Secondary May Play Primary Role

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With Marcus Hamilton leading the way, Virginia’s secondary is hoping to have a strong showing in 2006.

This time of year, reporters get a lot of Grohisms. What’s a Grohism? It’s something Al Groh says year after year. Something we’ve all heard before and something that, more often than not, is true.

One example is that most of the yardage a defense gives up comes in the secondary. So it shouldn’t be a shock that the top two pass defenses in the ACC – Miami (led the nation) and Virginia Tech (2nd behind the Canes) – finished at the top of the league standings.

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

On a defense stacked with future NFL players like Darryl Blackstock, Chris Canty, and Kai Parham, the Virginia secondary has been considered somewhat of a liability over the last few years. The Cavaliers have been plagued by big plays in the defensive backfield, especially during the 2003 season where breakdowns in the secondary led to game-changing and ultimately game-costing plays against South Carolina and N.C. State.

Groh says that in this pass-happy age of college football, expectations may often be a little unrealistic when it comes to the secondary.

“One thing about the secondary, every time there’s a pass completed everybody thinks it should be knocked down,” Groh said. “Obviously you’re not going to knock down every [pass], particularly in the modern pass offense where the completion percentages for most teams are up around 60 percent. A lot of that has to do with the quick-throw [and] rhythm passing games that most teams are incorporating.”

Starting cornerback Marcus Hamilton, the only senior starter on the Virginia defense admits he’s heard it all before.

“Every year, there always has been a question about the secondary,” Hamilton says. “Can they play? Can they cover? Can they play in big games? And I think we’ve proven that over

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