By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Since the start of practice this month, they’ve been The Untouchables.
Starting Sept. 5, of course, that will change for UVa quarterbacks Vic Hall, Jameel Sewell and Marc Verica. For now, though, Al Groh is comfortable with the coaching staff’s decision to prohibit defenders from tackling the quarterbacks, who have made it to this point in good health.
Groh remembers 2008 well. That January, Sewell, who’d started 22 consecutive games at quarterback for the Wahoos, including the Gator Bowl, was suspended from the University for academic reasons.
Then in September, Peter Lalich, who’d started the first two games of the season at QB, was dismissed from the team.
“It is a tricky equation,” Groh said this morning of putting his quarterbacks off-limits to tacklers. “Having experienced a year like last year in which we very quickly lost the two quarterbacks we thought we would be playing the season with, we’re pretty sensitive to what happens to a team when that occurs.
“So, coming off that past experience, we decided to not put ourselves in jeopardy.”
All of the quarterbacks are veterans, and they “don’t need to be hit,” Groh said. “In other words, they don’t need the physical being-hit part of it to be ready to play. What they don’t get is the close proximity of rushers to them.
“There’s some times when the rusher pulls off and changes his course so as to not run into the quarterback. My concern is that that gives them a false sense of how they can operate in the pocket.”
UVa opens at home against William and Mary next Saturday night. In that game, Groh knows, the “rushers could conceivably be a lot closer to [the quarterbacks] and affect or change some of the decisions that they were able to make in the past.
“That’s the tradeoff for it. The one thing we know is that all three of the quarterbacks are going to be at the stadium next Saturday for sure. The thing that they now have to do is accommodate their game a little bit to the realities of what it’s like in the pocket.”
Hall started — and sparkled — in the 2008 regular-season finale versus Virginia Tech, and many close to the UVa program will be surprised if the 5-9 senior from Gretna doesn’t take the first snap against the Tribe.
But Sewell and Verica, who started nine games last year, also have been getting extensive work in practice, and they may well play Sept. 5, too.
“Right at this stage right now we continue to anticipate the possibility of any or all of them playing in any particular game,” Groh said. “We continue to try to get all three of them ready. It’s a little bit tricky proposition, obviously, but we think we have three guys that as a combination give us the best chance for the quarterback position to play as well as it needs to in any one particular game.”