UVa coach Al Groh talks to fans at the beginning of Friday’s open practice.
Meet the Team Day wrapped up a busy weekend for the Virginia football team, which treated fans to three open practices in addition to the annual mingling session. Sunday’s event at Scott Stadium drew a large and enthusiastic crowd that enjoyed the moon bounce, mascot meeting, and autograph signing festivities.
The latter, of course, is the day’s biggest attraction as Hoos of all ages get a chance to spend time with the Cavaliers’ players. Among the biggest stars? Chris Long . The defensive end shared a few brief moments with the media before shifting over to an autograph table.
Early returns on The Sabre’s message boards seemed to prefer the weekend format for Meet the Team Day (in previous years, the event was held on a weekday). More than 3,500 fans turned out for this year’s festivities.
Iron Men Again?
With an influx of redshirted talent joining UVa’s playable roster this season, one question – particularly on defense – has consistently been raised. How do the coaches use the new depth effectively? Or, put another way, how does the staff avoid the iron man approach that prevailed last season?
In 2006, nine Virginia defensive players logged at least 570 plays. Safety Byron Glaspy (571) and linebacker Jermaine Dias (587) were in the 500s, while Nate Lyles (609), Chris Cook (648), Jeffrey Fitzgerald (655), and Clint Sintim (673) all cracked the 600 plateau. The 700-snap club featured Chris Long (715), Antonio Appleby (732), and Jon Copper (785).
Playing that many snaps appeared to wear down the defense late in games and as the season wore on. However, Groh said looking at the production value didn’t reveal any noticeable change late in games or late in the season.
“That’s the intriguing thing from our standpoint. There really isn’t performance evidence that that was the case. I know that these players having gone through that, as they have expressed to us, they’re thinking ‘I’ve already done this once. I don’t want to come out. Why would you want to take me out this year when it went so well last year?'” Groh said. “But they also see the value of it too. We’d like to be able to do it. I think it would be worthwhile if we could take a few plays off the list of most of the players out there during the course of the game.”
Groh said managing substitutions is something every team has to face and that it is always “challenging” for coaches. After all, the second string and beyond players are rarely as productive as the first team player – that’s how the first string player earned the job to begin with.
“Kind of the question we pose within the staff is when we make these substitutions, who we are we doing the most good for? Are we helping our team out more or are we helping the other team out more?” Groh said. “We have to ask the question internally a week from Monday, just where do we stand with this now that we’re getting into game preparation.”
Open Practice Notes
(These notes are a sample of the type of message board updates that EDGE subscribers receive in the hours following open practices.)
- William Webb threw a TD pass to Cary Koch during a drill on a WR reverse, option pass. It got Mike Groh so fired up that he backpedaled/back skipped all the way to the next drill while jawing it up with Jameel Sewell .
- Mikell Simpson said Saturday night (paraphrasing) that they borrowed/put in a lot of offensive sets from Florida. Simpson is playing the Percy Harvin role.
- The running backs worked on falling on fumbles and knocking fumbles out of bounds with Coach Poindexter.
- During a kickoff session, Cedric Peerman , Andrew Pearman , Mikell Simpson , and Raynard Horne all got chances with returns; true freshmen Corey Mosley also took a few turns. I thought all four of the first two strings looked pretty good in that role.
- Mike Groh was running as a DB on some route drills so he could see if the player was using the appropriate sell the fake/cutting technique. On the other end of the field, Bob Price was a hands on defensive lineman for the young tight ends as they worked on blocking/hand fighting techniques.
- During a FG session, the Hoos ran three fake field goals: sprint out running play, sprint out option with the holder and kicker, and rollout pass. As for the kicking part of the drill on Saturday, Chris Gould was 3 for 3 (36 yards, right hash; 38 yards, right hash; 40 yards middle) and Chris Hinkebein was 1 for 3 (missed 36, right hash; blocked 38, right hash; made 40 middle). One final note here: Trey Womack on the edge as a speed rusher could create some havoc on the blocking team.
- During a 1-on-1 goal line drill, Clint Sintim popped Andrew Dewey and forced a fumble. Sintim recovered it. Sintim looks really, really good so far.
- Antonio Appleby picked off Jameel Sewell late in Friday’s practice and the nearly duplicated the feat on Saturday; he dropped a sure INT near the goal line.
- Brandon Woods had two interceptions in Saturday night’s practice.
Running back Raynard Horne is a kick return candidate.
10-Day Hoo Preview
The Sabre unveiled its 10-Day Hoo Preview for the first time in 2006 and the second ever edition promises to build on the concept. For 10 straight days, we’ll provide content on the team that will make you an expert on your Cavaliers. More than 20 articles are planned, covering everything like position breakdowns, schedule analysis, player features, and more.
Make sure to pick up an EDGE subscription today so you don’t miss a single day of the Hoo Preview.
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