August 23, 2004 * No clarification has been given for the personal issues that caused linebacker Ahmad Brooks to return to his Woodbridge, Va., home after less than one week of practice, but Brooks' leave of absence lasted less than 48 hours and he was back in Charlottesville in time for team meetings following an evening practice on Aug. 18. While Brooks' academic progress requires regular monitoring he was a non-qualifier out of high school, before spending one semester at Hargrave Military Academy UVa coach Al Groh said Brooks' departure was not related to academics.
More likely, it was a flare-up of an on-going situation, first reflected by Brooks' demotion to the second team (behind Rich Bedesem) for the start of preseason drills, a move that left him devastated, Brooks said. He described as untrue the reports of a fight or confrontation with Groh, but there's no doubt that Brooks has been a high-maintenance player during his first 20 months in Charlottesville. He also is a great talent, the Cavaliers' leading tackler last year as a freshman and still capable of running a legitimate 4.6 40-yard dash at 6-4 and a reporting weight of 260 pounds.
Four members of Virginia's nationally ranked recruiting class did not report for the start of preseason practice, unless you count former Virginia Group 2A of the year Ahmad Bradshaw, who reported for the start of preseason practice at Marshall. Bradshaw faces three misdemeanor charges in Charlottesville General District Court for possession of an open container of alcohol, underage possession/purchase of alcohol and obstruction of justice, stemming from a July 17 incident outside the Biltmore, a campus bar where Bradshaw was detained at 1:50 a.m. One week after that, Groh said Bradshaw would not participate for the Cavaliers this season, indicating that it was up to the school whether he would be admitted or not. That was answered when Bradshaw enrolled at Marshall, where he has had an early impact comparable to that of former Herd superstar Randy Moss. Although there were issues in Bradshaw's past that had been brought to the attention of the Virginia staff and media, sources said he probably would have been allowed to remain at UVa if not for his recent arrest.
Other recruits who did not enroll were Fork Union fullback/linebacker James Terry, a two-time Virginia signee who met NCAA requirements but was not admitted by UVa. Terry subsequently surfaced at Division I-AA Hofstra. Also, for the third straight year, the Cavaliers' top in-state signee will go to Hargrave Military Academy, where Olu Hall hopes to follow in the footsteps of Brooks and cornerback Philip Brown. A second UVa signee, unheralded Maryland lineman Branden Albert, is listed at 6-7 and 340 pounds and could play immediately for the Wahoos after a year at Hargrave.
If they arrive next August, as has been Virginia's general rule on such matters, Hall and Brooks would join a 2005 recruiting class that already numbers 22 three short of the NCAA limit for scholarship newcomers. UVa has set a feverish early recruiting pace, aided by the addition of assistant coach Mark D'Onofrio, previously the Rutgers recruiting coordinator. Four of the commitments have come from New Jersey, three from players rated among the top seven prospects in that state, headed by the Garden State's No. 1 prospect, according to Rivals.com, offensive lineman Eugene Monroe. When special teams coach Corwin Brown and tight ends coach Andy Heck took NFL jobs after the 2003 season, Groh replaced them with D'Onofrio and John Garrett, whose experience as an NFL scout has been put to use with the evaluation of recruits.