Virginia's Greer next in line at linebacker

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
10:37
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

During his time at Solon High School in Ohio, Virginia linebacker Steve Greer wore No. 56 because former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor has always been one of his favorite players.

Now, Greer is playing for the man who once coached Taylor, Al Groh.

Groh was an assistant at North Carolina when he coached Taylor, and later coached Taylor with the Giants. That history played a huge role in luring Greer from Ohio to Charlottesville.

"That was pretty big for me, that he coached one of the best linebackers to ever play the game," said Greer, a redshirt freshman. "That was definitely a huge selling point, to have coach Groh, who I really believe is one of the best linebacker coaches in the game coaching me at linebacker. It's an honor. ... His knowledge almost seems endless. The stuff he says, it's something new every day and something that gets you better. It's fun to watch yourself improve."

When he came to Virginia, though, Greer was given the No. 53 jersey -- next in line to No. 54, inside linebacker Jon Copper, who was the team's leading tackler each of the past three seasons. After an impressive spring, Greer is now taking most of the reps with the first team in place of the graduated Copper, and is listed as the first-string linebacker on the preseason depth chart. This will be his first season playing in a college game.

Greer and Copper have been trading some text messages this summer, and Copper has been giving him tips and advice on how to stay healthy through camp. The two of them were trying to arrange a film study together, too.

"I learned how to be a successful college football player, being a student of the game and how to do everything the right way," Greer said of watching Copper. "I just want to help the team win."

Virginia's linebacking corps could use some help, as the Cavaliers have to replace Copper, Antonio Appleby and Clint Sintim -- the top three tacklers on the team. The trio was so good their backups rarely saw playing time simply because Groh didn't want to take them off the field.

"It's definitely tough not having a lot of game experience, but at the same time, when you're taking reps at practice every day, and doing that, you engage yourself in what you're doing," Greer said. "For the young guys, it's about getting in games, but besides that we have a lot of practice experience."

Groh said Greer also has the work ethic.

"Steven was one of those hard-working, very committed, high-motor players in high school and has been that ever since he got here, whether it was in his practice habits last year or the offseason program," Groh said. "He has stayed very consistent about how he goes about his business."

The only thing that's changed is his number, and this year, it will be called upon.

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