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Mike Hogewood’s 12 Days of ACC Football from the

Sunday is Meet the Team Day at Scott Stadium

The offensive line isn’t the only unit undergoing significant change this season for Cavalier head coach Al Groh. He and the defensive staff are faced with finding three new starters on the defensive line as well following the loss of nose tackle Allen Billyk and ends Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald.

Junior Nate Collins served as Billyk’s top sub the last two seasons and is the most experienced lineman on the roster. He made 31 tackles last year, including a sack for a safety against Texas Tech’s in the Gator Bowl. An athletic player who saw time at a variety of positions in high school including tailback, quarterback and linebacker, he has worked hard in the offseason to turn his athleticism into a playmaker in 2008 according to Groh.

“He didn’t have too much experience as a down lineman,” said Groh, “so most of the plays that he’s been able to make for us have been in athletic ability and effort. He had a tremendous summer program for us and is one of the strongest players on the team and one of the hardest workers. Now he’s continuing to learn to play the point of attack more physically whereas his early game was more based on athletic skill and running to the ball.”

Sophomore Sean Gottschalk missed the spring following surgery, but hard work during the offseason has put him at full strength as he tries to make up for the time lost in the spring. It has also enabled him to add bulk to his frame without losing any quickness according to Groh.

“Not unexpectedly, (he’s) a little rusty,” Groh said Thursday. “What most of these players that did miss time, where it shows up most noticeably is in reaction time and footwork. Those are two areas that show up in terms of Sean just getting his game refined again.

“(He has had a) tremendous work ethic during the summer. If he continues with that, that’s all we can ask of him here during training camp. Do that and expect that doing all the right things will bring his game to the level where he wants it in terms of performance. Clearly what we’re needing is a high level of Atlantic Coast Conference play (from him.)”

Gottschalk isn’t the only defensive lineman with increased size built during summer workouts that now stands out to Groh. Lining up down the line from Gottschalk is fellow end Alex Field. A big man at 6-7, 290, Groh says he’s put on more weight since the spring.

“He looks real good. Both his work effort and the general maturity of his body at this age has really made a difference in him,” said Groh. “Alex is bigger than what he has been in the past, but he has started some training camps in the past with fairly good size and then he had a hard time keeping it on.”

The increased size of both Gottschalk and Field can be credited in part to the work of strength coach Matt Balis and nutritionist Rob Skinner.

“Development happens two ways,” said Groh. “It happens through training, but it also happens through proper nutrition and rest.”

Balis worked with the players in the weight room to add size, build strength and increase speed, while Skinner worked with the team on food selection, how to shop and how to cook.

“There are a lot of players who significantly altered their diets based on his instruction and training,” said Groh. “A lot of the players testified to how it really changed their perspective and understanding.”


Wednesday’s practice focused on special teams work and was an abbreviated practice due to the summer exam period taking place Wednesday and Thursday. “Realizing their concentration was going to be split between two things, we didn’t do any installation (Wednesday).”

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