Story by Chris Graham
Listen to today’s “SportsDominion Show” to hear Virginia football coach Al Groh talk about tight end John Phillips. Show Length: 6:18.
Tom Santi – gone.
Seventy-six catches, 777 yards, five touchdowns – gone.
One tight end who caught a pass returns for Virginia in 2008. And Bath County product John Phillips has a lot riding on his massive shoulders heading into his senior season.
“Oh, clearly, yeah,” UVa. football coach Al Groh said today in response to a question from a reporter about whether Phillips could be counted on to catch 50 balls next season.
Phillips, a 6-6, 257-pound rising senior, caught 17 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns in 2007 while serving primarily as the “constant on-the-line stable tight end while the other two were movement tight ends,” according to Groh.
“That’s been his spot the better part of the past two years, and he’ll continue in that,” Groh said.
But Phillips will have to be more productive out of the end slot than he has been the past two years. The trio vying for the right to replace Santi and Stupar is comprised of rising sophomores Mark Ambrose (6-5, 215), Andrew Devlin (6-6, 255) and Joe Torchia (6-5, 237).
Ambrose’s development is being impeded this spring by the effects of shoulder surgery in the offseason.
Bottom line – the pressure is on Phillips to add his name to the long line of Virginia tight-end greats that includes 2004 unanimous first-team All-American Heath Miller.
“Obviously Heath was unanimously recognized as the best tight end in college football when he was a senior, so that’s a fairly high standard for any player that we have here to be compared to. But in his own right, Jon is very effective, and more than capable of doing all the jobs in our scheme,” Groh said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.