No Need To Debate: Olsen Still No. 1

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Christian Olsen continues to be the No. 1 quarterback, according to Al Groh.

After Saturday’s open practice session, there have been questions about the quarterback position on Virginia’s football team. In that practice, Christian Olsen struggled a bit and threw a pair of interceptions during drills. As Al Groh would caution, one practice does not provide enough information from which to make final decisions. So, yes, Olsen is still the No. 1 quarterback right now. Besides, Olsen is still getting better according to Groh.

“He’s doing a nice job. We’ve seen good development out of everybody who has been involved. It’s pretty much the way that I said in the beginning, Chris is going to go into that first huddle until somebody shows there should be a change,” Groh said Wednesday. “Not only do the other players have to continue to develop their game, but Chris isn’t standing still. He’s improving his game at the same time.”

During the three open practices, Olsen has been the most consistent of the quarterbacks in terms of making the right reads and good throws in the varying practice situations – controlled drills, 7-on-7 work, or full-contact scrimmages. Groh said Olsen’s work ethic in practice is nothing new.

“He’s [always] been a diligent practice player, but what he’s now becoming is a better player,” Groh said. “For two reasons, he’s that much older and more experienced and most particularly, he’s now getting the majority of the turns rather than the other way around.”

Plus, Olsen has shown a little bit of fire in the spring sessions. At least twice during Saturday’s scrimmage competition with the defense, Olsen had quite a bit to say to a defender after getting some contact.

“That’s the type of dude he is. He won’t back down from many people so that’s the kind of leader we need at the quarterback slot. He’s picking up where Marques [Hagans] left off,” receiver Fontel Mines said. “I think Chris is doing a good job of leading those guys and even helping out the receivers at times. If we make a dropped pass, he’ll pick us up and vice versa.”

Defensive End

With Brennan Schmidt now gone after a long tenure at Virginia, the Cavaliers are looking at new options at defensive end. Of course, Chris Long lines up in the right defensive end position so the left side is where the competition for playing time is right now. Alex Field , a 6-7 261-pounder, and Jeffrey Fitzgerald , a 6-3 261-pounder, have been getting the majority of the snaps in that spot during the spring.

“Alex has been really getting a lot of reps now. Last year, he just got kind of exposure reps. He and Jeffrey Fitzgerald are really taking all of the turns at the left defensive end position,” Groh said. “We’re certainly looking toward using both of them in some type of rotation next season.”

Field’s long arms and tall frame could help shut down passing lanes for opponents. Groh said that Field’s physical shape fits the mold of what UVa likes in defensive ends. Former Cav standout Chris Canty, for instance, was also 6-7 and he lists at 279 with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.

“We were excited when Alex chose to come to Virginia. He’s got the proto-type build for what we’re looking for at that outside defensive lineman position,” Groh said. “He’s gained size and strength and I think there will be a lot more of that to come, but his possibilities are very good.”

Defensive end Chris Long could be a disruptive force on defense this season.

Chris Long , meanwhile, is a relentless player on the other end. Always in pursuit, always chasing the play, always getting after it – those sorts of traits drive offensive linemen and quarterbacks crazy. The 6-4, 278-pound junior started every game last season and he had in impressive set of stats with 46 tackles (36 tackles for loss), 2 sacks, and 7 pass break-ups. He also posted an astounding 26 quarterback hurries, which led the team by far.

Of course, Long is still expected to get better, especially since he started to show just how influential his play can be on the field at the end of last season. He closed the season with a flourish that included 10 QB hurries against Georgia Tech and a career-high 9 tackles against Minnesota in the Music City Bowl.

“I think just taking where he finished the last couple of games and expanding it,” Groh said in response to what was expected of Long this spring. “Last year he was one of the cogs in the wheel, now he comes back as one of the players that has the real dimension to be a disruptive player as he was down in Nashville for us. We’ve really tried to work some things into the scheme with an eye toward providing him that opportunity.”

Yards After the Catch …

  • Rashawn Jackson has been limited to ‘controlled drill work’ this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason.
  • In the secondary, Marcus “Hamilton is pretty well established at the left corner and there is a daily, on-going competition at the other corner as well as the spot behind Hamilton,” Groh said Wednesday. Chris Gorham , Chris Cook , Vic Hall, and Mike Brown could all be possible contributors at the DB position.
  • Zak Stair and Eddie Pinigis, who is continuing to nurse an ankle injury, will be treated in the same manner as Mike Brown in regard to their recent legal trouble. Stair and Pinigis were among the athletes served with misdemeanor arrest warrants for their role in a fraternity row disturbance last month. Both players have been charged with a misdemeanor offense of entering a property with the intent to damage.

    That basically means that Stair and Pinigis will meet with Groh and the UVa Athletics Department before any action is taken as the legal process continues.

    Groh’s only comment on the matter: “I’ve learned over the years in this position that in most circumstances, it’s not a question of the old saying that there are always two sides to every story, but that there’s usually about 17 sides to every story.”

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