- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009

CHARLOTTESVILLE | As one of Virginia’s almost entirely new set of linebackers, Aaron Clark knows people will be eager to see how the critical middle of coach Al Groh’s 3-4 defense performs in the season opener against William & Mary.

Clark is just as curious to see how the Cavaliers’ new spread offense fares Saturday night.

“We’re all excited to see what they can do,” the fifth-year senior outside linebacker said. “We feel like they have a lot of weapons that they can [use to] exploit defenses.”

Groh has not said whether Vic Hall, Jameel Sewell or Marc Verica will start at quarterback in new coordinator Gregg Brandon’s no-huddle attack. The answers to that question, and many others, will become clearer in the opener.

Not just for fans, but also for the players who have spent more than a month lining up against each other and are eager to finally see different jerseys across the line, Clark said.

“I don’t think you really know what kind of team you have until you get out there and get tested,” Clark said. “We like what we have, and we’re excited about it.”

Joining Clark at outside linebacker for Virginia is Denzel Burrell, who started 11 games last season after Clark got hurt in the opener against Southern Cal, and inside linebackers Darren Childs (two starts) and redshirt freshman Steve Greer, who has never played.

And when they are on the sidelines with the rest of the defense, they might be more interested than usual in what the offense is doing on the field - along with who’s doing it.

The likelihood is that Hall, who played cornerback for the last three seasons before shifting behind center for the Virginia Tech game last season, will be incorporated into the offense, perhaps at more than one position. He was among the nation’s most prolific passers in high school but ran almost exclusively - and very effectively - against the Hokies.

“He’s a heck of a football player,” William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said of Hall, who ran for 109 yards and two scores as the surprise starter in the 2008 finale in Blacksburg.

“If we weren’t playing against him, I would probably enjoy watching him.”

Sewell, a two-year starter, is the most two-dimensional of the three quarterbacks, but he missed last season for academic reasons. Verica started nine of the last 10 games, completing 64 percent of his throws but with 16 interceptions and just eight touchdowns.

William & Mary, of the powerful Colonial Athletic Association in the Football Championship Subdivision, hasn’t beaten a Division I-A team since it edged Temple in 1998, but it has had many close calls. The Tribe are coming off a 7-4 season and are always explosive on offense.

They averaged nearly 33 points last season.

William & Mary and the Cavaliers haven’t met since 1995, so the uncertainty about who will direct Virginia’s offense, and the offense itself, are less of a concern for Laycock than they would be if he actually had film to review of the offense in actual games.

Instead, his team will work off educated guesses and a basic game plan, he said.

“You kind of go in with it wide-open and you’ve got to be ready to improvise and adjust during the game,” Laycock said. “You don’t go in with any set thing dictated by anything personnelwise, because anything can happen in the first ballgame.”

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