There was one notable absence as the Virginia football team opened training camp for the 2004 season Wednesday. Braden Campbell, who played in 26 games as a reserve defensive end, has had to give up football because of injuries to both wrists, UVa coach Al Groh said.
Campbell, a 6-3, 285-pound junior from Slippery Rock, Pa., made 17 tackles each of the past two seasons. He moved to the offensive line in the spring, partly because that is where the team needed more depth. But he underwent reconstructive surgery on both wrists, one of which was injured in high school and the other more recently, and he will not be able to return to the field.
Campbell’s wrists are “not going to be able to withstand the pounding of arm extension and the way the game is played these days,” Groh said.
The loss of Campbell should not affect the Cavaliers much. It’s far from certain he would have been in the playing rotation at offensive line had he stayed healthy. But it’s a shame for a player who was well-liked and a hard worker.
Campbell was one of five true freshmen to play in every game in 2002. He made a career-high five tackles in a comeback win at Wake Forest that year. His most memorable moment came against the Demon Deacons last year. His fourth-down stop at the UVa 8-yard line late in the game set up the drive that ended in Connor Hughes’ game-tying field goal. Hughes later kicked the game-winner.
News and Notes
Other injury news was more encouraging. Senior safety Jermaine Hardy, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL after the season, looked “very good” and should be at full speed during camp, Groh said. Sophomore linebacker Kai Parham, who had been bothered by a lingering back injury, “had a great summer program” and is also healthy, according to the coach.
The first day of practice was closed to fans and media. Same goes for tomorrow’s session. Groh spoke to reporters before the players took the field, so there are no reports from practice. The first open practice is Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Shannon Lane , as expected, has been moved to wide receiver. The 5-11, 185-pound redshirt freshman practiced at defensive back last fall and spring. But Ottowa Anderson’s academic suspension depleted the receiving corps and Lane was a natural to make the move. He caught 29 touchdown passes at Salem High School in Virginia Beach. That history played a part in the position switch, but there was more to it. “Frankly, I didn’t see everything I wanted to see out of him at corner,” Groh said.
There were no unexpected absences among the freshmen. Ahmad Bradshaw transferred to Marshall, while Olu Hall and Branden Albert are at Hargrave Military Academy. The other 15 first-year players on scholarship reported to camp along with a bunch of walk-ons. Among the freshmen expected to compete for playing time is cornerback Philip Brown . Groh said Brown has the same demeanor that Alvin Pearman, Wali Lundy and Darryl Blackstock had when they arrived at UVa: “I’m planning on playing.”
There are 105 players in camp for the Cavaliers. Some are new faces, some are old. One is both new and old. Junior punter Sean Johnson, who spent the past two years on a Mormon mission, is back competing for the starting job with Kurt Korte and Noah Greenbaum, among others. Johnson was on UVa’s team in 2000 and 2001, though he did not play in a game, and appears to be in good shape, Groh said.
Five Cavaliers have been named to the “Watch List” for the 2004 Lombardi Award, which goes to the top lineman in college football. (Though, apparently, linebackers and tight ends also are candidates.) Those players are guard Elton Brown, defensive end Chris Canty, tight end Heath Miller and linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Darryl Blackstock. It’s not an exclusive list – right now, 113 players are on it – but no other team has more than four candidates.
True freshmen used to get a five-day headstart on the rest of the squad, giving them a chance to learn the system and become acclimated to college football before the older players arrived. An NCAA rule ended that practice last year, forcing freshmen to report at the same time as everyone else. Groh said the rule “affects everybody negatively. … It’s certainly not a rule that’s advantageous for young players or for coaches getting them ready.”
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