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Virginia

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

August 25, 2003 The Big Picture Virginia did not have a deep talent pool when Al Groh took over following the 2000 season. George Welsh and his staff had not recruited well in the late 1990s, owing in part to uncertainty over Welsh's retirement plans. Even if he had been inclined to make staff changes, attractive candidates would have wanted more security than the situation provided. The knock against NFL coaches returning to the college ranks is that they have little taste for recruiting, but Groh was a college coach who happened to spend 13 years in the NFL. He was an outstanding recruiter as an assistant, he recruited well at Wake Forest and he has been a relentless recruiter since returning to his dream job at his alma mater. The PooP Strength coach Tony Decker resigned the week before the 2002 season, and the Cavaliers did not replace him until the winter, when former New Orleans Saints strength coach Evan Marcus came on board. Remarkably, UVa survived and even prospered during a season in which it started nine true freshmen, many of whom had not been through a serious strength program. One of those freshmen, left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, had dipped under 250 pounds by the Continental Tire Bowl. Marcus has received high marks so far, with players such as right tackle Brad Butler having added as much as 30 pounds. Building Blocks One reason Virginia set a school record for pass attempts in Groh's first season, 2001, was a veteran line that couldn't open holes. That was a problem again to start the 2002 season, but Groh now has a unit that will enable him to play Northeast football. In other words, when the wind starts blowing in Blacksburg in late November (UVa entertains Virginia Tech in Charlottesville this year), the Cavaliers now have the kind of line that will enable them to run the ball. Right guard Elton Brown has All-American potential, and there are returning starters — most of them bigger and stronger — at every other line spot. Plus, they're all underclassmen. Coming On Strong Linebacker Darryl Blackstock received many of the headlines after a season in which he set an ACC record for sacks by a freshman (10), but second-team All-ACC defensive lineman Chris Canty heads a front three that no longer gets pushed around. In his first season, Groh wisely elected to redshirt Andrew Hoffman, a nose guard who had played sparingly in Welsh's last season. Hoffman got increasingly better over the last half of 2002 and teamed well with Canty and the other end, pleasant surprise Brennan Schmidt. There even are experienced backups at all three spots. Done For Me Lately  

Year

ACC

Overall

Postseason

1993

5-3 (3)

7-5

Carquest Bowl (L)

1994

5-3 (3)

9-3

Independence (W)

1995

7-1 (1)

9-4

Peach Bowl (W)

1996

5-3 (4)

7-5

Carquest Bowl (L)

1997

5-3 (3)

7-4

None

1998

6-2 (3)

9-3

Peach Bowl (L)

1999

5-3 (2)

7-5

MicronPC Bowl (L)

2000

5-3 (4)

6-6

Oahu Bowl (L)

2001

3-5 (7)

5-7

None

2002

6-2 (2)

9-5

Continental Tire (W)

ACC: 52-28 (.650); No. 2 in ACC
Overall: 75-47 (.615); No. 2 in ACC Cause For Concern? Periodically, there are questions about Schaub's arm. Why? Because he rarely throws long. Knowledgeable observers report that Schaub can throw the long ball, but Virginia hasn't had a deep threat since he's been there. Billy McMullen caught more than 200 passes in his career, but he did not have blazing speed. Michael McGrew, before his season-ending injury, did not show the potential to beat people long. Virginia now has some speed in its receiving corps, including converted cornerback Art Thomas. However, Thomas has never been a receiver and almost returned to defense at the start of preseason drills. The Whole Truth “There haven't been many championship teams that weren't real good defensively. Size- and speed-wise, this is starting to look like what it's supposed to look like.”

— Virginia coach Al Groh CHART BY: THE UVA INSIDER