Aug. 12, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE — A thunderstorm eventually moved the team inside Wednesday afternoon, but before practice I caught up with Mike London outside the McCue Center.
Among the topics he touched on was the resurgence of Darnell Carter, one of several players whose careers have been revived since London replaced Al Groh as head coach.
Carter, a 6-3, 240-pound linebacker from Englewood, N.J., was suspended from UVa for the 2008-09 academic year. He returned to the University last summer and rejoined the football team, but he played sparingly in 2009 and, had Groh remained coach, might not have been invited back for a fifth year.
To be part of London’s first team at UVa, Carter had to meet academic standards set by the new coach. He did so and has impressed London with his attitude and work ethic.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” London said. “I wasn’t going to jump on his bandwagon and celebrate till he did all the things that he’d been asked, and so far he hasn’t said a word. He’s in line with doing what he needs to do, and here we go.”
Carter may well be the Cavaliers’ No. 2 long-snapper, London said, and he’s bidding for playing time on defense, too.
In Groh’s 3-4 defense, Carter lined up at inside linebacker. In the 4-3, Virginia’s new scheme, he’s on the outside. His size notwithstanding, “Darnell can run,” London said.
“He’s one of our long-snappers, and you the see the way he covers the field on the punts. It’s unbelievable.”
* As of Wednesday afternoon, London had not spoken that day with sophomore tight end Colter Phillips, whose father, Bill Phillips, died in a plane crash in Alaska this week. But London said Colter, who’d had flown to Alaska to be with his family, had texted some of his teammates.
“He’s doing as well as can be expected with those circumstances,” London said.
Colter’s youngest brother, Willy, survived the crash. Two other brothers play football at Stanford and Indiana, respectively. The Phillipses live in Darnestown, Md.
* Three quarterbacks joined the program this summer, and one of them, Jake McGee, has already moved to another position, tight end. Michael Rocco will stick at quarterback, but third member of that group, Miles Gooch, could end up at linebacker or wide receiver.
For now, however, Gooch is likely to stay at QB, London said.
“I think he wants to continue to keep trying to see if he can [master the position] conceptually and make the throws that need to be made, if he can do those things,” London said.
A 6-3, 215-pound true freshman from Georgia, Gooch has been inconsistent in training camp. If he remains at quarterback, he’ll almost certainly redshirt this fall and work with the scout team.
“He’s learning like all these guys are,” London said. “I’d just say he’s not ready. He’ll need to soak.”
* As a true freshman in 2009, linebacker Connor McCartin didn’t make his debut until Virginia’s eighth game, when he played seven plays against Duke.
McCartin was in for a season-high 20 plays in the finale against Virginia Tech — 19 of them on special teams — and his responsibilities figure to grow this fall.
“He’s stepped it up, and he’s done some nice things,” London said. “One of his roles will be on the core of our special teams, the run-and-hit squads, and being able to do a lot of things. He has moved himself into a position where he can be counted on as a core special-teams guy and, plus, get some snaps on regular downs.”
The 6-3, 220-pound McCartin is a graduate of Fauquier High School. So is his brother Kyle, a redshirt sophomore tight end at UVa.
It’s possible, London said, that one or more of the Cavaliers who played as true freshmen in 2009 could be redshirted this fall, including kicker Drew Jarrett. Most, however, are expected to play.
Groh played 14 true freshmen last season. Three of them — Javanti Sparrow, Corey Lillard and Quintin Hunter — are no longer at UVa, though Sparrow hopes to return in 2011.
* Visitors at practice Wednesday morning included Howard Petty, one of the most productive tailbacks to play at UVa.
Petty, who lettered for George Welsh in 1983, ’84 and ’85, ranks 13th in career rushing at Virginia with 2,171 yards. He ran for 21 touchdowns.