Virginia Football Notes: Tony Elliott In Evaluation Mode After First Preseason Practice

Virginia coach Tony Elliott gives instructions during a station. ~ Photo By Kris Wright/

When new Virginia football coach Tony Elliott opened his first practice in the spring, he said that the tempo caught the players a little off guard. The first official preseason practice of the Elliott era on Wednesday night featured no such shock.

The Cavaliers took on day one with the right attitude for the first-time head coach, but maybe burnt the wick a little too quickly.

“I think they were, but what happens you see a lot of times on the first day, they gas themselves really quick because they’re so excited,” Elliott said. “I thought they pushed through. It’s a fast practice. It’s a lot of reps. … I thought early on they were ready for the tempo, but I think the excitement, the energy, they all were enthused to be out here, they probably had nerves all day, and they kind of ran out the gate. It’s a great opportunity for me to challenge them and say hey fellas, games are won in the fourth quarter. I felt like offensively the last 10 minutes of practice we didn’t keep climbing, we started to fall off. That’s a great opportunity to challenge these guys.”

The Hoos fire off about 10 plays in every 5-minute segment, a rate that is a snap every 30 seconds and they’re rotating through three full lines with that process. Over the course of just 45 minutes, for example, that can add up quickly to around 90 snaps. In the August heat and humidity, even with an evening practice that sees the sun set during the session, it’s a tempo that is demanding.

This isn’t necessarily in preparation for a no-huddle, maximum snap game plan either. Philosophy wise, the coaches want to control the tempo so that could be throttled up or down depending on the situation once the season gets here. In the preseason building blocks phase, it’s about establishing the mindset of pushing and straining to a high threshold for Elliott.

After downing nearly a full Gatorade in a blink, to which Elliott joked he had to work hard in practice, that’s the part that he was most interested in for day one. Would the players push? Would they compete? Would they lead each other after a summer of developing together?

“Today was more about evaluation to see where we were because it’s a different team. We haven’t been around them this summer. It’s been the strength staff and the players, the addition of the freshmen and the transfers, so I wanted to evaluate and see what chemistry that they’ve organically created without trying to jump in there right away. I wanted to see what condition they were in, see how they would respond to the increased intensity with the coaches out there. … So for me, I just wanted to see guys come out and compete, get a baseline, let them see the standard they set for today, and then challenge them tomorrow. Are you satisfied with the standard that we set or are we ready to elevate to a new standard? Each day try to get 1% better.”

Virginia Roster Transformation

During media sessions over the last three weeks at the ACC Kickoff, UVA coaches’ media day, and post practice on Wednesday, Coach Elliott has made it a point to praise his strength and conditioning coaches. He believes that head strength and conditioning coach Adam Smotherman and his staff made major developmental strides between spring practice and preseason camp.

It’s easy to see some of that progress visually, but updates to the official Virginia roster provides further context for gains from last year to this year. Obviously, not all of the weight changes occurred since spring practice, but the shifts are