April 11, 2001
With on-field temperatures approaching the 90-degree mark, Monday's outing felt more like early-August two-a-day practice as opposed to day eight of the Virginia football squad's spring mini-camp. Yesterday's late-afternoon practice signified just over the half-way point of the spring practice session, and though first-year head coach Al Groh likes the team's progress, he eagerly anticipates the final practices leading up to the spring game on April 21.
"Practice is the most important part of the day, because that is when we really get it done," said Groh. "I have enjoyed each and every practice, and I am looking forward to the next seven. I am glad we are only halfway through. I would be disappointed if we only had one or two left."
Entering his first spring practice period as Virginia's headman, Groh placed great emphasis on getting the players and the new coaching staff acclimated to one another. With defensive backs coach, Bob Price, as the only hold-over from the George Welsh era, Groh and eight new assistant coaches continue to utilize this early practice time not only to get a better understanding of each player's on-field abilities, but to also begin implementing the new playing system. Though far from complete, Groh contends all early indications point to a smooth transition, and he fully expects the entire team will only continue to improve as each member's role becomes more defined.
"This is not something I expected would happen in six or seven sessions - it is an on-going thing. The players have been extremely responsive, they have been fun to coach, and I think we are making very good progress towards the stated goal," said Groh. "Now that the players and the coaches each have a good feel for each other, we should see greater compatibility in terms of how we work together. The players and the coaches realize that we are all on the same team, we just have different jobs to do."
Yet, as the entire coaching staff works diligently to integrate their new philosophies, the next big step is to determine which players will be on the field to execute the new system. Of course, the burning question on the mind of most Cavalier fans remains who will get the nod as Virginia's starting quarterback - Bryson Spinner or Matt Schaub. Though Groh gives little indication regarding the quarterback status, he is quick to point out that the regular season does not kick off for another four months and there remains a lot to determine between now and Virginia's opener against Wisconsin on August 25.
"The are both players of good talent, and I think both of them have a very good future. Our future really starts August 25, that is when we need to have a really quality quarterback," said Groh. "We do not need one before then, but we will surely need one on that day. There is a lot of time until that point, and they are both doing a lot of good things in practice."
Though only eight practices into the 2001 spring session, great anticipation surrounds the Virginia football program as Groh and his staff begin laying the foundation for a new era in Cavalier football. Like the abnormally warm weather that accompanied yesterday's practice, things are beginning to heat up for the hoos, continuing to fuel the excitement as the season inches closer.
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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