Alright so the other day, we hit on what the offense needed to do to be successful this year, today we look at the defense. And while the O has an embarrassment of riches, the D has a plethora of questions. (Jefe, what is a plethora?) So let’s get to the biggest keys for Reid’s defense this year.
1. Smart Play from the Safeties
I’m a realist. I get it. We are breaking in 3 or the 4 secondary starters this year and, well, there will be some problems. Not saying they will be bad secondary players, just it will take some time. I think that the achievable goals for the safeties would be (1) don’t play out of position and (2) don’t screw that up enough that we have to play nickel and dime to stop the pass. I like the overall speed of the new kids, but they lack in game experience that they will need to be successful pretty much anytime after the Richmond game.
2. Get To the Quarterback
Virginia had 89 tackles for losses last year, which was in the top 10% of the nation. Sacks? Only 20, and not in the top 10%. And only 8 of those sacks were from players on the roster this year. The best shot the Hoos have this year to better those numbers will come from defensive tackle and end spots, where Hill, Schautz, and Snyder are back. Now none have the ability to get in the backfield like Cam Johnson, but they have the size and talent to pressure quarterbacks all day long.
3. Production from Sam
While Taliaferro was serviceable last year (6th on the team in tackles), there has not been a dominant pass rusher on the outside in the London era. This year it looks like Henry Coley will move over from Mike Linebacker to start and Daquan Romero will back him up. Again, stoping the the run will be a focal point, but as we said before, getting to the quarterback is an issue we need to improve on and there will be an opportunity for one of these two to have a job for the next few years if they can accomplish that.
4. Get the Impact 1st Years on the Field
It was easy for Tra to find his way on the grid-iron last year. There was an opening for a cornerback and he won the job. This year with players like Mike Moore, Eli Harold, and Kwontie Moore, there are upperclassmen occupying starting roles. I know they are still green, but if the reports out of the camps are true, they can make a significant impact this year spelling the starters. My bold prediction is that one of these 3 will out-preform their respective starter. Oh yeah.
5. Figure out the 2nd Quarter
One of the big trends last year was the scoring margins from the 1st to the 2nd quarter. Remarkably, opponents only put up 24 points on the Hoos in the opening 15 minutes. But then the flood gates opened and Virginia gave up 134 in the 2nd quarter. If the Cavs can make the counter adjustments needed, they could walk into halftime with comfortable leads.