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Aug. 4, 2006

Virginia head football coach met with members of the media Friday afternoon prior to the team’s first practice for the 2006 season. Here are some of the notes and quotes from the press conference:

Virginia will practice in helmets only on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday and Monday the team will don shoulder pads. Tuesday is the first day in full pads. The Friday (6:15 p.m.), Saturday (5:15 p.m.) and Sunday (2:45 p.m.) practice sessions are open to the public.

Cornerback Marques Hamilton



Groh said that senior safety Tony Franklin has returned to the team and will participate in all team activities. Senior offensive guard D.J. Bell, who was not in school last season, has also returned this season and will participate in all team activities. Neither player participated in spring drills.

Junior safety Nate Lyles, who was injured against Georgia Tech in the ninth game last year and missed the remainder of the season, has been cleared by the medical staff to practice. He underwent surgery following his injury and missed the spring minicamp.

Sophomore linebacker Jon Copper and fullback Josh Zidenberg were put on scholarship during the summer. Virginia safety Ryan Best and safety Byron Glaspy have recently been put on scholarship as well.

Running backs Jason Snelling, Michael Johnson, Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson will alternate on a day-by-day basis throughout training camp so a determination can be made about the playing rotation according to Groh.


Mike London instructs the defensive line


Groh indicated that freshman Darnell Carter would begin training camp at inside linebacker, while fellow freshman John-Kevin Dolce would begin at outside linebacker.

Freshman John Bivens will open at safety according to Groh, who said “nature” would determine where he will eventually play. “He could be a big safety or grow into a linebacker,” said Groh.

UVa welcomes five walkons and three transfers to this year’s team in addition to 16 scholarship freshmen. The first-year walkon players include Isaac Cain, a lineman from Hampton, Va.; Job Staton, a wide receiver/cornerback from Austin, Texas; Nathan Rathjen, a punter from Lovettsville, Va.; Patch Duda, a quarterback from Winnetka, IL and Zach Mendez-Zfass a wide receiver from Richmond. The transfers include junior tight end Arthur Singleton who previously played at Marist and Pete Bladel, a defensive lineman who played at Christopher Newport. Also transferring is Cary Koch, who played as a true freshman at Tulane last year. He appeared in all 11 of the Green Wave games and was fourth in receiving with 23 catches for 308 yards and two scores. Davon Robb also returns to the roster after not playing last season.

Nate Lyles returns to practice



Al Groh Quotes

Groh on the Opening of Training Camp:
“Like all teams at the start of training camp there are answers to questions that we’re pursuing. That’s a pretty common thing with football teams. That happens with football teams at all levels. It’s a predictable thing with college football teams because the cycle of participation for college players is so short. That obviously the longest career a player can have for us is four years. That’s if he starts early and stays late. If a player plays two or three years, actually that’s a pretty decent timeframe to be a starting player. The cycle of replacement is a short one in college football, so every year we go into training camp looking for answers. That’s part of what camp is for. That’s what we’re anxious to get started on today. We look for the answers and hopefully the players provide them with our direction.”

Groh on the Return of Tony Franklin:
“Tony will be at practice today and fully participating. Tony, for three years, was one of our really solid players. That’s demonstrated by the fact that Tony was elected co-captain after his third-year, which is a pretty unusual thing on most teams. He is well respected by teammates and coaches alike. As happens with lots of people, mature adults, young adults, adolescents, whatever, sometimes people get a little off track, a little bit out of whack. Tony’s had a very diligent and disciplined approach to making it very clear that the Tony that we know and respect and prize is the Tony that we have right now.


UVa’s quarterbacks go thru their drills


“Personally, I like Tony very much, so for me, I’m real glad to see him here. For the players, it was apparent shortly after he began to participate in the summer off-season program, that he was there with the same work ethic, with the same energy, kind of with the same humility, and the players began in a short period of time to respond to him in the same fashion as they had in the past.”

On if the Players Had a Voice in Franklin’s Return:
“That wouldn’t be fair to Tony. It was all about Tony. And Tony is the kind of person that kind of stood up and spoke for himself rather than having other people speaking for him. And by speaking for himself, I mean speak for himself by his actions, which, as I say, he has been diligent and disciplined in doing that.”

On Franklin Helping on Special Teams:
“Well he’s played on a lot of special teams units and he’s penciled in on five of them right now.”

On Franklin’s Impact at Safety:
“It makes it competitive. No one is automatically hopped to the top of any position. That is contrary to the type of competitive environment that we have been trying to create.

On the Return of Nate Lyles:
“Nate will also participate and compete for playing time this afternoon. To the best of my recollection I believe he will participate fully today. If he participates fully, he is back to 100 percent.

Tailback Jason Snelling



On Meeting the Lyles’ Doctors:
“It was very informative. I was very impressed with the surgeon, especially how he would explain it so that I could understand it. I think It was good all parties were there at the same time and understood what was going on and what was done to rectify the situation. He was able to present it to us in a very factual and calming way was very good for everybody. Certainly for me.”

More on Lyles Return:
“He’s been fully participating in the off-season program for a while. It is possible with that type of injury there is the possibility that a player can participate in the off-season program and not play contact football. The surgeon has expressed for quite some time that this was his expectation of the outcome of it and obviously he knows his business pretty well.

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