Tony Franklin is third on the team with 42 tackles.
Two days before a critical game against Georgia Tech, UVa announced that four players will not participate in the contest due to an unspecified violation of team policy. Ottowa Anderson, Tony Franklin, Kwakou Robinson and Vince Redd will miss at least one game.
UVa’s two-sentence news release did not indicate the reasons for the disciplinary action or whether it might be longer than one game. “We’ll review things as time goes on and, as I said in the statement, it’s an internal matter that will be handled internally,” Groh said in his regular Thursday teleconference with reporters. “It will not be a distraction to me or the team, so I’m done with it.”
Speculation about possible suspensions has dominated the Sabre’s message boards this week, so the news did not come as a complete surprise. (Note to readers: The reasons for the suspensions are still a matter of gossip and rumor, and are thus forbidden from discussion according to our terms of service. But the impact of those suspensions is fair game for discussion.)
Clearly, it will now be more difficult for the Cavaliers (5-3) to defeat the #24 Yellow Jackets (6-2) and become bowl-eligible. Franklin, a junior safety, is a team captain and three-year starter. Robinson is the starting nose tackle, while Anderson and Redd are valuable role players.
Ottowa Anderson is averaging a team-high 18.7 YPC.
The suspensions reduce UVa’s depth on defense, offense and special teams. Groh did address what the coaching staff might do to compensate for the absence of the four players.
At safety, freshman walk-on Byron Glaspy will start against Georgia Tech, Groh said. The 5-11, 195-pound Glaspy made the team during an open tryout in the spring and saw his first action last Saturday against Temple, playing 38 snaps without a tackle. “He’s real smart, he’s tough and he’s got pretty good speed,” Groh said.
Jamaal Jackson will be the primary backup at safety. Lance Evans remains on the team but appears to be out of the mix. Ryan Best is listed as a safety but plays more like a linebacker in the nickel package with underneath responsibilities.
At nose tackle, the Cavaliers have split snaps between Robinson, Ron Darden and Keenan Carter . Now Carter is the only one left. Darden had to leave the team last week because of a recurrence of severe headaches and his career is over, Groh said. Robinson has started five games and played more snaps than the other two, but Carter leads that group in tackles with 24 and has improved his stamina.
Kwakou Robinson has 20 tackles and was one of two senior starters on defense.
Still, Carter won’t be able to play the entire game. Brennan Schmidt, a four-year starter at defensive end, will spell Carter at nose tackle on Saturday. “He might be the best nose we have,” Groh said. Allen Billyk also can play the position, Groh said.
Billyk also is likely to see more playing time at defensive end. Redd was a backup DE and has seen most of his action in the nickel package, playing 166 snaps with six tackles. True freshman Alex Field also may play more, Groh said.
Anderson, a senior receiver, hasn’t made a big impact on offense – nine catches for 168 yards – but he is a valuable special teams player. He blocks on the kickoff and punt return teams and has made two tackles on the kickoff coverage unit.
Groh said it is unlikely that any true freshman who has not played this season will help fill in for the missing players. The coaches will “try hard” to avoid playing Kevin Crawford , Groh said, and Vic Hall also remains likely to redshirt this season.
“I’m just dealing with it as it goes on,” Groh said. “It has not distracted from my focus or the focus of my team on the game.”