Wednesday, March 16, 2011 10:15 a. m.
By Rich Tandler
VIRGINIA PAGE VIRGINIA VIDEO
CHARLOTTESVILLE--We may be weeks or months away from the NFL lockout ending but there is football going on.On a damp, chilly morning more fitting for early November than for start of spring practice, Mike London put his Virginia Cavaliers through the paces for the first time in 2011.It started out kind of slow, said London of the 6 a. m. session. We kind of picked it up as we went along.London is entering his second season at the helm and he said that things get off to a better start than they did at his first spring practice a year ago. Last year, everybody was coming in and trying to get to know each other, he said.The players familiarity with the schemes helped. You saw today the defense communicating with each other; last year nobody would say a word, said London. The progress of where we were when we ended the season continues right now.Of course, being a coach, London set the bar higher for the next session. I expect a better practice Friday with no mental errors, he said.The players were dressed in helmets and shorts (and appropriate leg warmers to deal with temperatures that were in the low 40s). Despite the lack of pads, there were telltale sounds of football in the air as sleds popped, whistles blew and coaches yelled.Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor admonished the receivers to get in the proper alignment, London wanted the players to get a sense of urgency and offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim coached up his charges on proper technique as they fired out to block, telling them to keep their elbows in, like the last slow dance at the prom.And almost every coach out there at some point urged receivers and defensive backs to catch the ball. As one would expect in the first day of spring practice, many passes were off the mark and many that found the target or a defenders hands were dropped.The lack of precision in the passing game wasnt just due to the fact that its mid-March. Quarterback Marc Verica, who started all 12 games last season and took virtually every meaningful snap, has graduated. The only other quarterbacks who threw passes last year were Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny. The two sophomores combined to throw 42 passes in mop-up situations in 2010.Those two and redshirt freshman Michael Strauss appear to be the tri-leaders for the starting job when the Cavaliers open the season Sept. 3 against William and Mary. True freshman David Watford, who enrolled at Virginia in January is is participating in spring practice also is in the mix.
London would at least like to narrow down the field of contenders prior to starting practice in August.Were looking for a number one and number 2, or number 1-A and 1-B, said London. Thats going to be important for us to see whos got the leadership skills, the knowledge and can run the offense that coach Lazor wants to execute. And the guy that can do that, wed like to have him identified coming out of spring practice.London said that it was important that the players know who the leader is, the signal caller, the guy, emphasizing the to say that one quarterback needs to rise into the job.You can reach Rich Tandler by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net.