Tuesday, February 26, 2008
UVa DE leaves school
Jeffery Fitzgerald was dealing with an off-field matter.
- Cavs continue to look west in scheduling
- Former Virginia assistant Mike Groh joins Bears staff
- Fairchild not expecting to overhaul UVa offense
- Lazor: Eagles job too good to pass up
Aaron McFarling's blog
Fitzgerald no longer is a UVa student, UVa sports information director Jim Daves said Monday, but Daves declined further comment based on privacy guidelines.
Fitzgerald, a 6-foot-3, 279-pound defensive end, had 11 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a sophomore this past season.
“Jeffrey’s been a wonderful player, a great teammate and a high-character guy,” UVa head coach Al Groh said Monday night. “We realize there are circumstances in his life that make it best that he move on.”
Fitzgerald was dealing with an undisclosed off-field matter and needed a successful appeal to remain at Virginia, ex-Cavaliers defensive coordinator Mike London said earlier this month. London, who was Fitzgerald’s position coach, is the new head coach at Richmond.
“I haven’t spoken to him in about a month,” London said Monday. “I’ve got a lot on my plate here, but I need to call him. Man, it’s just unfortunate. He’s a great kid.”
Fitzgerald is the sixth player with remaining eligibility to leave the UVa program since the end of the 2007 season.
All-ACC offensive guard Branden Albert passed up his final season of eligibility to apply to the draft and two other starters, quarterback Jameel Sewell and cornerback Chris Cook, were among four players placed on academic probation by the dean’s office.
Groh has indicated that Sewell and Cook are eyeing a return in 2009. As for Fitzgerald’s anticipated transfer to another school, “you will hear about that when it’s disclosed,” a female who answered the phone at his Richmond home said.
Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment.
Fitzgerald, redshirted as a freshman in 2005, will have to sit out the 2008 season if he transfers to a Division I-A school.
That would leave him with one season of eligibility.
His incomplete semester might prevent immediate I-AA eligibility, so he could end up at I-A Kansas State, where former UVa assistant Ron Prince is the head coach and already has one other ex-UVa defender, Olu Hall.
Plus, Fitzgerald recently had surgery on both shoulders.
“Sitting out a year might be good for him physically,” said London, who indicated that he doesn’t expect to pursue Fitzgerald for Richmond. “He’s pretty banged up right now.”
Fitzgerald had 14 quarterback pressures and three caused fumbles this season and loomed as Long’s successor as leader of the Cavaliers’ defensive line.
“He’s been one of our best players and he was just coming into his own,” Groh said.
Virginia ranked among the top 25 teams in Division I-A in four defensive categories, but has lost the front three from its 3-4 defense, including nose tackle
Allen Billyk and end Chris Long.
Long, the ACC defensive player of the year, is in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine and is a consensus choice for one of the first five picks in April’s draft.
The most experienced of the returning defensive ends, Alex Field and Sean Gottschalk, played 117 and 102 plays, respectively.