Highlights from Al Groh's Weekly Press Conference Tuesday
Al Groh Press Conference Quotes, Sept. 2, 2008
Q: In talking about USC you brought up their quarterback play and the spot on passing by Mark Sanchez. The quarterback from Richmond that you have coming in here on Saturday, Eric Ward, may not be the same caliber as Sanchez but does he still present a problem?
A: Absolutely. He’s the conference’s player of the week from his performance last week and (he) had a terrific night running the ball, and passing the ball. Most particularly he made all the big throws and got his team in the end zone and that is what is important. He’s a very impressive player.
Q: What did linebacker Denzel Burrell do to impress you in the spring and what’s he done since then? Obviously his role now is going to be even greater.
A: Denzel has always had a strong want to’ since he has been here. He’s been a very intense, passionate player. But what changed in the spring is that a lot of the more significant and precise details of his schemes really started to click in with him. He went from kind of a fur flies all over the place, no telling which direction he’s going to go’ player early in his career to where he recognizes things and he’s on them pretty quickly now. But actually his circumstances as we’ve discussed before at that position aren’t all that unusual because he is another player who came in with a linebacker’s body but not with a linebacker’s background. So it was a full transition for him.
Q: Could you just talk about what Richmond brings on both sides of the ball; they seem to be a pretty well rounded team?
A: Yes they are. Offensively they are quite a bit different from last year. They’ve changed their offensive system. (They’re) very diverse in the things that they do but that has become pretty much the trademark of college football right now.
Coaching defense these days is as much about solving problems as it is about implementing your scheme. There’s just a slew of things every week that have to be accounted for just to make sure that you don’t get outnumbered or out-leveraged and beat on alignment. And they do that very significantly.
Defensively, it’s a scheme not unlike those we saw on a number of occasions last year (that is) very sound. You can see that there has been a lot ofjust in the one game that we looked atlot of emphasis on technique. (It’s a) very sound technique team which is with Mike (London) overseeing the whole operation who was always technician here, and then Vincent Brown and Byron Thweatt, who both serves as graduate assistants here, that’s always been the mentality of all three of them, so it fits what we expected to see.
Q: I think their running back from last year, Tim Hightower, is pushing Edgerrin James for playing with with the Arizona Cardinals. What does his replacement, Josh Vaughan, look like?
A: (He’s a) very versatile player, he’s got size, he’s got good speed, which was apparent last week. He’s a pretty classic I formation style runner, of which they use quite a bit.
Q: He’s listed at 232 pounds…
A: He’s a good size player with good athletic ability. So he’s got size and he’s got good athletic ability, good versatility in his game (and he) catches the ball well.
Q: When you see LB Aaron Clark, his size kind of jumps out at you. Denzel Burrell is still a big player, but is he more of a speed player or how would you describe him?
A: If they were standing here, you would certainly describe Aaron to be the taller (player), but if they were to run a race, also as you had predicted, I think Denzel would win the race.
Q: Freshman Cam Johnson moved up on the depth chart. What have you seen from him being a new player such as he is?
A: Just a promising young player. He’s got all the skills, he’s got size, he’s got athletic ability, he seems to grasp things fairly quickly, but he’s only been here for four weeks. (He) hasn’t been in too much action, so we’ll see what we see.
Q: Last weekend you played Austin Pasztor on some special teams units, I guess acknowledging you would need him certainly next year if not sooner. What about Cam Johnson, with Clark now out, do you anticipate using Johnson?
A: Under the circumstances we do.
Q: I know you have had assistants come and go, but what’s it like for you to faceoff against a friend and a former assistant having to be on that other sideline?
A: Other than acknowledging, as we just did, what Mike’s familiarity is with our team, for this week it’s very impersonal. Mike’s a dear friend and was a great colleague here. He did an awful lot for us while he was here but for this particular week there are really no personal feelings about it. It’s just what we have to get our team ready to play them?
Q: With the threat of rain that they are talking about this weekend, do you guys do some things to prepare for that in terms of preparing to play in those conditions?
A: We practiced in it pretty heavily for two days last week, so if that type of storm does come in here, possibly it will be more than it was last week, but that was pretty good for us.
Q: When looking at a team like Richmond who is in the Football Championship Division, they are one of the elite teams in that division, what is making teams like them that are that elite so close to that Div. I level and being to compete like we saw last year with Appalachian State vs. Michigan?
A: There are a number of schools for whatever reasons have chosen to participate in that classification but are a very attractive school to students.
In the case of Richmond, (it’s) a well-regarded school academically. In fact, we have another person who left Charlottesville to take leadership position at Richmond and that’s the president Dr. Ed Ayers, who was the dean of the college here and is now the president at Richmond. Can you see the whole school there I’m sure will be quite energized for the game. In the case of Richmond it is a very attractive school with high-end academics. (It’s) located very similar to (UVa) on the east coast population corridor.
They have access to a lot of players and they have a very attractive product to sell. Obviously those are the ingredients that make good players interested in to going to schools (like Richmond).
Q: You’ve had several assistant coaches go on to be head coaches, including Ron Prince, Danny Rocco, Al Golden. Do you take any pride that you helped to cultivate these guys and that now they’re head coaches who have gone on to run their own programs?
A: Those guys did a lot for us while they were here and we like to think maybe we able to do something to help them out. But it worked both ways, they were very valuable for us and that’s what attracted us to those men and to others who have followed them. They’ve got the energy, the personality, the ambition, the passion for the game that marks them as guys who are capable of having a job like that. Those people pursue their work very intensely and add a lot to the program while they’re here. And if that was part of the reason for wanting them to be a part of our team then along the way when there was something that would be worthwhile to be pointed out that maybe a person in their position wouldn’t be looking at, we might say, here’s something you might remember when your opportunity comes up.’
But whatever it is that we’ve been able to help them with, has probably come from those things of our program that fit their style that they were able take with them and use. I’m sure that is in varying degrees in different places.
Q: In 1989 when Virginia wins the ACC title, even though you weren’t here, do you remember thinking, wow, that’s a pretty good accomplishment for the school you played at?’
A: Absolutely. It was the first one. (I have) great respect for what those guys did. They’re the first ones to have ever done it and they showed that it can be done. When you do it for the first time, you will always be remembered as the guys who did it. Clearly they deserve the recognition they got then and the recognition that they are getting now.
Q: On Saturday with QB Peter Lalich obviously you were concerned or disappointed about the turnovers, but aside from the turnovers what would you like to see him improve on or did he pretty much do what you wanted him to do?
A: He his poise throughout very intense pressure. (He) stepped up in the pocket and made some good throws and was not rattled by the circumstances. (He) had to move. Somebody said to me, Peter looked a little anxious moving in the pocket.’ I said, what was he suppose to do stand there and get hit?’
He did exactly what he was supposed to do. He moved within the pocket to find the opportunity to throw the ball and made a couple of excellent throws after doing that. That is what is really significant about quarterbacks. So often quarterbacks are talked about being scramblers or non-scramblers. Unless the guy is in that elite running category, the most important thing is the guy’s ability to move within the pocket, slide and make a throw. Dan Marino was never known as a speed guy, but he had an unbelievable ability to feel the rush, move in the pocket and load up and throw. (Tom) Brady is that way. A lot of the great pocket quarterbacks are really terrific athletes and they can move that way, they just are not fast athletes. And Pete moved well in the pocket and he obviously made a couple big time throws.