big
deal to him."
Swords Creek will never be the same.
Foes take advantage of young line
By DOUG DOUGHTY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
CHARLOTTESVILLE - There are some telling statistics from Al Groh's first
14 games as Virginia football coach, none more glaring than the Cavaliers'
0-7 record when allowing 200 yards or more on the ground.
Nine opposing running backs have rushed for 100 yards or more,
including Florida State's Greg Jones twice.
UVa is 1-9 in those games.
None of that is a surprise to Groh, whose 2001 defensive line was
undersized, compared to this year's, which is almost totally lacking in
"Let me ask you a question," said Groh to the media following a 40-19
loss Saturday at Florida State, where the Seminoles rushed for 397 yards.
"What would you do against a team that had only one defensive lineman who
had ever played in a game?"
Uh, run the ball?
"I certainly would do the same thing," Groh said Monday at his weekly
teleconference. "I'm not giving [UVa's
opponents] any scouting report. They could figure that out by reading Street
"I think that will be most teams' game plan for the next 11 weeks. I
have anticipated that for some months. Our depth chart now is what it is in
Actually, the Cavaliers may be younger than they were in June.
Defensive end Chris Canty, a redshirt sophomore who is the most experienced
of UVa's defensive linemen, will not
play until Sept.21 while rehabilitating a fractured leg suffered in spring
Kwakou Robinson, a true freshman, has started both of
UVa's games during his absence. Two
other true freshmen, Braden Campbell and D.J. Bell, also have seen time in
Seniors Angelo Crowell and Merrill Robertson are the inside
linebackers behind them. However, UVa's
scheme is predicated on the linemen occupying the blockers and freeing the
linebackers to make tackles.
"You ask Ray Lewis [of the Baltimore Ravens] what it was like playing
behind [Tony] Siragusa and [Sam] Adams," Groh said.
At least one reason for Florida State's rushing total was the
Cavaliers' emphasis on stopping the vertical passing game. FSU quarterback
Chris Rix failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in his career,
his streak of 200-yard games was ended at nine and the Seminoles did not
have a play - passing or running - for more than 24 yards.
LIMPING WOUNDED: Groh said medical technicians had postponed their
holiday in order to check on five UVa
players who suffered knee injuries, although Groh would not know the results
of X-rays or MRIs until later in the day.
Center Kevin Bailey appeared to be in the worst shape, requiring two
crutches and wearing a hip-to-ankle brace on his right knee. Outside
linebacker Raymond Mann was walking with the assistance of one crutch but
wide receiver Billy McMullen and offensive guard Mark Farrington were
Groh said that freshman defensive back Marcus Hamilton, injured on a
kickoff with less than 30 seconds remaining, will not play Saturday against
visiting South Carolina but probably will not require surgery.
MORE FRESHMEN: Offensive tackle Brad Butler from E.C. Glass in
Lynchburg made a late appearance and joined Hamilton to become the 11th and
12th true freshmen to get in the game. One of the 10 true freshmen who had
played in the opener, Willie Davis, had five kickoff returns for the
Cavaliers at Florida State. Davis, in on five tackles in 13 plays in the
secondary, was one of six UVa signees
who rushed for 1,000 yards or more in high school last year.
UPS AND DOWNS: Groh said that none of the "one-day wonders" from
UVa's first game was ready for
enshrinement, although outside linebacker Darryl Blackstock recorded a sack,
had another tackle for loss, knocked down a pass that
UVa intercepted and drew a holding
"That's about as good as a sack," Groh said. "This guy's a playmaker.
He finds the ball and the ball finds him. He got schooled on a few plays,
plays which accounted for a lot of yardage, but, until he got here, Darryl
had played every down of his career with his hand on the ground."
MAKING AN IMPRESSION: Sophomore cornerback Jermaine Hardy, a Roanoker
who played seven plays in the opener, had five tackles and an interception
in 38 plays Saturday. "I liked what he did; I'm going to find more time for
him," Groh said.
McMullen still big part of Cavaliers’ plans
By JIM McCONNELL
The Free Lance-Star
CHARLOTTESVILLE—All-American wideout Billy Mc-Mullen had a quiet game against
Colorado State, catching just three passes in the Cavaliers’ season-opening
The Biletnikoff Award candidate made up for it against Florida State, making
five catches for 101 yards. He became just the fourth player to surpass the
century mark against the Seminoles in their last 24 regular-season games.
Despite the emergence of Virginia’s tight ends—Heath Miller and Patrick Estes
have combined for three touchdowns in the first two games—head coach Al Groh
said McMullen is still key to the success of Virginia’s passing attack.
“He’s obviously one of our best players,” Groh added. “We should make sure
staff-wise that we’re doing everything we can to get the ball to him.”
Groh knows South Carolina
While Virginia and South Carolina haven’t played since 1987, the Cavaliers’
head coach is no stranger to the Palmetto state.
Groh played against the Gamecocks twice as a Virginia defensive end from
1963–65 and then coached against them as U.Va.’s defensive line coach in 1971
and 1972. He faced them twice as linebackers coach at North Carolina (1974,
’77), then twice more during his stint as head coach at Wake Forest (1981–86).
Groh also coached at South Carolina for one season, serving as offensive
coordinator for a team that went 8–4 and played Indiana in the Liberty Bowl.
He left that job to accept a position with the New York Giants.
“Bill Parcells had offered me a job once before,” Groh joked, “and I didn’t
think I should turn him down again.” Holding serve at home
Saturday’s game against South Carolina is the second of three consecutive
nonconference home games for the Cavaliers. Following a bye week, Virginia hosts
Akron in its annual homecoming game Sept. 21—the Cavaliers’ final nonconference
home game this season. Since 1987, Auburn, Brigham Young, Colorado State, Penn
State and Virginia Tech are the only nonconference schools to win in
The Cavaliers have won 26 of their last 34 nonconference home games during
Hot on Bo’s trail
South Carolina coach Lou Holtz enters Saturday’s game with 234 career
victories, a total which ranks third-best among active Division I–A coaches and
is tied for ninth on the all-time list.
A victory in Charlottesville would push Holtz, in his 31st season as a head
coach on the collegiate level, past Bo Schembechler for eighth.
Holtz is 4–2 all-time against Virginia.
Luzar able to catch on
Published September 4 2002
Chris Luzar's life has changed dramatically these last few months. His pet
snake died (bummer). He moved to Florida (love those early-bird dinner
specials), became a rookie homeowner (can mortgage rates get any lower?) and
parted with his favorite piece of chainsaw art (think: 8-foot-tall woman).
Oh. And Luzar got his first job. The work can be hazardous, but the pay and
bennies are outrageous.
Meet Chris Luzar, special teams stalwart and reserve tight end for the
"I've been dreaming about this since I was knee high," Luzar said.
Chasing his pro football dream, Luzar played at Lafayette High and the
University of Virginia. He posted modest stats in four collegiate seasons,
catching 53 passes and never scoring a touchdown. But his size, speed and
hands convinced the Jaguars to select him in the fourth round of April's
As fourth-round picks go, Luzar was hardly a stretch. He stands 6-foot-7 and
weighs 265 pounds, ideal size for a tight end. He runs and catches well,
witness his basketball and hurdling careers at Lafayette. He also is capable
of snapping on punts.
But Luzar struggled during preseason, and not because of the Florida heat or
coach Tom Coughlin's boot-camp ways. He struggled, like many rookies, because
he was tentative. Nerves, not instincts, dictated his every move.
After Luzar dropped several passes in practice, Coughlin chided him publicly.
"He's got to get going," Coughlin told the Florida Times-Union. "It's all
about trust. You throw the ball in the middle of the field in this league,
you'd better catch it."
Luzar responded. With his parents, Rex and Nancy, in the Georgia Dome stands,
he caught two passes for 18 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in
Jacksonville's opening preseason game. A week later he caught another pass
against Tampa Bay.
Then another challenge: During a scrum against Tampa Bay, Luzar broke a finger
on his right hand.
"I'm not sure how it happened," he said. "Anything goes in those piles."
Wearing a cast, he didn't miss a practice or either of the final two preseason
games, but catching passes became problematic, snapping on punts impossible.
"In our last preseason game against the Cowboys, I dropped a pass that I catch
10 out of 10 times," Luzar said. "It was a perfect pass, right in my face. But
it hit the cast and bounced off."
The drop aside, Luzar did not fear for his job. Final cuts were scheduled for
three days after the Cowboys game, but he felt secure with his place in the
Jaguars' tight end rotation. Kyle Brady is the incumbent starter, Luzar and
veteran Pete Mitchell the backups.
"I was pretty confident with my ability and the circumstances here," Luzar
said. "There was no doubt in my mind that I could do it."
Sure enough, Luzar not only made the roster, but also is listed as the No. 2
tight end on the depth chart as Jacksonville prepares for Sunday's
regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. He expects to play at
tight end and on special teams.
"It's a job now," Luzar said. "I never had a job in high school or college.
All I did was play sports."
A well-paying job at that. Luzar signed a three-year contract and will make
$225,000 this season. Kurt Warner money it's not, but it's better than most
Luzar majored in studio art at Virginia, and among his creations was an 8-foot
female torso he "carved" with a chain saw. The creation graced the front yard
of the Charlottesville house Luzar shared with his younger brother, Kase, the
Cavaliers' starting fullback this season.
Chris left the statue behind, but now that he's purchased a home, might his
new neighbors be in for a shock? And what of Chris' pet python, Ngu-Ngu? Did
he make the move to Jacksonville?
"He died," Luzar said. "But he was 18 or 20 years old. He lived the good
These days, the same might be said for his owner.
Revamping of defense continues
Lou Holtz is following through on his plan to revamp and fortify the South
Carolina defense before Saturday night's game at Virginia.
In practices Monday and Tuesday, sophomore wide receiver Andrea Gause found
himself at cornerback, a position he'd never played previously. Running back
Gonzie Gray also is getting some reps at cornerback.
In addition, senior spur Rashad Faison, the team's leading tackler last
season, is getting repetitions at free safety, where he'll be more involved in
The moves come on the heels of Saturday's night's 34-24 win over New Mexico
State where the No. 22 Gamecocks allowed the Aggies to gain 419 yards of
After reviewing game films, Holtz cited the defensive backs as a prime area
Faison said he played a position similar to free safety at times during last
"It's the same thing, if you ask me, just a different title," Faison said.
He doesn't see any problems in adjusting if he plays the new role against
"It's a lot more running," Faison said. "I think I'll be all right. Once I
get my reads down, I'll be fine. I think the reason why they moved me is because
I know the defense so well."
Gause is playing his third position since the start of practice last month.
In addition to wide receiver and cornerback, he's also worked at running back.
After his first practice at cornerback on Monday, Gause wasn't high on his
new position. But after Tuesday's practice, he felt much better and said he
should have things down if he's called upon to play there against Virginia.
"Playing it now under coach Holtz is all right," Gause said. "I'm getting
used to it. When I first moved there, I wasn't used to it and I was ready to go
back to receiver."
Holtz said Gause is a good enough athlete to make the switch successfully.
"He's got a chance," Holtz said. "If he doesn't learn too much, he'll be OK.
If he doesn't learn enough to be scared."
Holtz added that "anybody else who is eligible" is being looked at for
He praised Dunta Robinson, the junior cornerback who made his first start the
past Saturday, for good work in practices on Monday and Tuesday.
After toying with the idea of moving freshman Andre Hemphill to cornerback,
Holtz decided to leave him at wide receiver.
• Injury update. Holtz said cornerback
Isaac Stackhouse (bruised back) returned to practice on a limited basis Tuesday
in non-contract drills only. He isn't expected to play at Virginia but Holtz
said Stackhouse might be available for the Georgia game.
Defensive back Corey Peoples (ankle) won't be available for the Virginia
MEDICAL REPORT: The football locker room at the McCue Center
didn't hold many encouraging signs for Virginia fans yesterday
afternoon. On crutches were two starters: outside linebacker Raymond
Mann and center Kevin Bailey. Mann's left knee was wrapped; Bailey's
left leg was immobilized. Also dealing with a knee injury, which he
declined to discuss, was starting offensive guard Mark Farrington.
Virginia limped out of Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night after
losing 40-19 to fifth-ranked Florida State. Numerous Cavaliers
suffered injuries in the game, several of them apparently serious.
At his weekly news conference yesterday afternoon, coach Al Groh
said the holiday would help U.Va. assess the damage earlier than
"We're getting a lot of cooperation today, with it being Labor Day,
from the people who do the X-rays and MRIs," Groh said. "Normally it
would not be done until Tuesday, but given the importance of it, both
just from the players specifically and setting our lineups, we can do
quite a few today."
Cornerback Marcus Hamilton, a true freshman, injured his left knee
with 21 seconds left against FSU and definitely won't play this
weekend. But Groh said that "before the pictures were taken - I don't
know the results of any of these - it was not anticipated that
[Hamilton's knee would need] surgical repair."
Groh said he held out hope that none of the injuries would be
season-ending, "but again, I just don't know much more about it than I
did after the game. The medical people have been treating these
players since Saturday night, but really not learning too much more
TOUGH GOING: In The Associated Press poll released yesterday,
Florida State (2-0) is ranked No. 5, Colorado State (2-0) is No. 19
and South Carolina (1-0) is No. 22. Virginia opened Aug. 22 with a
35-29 loss to Colorado State at Scott Stadium. South Carolina visits
U.Va. (0-2) Saturday night.
"We just got finished pitching to Sosa and Bonds," Groh said. "Now
we get to pitch to McGwire."
Still to come on U.Va.'s schedule are No. 12 Virginia Tech and No.
21 N.C. State.
SOMETHING TO PROVE: Sophomore tailback Marquis Weeks started
against Colorado State but played only the first series. When he
entered the game in the fourth quarter against FSU, he didn't squander
his chance. Weeks carried twice for 19 yards and turned a screen pass
from Matt Schaub into a 13-yard gain. Two plays later, Schaub threw a
4-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wideout Ottowa Anderson.
"You've got to take advantage of all your opportunities," Weeks
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: In Colorado State's six-point victory over
Virginia, kicker Jeff Babcock might have been the Rams' MVP. He went 2
for 2 on extra points and 5 for 5 on field goals, connecting from 28,
27, 38, 46 and 28 yards.
In CSU's 19-14 win over then-No. 7 Colorado on Saturday, Babcock
fell to earth. He missed an extra point and both of his field goal
attempts (each from 37 yards). A reporter apprised Groh yesterday of
"Is that right?" Groh said in amazement. "Are you serious?"
About 25 minutes later, Groh brought up Babcock again. "I tell you,
that's something, isn't it?" he said.
HOOP TALK: The U.Va. men's basketball team has 11 players on
scholarships, including two seniors. That means the Cavaliers could
add as many as four recruits for 2003-04.
Virginia, which already has a commitment from 6-2 guard J.R.
Reynolds of Oak Hill Academy, will play host this weekend to Sheray
Thomas, a 6-8 power forward from Riverdale Baptist School in Upper
Other prospects U.Va. is pursuing include 6-7 forward Luol Deng
from Blairstown, N.J., 6-9, 265-pound center Hassan Fofana, 6-5
forward Gary Forbes from Brooklyn, N.Y., and 6-8 forward Linas Kleiza
from Rockville, Md. Fofans is enrolled as a 12th-grader at Hargrave
Military Academy, where he'll play for coach Mike Preston's
Recruiting analysts rank Deng among the nation's top five
BACK IN THE MIX: In 1999, Virginia tight ends Billy Baber (four)
and Casey Crawford (one) combined for five touchdown receptions. In
2000, however, no U.Va. tight end had a TD catch, and that was the
case last season, too.
Two games into Groh's second season, the tight ends have re-emerged
as scoring threats. Redshirt freshman Heath Miller, who came to U.Va.
as a quarterback, has caught a TD pass in each game, and sophomore
Patrick Estes, a Benedictine High graduate, had his first TD reception
against Florida State.
"Those two guys, they're almost clones of each other," said
starting fullback Kase Luzar, a converted tight end. - Jeff White