The bailout plan for University of Virginia football, coordinator Gregg Brandon's spread offense, had its first public rollout Saturday.
Suffice to say the performance wasn't nearly enough to make investors bullish on the Cavaliers.
And that's fine with ninth-year head coach Al Groh, whose job hangs in the balance. He knows an intrasquad skirmish witnessed by 7,954 on a sun-splashed April afternoon isn't the time for flea-flickers, fake field goals and conclusions.
"Progress," he said after a 90-minute session that produced more interceptions and botched snaps (three each) than touchdowns (two).
But as the faithful know all too well, progress on offense is virtually unavoidable for Virginia.
Only twice in the last 25 years have the Cavaliers averaged fewer than 18 points per game. That happened last season and in 2006 — not coincidentally, Virginia finished 5-7 both years.
Only three times in the last 25 seasons have the Cavaliers averaged fewer than 350 yards per game. That happened in 2006, '07 and '08.
Adios to offensive coordinator Mike Groh, Al's son. Hello to Brandon, who spent the previous six years as Bowling Green's big whistle — his Falcons were 44-30.
Brandon's spread is as shotgun as a Vegas wedding. Rarely will the quarterback be under center. Rarely will fewer than three receivers be deployed.
Question is, does Virginia have the personnel to make it work?
Judgments based on Saturday would be laughable.
Quarterbacks Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell, receivers Jared Green, Kris Burd and Javaris Brown, and running back Mikell Simpson certainly flashed potential. Each boasts the speed and agility to make chicken salad out of chicken …
Brown, a redshirt freshman, turns heads in practice at least once a day, Groh said. Simpson is closer to his 2007 form (972 combined yards rushing and receiving) than 2008 (combined 328 yards).
Brown gained 35 yards on two carries and caught five passes for 36. Simpson raced 48 yards to the end zone on an inside handoff, and Sewell, returning from an academic suspension, showed he remains proficient at running the option.
The incumbent quarterback, Marc Verica, completed the most passes (14) for the most yards (148) and connected with Raynard Horne on a 21-yard swing pass for touchdown. But Groh's body language and tone-of-voice made clear that Verica is third on the food chain.
Play-calling was vanilla at best. The closest thing to a vertical route was a seam throw that Sewell intended for Brown — linebacker Darnell Carter in zone coverage flicked the ball away.
None of the six quarterbacks used was "live," meaning the play died as soon as they were touched. Simpson's touchdown came against reserve defenders, and Sewell threw a pass directly to cornerback Mike Parker.
"That's something I have to work on," Sewell said, "accuracy."
Under game conditions, Sewell and Hall might have broken several long runs, designed and improvised. But Groh's staff urged him to protect the quarterbacks Saturday, and he "deferred."
Mobility at the position is "an integral part of the scheme," Groh said. "It's not essential. … But it's as if the offense has 12 players out there if the quarterback can run."
As Groh readily concedes, the spread's downside is exposing quarterbacks in the open field. Hence, the smart money says seniors Hall and Sewell both will play in the fall, the better to conserve their legs and confuse defenses.
Groh's affection for Hall, a two-year starter at cornerback but a record-setting quarterback at Gretna High, is obvious and contagious. He expects Hall to also contribute on special teams, as a punt returner and holder (think: fake).
"Vic's energy level seems to be endless," Groh said.
Later, in a more casual moment, Groh smiled broadly and said that if Virginia football were to mint a coin, the words "In Vic we trust" would be prominent.
Might want to add "Gregg."
Groh believed Virginia was ready for the spread last season. The Cavaliers had prepared to defend Texas Tech's version in the Gator Bowl and returned two experienced quarterbacks: Sewell and Peter Lalich.
But Sewell ran afoul of the academic police, Lalich of the real police.
Is Virginia ready now?
"The offense is great," Green said. "It's fast-paced. It keeps the defense on its heels. We look like a completely new team — to me."
The Cavaliers ranked 114th nationally in scoring last season, and of the five teams below them, four jettisoned their head coaches.
New is necessary.
On Page 4 Notes and quotes from the Cavs' spring game. Lafayette star Will Hill hopes to make an impact at defensive end. Menchville sophomore Clifton Richardson is receiving recruiting attention from U.Va., Virginia Tech.David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime