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Metheny enjoyed season at Virginia

By Jeremy Stafford – jstafford@nvdaily.com

CHARLOTTESVILLE – For former Sherando quarterback Ross Metheny, being a part of a Division I football program in a BCS conference was nothing short of spectacular.

Even if the redshirt freshman did have to watch from the sideline as his Virginia Cavaliers plodded through a disappointing 3-9 season.

“I spent [the season] kind of observing and checking everything out,” Metheny said. “… This first season’s definitely flown by in the blink of an eye — everything just moves so quickly, but it’s been a great learning experience.”

But as remarkable an experience as this past season has been for Metheny, U.Va. reached the nadir of its season a week ago, when the Cavaliers lost to Virginia Tech 42-13 on Nov. 28.

Not 24 hours later, U.Va. fired head coach Al Groh, who had coached in Charlottesville for nine seasons, compiling a 59-53 record.

Ironically, after Groh and U.Va. stood unwaveringly by Metheny when he broke his ankle in 2007, then tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2008, it was Metheny who recently heralded his devotion to remaining a Cavalier, even as the program limped on with its own battered legs.

“I picked this school for a reason,” he said. “It’s been a blast so far. I’ve enjoyed everything and I have nothing but positive stuff to say about them, so I’m definitely a Cavalier.”

And after only one winning season in the last four, the contused Cavaliers finally seem to have two legs to stand on, as U.Va. officially replaced Groh with former Richmond coach Mike London on Monday afternoon.

London was twice an assistant coach at Virginia, first from 2001 to 2004 as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, and then from 2006 to 2007 as a defensive coordinator under Groh. London left Charlottesville to become the head coach at Richmond, his alma mater, and saw the Spiders through a 24-5 record in two seasons, including an FCS championship season in 2008.

Richmond recently lost 35-31 to Appalachian State in the FCS quarterfinals.

Following a news conference Monday, London met with Metheny and the rest of the Cavaliers, divulging on them his hopes for the future of the program while simultaneously building a rapport with his new team.

“[London told us] basically just his beliefs and what he had accomplished and what he brought to the table,” Metheny explained. “And from that we took that he’s a very energetic and passionate guy.

“He’s the type of guy you’re excited to play for and can’t wait to play for.”

What London brings to the table, aside from a winning tradition and an intimate knowledge of the U.Va. football program, is an ability to recruit in Virginia’s football hotbeds.

Having grown up in Hampton, and played high school ball at Bethel, London has U.Va. alums salivating over the prospect that, finally, Virginia will be able to compete with Virginia Tech for the state’s top recruits.

Which, of course, has current U.Va. players excited as well.

“It takes good players to win championships and he’s known as a recruiter,” Metheny said. “We trust him that he’ll put his best foot forward for us.”

But what is perhaps most thrilling is London’s dedication to building lasting relationships with his football players, and ensuring they are not only successful athletes, but successful students and people as well.

“I think if I know what’s going on with them, then, if I know I have their best interests at heart, I think it transcends sometimes with on the field issues,” London said Monday in his news conference. “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.”

For Metheny, the relationships London is building with the Cavaliers are comfortably familiar to the way Bill Hall operates as the head coach at Sherando.

“I think that’s obviously important no matter what level of football you’re in,” Metheny said. “Coach Hall and I had an awesome relationship: I could go over to his house and talk football, and I think that’s what coach London is trying to do.

“I think we’re all excited about that.”

Still, drastic changes may loom for the U.Va. offense. London’s explosive Richmond offense was headed by dual-threat quarterback Eric Ward (360 rushing yards, 2,396 passing yards), and speculations are swirling that London may hire West Virginia running backs coach Chris Beatty — a former high school coach from the Hampton area whose WVU roots hint at a preference for a run-spread offense — as offensive coordinator.

All the same, Metheny said he’s still devoted to the blue and orange of Cavalier nation, just as it was devoted to him a year ago.

“[London] said he’s gonna evaluate the talent and see who his playmakers are, and he’ll put the ball in the playmakers’ hands,” Metheny said. “He’ll put us in the best position to be competitive.”