Virginia Defensive Preview
Virginia’s defense has been outstanding early in the season. The Cavalier defense has become slightly more aggressive this season. It will be interesting to see how aggressive they are now without Chris Canty.
The 3-4 scheme the Cavaliers run has had a bend don't break mentality in past seasons. With Brooks and Darryl Blackstock, the Wahoos have become more aggressive in their blitzes. The blitzes the Tigers may see Thursday will resemble what Texas A&M did with their linebackers. The offensive line must pick up the blitzes to give the Tigers chances.
Brooks has led the defense this year with 32 tackles, and four tackles for loss. Brooks, who actually left the team during fall camp, has become the playmaker on defense that Al Groh had hoped for. Brooks and Blackstock are legitimate NFL caliber players. Both are in the 6-4 240 pound range that possess great instincts and ability to run to the football. They gained valuable playing time early in their careers, now the experience is paying big dividends for Virginia. Blackstock, however, has had a quiet year, so far by his standards. He has only picked up 13 tackles on the season.
Now, Blackstock will be asked to do more with the loss of Chris Canty. Canty was a huge force for the Cavalier’s defense. Canty had 24 solo tackles and seven tackles for loss. In passing situations, you could see Blackstock lining up at the end position to create more of a pass rush. Kwakou Robinson, Canty’s replacement, will provide a run-stopping presence on the line.
This defense has held opponents to only 12 points a game. They have done a great job of setting the tone early in games. In the first four games, Virginia has only given up three points in the first quarter. The Wahoo defense has simply just made plays. They have 13 sacks, 3 interceptions, and forced seven fumbles. Teams are only converting 23 percent of their third downs against Virginia. It will be imperative that the Tigers get quality yardage on first and second down.
This defense may not provide the same threat as the one in Tallahassee, but nor should it be taken lightly. Tommy Bowden has averaged 444 yards of offense against Groh. However, this is the best defense Groh has had in his tenure at Virginia.