Virginia senior offensive tackle Landon Bradley has yet to be medically cleared for workouts following offseason knee and shoulder surgeries, Cavaliers Coach Mike London said Monday.
And if Bradley – who started the first five games at left tackle in 2010 before suffering a right hand injury that required in-season surgery – is unable to return to form, London said the Cavaliers’ offensive line will be just fine.
“If Landon doesn’t play another down,” London said, “we’re still as strong as if he was” able to play.
Offensive line projects to be one of the team’s strengths entering the season. With sophomore right tackle Morgan Moses and junior left tackle Oday Aboushi, senior Austin Pasztor at left guard and senior Anthony Mihota at center, Virginia returns a wealth of veteran experience up front.
Adding Bradley, who has started 18 games – including all 12 in 2009 – in his collegiate career, will add to the offensive line’s depth and potential.
Bradley is “still kind of off and on right now coming out of the issues with his hand,” London said. “He’s in the trainers’ hands right now. Everybody that’s ready to play will be out there August 5, lining up. If you’re able-bodied, then you’re going to be out there ready to go.
“If not, then you’ll be over there with the trainers. I haven’t seen anything that has cleared him. Him and a couple other guys are still waiting to be cleared. We’ll see. I don’t want to jinx him or anything like that. I just want to wait till the next couple of days. If they’re cleared, then they’ll be out there.”
Where to insert Bradley, should he return to full health, is another matter entirely. Bradley said last November that when he returned to the field he planned to resume play at left tackle. He likes playing alongside Pasztor, a roommate with whom Bradley shares calls on the line that only the two of them understand.
But when Bradley returned from his hand injury last fall, he started one game (at Duke) at right tackle. What London and his staff have in mind for Moses will factor significantly into what role Bradley (if healthy) plays for the team this season.
Moses spent time at tackle and guard last season. At one point last October, London said Moses was “probably better suited to be inside,” meaning at guard. But on Monday, London referenced Moses as a tackle. So, at this point, who knows?
While the team’s offensive line will return many familiar faces, the build of those linemen – and many other players on the team – might be a little different this season. In January, Virginia replaced strength and conditioning coach Brandon Hourigan with Evan Marcus, who had previously served in the role at Virginia (2003-06) and most recently had worked in that capacity with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins (2008-10).
Whereas Hourigan put more of an emphasis on speed and agility, Marcus has focused the players more on improving their strength, according to senior cornerback Chase Minnifield.
“The core lifts of the power cleans and the squats, they’re full squats,” London said. “They go all the way down. And then some of the things of taking a tractor trailer tire and flipping it and taking a hammer, and you think, ‘What the heck are we doing?’ Those different body parts that simulate what you do in a game.”
London said Marcus has had players carry a sand bag across a balance beam, an exercise designed to strengthen the shoulders and hip flexors.
Marcus has introduced the players to a variety of unconventional strength-building methods, London said.
“You take the kegs and fill it with water … and you do movements that make the water move back and forth,” London said. “Well, that’s like when you’re locked up with a guy, your body sometimes is torqued in a position that is going to require you to gain that balance, gain that leverage back.
“It’s stuff like that, the type of lifting that they were doing, that just kind of a level of confidence, of feeling stronger, not just with a measurable number, but just feeling like, ‘I’m stronger in my core areas, in my ankles and knees and things like that.’”