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Spring practice a chance to clear the air at UVa.

Story by Chris Graham

Listen to today’s “SportsDominion Show” to hear Virginia football coach Al Groh talk about his team as it begins spring practice. Show Length: 11:59.

algroh3.gifAl Groh would have reason to be frustrated.

He lost his starting quarterback, Jameel Sewell, to grades. He lost a starting defensive end, Jeffrey Fitzgerald, to academic issues. Chris Long is perhaps going to be the #1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

His defensive coordinator, Mike London, is now the head coach at Richmond.

And really, we’re just getting started with the goings-on in Charlottesville in the wake of the Cavs’ disappointing return from the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on Jan. 2.

But to hear Groh tell it …

“I don’t get frustrated. Frustration doesn’t accomplish anything. We’ve got a formula in place for what we believe and how we operate, which we’re always self-checking and quality-controlling, and with that in mind, we’re going about our business on a daily basis,” the coach said as he prepared for the start of spring practice today.

He goes into the spring with rising sophomore Peter Lalich entrenched as the #1 quarterback, tailback Cedric Peerman scheduled to be a full participant in today’s spring-practice opening session, and question marks pretty much everywhere else, most notably on the D-line, where Long and Fitzgerald are taking their 21 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and 38 quarterback hurries elsewhere.

“We really like the young players that we have there. But obviously that’s what they are. They’re young players,” said Groh, who will try to replace the dynamic duo with the likes of Sean Gottschalk and Matt Conrath, among other unproven commodities.

“We know how much better, for example, Chris was his fourth year than his first year. And so we’re kind of restarting that cycle over again with some promising young players that are upbeat about where they’re going to go, and I’m kind of anxious to see it all develop here,” Groh said.

The message that Groh sent his team Thursday on the eve of the start of practice was a simple one.

“Every year, we promote the idea that there’s competition at every position. But clearly, if a guy’s played a lot, he’s really kind of staked his claim to that spot, he’s going to be hard to dislodge. We do have a number of positions this year. We would expect a competition has the potential to be pretty intense and perhaps vary on a day-to-day basis, you know, who’s moving back and forth? We emphasized that yesterday to the players, that there’s going to be a lot of competition for some of these spots. And that if a player finished last season, if a player played a lot, or started in the last game, then obviously we at that point in time felt that he was ahead on the depth chart, so that’s the way we’ll start. But from 4 o’clock this afternoon on, whoever’s performing best will have the chance to move up and get his opportunity. So we’re certainly promoting the idea that there’s going to be a lot of competition, and we’re hoping that it takes place,” Groh said.


Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.

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