This past Monday, I had a chance to talk with long time head coach Bob Oliver from Chancellor High School, the program that has previously sent former highly touted recruits such as four-star running back Dominique Wallace to Virginia, and is now the home of current UVA commit Steven Moss, the four-star offensive guard ranked No. 11 in his position by Rivals. With all of the talk of the offensive line struggles this season, it felt right to hear about Virginia's incoming freshman.
Streaking The Lawn: At this point in season how excited are you with the teams development?
Oliver: Right now we're 1-4 and a lot of that is due to us playing up in competition. We have played a few schools who are a classification above us, and they all have winning records. Conference play starts this week, and our next six games are in conference. So far this season Steven has played both tackle and guard and he is one of only two seniors playing on the offensive line. The rest are freshmen and sophomores, so there has been a learning curve.
STL: In regards to Steven, how has his performance been?
Oliver: He's been a steady performer. He has had the year we thought he'd have as far as the offensive lineman goes. This year he is playing both ways as a starter on the offensive line and defensive line, which is his first year playing both ways. He's doing a great job, but we expected him to have this type of year. He's playing between OT and OG and he's doing his job, being a D1 guy he should be able to do what we ask of him and move around.
STL: Chancellor has the reputation around the state for producing powerful lineman; how does Steven perform in the weight room?
Oliver: Steven has worked really hard in the offseason, he spent a lot of time working on his conditioning. Steven won the Super Iron Charger Award, where he gets his picture taken and put up on the wall. He is much stronger from his junior year. He looks the part now. Footwork and technique need some work, but grades and strength are not a problem. He spends the time hitting the books and the weights.
STL: Since Steven is one of the few seniors, how has he stepped up in term of leadership?
Oliver: He is a captain on the football team. He has taken the other guys on the offensive line under his wing and really tried to bring them a long.
STL: With his commitement to a Division I program, how has he handled having a target on his back?
Oliver: We've used that deal with him as a sophomore and junior for who he's playing against. With him being in the paper and committed to the big school he comes into games with a target on his back. He is a level headed kid who handles pressure well.
STL: Many of the fans are asking for help along UVA's offensive line, is Steven someone we can expect to contribute early?
Oliver: It depends on what they ask him to do. We run pistol option, which isn't exactly what UVA runs. I know the UVA offensive line coach has been recruiting him for a while. Physically he's good, but its always a transition between the ears. You go from being 17-18 years old and the big dog in high school to playing against men, you have to be able to handle it between the ears. He is a smart kid, who has the size and tools, he is going to do well.
STL: With Steven's recruitment I'm sure you have had dealings with the UVA staff, How was your experience and Steven's?
Oliver: He's gone to all the ball games. I went to Oregon and Steven was there. I talked to all the coaches. Everyone is busy right now with their season. I think the reason Steven chose them was because of the coaching staff and how they've made him feel at home. That played a major role in him deciding to not attend a college that was far away. The staff has been great, and I think that's why he is committed.
STL: Different publications have him listed as both an OT/OG; he plays both for you. Where do you feel his best fit is at the next level?
Oliver: To me he's a guard. I don't coach ACC though; those tackles in the ACC are all big guys. Steven is a big guy but he isn't that big. I think he's a good size guard and his footwork and power will fit well there.
STL: How has his recruitment elevated the program?
Oliver: He's a level headed, down to earth kid. After all of the accolades and recruiting he's still the same Steven. I taught him in chemistry and no matter what has happened he has pounded the books and stayed the same. For the program it has been great for the other kids to see the college coaches coming in. They see it as an opportunity and think maybe if I perform well I have the opportunity to stand out on film. It has motivated his teammates to work for the same thing.
It was a pleasure to spend some time talking football with a legend in the area in which I grew up. Coach Oliver has been coaching at Chancellor since 1998 when the school was first built. He brings a ton of experience to the field, and his teams are always well prepared. His thoughts on Moss were a welcome surprise. It is great to see UVA get a kid who can not only contribute on the field but off of it as well. Moss should not have any problems with having the strength to be a guard at the next level, nor learning the playbook to fit within a different system. He is going to need some fine tuning on his technique and footwork, but those are both things that can be hidden to some extent on the interior offensive line. I believe Moss will be ready to contribute by his second year on grounds. The interior of Virginia's offensive line hasn't played well to this point, but Moss could make life much better over the next four years.