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March 25, 2010
7:12 a.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — By the lofty standards of a football program that has produced Heath Miller, Jonathan Stupar, Tom Santi and John Phillips, 2009 was a down year for UVa’s tight ends.

Joe Torchia, Colter Phillips and Paul Freedman combined to catch 31 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns last season. That compared poorly to the numbers put up by their predecessors, but there were extenuating circumstances.

Virginia began last season in a spread offense in which the tight end was often an afterthought. After a few games in which the offense sputtered, then-coach Al Groh switched back to a more traditional scheme, and the tight ends started seeing the ball again.

Look for them to be featured this season. Groh’s successor, Mike London, and new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor have installed a pro-style scheme in which the tight ends are focal points.

“Coach London coming in, it was a nice breath of fresh air,” Torchia said. “He believes very strongly in using the tight ends, which is what Virginia’s been known for. We kind of got away from that the past couple years, but it’s gonna feel good to get back to it.”

Torchia played in 2009 with a shoulder injury that required surgery after the season. He still managed to catch 15 passes for 120 yards and two TDs.

“I continued to work hard, using that wisdom that John Phillips and Jon Stupar and Tom Santi, they all kind of passed down to me over the years coming up underneath them,” Torchia said. “Just staying resilient and focusing on the job at hand.”

Torchia, who’ll be a senior in the fall, is not practicing this spring. His left arm is in a sling, but he expects to be ready for training camp this summer.

“It’s tough as a football player, because you want to be out there and you want to help the team as much as possible,” Torchia said. “It’s tough being on the sidelines right now, but I know that my role as of right now is to get better and to work hard off the field so I can help the team later on.

“You can definitely learn more taking the reps and actually doing it, but as of right now I’m just watching film and going to the meetings and watching practice and taking mental reps. There’s a lot to learn.”

He has a new teacher this year: Scott Wachenheim. The Cavaliers’ tight ends coach held that position with the Washington Redskins last season.

“He’s a great guy,” Torchia said. “I really like [former tight ends coach Bob] Price, but Coach London felt that Coach Wachenheim brings something to the table, and he certainly has so far. He’s very experienced. He coached Chris Cooley with the Redskins, and he has a lot of really good little things that you would never really think of but make all the difference.”

Phillips and Freedman are rising sophomores.

Jeff White

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