- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2001

CHARLOTTESVILLE Al Groh moved swiftly around Scott Stadium yesterday wearing a loud orange logo polo shirt, a blue Virginia cap, khaki pants and tennis shoes as he met the media and glad-handed fans.
The sprightly and trim 57-year old was in good spirits during his first Media Day at his old school. Groh's first Virginia team opens practice this morning in preparation for its season opener at Wisconsin three weeks from today.
Groh caused quite a buzz in this small town and in New York when he stepped down as the New York Jets' coach after last season to take the job at his alma mater. He intends to return the Cavaliers to past glories, many of them accomplished under predecessor George Welsh. However, Welsh's retirement came with the program in decline.
"We're talking about building a team here that, when the season's over, doesn't lose any games." said Groh, a Bill Parcells protege who led the Jets to a 9-7 record last year in his only season. "I had a pretty good job. If I didn't think this could be pretty exciting and very fulfilling, I wouldn't be here right now."
The Cavaliers have a shiny new look to go with their energized coach. They have new uniforms with names on the back and numbers on the shoulders, as well as sharp-looking striped helmets.
Based on spring practices and offseason conditioning, star running back Antwoine Womack said Groh runs the program like "a baby NFL." Overall, the team sees the new coaching staff, new uniforms and new attitude as a fresh start after the disappointment of last season, which ended with a 6-6 record the program's first non-winning year since 1986.
"It's like getting a new car," said Josh Lawson, a senior guard from Gar-Field High School. "Everything is new. The atmosphere is new. Everybody is excited about it. There's a lot of energy. We don't fully know what to expect."
The refurbished Wahoomobile will face tough road conditions coming out of the garage. The Cavaliers play Wisconsin, Penn State and Clemson during their first four games, Richmond being the only breather during the stretch.
Virginia comes in with several questions, most notably at quarterback, where sophomores Bryson Spinner and Matt Schaub are battling. The Cavaliers return a solid backfield with Womack, the ACC's leading rusher last season with 1,028 yards, and a bulked-up Tyree Foreman moving full time to fullback.
"I see myself as just a tailback, a blocking tailback," said Foreman, a Sherwood High graduate who added 10 pounds to his frame in the offseason and is up to 232. "I have to change my mentality a little bit."
The Cavaliers return an experienced offensive line with seniors in 6-foot-5, 292-pound Lawson, 6-5, 306-pound guard Evan Routzahn and 6-6, 324-pound Jermese Jones. The biggest question on offense is who will be starting the plays.
"You won't find out who your quarterback is until we get in competition," said Groh, who doesn't give the edge to Spinner or Schaub at this point. "There really won't be any competition that counts until August 25th [against Wisconsin]. It may take us until then and into the season perhaps to find out."
The defense is suspect after losing a strong linebacking corps, including Byron Thweatt, and both starting cornerbacks. Tackle Monsanto Pope (6-4, 286 pounds) and defensive end Darryl Sanders (6-3, 268) anchor a formidable line, but there are loads of questions behind them.
The Cavaliers' season is hard to predict going in; they have been picked anywhere from fourth to seventh in the nine-team ACC. Virginia faces three difficult non-league foes in Wisconsin, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
Fans can only hope the Groh era produces wins like those under Welsh, whose teams enjoyed three nine-win seasons in the mid-'90s, a 10-victory campaign in 1989 and a 134-86 mark in 19 years.
"I'd say we are in the driver's seat right now," Womack said. "We are going forward. No good comes out of looking back on [last season]."

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