Blog: Live coverage of the ACC Kickoff in N.C.
Football associate Mike Eilbacher and Sports Editor Daniel Weltz provide blog updates from the two-day ACC Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C.
Football associate Mike Eilbacher and Sports Editor Daniel Weltz provide blog updates from the two-day ACC Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. Seniors offensive tackle Morgan Moses and defensive end Jake Snyder will speak to reporters Sunday evening and coach Mike London will do so Monday.
Monday, 5:33 pm : The “leadership council”
Mike: Virginia has decided to eschew the traditional captain system this season, instead opting for a “leadership council” consisting of about 12 players from varied years and positions, who will serve together as leaders throughout the year. The council was voted on by the players and includes David Watford, Greyson Lambert, Jake Snyder, Morgan Moses, Luke Bowanko, Demetrious Nicholson and others.
“It’s very varied,” Snyder said. “It’s a lot of different groups there, and that was the main idea of it. Instead of just having two or three or four captains that were all from the same class, all older guys and kind of being up on a pedestal, it’s a group of guys that reach every extent of the team in ages, and the groups and the positions and everything.”
Snyder said that the student leaders will serve as liaisons between Mike London and the rest of the team, helping bring problems to his attention.
“The main idea is for every kid, no mater who you are on the team, you should have somebody that you can go to on that council and say, ‘Hey, this is something I’ve been having trouble with, this is something I want you to bring up at this meeting,’ and in that way, it’s an easy way to get in front of Coach London and say what has been going on.”
When the players voted on who should be on the council, one player was far and away the highest vote-getter: Watford.
London had nothing but glowing words for the redshirt sophomore quarterback. He told a story from spring practices about Watford:
“We had the Navy Seals come to be with our team,” London said. “They were assessing who we had on the team – the guys that were most vocal and who they saw leadership skills in – and after the first day they came in – we didn’t tell them the names of anybody – and they said, ‘This guy David Watford is one of your best leaders.’”
Monday, 5:03 pm : Taquan “Mist” Mizzell?
Daniel: Freshman running back and five-star recruit Taquan Mizzell is frequently referred to by his nickname, “Smoke.” But after 52-year-old coach Mike London beat the 18-year-old Mizzell in a game of basketball, the prodigy may have to go by another nickname.
“I invited the first year guys over to the house and we played a nice little game of basketball and I beat Smoke in one-on-one,” London said. “So his nickname is now mist: M-I-S-T.”
Monday, 4:30 pm: ACC vs SEC
Daniel: The Atlantic Coast Conference has been competitive with the Southeastern Conference in every aspect of college football, except the actual games. That was the message coach Mike London sent Monday, calling the ACC’s struggles on the field against the powerhouse conference the “elephant in the room.”
“Recruiting-wise we do well. Coaching-wise, I don’t think there’s any monopoly on great coaches [by the SEC],” London said. “But it has to be done on the field.”
The past seven BCS National Champions have been SEC teams, while no ACC squad has claimed the title since Miami in 2001. London touted the work done by ACC Commissioner John Swofford in the past few years to improve the conference’s national reputation, including adding new member schools Syracuse and Pittsburgh, and securing five games per year against powerhouse Notre Dame, who will join the ACC in all sports except football.
“I think the things that have been done to get us to the point where this is a great league,” London said. “It’s got new members in it that make it even stronger. People don’t want to hear about it, but we always talk about APR and graduation rates, it’s the best conference in college football.”
The challenge for ACC teams will be to turn their consistently strong recruiting classes into feared national competitors.
“Until that’s done with the non-conference schedule and with any opportunities to play an SEC school, until that’s done, they can own the bragging rights for that,” London said. “But our whole goal is to put ourselves in position to challenge that, as we have with recruiting.”
Here’s London in his own words:
Monday, 3:11 pm : Tom O’Brien’s role at UVa
Mike: Just two months after being dismissed as the head coach at N.C. State, Tom O’Brien found his way back to Charlottesville, joining Mike London’s staff in January. The long time assistant – O’Brien served as an assistant at Virginia from 1982 to 1996 – has the official title of Associate Head Coach for Offense / Tight End’s Coach, but his role in the coaching staff is somewhat nebulous.
He won’t be calling offensive plays – that role will fall on new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild – but London said that O’Brien’s years of head coaching experience will be a valuable addition.
“I’ve been around Tom for a while,” London said. “One of the great things about Tom is that he’s about process. He’s done it at Boston College and N.C. State … there’s a valued amount of experience that you always try to get from a man like coach O’Brien.”
O’Brien has already influenced London’s decisions, suggesting a new method of recruiting kickers and special teams players, and is making an impact on the players.
“He’s a great coach, a great man, a great leader, and he commands respect from Day 1,” Jake Snyder said yesterday. “He comes in, and guys want to work for him and want to play for him, and it’s an exciting time.”
London has said that O’Brien will serve as a valued advisor throughout the season but both have made it clear that O’Brien has no designs on the head coaching role.
One thing is for sure, though. No one will be bringing up Virginia’s 33-6 victory against N.C. State last year.
“We snicker about it off and on, but you really don’t want to say too much, because coach O’Brien loves those up-down [drills],” Morgan Moses said.
Here’s London discussing O’Brien in his own words:
Monday, 3:07 pm : Mike London speaks to the media
Mike: We’ll have more coverage later, but here are some short clips of the London interview, starting with him talking about recruiting.
Monday, 1:25 pm: ACC Preseason Poll Released; Virginia picked 6th
Sunday, 7:04 pm : A tale of two running backs
Mike: Both Kevin Parks and Taquan Mizzell figure to play a large role in the Virginia backfield this season, but their path to the Virginia squad has been markedly different.
Parks had a tremendous high school career in North Carolina, but he was only offered a scholarship by a few colleges around the country. He came to Virginia with a chip on his shoulder, but has impressed so far, leading the team in rushing in 2012.
“Talk about a guy with so much production in high school but no offers,” Moses said. “Talk about a guy who was a second-string running back that rushed more than the starting running back. Those are the guys you want on your team. Having him over there over there behind me is great. He’s a great player and a tremendous person.”
Mizzell, on the other hand, could not have come to Virginia with more fanfare. A five-star recruit, he was the top running back in the Class of 2013. Moses says he will have to leave behind his hype to be successful at Virginia.
“I’ve had talks to him about what he needs to take care of while he’s here,” Moses said. “One thing I told him is, ‘Yeah, you’re a big star recruit, but now you’re in college where everybody was a big star recruit, so you’ve got to leave the things that you did behind and write a new chapter now.’ He’s definitely working hard. He’s leading the freshman in workouts, just getting those guys together and making sure they’re on time. That’s the thing we need.”
Moses hopes that Parks and Mizzell can used their divergent experiences to grow as players.
“I think they both have great work ethics,” Moses said. “[Parks] is showing [Mizzell] the right way to do blocks, the right way to run routes, and just learning the playbook. I think it’s tremendous for both of them, because they can learn together.”
Sunday, 6:25 pm: Moses wants front-five to get “nasty”
Daniel: Much of the angst surrounding the Cavalier football team following an anemic spring game centered on the squad’s moribund performance on the ground. Virginia running backs combined for just 99 yards on 39 carries in the April 6 exhibition, for a paltry average of 2.5 yards per attempt.
The offensive line’s poor performance was a prime culprit, and offensive tackle Morgan Moses wants to see his teammates improve their mindset heading into the regular season.
“Just having that nasty mentality [is key],” Moses said. “It’s alright to be nice off the field but when you put that helmet on and you got that yard line between you and that defensive line, it’s time to turn it on.”
“You talk about the offensive line and defensive line being the frontrunners of your team…If you have a successful offensive line, you make the quarterbacks and the running backs jobs that much easier, and that just helps the flow of the team. So when you talk about a front-five being = good and in-synch, it makes the team a lot better.”
Moses also said his transition to left tackle has been relatively seamless. He played the position throughout high school and is naturally left-handed, making his new position “more natural for me.”
“At that left tackle position, you got to be able to do so many things because the quarterback is trusting you on that blindside. That’s one thing I can do for us this year.”
Sunday, 6:16 pm : Tenuta brings a new style to defense
Mike: New defensive coordinator John Tenuta has a reputation for his fiery presence, and he has already made an impact. Senior defensive end Jake Snyder gave a look into the feel of a Tenuta meeting in his interview.
“They’re intense, they’re colorful,” Snyder said. “Nobody’s late – and by late, I mean nobody’s five minutes early, they’re ten minutes early. He doesn’t mess around. He gets to the point and his main point is performance. If you’re doing the right thing, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and if you’re not doing the right thing, he’s going to let you know in a hurry.”
Tenuta’s style of defense is heavy on blitzes, and Snyder says he and his teammates find the intensity exciting.
“It’s so fun,” Snyder said. “We break our practice into different periods. Anytime third down comes up, that’s fun. Coach Tenuta calls it the “money down”. You’re forcing turnovers, you’re getting sacks, and you’re doing all the fun stuff you’re playing defense for. We definitely get fired up any time we get to bring pressure.”
Sunday, 5:56 pm: Moses expresses confidence in current QBs:
Daniel: The quarterback position will not be a point of concern for the Cavaliers in 2013, Morgan Moses predicted Sunday. Moses lauded the ability and maturity of both redshirt sophomore David Watford and redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert.
“Having David Watford and Greyson Lambert, two quarterbacks that have the talent and the potential to lead us…I think you could put either one of them in there and we can win with them,” Moses said.
Morgan gushed in particular about Watford’s character and development since being asked to redshirt the 2012 season after Virginia brought in Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Moses, who roomed with Watford, said Watford accepted coach Mike London’s decision and patiently worked to improve his skillset rather than sulking.
“It was definitely a tough decision for him,” Moses said.
“Obviously, being a competitor, you don’t want to sit out if you have the opportunity of playing. But for a guy like him to say, ‘Yes coach, I’ll sit out and do this,’ speaks a lot about his character.”
“When you have someone like that, that’s willing to say, ‘Alright coach, I’ll wait until it’s my turn,’ whenever he gets on the field, I’m just looking for him to flourish.”
Sunday, 5:33 pm: Moses discusses last season’s QB controversy
Daniel: As I begin to transcribe the 45 minute Morgan Moses interview, I came across this gem. Moses explains what has changed from last year to this year:
“I think that’s one thing that we lost last year. We didn’t have everybody on one page,” Moses said. “We had some people doing this and not doing that and I think having Kevin Parks at running back, the two quarterbacks, they’re doing great, just having those guys and everybody being on the same page has just made it a lot easier for everyone.”
Moses later elaborated, referring specifically to the teams year-long quarterback carousel.
“It’s definitely tough when you’re rotating quarterbacks, especially on the offensive line. It’s different timing for each quarterback.”
offensive tackle later said that despite injecting uncertainty, the competition under center was good for the team’s quarterback play overall. “Just having that competition and those guys grinding against each other but still being teammates, it only makes the team better.”
Sunday, 4:10 pm: Offensive tackle Morgan Moses finished his hour long media session. The first few minutes of the candid interview are below, in which he addresses the adjustments he has made to a new position.
Sunday, 1:30 pm : ACC Commissioner John Swofford addresses the media
ACC Commissioner John Swofford welcomes Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame at #ACCKickoff.— Cav Daily Sports (
CavDailySports) <a href="https://twitter.com/CavDailySports/statuses/358989268712030210">July 21, 2013</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Swofford: Conference considered adding ninth ACC game each year before Notre Dame agreed to play five ACC football match-ups per season.</p>— Cav Daily Sports (CavDailySports) July 21, 2013
Sunday, 11:54 am