In Wednesday's media conference, Virginia football head coach Mike London spent some time discussing a few key players who have established themselves of late, including cornerback Chase Minnifield, linebacker Darnell Carter and quarterback Marc Verica.
The current ACC Co-Defense Back of the Week, Chase Minnifield is currently tied for first in the country for interceptions, averaging 0.75 per game. He added two to his totals this past weekend against the 22nd-ranked Hurricanes.
"Chase has had the benefit of having a father that's played in the NFL, Frank Minnifield," London said. Due to "a great deal of technique coaching" and film studies, Minnifield is "a guy who's really stepped up in terms of his preparation. he's one of the first guys out at practice – before practice – running, warming up, on a bicycle, whatever it is just to get his legs going.
"His game has really stepped forward, and has allowed him to be very productive in games, know when to take chances, know sometimes they're going to throw the ball deep and sometimes they may get it and sometimes they may not."
"But the nature of the position of the defensive back is, you're on an island most of the time by yourself, it's one on one, you gotta perform, but [Chase] doesn't shy away from any opportunity to perform."
Senior Darnell Carter had taken last year off from the team. Originally planning on transferring, he instead focused on his academics and, with the return of London, who had been defensive coordinator at Virginia in 2006 when Carter arrived and 2007 during his redshirt freshman year, Carter decided to return to the game at UVA.
"I know Darnell now to be a guy for whatever reason – the academic reason that he left – and had a chance to come back, that academically he straightened himself out and became more mature he studied the game," London said. "The game means more to him that it meant back then."
Recently switching from outside to middle linebacker, London is also impressed with his versatility.
"He can play all three positions, the linebacker positions. He can call out formation sand make the checks, and I just think that sometimes in college you get to the point where the light goes on and the light went on for him when he came back. ... When we asked ourselves who were the best linebackers, around the room -- offensive coaches, defensive coaches -- his name was mentioned as being one of the top three by everyone. He's making the most of this opportunity now on the field and in the classroom, and I'm very proud of him and happy for him."
London understands that it just doesn't click for everyone at the same time.
"When you're raising kids, sometimes things come a little easier, sometimes harder, sometimes through guided discovery, sometimes through hands on approach about making sure they go this way, that way, and do everything you tell them. The biggest thing is allowing yourself to grow and mature a little bit. The trick is, 'Does the player fit the school and environment that he's in?' Because it may not be the maturity part of it, it may just be, 'You know what? This guy doesn't fit here.' Different places fit different personalities and players, so sometimes it takes just a little longer for that person to develop."
Finally, for the first time since the first and perhaps second game this season, senior quarterback Marc Verica looked like he was on his game from the beginning this past weekend against Miami, jumping out to a 14-0 lead at the half. Coach London discussed what it takes for his quarterback to bring his A-game.
"When you're in an offense that you rely on receivers to run routes and there's a certain amount of time, a certain window of opportunity that you have to make throws, that becomes very critical. And sometimes when you've had negative opportunities of things that goes against you, the routes will still be there, the holes, the window will still be there it's just the mindset of, 'I gotta throw the ball in there, I have to trust the receiver's gonna run the route.'"
"I think when Marc has games that are not productive, it's a little bit of not throwing the ball in the window of where the receivers are going to be, because they both have to trust each other. And when he's on, you'll notice the ball will be out of his hands before the receivers break, and that's what's supposed to happen – that's what quarterbacks do. You throw the ball not when they're standing there wide open, you throw it when they're making their break about to be open."
"I think when Marc is on, he's on because he knows all these elements, and when he has issues sometimes, in one of those elements, he's not on top of his game. This past one was a pretty good one for him. When you watch Marc throw, you know if he's on if the ball is released and out of his hands before the receiver makes his break, and when he can do that, we'll be pretty good."
The Cavaliers look to bring this momentum to Durham next week, as they hope to rattle of three straight wins to ensure themselves of a bowl game.