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Lazor's presence beneficial to Verica's development thus far

Early in the second quarter Saturday night against Richmond, Virginia faced a third and one at the Spiders 33-yard line. In recent years, the ensuing play call likely would have been a handoff to the left or right. But when fifth-year quarterback Marc Verica took the snap, he followed very specific instructions drilled into his head by offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and executed a quarterback sneak.

“When we installed the quarterback sneak, I had never seen it installed with such detail,” Verica said. “It was always kind of, you know, it's a quarterback sneak. What else is there to it? You take the snap and you just lunge forward and get the yard or whatever. He actually quizzed us on this, too. What is the proper technique for the quarterback sneak? Securing the ball first and then taking a lateral step, taking it to the tighter of the techniques of the defensive tackles, and then shoulders low, eyes up and driving your legs.

“It's very, very detail-oriented stuff. But I was happy with the way we executed it. It's probably the best quarterback sneak I've ever done.”

That last line drew laughter from Verica’s audience of reporters. But Verica’s larger point was that Lazor’s approach – precise preparation – has proven to be a good match for him. And that would seem to bode well for Virginia’s offensive prospects the rest of this season.

Verica and Lazor “talk a lot before the game about what calls can be expected in any situations, on third downs, in the red zone, coming out, maybe if we're backed up on our own one yard line or something like that, two-minute, before the half, at the end of the game -- there's a list,” Verica said Tuesday. “It's a contingency list. You're prepared to run certain things off of any given situation, so you're really not surprised by anything. And then we'll talk on the sideline as well. He likes to just mention things to you and to let you know ahead of time so you can think about it and prep yourself, whether that's in the game or preparing on a day like today.”

Early Tuesday morning, Verica picked up the scouting report on Virginia’s next opponent – No. 16 Southern California – as well as a list of plays the team planned to install during that afternoon’s practice. He familiarized himself with the material throughout the day, which helped prepare him for pre-practice team meetings.

Lazor has helped Verica formulate a plan for each day of the week that details how to manage the quarterback’s time. Verica, who already has earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, is taking 12 credits worth of graduate courses this semester. His takes once-a-week classes that each are three hours long.

He’s also got to prepare to meet Lazor’s exacting standards in practice each day and to guide Virginia’s offense on Saturdays. The Cavaliers possessed one of the least productive offenses in the country last season. Lazor, Verica and the rest of the unit are hoping that the work they put in before kick-off will ensure they don’t assumes such an ignominious distinction again this year.

“No matter what you face during the game on any given play, because you're so meticulous in your preparation, you're prepared for anything,” Verica said. “There's certain rules and standards that you adhere to. During the course of a game, you know exactly what to do on any given play. There's an answer for every little thing. ... It's just a very structured and detailed approach in your preparation and your execution. When you're out there in the game, it's almost like practice because you just operate like a machine.”

Verica said he takes “little mental notes” during games and then discusses them with Lazor once he returns to the sideline in between offensive series. Those notes range from opposing defensive formations to pass coverages to game plan alterations. For Verica, who threw for a career-high 283 yards in Saturday’s win over Richmond, having Lazor present on the sideline – as opposed to up in the coaches’ box – during games is a significant aid.

“It just allows for a nice give and take during the flow of the game,” Verica said. “When the [offensive coordinator] or the quarterbacks coach is up in the box, you can always come to the sideline and get on the phone with him and talk to him just a little bit there. But because he's on the sideline, it's just easier.

“We can always be around each other, and if we ever need to mention something to each other, whether it's me saying something to him about a particular look or him seeing something, it's just beneficial for mid-game adjustments to be on the same sideline at the same time. I liked it. I think it helped a lot.”

By Steve Yanda  |  September 9, 2010; 7:51 AM ET
 
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