Tony Elliott on Virginia Football: ‘Getting back to the love of the game’
The first day with the big whistle had new Virginia head coach Tony Elliott trying to find his place.
“It’s kind of like, what am I supposed to be doing this period? Like, what am I supposed to be doing? OK, am I spending enough time on the defensive side? I felt myself gravitate towards the offense. I think I coached every offensive position today,” said Elliott, who opened his first spring football period as a head coach this week.
Virginia enters Year 1 of the Elliott era with decent expectations, with ACC Preseason Player of the Year favorite Brennan Armstrong returning at quarterback, the bulk of his receiver corps back with him, a retooled offensive line looking to serve as the foundation for a renewed emphasis on the running game that was all but forgotten under the regime of former coach Bronco Mendenhall.
The questions are on the defensive side, which were a point of emphasis for Elliott and his staff in recruiting, particularly in the transfer portal, with big pickups on the defensive line a key area of focus.
Virginia’s spring culminates in an actual spring game – interesting concept, that – on Saturday, April 23, but that’s an eternity away at this stage.
The next four weeks will be a learning experience for all involved. Elliott is learning how to be a head coach, his staff is learning how to work with each other, what kind of talent they have, and his players are learning new schemes on both sides of the ball.
“Scheme will take care of yourself. Obviously, we know there’s going to be some transition on both sides of the ball, so I wasn’t really worried about the scheme today,” Elliott told reporters on practice day one, on Tuesday. “Obviously, we’ve got five days installation, so it’s going to compound. They’re going to make mistakes, but I want to see them push through mistakes, I want to see them develop that mental toughness.”
Just getting started with actual football was a step forward for Elliott, after three months of doing everything else to get ready for getting guys out on the field.
“Yesterday was the first day I really got to dive into some football. Everything else has been program-related, a lot of things going on, trying to engage with donors, raise money, organizationally, trying to get the support staff where I needed to be, just trying to get the culture, you know, rooted, getting the guys to understand, so I’ve been doing a lot more of the CEO-type activities. So, today was actually pretty fun,” Elliott said.
That’s the culture that Elliott is trying to build.
“Just guys that are playing from a place of joy, and passion, loving what they’re doing, understanding that man, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be challenging, coaches are going to get after you, it’s going to be intense, your body’s going to be hurting, you’re going to feel fatigue, but just finding a way to have joy, getting back to the love of the game, like you were like you were a kid,” Elliott said.
Story by Chris Graham