Virginia Cavaliers Have Questions at Spring Practice
Friday, April 17, 2009; 2:06 PM
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- The Virginia football team concludes spring practice on Saturday with a scrimmage that will include 90 to 100 plays and three live special teams periods. The scrimmage shouldn't reveal much -- Coach Al Groh protects his practices like a painting in the Louvre -- but it will be the first public glimpse of next season's Cavaliers. It might also at least start to answer the dominating questions heading into the 2009 season:
1) Who will play quarterback?
At last year's spring practice, three players who never had started a game were competing for the starting quarterback role. This season, the competition includes three players who have started at least one game: senior Jameel Sewell, junior Marc Verica and senior Vic Hall.
Sewell started all 13 games for the Cavaliers in 2007 but missed last season because of academic reasons. Verica started nine games last season after Peter Lalich was dismissed from the team. Hall, a standout cornerback for the Cavaliers, started last season's final game at quarterback against Virginia Tech. Each is adjusting a new system under new offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon.
"It's picked up some momentum in the last few practices as we anticipate might be the case, given that it might take a while for the quarterbacks to pick up continuity in what they're doing," Groh said. "Given that two of the three primary candidates were not full-time quarterbacks last season -- Jameel and Vic -- it's really been a case of those guys getting back in rhythm as quarterbacks, plus a new system."
Hall is the wild card in the mix. He set state passing records as a high school quarterback in Gretna, Va., but has played cornerback throughout his collegiate career. At 5 feet 9, Hall does not have prototypical height for a quarterback. However, his athleticism makes him a threat to run the football -- he rushed for 109 yards against the Hokies -- and his high school accomplishments provide an indication that he can throw the football.
"I think it's going real well," Hall said. "The mechanics, the footwork being away a long time, I think that's the biggest thing" to learn.
2) Who are the new coaches?
Virginia overhauled its coaching staff during the offseason. It added Brandon, formerly Bowling Green's head coach, as offensive coordinator. Groh named former Kansas State coach Ron Prince special teams coordinator, and Groh will coordinate the defense. Virginia also hired Latrell Scott to coach the wide receivers, Bob Trott to coach the linebackers and Chad Wilt to coach the defensive line. Anthony Poindexter moved from running backs coach to defensive backs coach. The staff shuffle included the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Groh, Al Groh's son, and the retirement of defensive coordinator Bob Pruett.
Groh said the acclimation process for the new coaches will be "open ended," but he took comfort in the familiarity he had with the new hires.
Prince's presence might be the most critical. A former Big 12 head coach, Prince came to Virginia exclusively to work with special teams. Groh has maintained throughout the offseason that special teams is the area that needs the most improvement, and that it was the unit that had produced the least given the time invested in practice.
"We want the position to be such that Ron can devote however much energy and effort in those areas," Groh said.