True Freshmen and Emerging Contributors
Virginia has already played 12 true freshmen this season, a point of contention among fans who’d rather see a freshman redshirt. Coach Al Groh likes to prepare players who will take on larger roles the following season, but some of the freshmen reserves who have played are not simply being prepared for next season – they might need to play next week, Groh said, if injuries occur.
The redshirting issue is one that has been debated throughout Groh’s tenure in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers' roster would be better this season if it included tackle Eugene Monroe and defensive end Alex Field – true freshmen in 2005 who played small roles on the team that season but bigger roles later in their careers.
When asked in August about freshmen reaching the field this season, Groh anticipated a large number. Look at what he said then:
"There are certain positions that we can clearly see that the addition of some of these rookie players will be very beneficial to the team at some point," Groh said. "So while they may not be high enough on the depth chart for someone from the outside to say they're going to be factors, we can see if we can bring this player along by October, that might be the first time he sees action, but all the sudden at that time he might make the position better."
This is also the case for players who have played only small roles in the past, but have taken on larger roles in this season. I followed up on this quote at Monday’s press conference with Groh, asking whether he has seen players just begin to emerge now at midseason – and who are those players. Here is Groh’s entire response:
“We spoke last evening, there was a question about Zane Parr, he certainly is one of those players. He was a few plays -- actually last year on the nickel and dime was a player that because of his athletic skills we could see where he would fit but the role didn't really take.
“His playing time decreased there. He wasn't getting much time on the regular defense, then he hurt his knee and was lost for the season. Spring practice was okay, but found his footing and got some traction with his game and has come on very strong, doing a real nice job. He's one of the players that here repeatedly on Thursdays -- the Thursday video should highlight the teams preparation and the players' preparation, in other words, everything that's been covered during the course of the week happens on Thursday. There have been a number of Thursdays, man, where we said, ‘Wow, this guy has had one of the better practices of the week.’
“So he is one of the those players who it was discussed earlier about practices and the like, he's one of those that has learned how to practice like a college player. He's prepared for the games and improving his game and as you all can see by watching him play it's showing up in terms of production. He would be a player to come to mind.
“I would say that we talked about Chase, somebody asked about Chase Minnifield, but he's one of those players that we can see that happening with. Landon Bradley on the offensive line is one of those players who's game continues to progress. He went against [Robert] Quinn down at North Carolina, who is a terrific player and it won't get much more challenging than that for him over the course of the rest of the season and the next few years, but that was a big challenge to be exposed to and then he came back with these two guys this week who had real credentials, those two kids from Indiana that wasn't the coach talking about, we're playing against the greatest guys in the history of the universe, these guys had credentials, they had been nominated for national awards and they flipped him, so he and Will [Barker] got each of them during the course of the day, he handled that nicely. He's another player similar to what we talked about with Cam Johnson, he's another player amongst his skills are his ability to take instruction and put it to use and that's a significant skill in a kid becoming a good player.
“Those are the things that no rating service can tell you. For that matter, lots of coaches in the evaluation, it's difficult to come across that. In fact, unless you really know the people that you're asking the questions of, it's really hard to get that. You certainly can't get that by watching a video. If you get somebody's combine times, that can't tell you how well the player can pick things up. We've had a couple of players here over the course of time that have been amongst our best -- have had amongst the best grade point averages on the team. They couldn't play because they just couldn't get the football, make those split-second, on-their-feet decisions. But they're on the academic honor roll. It's a different type of decision-making. And when Landon is one of those players at the early stages of his physical development and not ready to go into the game it was apparent that he was going to be able to play the game. That's another thing that attracted us to Cam even when he was much smaller than he is now, he had good athletic ability for the position and he was really -- he was a sponge for information, and Dave [Borberly] was working with him in the camp just as he is here.
“He was very impressed with how quickly he could learn things and that's such an important thing at that position. Those are a few of the guys that I'm sure I've left out a few, they're the only guys that are improving on the team, we probably would not have gotten to where we are but those are guys that are significant.”
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