Of all the honors senior quarterback Matt Schaub received over the past 12 months, including ACC Player of the Year last fall, one of the most meaningful to him was the one he wasn't formally awarded. In late April coach Al Groh took Schaub aside and told him that he was one of the most improved players in spring practice. But Groh likes to spread the accolades around, so instead of piling more hardware on Schaub, the coaching staff gave the Rock Weir Award for the team's most improved player to three of Schaub's teammates: junior tight end Patrick Estes, junior safety Jermaine Hardy and redshirt freshman center Phil Sims. "I was honored that the coaches noticed how much I had done," says Schaub. "I worked hard to improve my play and our team."
Already one of the nation's most efficient passers—68.9% completion rate, 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last season—the 6'5", 240-pound Schaub focused on sharpening his drops, improving his scrambling ability and developing rapport and timing with an assortment of wide receivers. More than anything, he wants to get off to a good start this season. As a sophomore he went 1-5 as a starter; last year he was booed and then benched in a season-opening 35-29 loss to Colorado State.
Schaub has plenty of talent around him, including sure-handed sophomore tight end Heath Miller, who has All-America potential. Schaub can expect the maturing Virginia defense, which has seven starters returning, to be more formidable than the one that surrendered 24-9 points a game in 2002. "We have a lot of young guys who are ready to break out," says senior corner-back Almondo Curry. "We've started to believe in Coach Groh [entering his third season]. We realize what it takes to win."
Still, Schaub remains the key. His perseverance exemplified Virginia's resilience as a team; the Cavaliers outscored their opponents 260-132 after halftime last season. "All we have to do is focus on the little things and not get caught up in who we're playing," Schaub says. "If we do that, we'll be successful against anybody."
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