State of the Program, Part 4: The Special Teams

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit

Connor Hughes has been one of many special teams standouts under Coach Groh.

You only have to attend one Virginia football practice to see how much time and attention Al Groh devotes to special teams. On Monday, for example, the Cavaliers spent 32 minutes of a two-hour, 21-minute practice working just on punting, kickoffs, punt returns and coverage, kick returns and coverage, and field goals. That’s two more minutes than they used for offense vs. defense scrimmage situations.

Groh has emphasized special teams ever since he arrived at UVa, even taking the unusual step (for a college coach) of hiring a full-time special teams coach. That focus has paid off with solid to superb results in every phase of special teams but one. (Yeah, you know what that is.)

But before we examine the punting problems, let’s look at Groh’s overall approach to special teams. Like all head coaches, he preaches its importance, calling it equally as significant as offense and defense in deciding the outcome of games. But with Groh, it’s not just lip service.


Groh broke into the NFL as a special teams coach with the Falcons and clearly has maintained his appreciation for that facet of the game. When it comes to field position, points and big plays, he knows that special teams can make the difference. So he wasn’t about to shortchange it when putting together his staff in 2001.

Corwin Brown was Virginia’s first special teams coach.

One of Groh’s first moves was bringing aboard Corwin