Spring Report: The Lowdown on the DBs

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After losing both of his starting safeties from last season, Al Groh says Virginia will look to rebuild its secondary around two veteran corners and two safeties with limited game experience.

“There are two areas every year you start all over again and make sure you get it the way you want,” Groh said, “and that’s the offensive line and the secondary.”

Marcus Hamilton says “the level of confidence of each player has gone up.”

So far this spring, the secondary as a whole seems to have a better grasp of the 3-4 defense than it did last season – perhaps because a converted tailback was playing safety (Marquis Weeks) and all of the corners were young.

“We made mental errors at crucial times in the games last year,” said junior safety Lance Evans, who backed up Weeks and Jermaine Hardy. “We would play well and make one mistake and you can’t make mistakes in the secondary.”

The coaching staff has ratcheted up its intensity to help cut down on the mistakes as well. “You hear the coaches, they’re yelling at us constantly, staying on us,” Evans said. “But that’s what we need because you need that intensity all day, every day in practice. So when the game comes, the pressure is nothing.”

One of the big areas of emphasis this spring has been the technical side of pass coverage, a luxury afforded the coaching staff with the unit’s increased knowledge of the defense.

“We’re finishing more,” Evans said. “We’re making plays on the ball, never giving up on the ball and I think it’s showing. We’ve defined the X’s and O’s of the defense and I think with that improvement the secondary will be a lot stronger and a lot tighter this year.”

Bottom line, Virginia will go to battle in 2005 with a more experienced, more aggressive secondary. Whether or not that produces better results in 2005 is still a mystery. Groh and his new secondary architect, Al Golden, are off to a good start but plenty of work remains.