Snowden making the most of staying home with no UVA spring practice

By Scott Ratcliffe

Virginia defenders celebrate around Charles Snowden (11) after a defensive stop vs. Louisville in 2018 (Photo by John Markon).

Virginia outside linebacker Charles Snowden was enjoying his Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., with a few of his teammates, when he received the news.

UVA had announced that it would utilize online-only classes for the remainder of the spring semester to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Initially, I just thought it was going to be for a couple weeks, I didn’t expect it to be for the rest of the semester,” said Snowden, who headed back to Charlottesville to gather his belongings and has been back home in Silver Spring, Md., ever since, finding ways to stay in shape while keeping contact with the rest of the team.

As Snowden explained, the coaches are trying to figure things out, too. He says everyone is working together from all around the country to “make things as normal as possible in extreme circumstances.”

It has been a bit of an adjustment for the 6-foot-7, 235-pounder from St. Albans School, who said he’s still getting used to conducting his UVA daily routines from another state. As he pointed out, whenever he’s come home to visit over the past few years, schoolwork was never part of the agenda, since he was always home on breaks.

“It’s kind of weird flipping that switch to, ‘I’m home, but I also need to be working,’” he said, adding that his professors have done a great job communicating with the students under the circumstances.

In terms of staying fit, Snowden, who was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and ACC Linebacker of the Week after his 15-tackle performance against Old Dominion last season, said he’s been running daily at the local high school a couple minutes away, and working out with his siblings.

UVA Director of Football Development & Performance Shawn Griswold has offered ideas for some of the things the players can do to maintain their conditioning levels and strength.

“Unfortunately at the Snowden household, we don’t have an in-home gym,” he said with a laugh, “so Coach Griz has done a great job of communicating with us and sending us a variety of at-home bodyweight workouts we can do. I have a medicine ball, two resistance bands and a speaker, and I’m just making the best of it.”

Snowden said he’s been running every day along with his personal exercises, which he said included “a lot of push-ups, a lot of body squats, jump squats, mountain climbers,” and more.

“It’s a variety of things, you’ve kind of got to get creative with it,” he said. “It’s not the same, but we’re finding a way.”

Snowden had just found a new gym to work out at back home when Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a shutdown of all non-essential businesses on Monday.

“Any gyms in the Maryland area that are still having people over, please let me know,” Snowden laughed.

A screenshot of Snowden talking to reporters from his home in Maryland Wednesday afternoon.

As for how the team is communicating, Snowden said each player is expected to work out at home each day and report to both a squad-unit leader and a fellow teammate to hold each other accountable. The squad-unit leaders then report back to the strength coaches, who also check in with each player weekly to monitor their weight. The players are in regular contact with team nutritionist Randy Byrd as well, to make sure they’re eating right. Snowden said he will also get in touch with the rest of the outside linebackers frequently, to make sure they’re following instructions.

Snowden said he misses the UVA Dining Hall, but is thoroughly enjoying his mother’s home-cooked meals in the meantime.

“At this point, she just knows me so well, she just knows what I like,” Snowden said. “We had steak the other night and she knows I love steak, alfredo pasta, fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans — I mean, I have to give it to her. My mom has done a heck of a job, because when she cooks, it doesn’t last that long because there’s five mouths to feed in this house, and we’re always snacking.”

While Snowden and his teammates are adjusting to life at home for the foreseeable future, it means there won’t be a spring period of practice. Snowden described spring practice as the team’s “first introduction without the leadership from last year,” along with an opportunity for new leaders to emerge and younger players to make a name for themselves.

None of that will be taking place this April. Spring practice was originally scheduled to start earlier this week.

“The team really comes together [in the spring], because in the winter time when we work out, it’s kind of separated between the skill-position groups and the big guys,” explained Snowden. “So, the springtime is where we all kind of come together and you kind of see who will really step out and be the leaders for the next season.”

Snowden added that he was looking forward to seeing the development of a couple of second-year guys, inside linebacker Nick Jackson and tackle Jowon Briggs, who he described as “strong as an ox.”

With everything a bit out of whack to say the least, Snowden believes that Cavalier coach Bronco Mendenhall may not be as upset as one may think about the overall situation.

“In a weird way, he’s enjoying this,” said Snowden, adding that Mendenhall loves challenges, and that this is just another — albeit unique — challenge.

Snowden says he and his teammates, wherever they may be physically, are in contact daily with both the position coaches and strength coaches, using internet-conferencing technology to communicate for meetings.

“We’ll all have the film pulled up on our computers, we’ll go over certain concepts from last year — just as similar as we can to what normal spring ball would be,” Snowden said. “The biggest difference is, we don’t have new film that we’re constantly watching that we can kind of critique, so we’re just looking back at old stuff, and just new concepts that we’re going over for next season every night with your position room.”

Snowden agreed that despite not being able to work together currently, the extra postseason practices in preparation for both the conference championship game and the Orange Bowl made up for it in a small way.

“Coach Mendenhall says every practice matters, and so that extra week that we got in the ACC Championship definitely mattered,” he admitted. “The bowl practices… all those practices mattered. It obviously is not helpful not having a spring, but those practices, now looking back, are that much more valuable.”

Charles Snowden (11) leads the Virginia defense off the field after a fourth-down stop in the first half against Duke (Photo by John Markon).

Snowden says he’d like to start the season, given that it starts on time, at an ideal body weight of around 240 pounds. He’s started all 27 games for the Wahoos over the past two seasons, racking up 133 total tackles (60 solo), 18.5 of them for a loss, 7.5 sacks, 15 pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions during that span.

Looking ahead, he compared the 2020 defense, which loses three key starters — cornerback Bryce Hall, inside linebacker Jordan Mack and tackle Eli Hanback — to the 2018 unit, which also lost three valuable pieces in Juan Thornhill, Tim Harris and Chris Peace.

“But those were three of our best players,” he said. “And so again, this year, we’re just losing Eli, Bryce and J-Mack, but again, three of our best players — two of them were captains. And so this is kind of the time where I feel like the sum is greater than the parts, so returning eight starters is phenomenal. In the linebacker room alone, we have six guys with starting experience, and so that internal competition will be really good for us. I just think a lot of the guys, like in my class, going into our senior year — me, [free safety Joey Blount], [inside linebacker Zane Zandier], [end Mandy Alonso] — we’ll have a lot to prove and we’re really ready to take the next step, like we did last year.”

He believes this year’s defense could be just as good, if not better, than this previous season’s, which finished with 46 sacks, sixth-most in the FBS.

In terms of personal goals, Snowden said he wants to improve his pass-rushing ability and bring his sack total up, noting that while his five in 2019 may have doubled his output of 2.5 from the year before, that number was “not anywhere close” to his liking, “but I did feel like I had a lot of QB hits, a lot of QB hurries,” he said.

The team’s main goals, according to Snowden, are as follows:

“Definitely again, No. 1, keeping the Commonwealth Cup,” he said, “winning the Coastal again, winning our bowl game, and for the defense, just finishing with a top-25 defense.”

He felt awful for his senior teammates who won’t be able to participate in a pro day for the NFL, but he believes they will all be successful down the road.

“It stinks, I really feel for them,” Snowden said. “I think wherever they go, they’ll make it work because I know how hard those guys work, I know how talented they are, and they’ve shown that. I have nothing but faith in them.”

Snowden was asked if the possibility of an abbreviated season had entered his mind, to which he said he and his teammates will stay positive and remain hopeful that things will return to normalcy before the fall.

“I couldn’t even imagine what that would look like,” said Snowden, “but we haven’t really considered that yet.”

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