Sept. 13, 2000
Throughout his collegiate coaching career, two things have remained virtually the same for Art Markos----working on the defensive side of the ball and serving as an assistant under head coach George Welsh. Embarking on his 19th season at Virginia, Markos remains the only member of Welsh's original Cavalier coaching staff, and the 2000 campaign marks the 23rd consecutive year the two have manned the sidelines together. Yet, while his long-term partnership with coach Welsh remains well intact, Markos' coaching responsibilities have taken on a much different role. After spending the past two decades coaching college defensmen at both the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Virginia, coach Markos now finds himself teaching players how to score points, not how to prevent them. For the first time in his career, coach Markos will work with the team's offensive unit as Virginia's wide receivers coach.
"It's been a smooth transition," said Markos. "I've spent a lot of time this spring with [offensive coordinator] Gary Tranquill, and he's been tutoring me on the pass protections and where the adjustments have to be with the wide receivers. I've got a lot to continue to learn, but I think I'm on track to keep these guys prepared for each game."
Though this year represents coach Markos' first stint at coaching the offensive unit, his previous experience as a defensive coach proves extremely beneficial in understanding what the Virginia receivers need to do to find success. During his tenure as Virginia's defensive backfield coach (1991-1999), the Cavaliers' pass defense was ranked in the top 35 nationally seven of nine seasons. Markos understands how to coach effective pass defense, but with this knowledge comes the insight into what makes defensive schemes so vulnerable.
"I have a solid understanding of coverages, so I can tell receivers what the defensive backs are trying to do, or what the coverage is designed to do and the weakness of the coverage and how we need to attack it," said Markos. "The conceptual approach to whether it's attacking an individual player or attacking the coverage, I've been utilizing that in my meetings, so that the kids have a broader understanding of what we want to attempt to do to the defense."
In addition to his role as the Cavaliers' new wide receivers coach, Markos also serves as the special teams co-coordinator with fellow assistant coach David Turner. This newly-created position is designed to help oversee the four major aspects of special teams play: punt team, punt return team, kickoff team, and kickoff return team. Having worked with such standouts as first-team All-America punter Will Brice, coach Markos understands the importance of special teams play and sees his new responsibilities as a renewed commitment to improving this area.
"The change is really in the time allotted to the special teams. I think that's the key aspect of the organization [of coaches]," said Markos. "We're doing a lot of little things, which we never did before in the kicking game, that may not show up in the first game but over the course of time, will begin to pay dividends."
Faced with the undertakings of a completely new and unfamiliar coaching position and the added emphasis towards the special teams, it only seems fair that coach Markos has the good fortune of having all of UVa's top four receivers back this season. In addition, senior quarterback Dan Ellis returns after finishing the '99 season ranked eighth nationally in passing efficiency. The abundance of experience at both the quarterback and wide receiver positions will help compensate for the youth throughout a Cavalier defensive unit which must replace six starters from the 1999 squad.
"In the early going, the production of the offense is going to be a key aspect of our team's success," said Markos. "To help the team out, the offense will not only need to keep possession of the ball, but also score points. We think we are going to be able to utilize all the weapons we have available to us, so you will probably see more variation on offense. I think [all the receivers] will be utilized, and when they are in there, they should be fresh and going at full speed. The timing of the passing game should be as crisp in the fourth quarter as it is in the first quarter. That to me is the advantage we should have [with so much depth at receiver]."
Though Markos' list of millennium resolutions may not have included a first-ever attempt at coaching part of Virginia's offense, his new position as wide receivers coach offers a welcome challenge. Drawing from his past experiences as a defensive coach, he hopes to utilize this knowledge in a way that ultimately helps the offense become more effective. Though the move to offense represents a major change for coach Markos, the ultimate goal of achieving success remains the same.