Ahead of the Virginia Cavaliers’ second home game of the season, Tony Elliott addressed the media yesterday about where his team is at after a bad loss on the road to the Illinois Fighting Illini this past Saturday.
Mike Green no longer with the team
While only notable by way of Green’s absence from the team over the last few weeks, the fact that Elliott explicitly said that Mike Green is “no longer active with the team anymore,” is something. The rising sophomore BANDIT had moved from outside linebacker to the hybrid edge role and was primed for a potential breakout year this season.
The details of why Green is no longer on the team is unknown. There have been rumors circulating regarding his dismissal from the team, but nothing concrete has come out yet.
This is a new year offensively
One thing which Elliott emphasized on Tuesday was how his offense needs to shift its mindset from the success of last year to the blank slate of this 2022 season. Specifically, he pointed out that he told his team “I said, ‘look, fellas, what I’ve done in my past doesn’t matter because all we’ve got is today. What y’all did offensively last year doesn’t matter. I said, look at the defense. What the defense did last year, they’re not thinking about it. They’re not focusing about it. They’re not paying attention to what’s in the rear-view mirror.’”
The Head Wahoo emphasized that “I think that’s the biggest challenge for us offensively is for these guys to say, ‘hey, it’s a new system.’ We’re not doing what you did last year. We’re building a foundation offensively here. If you will buy into the system and play within the system and trust the fundamentals and the technique that we’re trying to teach you, then it will lead to success. When you play outside of the framework of the team and the scheme, then you’re going to have situations where you get exposed.”
It’s quite interesting to hear Elliott make these comments particularly considering the success the team had with last year’s system and schemes. Granted, the offense is in a far different place particularly with the offensive line. But, hopefully, Elliott and Offensive Coordinator Des Kitchings’ offensive system will legitimately yield the type of success they expect it to and can appropriately cater to this roster and its strengths and weaknesses.
This team needs leaders in the face of adversity
An element of Saturday’s performance which Elliott particularly didn’t like was the lack of leadership from his players when the team got punched in the face. He said on Tuesday that “it’s going to take one of their teammates going in there and saying, ‘fellas, hey, we’re going to get out of this thing. I’m going to put my back; y’all just follow me.’”
Elliott pointed out that “unfortunately, [Keytaon Thompson] was the only one that was trying to do that [on offense]. I kept trying to urge Brennan [Armstrong], man, Brennan, go in there and talk to your guys. Go in there and talk to your guys. Go in there and talk to them. And he would try, but then he wouldn’t have success on the field, so now he’s struggling.”
On the bright side for the ‘Hoos, the former Clemson Offensive Coordinator said that “defensively, [we] didn’t have that problem. Even defensively they were coming off the field encouraging the offense saying, man, we’ve got you. We’ve got you. So I just need that type of demeanor to spread to everybody.”
It’s an interesting place for this offense to be, especially considering the successes from the 2021 season. This group isn’t particularly accustomed to struggling and needing to pull themselves out of a funk. Hopefully for Virginia, the offense can get out of last year’s headspace and adapt to the new reality and have potential leaders like Armstrong, Thompson, and Wicks step up.
‘Hoos dealing with a few minor injuries
As UVA heads into this week’s contest with ODU, there are still a few lingering injuries. First off, nickel corner Darrius Bratton didn’t play against Illinois after starting versus Richmond. According to Elliott “he’s dealing with a bone bruise and a high ankle sprain. He didn’t do much last week practice-wise. He’s out there this week moving around.”
Apparently this injury was a problem back in the season opener as Elliott noted that “he played in the first game, and man, love him because he gave us everything he had, but he’s just not healthy. But what I told him and what I told Kelly [Pugh], our head trainer, I said, look, it’s not fair to put him out on the field if he’s not healthy because he can’t protect himself. There were some times in that first game that he was compensating and he almost got himself hurt. I’m hoping in the next couple weeks we’ll see him back.”
In regards to punter Daniel Sparks — who played well against Illinois (46.2 yards per punt) before suffering an injury which put kicker Brendan Farrell (30 yards per punt) in a tough spot — Elliott said that “he’s doing good, so we’re hopeful that we’ll get him this week.”
Elliott pushing for more fan support at home games
Elliott was asked a few questions regarding attendance at Scott Stadium and what type of atmosphere he is trying to create at home. “I think we’re building a program,” he said, “and I know there’s a lot of people that are waiting to see what we’re all about, but also, too, I know that we’re all — everybody is important. Everybody’s role is critical. These young men, they love energy. They love excitement. They’re modern-day gladiators, so to speak, and they love the roar of the crowd.”
He continued, commenting that “I liked the fact that the students showed up. Need them to stay the whole time. I would like those folks that love Virginia football to not come when things are going good, but man, show these young men that you support them regardless because that’s what being a fan is. Man, you’re there with us, thick and thin, good and bad.”
Elliott pointed to how “that’s why we’re going to sing the “Good Old Song,” and that’s why we’re going to do the things within the program to represent you the best that we can, because we have respect for that. We’ve got to earn those seats. But also, too, there’s also some responsibility on that side, too, man, to show up and create an atmosphere for these guys so that they can play well for you.”
His appeal to UVA fans is a valid one. Granted, losing by 21 on the road to a pretty meh BIG10 team isn’t gonna help, but he’s right that fans have a part to play in the success of the team at home.