The main ingredients for the newest tool the Virginia football team is using to aid the development of its quarterbacks include: a nine-foot paint roller, a tri-pod, some duct tape and a hand-held camcorder.
Luke Goldstein, Virginia’s director of video operations for football, constructed the contraption – which is called “the Joe Pole,” named after its original creator in Tennessee – over the summer. He attached the camcorder to the tri-pod and taped that to the top of the paint roller.
The feed from the camera travels through wires down to a video monitor bracketed and clamped to the bottom of the pole. Goldstein or an assistant lines up 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage during offensive snaps in practice and turns in whichever direction the quarterback on that particular play is facing.
Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor and the quarterbacks use the video to look “at where the defense is, where the safeties are coming down and if they’re making the right reads,” Goldstein said. “Just to kind of see what’s out there.”
Joe Harrington – Tennessee’s sports technology coordinator and the Joe Pole’s namesake – came up with this idea years ago. Harrington originally stood on a volleyball scorer’s chair to shoot the video. Then he decided attaching a camera to the top of a PVC pipe would allow him to be more mobile.
Before long, word of Harrington’s invention spread, and eventually it became a topic of discussion at coaches’ conventions. After one such get-together this spring, Lazor asked Goldstein to come up with something similar for the Cavaliers to use.
Goldstein first tried shooting video while standing on a step ladder behind the quarterbacks, but he soon came to the same conclusion that Harrington did: He needed to be more mobile. So this summer he made a trip to Lowe’s, bought some supplies, took his personal camcorder from home and built the latest incarnation of the Joe Pole. Unlike the PVC pipe, the paint roller allows the user to adjust the height of the camera as needed.
Virginia’s video assistants still tape views of each play from the sideline and end zone. But those angles are shot from high above the field in the towers adjacent to the team’s practice fields. The view from the Joe Pole is much closer to the ground, and thus, more closely resembles what the quarterback actually is seeing – or should have seen – on any given play.
“We’re still trying to work out the kinks of it,” redshirt sophomore Ross Metheny said. “It’s pretty neat, because once we do work out the kinks it gives kind of more of a realistic view of what we’re looking at. As opposed to the high towers way up in the sky, it’s a good camera angle to see the windows that are opening and what we’re looking at.”
At the outset of training camp, Goldstein was taping while staring at the video monitor at the bottom of the pole. But he quickly learned that doing so diminished his ability to keep pace with the quarterbacks head movements. Now he stares at the quarterbacks during plays and rotates the pole on instinct.
“It’s been fun to just have it out here,” said Goldstein, who is in his 10th season at Virginia. “Walking around with it, I feel kind of goofy. But it’s kind of fun. I went online and found a picture of one of the quarterbacks with me in the background and I sent it to (Harrington), and I was like, ‘See?’ He was like, ‘Nice job. I like the alterations.’”