Virginia's football team will finally have its full complement of linebackers for tomorrow's game against winless Temple at Scott Stadium, but the Cavaliers will be without one of their top interior defensive linemen for the rest of the season.
Coach Al Groh said yesterday that junior nose tackle Ron Darden, from Glen Burnie High School, will have to quit because of recurring concussions. Darden played in all seven games this season and started the last three, but he has been bothered by severe headaches. Darden, who had 13 tackles, played only six games on the offensive line last season because of concussions.
"Ron gave us a good boost, an unexpected boost because we never knew if we'd get him back," Groh said. "He and I both feel that this is it for Ron. He'll finish his career and graduate in May and, as [former Pittsburgh Steelers coach] Chuck Noll said, 'will go on with his life's work.' "
The Cavaliers, who play a 3-4 defense, rotated three players at nose tackle in the first seven games. Darden had played the least of the three players with 100 plays. Senior Kwakou Robinson has 189 plays; sophomore Keenan Carter (Potomac High) has 167 plays.
Meantime, the Cavaliers will get back sophomore outside linebacker Jermaine Dias, who hasn't played since spraining his foot in a 38-7 win at Duke in the season's third game.
Groh didn't say whether Dias, from Hackensack, N.J., will start against the Owls. Senior Mark Miller, a natural inside linebacker, started the last three games on the outside. Inside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (Hylton) started in Dias's spot in a 45-33 loss at Maryland on Oct. 1.
"After six weeks, he has to play some before we can count on him being able to do what we was doing before," Groh said of Dias. "He has a little bit more of everything. He's a little bit bigger and stronger. He's a little bit side-to-side quicker and faster. He's a little bit more of a full package."
Brooks, a preseason all-American candidate, missed the Cavaliers' first three games while recovering from offseason knee surgery and started the last two games at inside linebacker.
Junior Michael Johnson, the team's leading rusher and punt returner and undoubtedly its fastest player, won't play against Temple because of a sprained ankle, Groh said. Senior Wali Lundy, who was bothered by a sprained foot early in the season, will start after gaining 86 yards on 27 carries the past two games.
Groh said redshirt freshman Cedric Peerman, who leads ACC rookies with 98.9 all-purpose yards per game, might get more playing time in Johnson's absence.
Or it might mean "a bigger role for Wali, and maybe it will go the way we thought it would from the start," Groh said.
Starting tight end Jonathan Stupar, the team's second-leading receiver with 16 catches, also is questionable to play because of a sprained ankle.
Welsh a Temple Candidate?
Former Navy and Virginia coach George Welsh has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Temple Coach Bobby Wallace, whose resignation takes effect at the end of the season.
The Owls are 0-9 with games left against Virginia and Navy. Welsh, 72, has expressed a desire to return to coaching, but hasn't commented about Temple's opening.
Temple Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw is conducting the coaching search with the help of consultant Gene Corrigan, the former ACC commissioner and NCAA president.
Welsh, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last year, was 134-86-3 in 19 seasons at Virginia before retiring in 2000.
Other candidates mentioned for the Temple job include Pittsburgh Steelers assistant Bruce Arians, the Owls' head coach from 1983 to 1988; Notre Dame assistant John Latino; former Marshall coach Bob Pruett; and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Brian White.