What You Need To Know About The Virginia Defense
– Eventually, LB Micah Kiser and S Quin Blanding had to graduate. They didn’t make every tackle for the Cavaliers over the last four years, but it sure seemed like it at times. They’re going after combining for 282 stops last season, but just about everyone else is back to a defense that gave up just 365 yards per game. However, it struggled late, allowing 31 points or more in six of the last seven games.
The linebacking corps – even without Kiser – should be terrific, with Jordan Mack and his 145 tackles returning on the inside, and Chris Peace and Malcolm Cook solid veterans on the outside. The stats will be there for this group, but it has to be far, far stronger overall against the run. Also needing to step up …
– The defensive line has to stay in one piece. Andrew Brown is gone after turning into one of the team’s better pass rushers, but 290-pound Mandy Alonso is back on one end and Eli Hanback returns on the nose.
However, the line is taking a massive depth hit with the retirement of end John Kirvin and tackle James Trucilla to injuries. Those two were supposed to play big roles, and now, going into fall camp, the line that has to be far stronger against the run is extremely thin.
– As long as the starting four is healthy, the secondary will be one of the team’s biggest strengths. Brenton Nelson isn’t Blanding, but he came up with 64 tackles as a key part of the secondary. He’ll likely move over to take on the vacated free safety spot, and all-star corner Juan Thornhill will step into the other safety gig.
This is all happening thanks to the return of Tim Harris to one of the corner gigs after being hurt over the last two seasons, working with Bryce Hall returning on the other side.
Biggest Key To The Virginia Defense
Again, the run defense has to be stronger. It didn’t matter all that much when it came to time of possession and third down stops, but the Cavaliers were pushed around way too often over the second half of the season.
It didn’t help the stats to get ripped up by Navy for 452 yards in the bowl loss, but there was a problem as the season wore on, allowing 200 yards or more in six of the last eight games. There’s enough experience to be better, and there will be impact plays behind the line, but the D has to keep teams to around 150 rushing yards or fewer.