At Quarterback, Cavs Settled, Hokies Aren't
Friday, August 4, 2006
For all of last season, the Virginia Tech and Virginia football teams shared quarterback situations that could barely be more similar. They could each claim versatile veterans who could blow by linebackers or slice up a secondary, dual threats they could count on every single Saturday.
Then the offseason came. Junior Marcus Vick was dismissed from Virginia Tech for a string of unbecoming behavior, and senior Marques Hagans exhausted his eligibility at Virginia.
As both teams begin fall practice today, their quarterback situations could hardly be more different. Virginia is settled on its new quarterback, Notre Dame transfer Christian Olsen, while Hokies Coach Frank Beamer still must choose from a gaggle of three signal callers.
"Who are they?" Tech center Danny McGrath asked jokingly, playing on both the number of candidates and their anonymity. None of three options has started a game, and they've completed 12 passes among them.
Sophomore Sean Glennon leads the group, impressing coaches in the spring with his leadership and decision making. Glennon (Westfield) redshirted last season but would have been activated if Vick missed significant time because of an injury.
Cory Holt, who handled mop-up duty last season, stands right behind Glennon in the quarterback derby. Holt, also a redshirt sophomore, played in six games last season, throwing just 12 passes and completing four. Holt provides more of a running threat than Glennon and needs to improve his accuracy.
Redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker sits in third, but he might be the most talented of the bunch. The inexperienced Whitaker (Northwest) missed repetitions during spring practice, sitting out half of it because of a suspension for purchasing alcohol as a minor, public intoxication and destruction of property.
Still, the 6-foot-4, 206-pounder can't be counted out. Any of the three could still start the Sept. 2 opener against Northeastern, a bad team even for Division I-AA standards that could prove the perfect dress rehearsal for whoever is named the new quarterback.
"We came out of spring with an order," Beamer said. "Now we're going to see where they stand when they report back. I think the quicker we name a starter, it would be the best for our football team and the best for the quarterback himself."
Beamer hopes to name a quarterback by the end of the first week and establish stability at the position as soon as possible. Once he makes his decision, Beamer is inclined to stick with it: He has tried the two-quarterback system before, and he's not trying it again. McGrath felt secure knowing his coach "won't let us go guessing the entire year."
"You need to have a guy there, and he's your guy," Beamer said. "He doesn't need to be looking over his shoulder, and full speed ahead."
That's where Virginia stands with Olsen, who surprised Cavaliers Coach Al Groh with how quickly and definitively he emerged over the offseason.
As soon as the Music City Bowl ended, Olsen shifted his focus as if he was the starter. A chat Groh initiated during the first week of the second semester this winter solidified that notion for him. Though Groh never told Olsen he was the starter or officially announced a clear-cut No. 1, Olsen knows he never had to.
"I don't really think there's a question right now about who the quarterback is," Olsen said. "I think everybody understands that. If he told me, 'You're starting [first] that game September 2,' I don't think it would change my attitude or how I'm approaching anything right now because I'm approaching it as, 'I am the guy,' going into that day."
Said Groh: "He's done about all he could to this point. He had a good point to start from because he's got a very good likeability with the team. The players started out very favorable to him. They were rooting for him."
The Cavaliers voted Olsen captain at the end of spring practice, something Groh doesn't think would have happened had the vote been taken at the beginning of spring. For a player who has held clipboards his whole career, Olsen has a maturity beyond his playing experience and it rubbed off on teammates.
About 50 players, more than ever had before, came to summer passing drills -- something older players marveled at when they came back to campus to work out. Former Virginia stars Heath Miller and Alvin Pearman told Olsen the team had finally realized the importance of having everyone at the drills, and much of the credit went to Olsen stepping forward and demanding his teammates' presence.
"Going into camp, he's the quarterback," U-Va. cornerback Marcus Hamilton said. "He's been working so hard. In the weight room, with his conditioning, he's proved that he deserves that opportunity. He's been leading this whole summer. We're behind him 100 percent."