Groh: Clemson Defensive Line Most Athletic UVa Has Faced

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Al Groh is 2-6 against Clemson, 2-0 with Virginia and 0-6 as head coach of Wake Forest ('81-'86).
Al Groh is 2-6 against Clemson, 2-0 with Virginia and 0-6 as head coach of Wake Forest ('81-'86).

Virginia Head Coach, Al Groh Weekly Press Conference Quotes

On how important the win at Clemson was two years ago:

Groh: I haven't ever thought about that as being too much of a landmark. I thought about it as a win. Probably reacting to the question here two years later, I'd say we won the (game) before. We beat Richmond. I don't know if that really showed the players anything. We haven't had too many wins down there at that place. Perhaps that might have gotten their attention a little bit in terms of maybe these guys (coaching staff) do have a plan after all.

Is Clemson the most athletic team you've faced so far this year?

Groh: Defensively, I think they are certainly the most athletic front line that we've played against. They certainly have the top corner that we've played against this year in (Justin) Miller. He's a very good player. We talk about (Darryl) Blackstock, (Ahmad) Brooks, (Kai) Parham and those guys, as a freshman last year, it's pretty hard to go in and be a dominant player in some games as a freshman corner. And as a corner and a kick return guy, he was a dominant player in a number of games last year. I'm very impressed with him as a player.

Offensively, the three wide receivers are quite a trio. They've got size. One's 6-4, 6-5. (Derrick) Hamilton and (Airese) Currie in particular have vertical speed. (Kevin) Youngblood's 6-5, 215-lb., and is just hard to deal with. He creates his space to be overpoweringly big to most corners. They've got speed. They're hard to deal with. I'm very impressed with the quarterback. What he's doing as a sophomore right now certainly Matt (Schaub) didn't do when he was a sophomore. When he came in last year at the end of our game and then pretty much played from that point on, there doesn't seem to have been any point of struggle as there often is with a young quarterback. He started out and right away he played well. Everyone was pleased with his performance, and the team played well. Now completing 62.9, that's a pretty good number for a sophomore quarterback. He throws the deep ball very well. I think he's got real poise and toughness in the pocket. When Matt (Schaub), Phillip

(Rivers), (Scott) McBrien , those senior quarterbacks leave, this guy has a chance to be the next star quarterback in this conference.

On what defenses have done to combat Clemson's spread offense:

Groh: We're (defensive coaches) not as quick on the pick up as those offensive guys, so it takes us a little longer to figure it out (chuckles). A lot of it is repetition of seeing it, like any new cycle of offense that comes in like the wishbone, the veer offense, run and shoot, fun and gun, this spread business. After you see it for a while, I'm sure that the coaches at those schools figured it out faster than some of us did. That is they saw it every day in the spring; they saw it everyday in training camp. Some cases, we'd only be preparing for once a season or twice a season. That was eight days during the year you'd spend on it. The other guys are spending a whole year on it if it was at their school. So a lot of it is exposure and developing your ideas. You see someone else play against it and say, 'that's a pretty good idea' and then you incorporate that into what you're doing.

Is there a general scheme or is there more pressure on the quarterback?

Groh: I think that varies by the philosophy of the staff and the coordinator at each place. Some teams will try play it by increasing the pressure on it. Some teams have tried to play it by increasing the coverage against it. I think whatever the team's basic philosophical frame work to playing defense in, it just manifests itself in that situation, too.

What roles is Marques Hagans doing in practice?

Groh: All those roles. He catches punts, runs the punt team, catches a few balls, majors at being at quarterback.

On Matt Schaub's change/blossoming from the Wisconsin game in 2001 until now:

Groh: It's rewarding in a lot of ways. One, I look at a player who's put a tremendous amount of himself into this and the achievement of this level of play. I feel very good about seeing what he's getting out of this with a lot more to come. And from the standpoint of the staff, that's what coaching is about. We always say the one statement that governs what all successful sports organizations do on every level is the acquisition and development of talent. When the staff combines their efforts with the skills and ambition of the player, and the development of the player is such that he can reach this level, that's what working together and coaching players is supposed to produce. It's rewarding for the staff and it's rewarding for Matt.

On more effective running game (UVa is first in the ACC with an average of 184.2 yards/game):

Groh: One thing, as I keep saying, a lot of the players who were on that offensive line last year were playing a lot of minutes without the benefit of ever being in the college off-season program. Now

there's still some strength to be gained by some of those guys, but the difference in (Brad) Butler, (D'Brickashaw) Ferguson, Zac Yarbrough's made significant gains. Elton Brown has become a lot

stronger now. He's got muscles after he's turned his body around . (Brian) Barthelmes is a lot stronger. Heath Miller's a lot stronger having been a quarterback in high school. That's part of it. The

other part is the repetition of the scheme.

Is the offensive line better?

Groh: We didn't (allow) much pressure last year. That's one thing we've been pretty good at from the outset. Part of the quarterback certainly helps that. He has a good vision and real good sense of

what's coming. He knows where to go with the ball. So he certainly helps that. He's been the constant in that now for two years. But the protection aspect's been solid here over the last two seasons.

On FB Kase Luzar:

Groh: Kase played very well the other day. I thought it was one of his best performances. He was the lead blocker on a lot of plays. Very aggressive. He opened things up nicely. He's certainly an

element to what we're doing.

On how close Kevin Bailey is to where he was before his injury (Bailey was injured in the second game last season and didn't return to action until the third game this year):

Groh: I thought I could better answer that question for myself, as well as anybody else, when I get to see him play as many snaps in a game at center which is the benchmark I would measure him against as opposed to playing guard. I think center is definitely his best position. He filled in well for us (at guard) the other day, considering that's the one position that was a four-day practice

venture for him.

On running game impact on offense since in the last game at North Carolina two years ago:

Groh: Very much. I think the locale of that game provides a very pretty good answer. The score was pretty close. As I recall, we threw the ball about 55 times. We went down there knowing that's what we would have to do both to control the ball and to score points. Now that we're able to run the ball 46 times for 250 yards. I think that's a pretty good indication of the evolution of the team. Doesn't
mean we don't want to throw it and have fun with it, it means there's something else we can do well, too.

On freshman LB Ahmad Brooks:

Groh: His improvement is on-going and really shows up in the games. I'm very impressed with a player who improves game-to-game as he is. To go along with his ability level, I'm very impressed with what's he's done.

On sophomore LB Darryl Blackstock:

Groh: I always encourage him. He can be a dynamic speed rusher when he goes. Sometimes he's kind of bobbing and weaving a little more than I think is to his advantage. It slows him down against players who maybe that's what they're hoping for. Every once in a while I encourage him, just look 'Let's go, let's go. Forget about all that bob and weave and fancy stuff. Let's go.' He went pretty good a couple of times the other day. He went good on that last play against Wake Forest.

He wants to be a real good player. He wants to be a three-down player.

On freshmen LBs Kai Parham and Ahmad Brooks:

Groh: You have two first-time linebackers out there together running the operation. They did it all themselves. Plus until the end, Brooks was on the nickel. Both of them played on the punt team although that wasn't much necessary the other day. For young players, they certainly carry a substantial load.

On success against North Carolina:

Groh: They had two very dynamic players on offense. Obviously Darian Durant is the one that comes to note. And they had the leading receiver in terms of catches in the conference (Jawarski Pollock). So

yes, we start figuring out that we can't let these guys have the same kind of game they've had in the past. We had some specific things on our approach that we wanted to do to make it more difficult for those players to dominate the action as they had in some of the other games.

Like Matt Schaub on offense, is DE Chris Canty a calming force on the defense?

Groh: Chris is a pretty emotional, excitable player. I think he has a very good personality for the defense. Probably if everyone was like that, nobody could hear themselves think. It's probably best not

to have 11 like that, but it's good to have two or three. Every once in a while I'll talk to some coach and he'll complain that this is the quietest defense I've ever coached. So I think it's good to have

some of that energy and some of that volume.

On team's ability to handle the national rankings now vs. earlier in the season:

Groh: I don't think the rankings had any bearing on our team. If anything hasn't gone like we might have thought it would have, the greatest bearing on our team was that we didn't have our quarterback in the second game. Going down there (South Carolina) had nothing to do with rankings. It had all to do with not having our quarterback and not just the plays that we brought, but the feelings he brings with the players. This is our guy. We have something going for us. The only polls that have any purpose, other than selling newspapers or getting people to watch the news, are those that come out as the official BCS poll. There the only ones that have any bearing on

nything whatsoever. What purpose do they (polls) have right now? They'll all change when they start doing the BCS formula. I think it's fun for fans, but that's the only people that it's for.

Our direction here isn't the poll. Our direction here is trying to win the conference.

On walk-ons:

Groh: I'd like to think they view it the same way we do. As I tell the players here frequently, I look at them all the same. We're always going to play the players that give us the best chance to win. Whoever performs gets to play. They've heard me say it, I don't care if you're a fifth-year senior or a first-year walk-on, whoever demonstrates that he fits the model of we're looking for in terms of

a player, whoever demonstrates he gives us a chance to win, gets a chance to play. Whether they motivate other kids that aren't on grant-in-aid, I certainly think there is seven or eight kids who came

out after the season started. I said to them before we went to Western Michigan, I told them just for your information, fellows, there are three or four guys going on this trip who started out

exactly the same way you guys did. So there is opportunity for that to occur.

On RB Alvin Pearman's ability to bounce back from injury:

Groh: He put a tremendous amount into it. He wanted to be back. As I said on the teleconference (Sunday), it's too bad there wasn't a television replay of the Schaub to Pearman pass (33-yard TD pass), because it was really big-time ball. When I said it was a bullseye throw, that's what it took. He put it in the bullseye. It took a real good catch to snatch it out of the bullseye. It was real football.

Are you in better shape knowing what PK Connor Hughes can do?

Groh: Oh, sure. When you know what to count on there, it enables you to determine how you can construct and manage the game. You can factor it in before you go and you can factor it into your decisions.

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