Cavalier Call-In Highlights: 9/12/05

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Al Groh

On his Cavalier Call-In radio show tonight, Al Groh talked with host Mac McDonald about the bye week and the upcoming game at Syracuse. He also took questions from fans about the ACC, his pregame routine, the young safeties, the 3-4 defense, Chris Gould , Connor Hughes and converting high school defensive linemen to college outside linebackers.

Callers and Questions

1) Rob in Norfolk asked Groh which team he considered the favorite in the ACC.

Groh said Virginia Tech and Miami should be favored because they were the top two teams last year. “It’s the age-old adage in sports: Until the champion is dethroned, they’re the favorite,” he said.

Rob asked if Groh felt UVa had a good shot at winning the conference championship. “To approach it any other way would be to play give-up,” Groh said. “So that’s the plan.”

2) Cathy in Charlottesville asked about Groh’s pre-game routine.

Groh said he usually had a light breakfast and, depending on the game time, returned to his hotel room to go over possible game scenarios and choices he might face. He said he often watched whatever game was on TV before heading over to the stadium.

3) Ginger in Roanoke asked about Jamaal Jackson and Nate Lyles , two sophomore safeties who played a lot in the opener.

“They are two of the primary guys to be our future at safety,” Groh said. “We hope that those guys are the future at our safety position for the next two years. They have the physical credentials. What they need now is playing time.”

4) Ed in Norfolk noted that winning football teams have a “killer instinct” and said he wasn’t sure if UVa had that trait. He asked if players brought that to the program or if the coaches instilled it.

Groh said it was a combination of those things. Some players have that killer instinct and coaches try to instill it. He also said talent was a big factor because talented teams can put opponents away easier, so it looks like they have more of a killer instinct

5) Nancy in Richmond complained that all of the talk on Richmond radio stations was about the Hokies.

“Guess what, Nancy?” Groh said. “Turn the radio off and tell all your friends to do it. That’ll get their attention.”

Nancy also suggested that the players go through the front entrance of Bryant Hall during “The Walk” before home games. Groh and Mac said that was a good idea, but they pointed out it would be difficult for the players to go from the front entrance to the locker room. Only one elevator goes all the way to the bottom of Bryant Hall and the stairway is too narrow to accommodate the entire team quickly.

6) Bruce in Mechanicsville asked if the team could switch back and forth between a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense if it wasn’t generating a good pass rush during games.

“That’s actually what we’ve been doing here for the better part of four years,” Groh said. “We do that quite a bit over the course of every game.”

Mac followed up by asking Groh about the benefits of the 3-4 in terms of versatility and unpredictability with the pass rush.

“In this day of three- and four-receiver formations, with the fourth linebacker in the game that gives us the opportunity to be a little more flexible in that nature and more flexible in terms of who the fourth rusher is,” Groh said. “That is, in the 4-3 defense usually who the fourth rusher is is clearly defined by who the fourth lineman is with his hand on the ground. In the 3-4 defense, one of the four linebackers is generally going to join the three down linemen as a fourth rusher. We can create more uncertainty with that. The key with that is to make sure we have good rushers in those positions.”

7) Nathan in Richmond asked about Chris Gould ‘s workout program, saying that other ACC punters look stronger than Gould.

“Actually, Chris is by far the strongest kicker that we’ve had here,” Groh said.

Nathan also asked about the chemistry Connor Hughes has with snapper Tyrus Gardner and holder John Phillips , compared to his 2003 tandem of Ryan Childress and Matt Schaub.

Groh said Schaub was “an absolutely terrific holder – way, way above standard.” So replacing him is difficult.

“Our operation is very efficient and very good,” Groh said. “Perhaps it’s not as – it sounds like a word of hyperbole – but it’s not as superior and spectacular an operation as it was when Matt was in there. Connor does admit now that he tried to compensate a little bit for the change in personnel and that changed his routine, but he’s pretty much back to the way he was operating with his technique and his alignment when Matt was the holder. John Phillips has actually done a real good job in replacing Matt.”

8) Vinny in Norfolk asked how Groh recruits high school defensive ends and turns them into outside linebackers, like Clint Sintim and Olu Hall .

“There’s a certain body type and skills we’re looking for at that position,” Groh said. “When we identify a player in high school, we try to find plays on their tape in which they pick their hand up and they find themselves doing the same jobs as if they started the plays standing up rather than down. Then we try to visualize how they’d be doing outside linebacker jobs.

“The two players that you cite are two players in particular who really caught our eye as far as being able to do that. Clint has made a very good transformation. Besides the fact it’s very good for us to find those players, in many cases it’s very good for those players, too. Clint is now 6-3 and 247. He’s going to end up being a 254-pound outside linebacker with power and explosion. He might have a chance to move on at that position, whereas if he was on a 4-3 and playing defensive end, which is what he’d probably be if he was on a 4-3 team, he’d be a 255-pound, 6-3 defensive end with no future as far as having a chance to play in the NFL is concerned.”

Notes and Quotes

  • Groh said the coaching staff spent the weekend recruiting, so he didn’t watch any college games Saturday. The players got Friday through Sunday off before returning to practice today. Groh said the team was about a half day ahead of the normal game-week routine because they didn’t have to review film of a game over the weekend.
  • Groh named Marcus Hamilton the BB&T Student-Athlete of the Week. Hamilton made nine tackles in the opener and had a very good week of practice last week, Groh said.
  • Groh offered a brief scouting report of Syracuse, which has a new head coach in Greg Robinson , the Texas defensive coordinator last year. He noted that the Orange (1-1) have not allowed a touchdown on defense and have forced seven turnovers in two games. He mentioned five Syracuse players who particularly impressed him: safety Anthony Smith, tailback Damien Rhodes, defensive tackle Kader Drame, defensive end James Wyche and punter Brendan Carney.

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