CHARLOTTESVILLE — Anthony Poindexter has a unique perspective on UVa football.
Poindexter, who grew up in Forest, played for George Welsh at Virginia and later returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach under Al Groh.
UVa dismissed Groh after the 2009 season and hired Mike London. The Cavaliers’ new staff includes only one of Groh’s assistants — Poindexter.
London’s charge was to rebuild a program that once consistently turned out winning teams. Poindexter sees signs of progress as UVa (2-1) heads into its ACC opener against Florida State (1-0, 3-1).
“I think the guys feel more free to play,” Poindexter told reporters Monday at John Paul Jones Arena.
“We always talk about on the defensive side of the ball, ‘Just play all out, and don’t worry about making mistakes,’ and I think the kids have kind of bought into that. Now, obviously, we’re trying to coach them out of making the mistakes. But anytime a kid feels threatened that if he makes a mistake he’s going to come out, or he’s got to be perfect all the time, it’s hard to play really fast. We just want them to play fast, and we’ll get them in the right spots as we coach them.
“I think all our kids are just buying into what Coach brought here: that kind of attitude. We want to play hard, prepare hard, but we’re not going to be afraid to make mistakes. If we make mistakes, let’s move on to the next play.”
In three of Groh’s final four seasons, UVa finished with a losing record. The ‘Hoos were 3-9 in 2009.
“I just think our whole team has benefited from the way we coach them, the way we correct them, and stuff like that,” Poindexter, who oversees the safeties and Virginia’s special teams.
“Again, fellas — and ladies — I was here with Coach Groh, and there’s nothing I’m saying that [is meant] to badmouth Coach. Coach gave me my opportunity. I’m sitting here in front of you because of Coach. But sometimes when you get a different spin on things and the way it’s presented to you, kids respond. And right now, the kids are responding to the way Coach London talks to them, the way he corrects them, the way he brings them up at the end of practice, at the end of games, before team meetings.
“Coach London is a special guy, and y’all have been around him long enough now to know that, and our team understands that. I think they’ve taken on his personality, honestly.”
Junior cornerback Chase Minnifield echoed those comments.
“I’ve seen a lot of change through this team, just as soon as Coach London got here and the coaching staff got here,” Minnifield said. “It was a new energy within the players, a new energy within the coaches, a new energy within the staff. Just a lot of things were different around here.”