White: 'Hoos for Herzlich a Worthy Cause
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/09/2009
By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- There was a time when Mark Herzlich expected to spend many fall afternoons in Scott Stadium. In the summer before his senior year at Conestoga High in Berwyn, Pa., he committed to play football for UVa.
Those plans changed later that year when he decommitted from UVa, opting instead for Boston College. But Herzlich, now a BC senior, still thinks highly of the school he almost chose, and he's eager to see Charlottesville for the first time in four years.
"It will be a little different," he said Monday afternoon, "because first of all this is the first time we've played Virginia since I've been here. It's also the first time I've been down to UVa since I visited.
"I know a lot of the players down there. I know a lot of the coaches."
This is likely to be an emotional trip for Herzlich, whose story is familiar to college football fans. Virginia hosts BC on Saturday, and the reigning ACC defensive player of the year, a 6-4 linebacker, will be with his teammates at Scott Stadium.
In street clothes.
He was diagnosed last spring with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in his left leg, and hasn't played since. Herzlich, 22, finished his final round of chemotherapy last Monday, however, and his doctors say he's cancer-free.
"They have all the confidence in the world that it's gone," he said.
Boston College's counterparts in the ACC have shown their support for Herzlich by making contributions in his name to Uplifting Athletes, a non-profit organization that works with the college football community to raise awareness and fund research for rare diseases.
At UVa, the 'Hoo Crew and Student Council started a fund-raiser -- 'Hoos for Herzlich -- last month, with the goal of raising $9,494. (Herzlich's jersey number at BC is 94.) A ceremonial check will be presented to Herzlich before the start of Saturday's game at Scott Stadium.
"It's really kind of incredible how the ACC has really come together as one unit, which has been awesome," Herzlich said. "You don't get that very much. People always talk about how the SEC is the best league, but you don't get the type of camaraderie that I see in the ACC.
"That ACC really stepped up, and everybody took me under their wing and ran with it. As much as I appreciate the support, there are thousands of people across ACC country that are dealing with similar things that I am."
The student-run fund-raiser at UVa has the support of the football team. The players are donating the per diem they would have received for their game-day dinners -- $15 apiece -- for a group contribution of about $1,500.
"I feel like there's a situation every year where the team has to step outside themselves and step outside of football and see the bigger causes we can help," said outside linebacker Aaron Clark, a graduate student who's one of the Cavaliers' captains.
"I think this is another opportunity to educate the younger players that we are trying to help our community as well as providing entertainment for them. I think that's very important as you go through college, to be able to learn and educate yourself that there's another world out there."
Herzlich visited UVa several times when he was in high school, and Clark remembers him from those trips. Herzlich knows several other Cavaliers, too.
In Pennsylvania, he played lacrosse with Will Barker and football, on an all-star team, with Trey Womack.
"He's a great guy. We keep in touch," Herzlich said of Womack, a special-teams standout for the Wahoos.
At one point, Herzlich dreamed of playing lacrosse for Dom Starsia at UVa, but his development as a football player made that sport a better option.
He committed in June 2005 to play football for Virginia, but when his main recruiters, assistant coaches Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio, left late that year for Temple, "I kind of re-thought things," Herzlich recalled Monday.
Al Groh, asked Monday what he remembered about Herzlich as a prospect, said he was a "very rugged player, very physical player. Tall, lanky. You could really see what he was going to become, and he's certainly lived up to that."
As a true freshman in 2006, Herzlich played in all 13 games for BC. By his sophomore season he was a starter. As a junior, he was a finalist for the Butkus Award and thrice was named ACC player of the week. He intercepted six passes, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
"As all of you know, Mark Herzlich is an amazing football player," Clark said. "He's made a lot of big plays in his short career at BC."
After undergoing radiation and chemo at home in the Philadelphia area, Herzlich returned to Boston College in September, and he'll graduate next month with a bachelor's in marketing. He plans to start pursuing an MBA in the spring.
When Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, doctors told him that his career, in all likelihood, was over. Now they're not so sure.
"I met with the doctor on Tuesday, and we looked at the MRIs again," Herzlich said, "and he basically said, 'Your leg can't look any better than it does right now.'"
On Nov. 23, a rod will be placed through his femur to strengthen the bone, Herzlich said. Once he begins training again, doctors will evaluate his progress. If his leg is deemed strong enough, he might be cleared to play football again.
That such a comeback is even a possibility for Herzlich is "testament to his strength, his toughness and his mental ability to defeat the challenge that was put in front of him," Clark said, "and we all take our hats off to him for that."
To contribute on-line to 'Hoos for Herzlich, visit this site.
Also, checks made out to Uplifting Athletes, with UVa in the memo line, can be sent to UVa Student Council, Newcomb Hall, Box 400705, Charlottesville, Va., 22904.
Brown Sorely Missed on Offense
Nov. 8, 2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- After four games this season, wide receiver Javaris Brown had six catches for 131 yards and one touchdown and seemed poised to become UVa's No. 1 deep threat.
He's played in only one game since then, against Georgia Tech on Oct. 24. Brown, a 5-11, 175-pound redshirt freshman, was in for 10 snaps against the Yellow Jackets and caught one pass for 5 yards.
Brown has not fallen out of favor with his coaches, who would love to have him in the lineup. He's hurt.
"It's just one of those high-ankle sprains," Al Groh said on his Sunday night teleconference. "With each guy, it's just an issue of how long it takes him to come back from it. At his position, you've got to really be able to plant and cut. He's got most of his straight-line speed back. He has not quite yet had the full-speed cuts the way that he needs to have them.
"We look every week. We really ran him through a pretty tough test last Thursday in the hopes that he might be ready to do something. It turned out it might take at least another week."
Another key offensive player, quarterback Jameel Sewell, missed UVa's game against ACC rival Miami this weekend. Sewell has a shoulder injury, and his status for Virginia's game against visiting Boston College on Saturday is uncertain.
Not all the medical news has been bad for the Wahoos. Defensive end Matt Conrath, who hadn't played since spraining his right ankle Oct. 17 against Maryland, started against Miami.
Conrath, a 6-7, 270-pound sophomore, made three tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss.
"He held up longer" than expected, Groh said, but Conrath's "game was noticeably affected by it. Not noticeable during the course of the game, but noticeable in reviewing the video. When you see him in close-line action, where he had the need to be able to put that foot down and really push off it, he wasn't able to do that.
"He did last longer. I had concerns how long he could last when somebody would fall on the back of his legs or whatever, but he was able to hang in there pretty good."
Outside linebacker Aaron Clark, who'd sprained his knee against Georgia Tech, also returned to face the Hurricanes. Clark and Conrath had been listed as questionable for the Miami game on the injury report UVa released Thursday night.
-- Jeff White
Schautz gives glimpse of future
By Doug Doughty
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Saturday probably was the first time that most Virginia football fans had heard the name Billy Schautz.
Chances are, they'll hear it again.
"He's going to be a great player," said Aaron Clark, one of Schautz' fellow outside linebackers. "He's got a lot of really good instincts as far as football goes. He's athletic; he's very quick at the point of attack.
"He's a fun guy to be around and he's going to be exciting to watch."
Schautz, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound redshirt freshman, played in Virginia's previous six games. But, he did little of note until he scooped up a loose ball Saturday and ran 20 yards for a touchdown following a punt blocked by Trey Womack.
"It was a big play, but we don't focus on individual plays," said Schautz after a 52-17 loss at Miami. "Everybody is down in the dumps.
"Right now, I just want to help the team wherever they want to put me. It's not my call. I think I can be a big-play player. I was hoping I would be a little more a part of the defense this year."
So was head coach Al Groh until Schautz suffered a torn medial collateral ligament near the end of preseason camp.
Until then, Schautz, from Bergen (N.J.) Catholic, was ticketed for a full-time spot in Virginia's "nickel" package that subsequently went to Darren Childs.
Virginia primarily has used three players at outside linebacker, including Clark and fellow fifth-year senior Denzel Burrell.
"Hopefully, his upside is as a starting outside linebacker on regular downs and play one of the inside positions on [passing] downs," Groh said. "I can't give you a number on his speed, but he runs pretty nicely. In high school, he was a combination of wide receiver, safety, quarterback and did a lot of things that required open-field skills."
UVa's other outside linebacker, sophomore Cam Johnson, also played safety in high school.
"He's [Schautz] had to learn how to use his hands and take on blocks," Groh said. "His spring was more notable in the spring [in the dime package] because he was playing some of the free safety stuff he had in high school, only closer to the line of scrimmage."
Groh said that quarterback Jameel Sewell, who missed the Miami game with an injured shoulder, was held out of practice Sunday but there is a possibility he could play Saturday, when the Cavaliers (3-6, 2-3 ACC) entertain Boston College (6-3, 3-2) at 3:30 p.m.
"We're going to see what tomorrow brings," Groh said Monday.
"We purposely held him out [Sunday], knowing there wasn't that much to be accomplished and another 48 hours of healing would be advantageous. Our medical people saw it as a prudent, hopefully productive path."
* Groh said that no consideration was given to using redshirt freshman quarterback Riko Smalls in mop-up time Saturday, but said that Smalls and not Vic Hall is the No. 3 quarterback behind Sewell and Marc Verica.
"Vic's got a position," said Groh, who has been using Hall at wide receiver. "We're not playing pingpong with him."
* When asked about "the state" of his punting game, Groh hesitated for a few seconds, sighed and then replied, "in flux." He then conceded that sophomore Jimmy Howell would regain the spot he held before walk-on junior Nathan Rathjen got a call. Groh also expressed frustration with the squib attempts of No. 1 kickoff specialist Chris Hinkebein.
Ex-UVa running back Alvin Pearman, an All-ACC pick in 2005 who was picked up by Tennessee two weeks ago, returned five kicks (four kickoffs, one punt) for the Titans in a 34-27 win in San Francisco on Sunday. ... Rookie wide receiver Kevin Ogletree from UVa had two receptions for 38 yards and also ran 6 yards on a reverse for Dallas in a 20-16 victory in Philadelphia.
When asked on his Sunday night teleconference if he felt the UVa coaching staff was doing everything it could in terms of game planning, Groh was quick not to place the burden on his players.
"To say 'everything' would be, probably, pretty egotistical," Groh said. "I've never come out of one, in a lot of years [and] even when we've won pretty well, that I've thought I got it all right. We analyze ourselves before we do anything else and there certainly is plenty to analyze there."
Odds 'n' ends
Television syndicators have exercised their six-day option on Virginia's Nov. 21 visit to Clemson, meaning that a game time won't be announced till next week. ... Fork Union Military Academy coach John Shuman said that offensive lineman Cody Wallace, a 2009 Virginia signee, has assured to him that he will honor his commitment to UVa regardless of any changes in the coaching staff.
Cavs could play spoiler
By Jerry Ratcliffe
Published: November 10, 2009
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How strange that Boston College and Virginia have been members of the ACC for five years and have met only once on the gridiron leading into Saturday’s visit by the Eagles to UVa’s Scott Stadium.
The two teams met on a rainy day in Chestnut Hill in 2005, with then-18th ranked BC pulling out a 28-17 win over the visiting Cavaliers. That was the last time the two conference members met.
Since then, Virginia has played four other nonconference schools (Wyoming, Pittsburgh, East Carolina, and Connecticut) more times than it has faced ACC foe Boston College. Similarly, BC has played Notre Dame more often than it has UVa.
No stranger to UVa
While the Bostonians have never been to Scott before, a couple of their coaches have. In fact, they lived here.
BC’s head coach, Frank Spaziani, who local media used to refer to as simply “Spaz,” was a member of Virginia’s staff from 1982 to 1990. We’ll have a more in-depth look at Spaziani’s career at UVa later in the week.
BC’s offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill was also on George Welsh’s UVa staff, twice, from 1987 to 1990, and again in 1999 and 2000.
So, for both coaching staffs, preparation for this week’s game will be like preparing for a nonconference team.
Spaziani was a member of Tom O’Brien’s staff five years ago, serving as the defensive coordinator, which could give him a little familiarity with Al Groh’s Cavaliers. While Spaz is the third BC head coach since that first encounter in ’05, Groh said faces may have changed but the system has primarily remained the same.
A familiar system
“We don’t have a lot of personal competitive familiarity with them, but through all the changes that they have had up there, they maintain a lot of continuity in their style of play,” Groh said Monday at his weekly press conference. “The defensive system is similar to what we faced when we went up there. Spaziani’s [overall] system is reflective of what was in place at that time.”
The Eagles are 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, just a loss behind division leader in the win column.
Not bad, considering they were picked dead last in the ACC preseason media poll back in July.
Thanks to former pro baseball player, 25-year-old Dave Shinskie’s leadership at quarterback (our beat writer Jay Jenkins will have a feature on him later in the week), BC has found enough offense to win.
However, the Eagles have yet to win a road game this season, having dropped all three road trips to Clemson, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. The game at South Bend was really the only close contest BC has played away from home, holding a lead on the Irish late in the game before losing.
Still, Spaziani’s team has had an extra week of preparation for this week’s Virginia game, a luxury at this time of the year.
Groh knows what to expect from BC. One thing hasn’t changed and that’s style of play. The Eagles, going back to O’Brien’s decade of winning in Boston, have always been big and physical. That’s still the case.
“This sounds like a funny thing to say, but [BC is] a visually pleasing team to watch play,” Groh said. “In other words, they got a system, they’re very fundamentally sound in their scheme.
“They’re very fundamentally sound in their execution, they have certain things that they want to accomplish and they’re going to play the game on those terms,” Groh continued. “So, they’re going to try to force the other team every week to out-execute them and not give anything away. They’ve been quite successful in doing that.”
While Virginia can’t win its division in the ACC’s Coastal, the Cavaliers can have a say in who wins the Atlantic.
Because the Cavaliers play BC this week, then division-leading Clemson on the road the following week, Virginia has the opportunity to spoil somebody’s title chase.
“Knowing that the same thing doesn’t appeal to 100 different guys, sometimes we dangle a few different hooks out there each week and see what it might take for each individual player,” Groh said of possible motivation for the upcoming games. “So, if we can see ourselves in that division for the next two weeks, then maybe that will bring us to the top of the bottle. I’m sure, now that it is brought up, I just put [playing the spoiler’s role] on my checklist.”
NFL scouts take notice of Jackson
By Jay Jenkins
Published: November 10, 2009
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The numbers would send every statistician into head-scratching mode.
If one running back was averaging 6.2 yards per carry since a certain season-changing moment, why would another tailback averaging 2.2 yards per attempt stay in the rotation.
That is a question numerous Virginia fans have been asking since Mikell Simpson was injured in the second half of the Cavaliers’ 47-7 win over Indiana.
The star since that moment, senior fullback Rashawn Jackson, has torched opposing defenses in four of the past five Virginia games.
In fact, since Simpson was carted of the field with a neck injury, Jackson has rushed 50 times for 311 yards and two touchdowns.
Yet despite the obvious success of Jackson, Virginia’s coaching staff continues to start Simpson, who has gained 39 yards on the ground in his past 18 carries.
Virginia coach Al Groh has stated that game situations have limited the ability of Jackson to get an increased workload.
“He’s been very effective when he’s had the ball,” Groh said. “We would like to see [20 or 30 carries] be the case.”
Regardless, Jackson has showcased his talents for the next level and could be selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.
“Well, there are not that many big backs available. When there is one, all those people want to look at him,” Groh said. “The NFL, there are a lot of teams that still use a fullback, okay? Maybe not as their primary way of playing, but they still run some two-back stuff. “So they’re all looking for a player of that size who they can slide into that. There’s so many guys, almost all the guys in college football who carry the ball, aren’t even candidates. That would make [Jackson] a candidate for whatever they want to make him, a tailback, a fullback, whatever the case may be.”
Groh said he has also noticed the attention that Jackson has received from scouts.
“They’re here on a daily basis to watch our video, watch our practice and whatnot,” he said. “All the teams are through asking about all the players. They’re very well aware of him.”
Groh was even told that Mel Kiper, Jr., a draft analyst and player evaluator, had Jackson as the top fullback for the upcoming draft.
“Take that to the bank,” Groh chuckled.
Back in the saddle
After a 75-yard passing performance last week at Miami, it was clear that Virginia’s chances to win another game this season could hinge on the availability of starter Jameel Sewell at quarterback.
Sewell, a senior, missed the Miami loss as he nursed several injuries.
Today’s practice will likely tell the coaching staff if Sewell is expected to play this weekend.
“We purposely held him out [Sunday] night, told him that wasn’t that much to be accomplished, and another 48 hours of healing from [Sunday] night till [today] would be advantageous.
“So we took that path, consulted with medical people on it. They saw it as being a prudent, hopefully productive path.”
A dire situation
It should come as no surprise that Virginia’s punting numbers have not been pretty of late.
The Cavaliers dropped to eighth place in the ACC in that category after a woeful performance at Miami, one that included a 12-yard punt that led to an easy touchdown.
What does Groh think the state of the Virginia punting game is?
“Influx,” he said.
A change is on the horizon — sophomore Jimmy Howell will start on Saturday at home against Boston College.
Howell, once in the doghouse, ranks fifth in the ACC, averaging 40.4 yards per attempt.
After further review
Paperwork from the University of Virginia was submitted to gain clarification on a facemask call that was made in Saturday’s 35-point loss at Miami.
Already called for a personal foul, which would have offset, Virginia outside linebacker Cam Johnson landed an additional penalty after the game’s referee elected to check the spot of the football through instant replay.
Doug Rhoads, the ACC’s coordinator of football officials, told a Virginia employee that instant replay was not used to determine the penalty on Johnson but yet only to spot the football.
The flag for Johnson removing quarterback Jacory Harris’ helmet was called on the field, Rhoads said, but referee Tom McCreesh “inadvertently” failed to throw a second flag or his hat to the ground and also failed to announce the penalty.
Groh did not seem amused by the explanation.
“Well, there are two sides to every story,” he said. “There’s a clarification that’s been floated out there, we’ve also asked for our own clarification.
“I’m sure it will be the same. Frankly in this case we would probably be somewhat reluctant to agree or accept the clarification.”
It all starts with defense
By Whitey Reid
Published: November 10, 2009
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According to Cal-Berkley assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb, there are two ways to beat your opponent in today’s world of college basketball.
You can do so with your sheer talent — the approach that basically entails rounding up as many McDonald’s All-Americans as humanly possible and letting them do their thing (see the likes of North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas).
Or you can beat people with your system (see the likes of Michigan, Arizona State and Washington State, circa 2008).
The latter has become Virginia coach Tony Bennett’s calling card. It’s what worked for Bennett at WSU (a place that struggled to attract those aforementioned Burger Boys), and what he hopes will work at UVa.
Gottlieb, the older brother of ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb, thinks Bennett and Virginia are a good fit.
“I think they were looking for somebody who has a system where you could beat someone with your overall system rather than being a talent-based system,” said Gottlieb, shortly after Bennett was hired.
“Some of the schools in that league are just going to have flat-out better players than you, period. He has a system. It took him a while to put it into place at Washington State, so you’re going to have to have some patience.”
Alas, the “P” word — an utterance many sports fans have trouble processing, particularly those in Wahoo Nation who have suffered through some wretched hoops the last few seasons.
The truth is, Virginia fans might need a lot of patience — at least in the beginning.
Yes, Virginia returns 11 of 14 players from last year’s team. However, not all of them will fit into Bennett’s system. In fact, many won’t.
Initially, Bennett will be attempting to put square pegs into round holes, which is what Dick Bennett, Tony’s father, intimated in Monday’s story in The Daily Progress.
So, what exactly is the Tony Bennett system?
Well, everything, not surprisingly, starts on the defensive end.
Bennett employs an approach that he learned from his father known as the “Pack-Line” defense.
Defenders have an imaginary line that is situated about a foot in front of the 3-point arc that they are conditioned not to cross. The idea is to “pack” the lane.
One major key is getting back in transition and eliminating easy fast-break points.
“It’s a concept of trying to make teams play against a set defense,” Bennett explained. “Pressure the ball, but be more conscious of jamming the lane and not giving up baskets in the lane while contesting outside shots.
“If you’re playing it properly, you’re really trying to make them shoot contested shots with hands in the face, outside of the lane area.”
The system was a big part of Dick Bennett’s Wisconsin squad making it to the Final Four in 2000 (Tony was on that staff).
At Washington State, the pack-line worked like a charm for Tony. WSU was the top defensive team in the league in each of his three years. Last year, the Cougars allowed just 55.4 points per game, more than five points less than the No. 2 team, Arizona State.
Wake Forest liked the system so much that it decided to implement it three years ago.
“When I first got here, we were somewhere around the 100s [in defense],” said Wake Forest senior Ish Smith. “My sophomore year we were in the 40s. Now we’re a top-25 defensive team. It does work.”
What the defense does is forces teams to really work on the offensive end.
“If it’s played well, it takes teams longer to break it down,” Bennett continued. “It lowers possessions, which lowers scores.
“You’re not creating a lot of turnovers, but hopefully the shooting percentages are a little lower.”
The most important defensive stat to keep an eye on this year will be opponents’ field goal percentage — from both 2- and 3-point range. One of the things that Bennett really harps on is “close-outs” — how well a defender rotates or recovers to get a hand in the shooter’s face.
Another interesting facet of the scheme is Bennett’s philosophy of making players drive toward the middle of the court. The majority of coaches try and force opponents baseline.
“On the ball is pretty much the same — pressure and keep your man in front of you,” said Virginia guard Jeff Jones, when asked to compare Bennett’s defense to former Virginia coach Dave Leitao’s. “It’s the off-the ball defense that’s different. He wants you in the gap, so it’s more of a help-your-man type defense. It’s not like one person guarding one person. It’s like the whole team guarding that one person.
“It’s unique, and I think it will benefit a lot of people on this team.”
Realistically, no matter how many hiccups the Cavaliers have with the new approach, they can’t be any worse than they were the last two years when they finished last or second-to-last in just about every meaningful defensive statistical category.
All Bennett really wants, at least initially, is legitimate effort on ‘D.’
“I’ll ask every one of these guys to lay it on the line on the defensive end,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s hard to become a good defensive team.
“It’s hard as a player, and hard as a coach because you have to stay on them constantly.”
Sophomore Sylven Landesberg said that any improvement that the team makes this season will be because of its defensive efforts.
“This style of defense is going to create a lot more offense,” he said. “It bothers offensive teams a lot. When we’re in practices and scrimmaging and going against [that style], it’s hard. It’s going to be good, different.”
On the flip side
Offensively, Bennett’s approach, known as “The Blocker/Mover” scheme, isn’t nearly as stringent.
“It’s constant screening for the guards, back and forth, back and forth,” explained Jones. “You have to be in shape to do it.
“It’s about being a constant threat. It’s great if you’re a guard. It’s probably one of the better offenses you could be in. It can’t get much better than that.”
Bennett’s offense thrives on having players with strong fundamentals. Passing, dribbling and high basketball IQ’s are prerequisites. Shooting ability is definitely a big plus.
“The offensive style is going to hopefully start with soundness…trying to build some discipline with good shot selection and first and foremost — trying to take care of the ball,” Bennett said. “That’s a constant that you have to have.
“We’ve worked real hard at what we call being ‘ball strong,’ or strong with the ball.”
Like most coaches, the one thing that drives Bennett batty is turnovers.
“He tells us every day that he’s going to let us play [on offense], but that he hates turnovers,” Landesberg said. “He hates them.
“He lets us run and play on offense — as long as we make smart decisions. When we start turning the ball over, he gets very upset.”
Last season, only two teams in the ACC coughed the ball up more than Virginia (14.8 per game.) Meanwhile, Bennett’s team at WSU averaged the least (11.4) of any team in the Pac-10.
“I’ll live with an aggressive, honest mistake — those things are going to happen,” Bennett said. “When they’re non-chalant [turnovers[, or plays that don’t need to happen — those are frustrating because it’s wasted possessions.
“Valuing the ball is huge against the kind of competition we’ll be facing.”
One of the misnomers about Bennett’s offensive system is that it is boring and slow-paced. Bennett says it only seems that way because of the grinding his team is doing on the other end of the court.
“I do think you can play fast — and we try,” said Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio. “We run the ball, push it up and score points, and get back in the pack and try and guard.”
Bennett stops short of saying Virginia will be a running team like the Demon Deacons. He says he will strive for a good balance between transition and half-court basketball.
The one thing that you can say for sure about Virginia this season is that they will likely have a discernible style of play — something absent the last couple of years as the program struggled.
All offseason, Bennett has answered questions about his system and how the parts he inherited from Leitao will fit in. At the recent Media Day in Greensboro, Bennett gave one of his most succinct answers yet.
“I want our guys to say that playing for coach Bennett — if you take care of the ball, he’s a good guy to play for offensively. He gives you the freedom to use creative abilities,” Bennett said. “But defensively, he’s a jerk to play for. He really rules with an iron fist. That’s what I want it to be like. They should have no wiggle room defensively.”