Mascot and Tribe football update

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September 1, 2009

5:27 PM

It’s the Tuesday before the first football game of the year and so the Tribe’s first media luncheon of the year at the Hospitality House. It was one of the highest media turnouts I’ve seen, with TV crews from Richmond making the trip down to scout the College ahead of their season-opening matchup against Virginia.

— First off, I had a chance to catch up with athletic director Terry Driscoll about the mascot search. He told me that the search committee was down to about seven or so potential designs and was hoping to reduce that number to three to five finalists very soon. Those finalists will then be sent to a design firm who will come back with design concepts for each option in about 30 to 40 days. Those options will then be made public and put online for the campus community to register their opinion. After that period, the search committee will make a final recommendation to Taylor Revely who will make the ultimate selection.

Driscoll was excited with the progress being made and felt that the committee was very close to a decision on the finalists.

One thing he did seek to stress was that the Tribe nickname itself was not changing, a popular misconception among many (including former College Head Coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz), and that only a physical mascot would be chosen.

“The College community simply has too much invested in the Tribe nickname for that to change,” he said.

I asked him for a sneak preview of any potential finalists.

“I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” he replied. “If I told you that I’d have to kill you.”

Figures.

On to football.

— After injuring his knee in a non-contact drill last week, junior backup quarterback Mike Callahan has been ruled out for the season, reportedly with a torn ACL and MCL. It’s an ugly turn of events for a player who had looked solid in spring practice and further reinforces the importance of R.J. Archer to this team.

Sophomore D.J. Mangas will now assume the role of no. 2 QB, leaving the Tribe thin at what has been a position of strength in past years. Archer stepped in to throw for 300 yards against a top-5 team last year when Jake Phillips went down before the Villanova game. While Mangas has potential, he is extremely unproven, and I wouldn’t expect him to be able to do the same.

— Further depleting the ranks at quarterback is the offseason switch of redshirt freshman Nolan Kearney to tight end. Kearney, a 6-4, 231 lb. monster was rated as the #52 quarterback in the class of 2012 by Rivals and was looked at by a handful of BCS programs. He could theoretically be switched back to quarterback in Callahan’s absence, but I wouldn’t expect that to happen unless Mangas appears shaky.

— With this season’s opener against Virginia just four days away, the College is remarkably injury free, a marked difference from last season where the Tribe was down several key contributors early in the season.

Sophomore linebacker Jake Trantin was banged up and missed a slate of preseason practices in the past couple weeks, but should be healthy once the season begins.

— Much of the talk was on the College’s ability to stop the Cavalier spread offense, a system that Laycock acknowledged was somewhat of an unknown due to Virginia’s own lack of play in the system.

“I don’t really know what their spread is,” he said. “Until we get in there and start playing, you really can’t tell exactly what they’re going to do.”

Laycock and senior defensive end Adrian Tracy did stress the need to play solid, assignment based defense to slow down the Virginia running game.

“We have a strong game plan and we kind of know what they’re going to do. We have thing set in motion to combat that,” Tracy said. “We have to close down our gaps, we have to stay home and cover.”

— Stay tuned Friday for full U.Va. preview coverage including Keys to the Game.

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