First and Goal with Anthony Mihota
Junior center Anthony Mihota and the Cavaliers hit the road Saturday to tussle with ACC foe Georgia Tech. Poised to make his fifth start of the season and sixth of his career, the Fredericksburg, Va., native recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss the most recent game against Florida State, hitting the road to face the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta, his favorite road trip while at UVa and making the move from defense in high school to offense at UVa.
Question: After a tough loss against Florida State last Saturday, the team has to get right back at it and prepare for Georgia Tech this weekend. Do you find it difficult to shake off a disappointment like that?
Mihota: It’s actually easy. We’ve just got to move on and focus on Georgia Tech next week. You can never dwell in the past.
Question: As you move forward, are there any specific areas you plan to work on this week in practice?
Mihota: There are always things we can work on-I could write a book on what I need to work on-but mostly little fundamental footwork techniques and just trying to fine-tune everything is where I can improve this week.
Question: After starting only one game during your first three seasons at Virginia, you have now been a starter in all four of the team’s games this year. How does it feel to finally be “the guy” at center?
Mihota: It’s a great feeling. It’s a lot of responsibility, but I knew that was going to happen when I got the job. I’m definitely excited about it and I’m ready to see what I can do at the next level.
Question: Jack Shields was a stronghold at the position before choosing not to return for his fifth year of eligibility. As Shields’ backup for two seasons, were you able to learn from him?
Mihota: Yes, definitely. Just watching him in front of me for the past few years, I was able to see what he did well and what he did wrong. I learned from how he played the game. He gave me advice here and there, but it worked both ways. If he had a question about something, I gave him help and then he would help me.
Question: Center is obviously not one of the more high-profile roles on the football field. Was there a reason you were first attracted to such an unheralded position?
Mihota: Actually, it wasn’t my choice. I came here as a defensive lineman, and they switched me to center. They thought my athletic abilities on the defensive line could transfer over into being an athletic center. I know it’s not considered the most fun position, but I enjoy it so much. We don’t make plays or anything, but we get to hit people and get into it out there.
Question: You went from rarely ever touching the ball as a defensive lineman to touching it on nearly every play now as the center. Was it difficult making the transition?
Mihota: It was difficult at first, because you have to put it between your legs, make sure the quarterback gets the ball, and then try to block your guy. The first part is probably the hardest because the rest is just blocking.
Question: Have you been able to transfer over any of your knowledge from the defensive side of the ball to your play on offense?
Mihota: Definitely. I have more of a sense of what they’re trying to do and how they take on blocks, so it’s definitely helped me in that aspect. It’s also helped me figure out where they’re trying to go and where to take them.
Question: Speaking of defenses, you guys will be facing a familiar, albeit unusual, defensive alignment this Saturday in former UVa coach Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. How will the offense adjust to handle the different configuration?
Mihota: We have to learn different schemes and change our footwork just a little bit, but luckily, it’s nothing too drastic. We still have our same basic rules when it comes to our plays. Sometimes I take on the nose tackle more, but it just depends on the play.
Question: As the center, you have the important job of being the team’s line caller. With a new offense this season, how has that role changed?
Mihota: There’s a lot more things to remember, and it doesn’t help that we’ve had a different offense the past three years. It’s just about learning the new plays and getting it done. It’s never easy though, that’s for sure.
Question: That job must become even harder when you guys are in front a hostile road crowd like the one you will be facing at Georgia Tech.
Mihota: It’s a little different in an away setting because it is a lot louder. Most of the time, it’s not too bad though because we all know what we have to do. The calls are just for reassurance.
Question: So, does that mean you like road games, or do you dread them?
Mihota: I love away games. I feed off the crowd no matter what, and makes for an even better win when you win on the road.
Question: That said, what has been your favorite road trip so far at Virginia?
Mihota: I’ve got to say USC-that was a lot of fun. Our hotel was right on the beach, we were in California, the weather was awesome. Just be able to play in such a large environment as far as football goes was great.
Question: Now for the usual “quick hit” questions to wrap things up. Last movie you saw?
Mihota: Air Guitar Nation-it was a documentary.
Question: Favorite holiday?
Question: Dream job?
Mihota: Working animation for Pixar.
Question: What type of car do you drive?
Mihota: Suzuki Vitara.
Question: Coke or Pepsi?
Question: First thing you do in the morning?
Mihota: Put my contacts in, or else I can’t see a thing.