August 23, 2004 The Big Picture
Groh has long targeted 2004 because it is a natural coming-of-age point for the big-time prospects he recruited in his first full class, including Ahmad Brooks, Wali Lundy, Darryl Blackstock and D'Brickashaw Ferguson. To this point, Virginia has sent few players to the NFL during Groh's tenure, but that could change this year, especially if underclassmen Brooks, Blackstock and tight end Heath Miller elect to make themselves available. It should be noted that ex-coach George Welsh and his staff deserve some credit for recruiting players such as ex-QB Matt Schaub and defensive end Chris Canty, and for getting commitments from Miller, Blackstock, Elton Brown and Alvin Pearman before the Groh staff sealed those deals.
The Cavaliers essentially did not have a strength coach during a 2002 season in which they won nine games, but the arrival of former New Orleans Saints aide Evan Marcus in the winter of 2003 has paid obvious dividends. While Ferguson discounts reports that he played at less than 250 pounds as a true freshman in 2002, there is no mistaking the metamorphosis that will allow him to carry 295 pounds into this season. The other starting tackle, Brad Butler, another true freshman starter in 2002, now measures 6-8 and 296 pounds. Brown (6-6, 338) and left guard Ron Darden (6-4, 327) are among UVa's five 300-pounders.
Done For Me Lately
|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)|
|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)|
|2002||6-2 (2)||9-5||Continental Tire (W)|
|2003||4-4 (4)||8-5||Continental Tire (W)|
ACC: 51-29 (.638); No. 2 in ACC
Overall: 76-47 (.618); No. 2 in ACC
The defensive front three of Canty, Brennan Schmidt and Andrew Hoffman often gets overlooked because of the big-play ability of linebackers Brooks and Blackstock, but this is the third straight year in which they have started together, and their talent is matched by their intelligence. There also is experienced depth up front, with the likes of end Kwakou Robinson and nose tackle Melvin Massey. The offensive line (see above) has similar longevity and one of the team's most underrated players in fifth-year center Zac Yarbrough. He was not projected as the No. 1 center before either of the past two seasons but has started 22 games, including 16 wins.
Coming On Strong
Cornerback Marcus Hamilton was named UVa's most improved player during the spring, and it came at a good time, as the Cavs attempt to retool their secondary. Hamilton and Tony Franklin, who started the final six games of the 2003 season, have more athletic ability than the corners they replace (Muffin Curry and Jamaine Winborne), but it will be difficult to provide as many game-changing plays. Fullback Jason Snelling could be one of the ACC's best at his position. He had 31 receptions in 2002 as a true freshman, but illness and academics caused him to redshirt a year ago.
Cause For Concern?
When Ottowa Anderson was placed on academic suspension, Virginia was left without a wideout who caught more than eight passes last season. (Marques Hagans grabbed 28, but he will have other duties.) Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Michael McGrew will be back for a fifth year after a broken leg caused him to miss 2003. McGrew enters the season with 60 career receptions, but UVa has only five scholarship receivers, meaning that Deyon Williams, Fontel Mines and Emmanuel Byers need to step up.
The Whole Truth
"We're a pretty good team, but you're supposed to be good. You're not supposed to be bad. So what we've done now is we've gotten to where you're supposed to be. Now what we have to do is try to become a great team."
Virginia coach Al Groh
CHART BY: THE UVA INSIDER
(8-5, 4-4 ACC)
|7||at South Carolina||31|
|59||at Western Michigan||16|
|38||at North Carolina||13|
|27||at Clemson (OT)||30|
|37||at N.C. State||51|
Continental Tire Bowl
|Sept. 4||at Temple (1-11)|
|Sept. 11||North Carolina (2-10)|
|Sept. 18||Akron (7-5)|
|Sept. 25||Syracuse (6-6)|
|Oct. 7||Clemson (9-4)|
|Oct. 16||at Florida State (10-3)|
|Oct. 23||at Duke (4-8)|
|Nov. 6||Maryland (10-3)|
|Nov. 13||Miami (11-2)|
|Nov. 20||at Georgia Tech (7-6)|
|Nov. 27||at Virginia Tech (8-5)|
N.C. State, Wake Forest