After a week away, the Q&A is back. The Duke bloggers I tried to contact last week never responded. But Brendan of From Old Virginia was quick to get back to me for a Q&A this week leading up to the showdown with the 'Hoos.
Click here for my answers to his questions.
Q: Give us a quick assessment of Marc Verica. He seems like a decent manager of the game but not a guy who will win games for you. What kind of quarterback is he?
When Verica's on, he's actually tremendously accurate. Like, Matt Schaub accurate. During our winning streak this season, he couldn't miss, and he's very composed in the pocket. But, sophomore. He's prone to the throw that makes the fans wonder what the hell he was thinking. His interceptions come in bunches - ask Duke and Clemson about those. This year he is indeed being asked to be a game manager and make sure Cedric Peerman gets the ball (or he would if Mike Groh were smart) but he's got the arm and the smarts to be a very, very good quarterback as soon as his decision-making improves.
Q: Your rush defense against conference opponents is actually better by rank this year compared to last. How can you explain this after all the talent you lost on defense last year?
Chris Long's and Jeffrey Fitzgerald's main talents were in the pass rush, particularly Fitzgerald - Long was a pretty good run stopper. But we have high hopes for Matt Conrath, who's stepped into Long's spot nicely. The main thing, though, is having three senior linebackers - Copper, Appleby, and of course, Clint Sintim. They've got the scheme down cold. It doesn't take a lot of talent to be a run-stuffing lineman in the 3-4 - just strength enough to occupy the offensive line while the linebackers make the plays.
Q: The 'Hoos run a 3-4, which on paper isn't condusive to stopping a run-first team like the Hokies. What players on defense need to have good games for you to continue to have success against the run?
A: To stop the run from the 3-4, the linemen occupy the linemen, hopefully drawing at least one double-team, and the linebackers make the plays. See above. The middle linebackers especially (Appleby and Copper) have to diagnose the play correctly and move up, shed whatever block, and make the tackle. On runs to the outside, the focus shifts to the OLB's, one of whom is often in a three point stance as another DE. Usually that's Sintim, in which case it's your blockers that need to be on their game, otherwise Sintim (who consistently destroys single-teams) will shut that side down.
Q: Who's a worse offensive coordinator: Mike Groh or Bryan Stinespring?
A: Let's just say that something other than family connections keeps Stinespring in a job - maybe it's hidden competence. Mikey would have been fired already if he didn't share DNA with the head coach.
Q: What are the odds Al Groh is back as head coach next year for UVa?
A: Excellent. Littlepage has already given the vote of confidence, and I believe he means it, not least because Groh has a pretty sizable buyout.
Q: Do you consider the Hokies to be UVa's primary rival? Why or why not?
Absolutely. We play you at the end of the year. You're in-state. That's as big as it gets. The only other rivalries are UNC, which not all 'Hoos agree to hate and is a relatively gentlemanly sort of rivalry. See, it's like this:
UVA fan: Cheerio, old bean, and how is Chapel Hill in the summer?
UNC fan: Oh, splendid, and say, I do hope our boys beat you next fall.
There's also Maryland, who we do all agree to hate, but they're a more recent thing, and we have pretty specific reasons to hate them. (Fans, and their president's idiotic comments from a few years ago.) This goes more like:
Md. fan: #$%(@!!!!!
UVA fan: Hey, I got my kids here, calm down.
Md. fan: &$@*%# you @*$($*@)!!!!
UVA fan: They're seven years old, give it a rest!
Md. fan: (throws beer, takes a swing)
So they started it. But we hate VPISU just because. I don't know what the gameday interaction between 'Hoos and Hokies is like, because we mainly just glared at each other with looks of infinite hatred and the Hokies were too busy jingling keys anyway.