The Virginia football team has reached the halfway point of its crash course in new coaches and schemes this spring.
After an off-season shake-up on the coaching staff, the Cavaliers entered this spring with new coordinators on offense, defense, and special teams. Friday morning marked the seventh of 15 spring practices under the new staff.
"You get out here and obviously you can't expect how it's going to be until you actually do it," said rising senior offensive lineman Luke Bowanko. "And seven practices in, we're kind of in a groove now. And we know what to expect. It's been a breath of fresh air, and I think guys are responding well to it."
"We talked to the coaches about what they've been looking for, and they've seen improvement," said head coach Mike London. "You put the system in, and the calls and all the things that are expected, and early on you'll have some setbacks."
"But I think the guys are anxious to learn," London added. "And what you see, there's a dedication to getting the systems down right, starting to play faster, and that leads to better performance on the field."
London took over the Virginia program after the 2009 season, and the staff he brought in remained unchanged until after last year's 4-8 performance.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who took a job with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, was replaced by former Colorado State head coach Steve Fairchild. Virginia alum Jon Tenuta took over as defensive coordinator, following Jim Reid's firing after last season. And Larry Lewis took over special teams duties from Anthony Poindexter, who remains the safeties coach.
Former NC State head coach Tom O'Brien was also added to London's staff as associate head coach.
"Coming into last spring, and the spring before that, you already had an idea of everything that was going on, because you just had the season with those coaches," said rising junior linebacker Henry Coley. "But now we have to treat this like a normal class. Come in, take notes, and then go out on the field and execute the game plan."
"It's kind of like you're starting all over again," said rising junior receiver Darius Jennings. "We're all freshmen. We're starting on the same level. So you've got to come out here, you've got to study your plays. And when you do get on the field, you've got to compete and perform."
Virginia still has eight practices remaining on the schedule this spring, including Saturday's open practice at Scott Stadium that's expected to include some scrimmaging. The following Saturday is the program's annual spring game.
According to London, the spring will be a success if his staff's new schemes and terminology are second nature to his players.
"I think the biggest thing is whatever the defense, or the offense, or the special teams that are in, that this time next week, those plays, those concepts, we're playing fast," he explained. "You're getting into gaps, where you're supposed to get. The quarterbacks are making the right reads. The linemen are making those blocks. And they're doing it fast."