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Al Groh: 'Every coach has got different standards'

First-year Georgia Tech Defensive Coordinator Al Groh -- who served the previous nine seasons as head coach at Virginia -- said in a telephone interview Thursday that losing quarterbacks Peter Lalich and Jameel Sewell at the beginning of the 2008 season "probably changed the landscape" regarding his job status at his alma mater.

Groh was fired at the conclusion of the 2009 season after the Cavaliers went a combined 8-16 the previous two campaigns.

Lalich was dismissed from the team three weeks into the 2008 season after admitting to violating the terms of his probation that had resulted from an alcohol-related arrest the previous summer. Sewell was suspended for the 2008 season due to academic reasons. With Lalich and Sewell out of commission, Marc Verica -- then a redshirt sophomore -- was inserted into the starting lineup. The Cavaliers finished 5-7 in 2008 and 3-9 in 2009.

When asked Thursday whether he felt he still would be the coach at Virginia had Lalich not been kicked off the team for his transgressions, Groh answered thusly:

"During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, there was a lot of things that our team did well on the field," Groh said. "But one of them wasn’t to have consistently good quarterback play. As we see on every level with every team – you know, I think if you took Tom Brady off the Patriots or Drew Brees off the Saints or whoever you might want, those (teams’) records would be dramatically different, and I think the coaches of some of those teams that, say, for example, in the NFL, that aren’t showing a lot of wins are probably doing a pretty good job, but they don’t have a quarterback who can make the difference.

"That really was the circumstance, and we lost two quarterbacks through university decisions before the 2008 season, which, yeah, really probably changed the landscape."

Regarding this season's Virginia squad and the number of his former players who did not see significant playing time under his watch that now hold prominent roles with the Cavaliers -- players such as Keith Payne, Raynard Horne, Aaron Taliaferro and Trey Womack -- Groh said he has only paid attention to Virginia's offensive players since they are who his Yellow Jackets defense will face Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

"Every coach has got different standards," Groh said. "Every coach is looking for different things."

Throughout the interview, Groh did not refer to a single Virginia player -- current or former -- by name.

Family and close friends of several of Virginia's fifth-year seniors -- who first came to the school in 2006 -- have said Groh told that class that, with few exceptions, he did not trust their abilities on the field. That was his explanation, sources said, for why many members of that class did not receive larger roles or see more playing time.

"Look, every coach is the same," Groh said. "What coaches don’t do is come in here and stay late at night and look at all the video and say, ‘Okay now, who are the guys that we can put in the game that aren’t going to do very well?’ What we always did was we graded every player on every play every day, so we let the players’ performance speak for itself.

"That’s the same way it is here, and that’s the same way it’s been in all the organizations that I was a part of. Coaches are very selfish people. They’re always going to play the guys that give them the best chance to win."

By Steve Yanda  | October 7, 2010; 5:58 PM ET
 
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