clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Opponent Breakdown: Virginia Cavaliers Defense

Virginia's defense has a few very good players. Can they make the plays needed to slow down Louisville's offense?

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Mike London did a really good job of putting together good defenses that mixed NFL talent with solid talent. Bronco Mendenhall is a former defensive coordinator who took over a defense that still had some of that NFL talent on it as well as some young guys with potential. The Cavs run a 3-4 base defense that they typically stick to and they have NFL caliber players at all three levels.

The defensive line for the Cavs has been pretty ineffective as it comes to making impact plays, but they have been pretty good at holding up blocks and letting second level players roam. Andrew Brown was the top ranked defensive tackle in the country a few years ago but for some reason he just couldn't get onto the field consistently until this year. Brown lines up at left end and he looks like he's in outstanding shape at 290 pounds. Brown's stats are somewhat skewed because he had a monster game against UConn but he has been able to make some plays in other games and he's been disruptive in the games I've watched. He and Donte Wilkins provide the veteran presence along the front while freshman Eli Hanbeck mans the right end spot. These linemen will be tasked with chewing up blockers this weekend so that their linebackers can spy and try to contain Lamar Jackson.

Max Valles and Eli Harold are long gone, but Micah Kiser is by far the best linebacker that Virginia has had since UofL joined the ACC. Kiser is a "do everything" guy that makes a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage. UVA has a very similar system on both sides of the ball and Mendenhall's 3-4 allows Kiser to blitz as well as play downhill in the run game. Kiser has the size to take on blockers but he really does well when he can used his speed to sift through the wash and get to the ball carrier. Zach Bradshaw lines up next to Kiser and he's a solid player in small spaces. He doesn't do nearly as well when he has to take on a runner in space but he is a strong tackler when he gets to square up. Chris Peace and Jordan Mack are both solid at the outside spots. Mack is pretty good at rushing the passer for a young guy. His speed could help UVA clamp down on Lamar Jackson.

The secondary for the Cavs is led by Quin Blanding who is one of the best safeties in the country. Blanding is one of my favorite players to watch play and that's been the case for three years. Blanding rarely misses a tackle and he can make big plays occasionally. UVA needs Blanding to make more impact plays for them, somehow. As a deep safety he doesn't get a ton of opportunities to do so but he is the best player on the team and those plays have to be made. Kelvin Rainey is the safety partner with Blanding. Rainey is a solid player but he also struggles in space with quick players. That obviously doesn't bode well when you're trying to contain Jackson.

The corners for the Cavs are young players that have shown flashes of good potential. Juan Thornhill is solid in coverage and he's a good tackler in run support. Thornhill plays on the "field" side, so he would probably be more likely to see the deep post routes Louisville loves to run. Bryce Hall is the boundary corner for the Cavs and he's a true freshman. Hall is a confident player that I think will grow into a pretty good corner, but he's raw and he isn't a guy that can really be agile enough to turn and navigate routes with quicker receivers. It will be interesting to see how he holds up against James Quick and Jamari Staples outside.

KEY PLAYERS: DE Andrew Brown, ILB Micah Kiser, FS Quin Blanding