Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks, a freshman all-American last season, missed his second straight day of practice yesterday, and Cavaliers Coach Al Groh said the star player is dealing with "personal issues," but wouldn't say when, or if, he expected Brooks to rejoin the team.
The player's father, former Washington Redskins defensive tackle Perry Brooks, said yesterday that his son was unavailable to speak to a reporter. Asked why Brooks had missed the Cavaliers' last two practices, Perry Brooks said, "We'll let you know in time."
Asked if his son intended to return to the Cavaliers, who are ranked 16th in the preseason Associated Press poll and considered a dark horse to challenge Florida State and Miami for the ACC championship, Perry Brooks again said, "We'll let you know in time."
In a teleconference with reporters yesterday, Groh wouldn't say whether he expected Brooks to return to the team before the Sept. 4 opener at Temple.
"There are some personal issues that Ahmad is dealing with," Groh said. "Personal also usually implies private, so out of respect to Ahmad and his family and the team, I will have no comment other than to say that I have been in constant contact with his family and we are all in complete compatibility with regard to our thinking about this circumstance."
Groh said Brooks hasn't received his grades from summer school but indicated the player's issues aren't related to academics.
Bill Brown, who coached Brooks in football at Hylton High School, said he didn't "personally think" Brooks would miss the upcoming season.
"There are some personal issues that he's just got to get worked out," Brown said. "I think he's working through those things right now. It isn't any kind of confrontation with the team. It's something very personal that Ahmad is working through."
Brooks, 20, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge on July 29, 2003. Prince William General District Court Judge Wenda K. Travers sentenced Brooks to six months' probation, 24 hours of community service and ordered him to undergo substance abuse screening. According to court records, Brooks completed the requirements of his probation and the charge was dismissed Jan. 26.
Brooks, 6 feet 4, 249 pounds, started all 13 games at inside linebacker last season and set a Virginia freshman record with 117 tackles. But he has spent much of the Cavaliers' training camp working on the second-team defense, behind senior Rich Bedesem, and Groh has offered little explanation as to why Brooks hasn't been on the first team. Along with sophomore Kai Parham and junior Darryl Blackstock, Brooks was expected to lead one of the nation's top linebacking corps this season.
"He's been doing great," Groh said of Brooks. "This is the best training camp that he's had. His attitude has been terrific. There's just some things that he needs to have the opportunity to deal with."
The Cavaliers, 8-5 and 4-4 in the ACC last season, are ranked No. 16 in the preseason Associated Press poll and were picked to finish third in the conference behind Florida State and Miami.
Brooks was named USA Today's 2001 national defensive player of the year after his senior season at Hylton High School and was the Post's 2001 All-Met Defensive Player of the Year. He was ranked the nation's number one linebacker by most recruiting services and signed with the Cavs after also considering Florida State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. But Brooks failed to qualify academically and enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., before enrolling at Virginia in January 2003.
Special correspondent Jim Reedy contributed to this report from Charlottesville.