Louisville has faced some bad defenses this year but most have had some solid performances to make you wonder if they could show up in the game. Virginia doesn’t have that argument to make. They have been consistently poor this season with no real moments of hope. UVA has one of the tougher schedules in the country with every team they’ve played having a winning record currently. But, even with that being so, there just hasn’t been much to hang your hat on with this defense.
Things got much worse for this defense early in the season when Kam Butler was lost for the season. The defensive end still leads the team in sacks with 3.5 even though he hasn’t played since week four. With the team total sitting at 8 right now, you can imagine how big of a loss he was. The rest of the line has experience with players like Aaron Faumui but no one up front has made much of an impact this season.
Virginia’s most veteran linebacker is James Jackson who is essentially playing his second year of college football. Jackson is a talented player with good athleticism but he is also lining up next to a player who arrived on campus in June from high school. This group has to be one of the youngest in the country with no real veterans to lead the defense. Jackson was a nice get as a recruit as they beat out Louisville and Stanford to keep him home. Kam Robinson who is the aforementioned freshman was a recruiting win over FSU and others. But talent only gets you so far and I think the lack of experience is a big factor in the struggles on defense.
To make things worse, Robinson was injured last weekend and may be limited if he can even play. With Josh Ahern already out, UVA could be down to their third-string option at linebacker.
Virginia has produced some solid secondary players over the last handful of years but this year’s group has had a tough go due to the lack of pressure up front. Coen King is another veteran on this defense who has been solid. King is among the team leaders in tackles and has 6 PBUs on the year. Malcolm Greene and Tayvonn Kyle are also two Power Five transfers that could have an impact on the game.
The top player on the defense is safety Jonas Sanker. He is another veteran but he has made some truly impactful plays this year. He leads the team with 8 PBUs which is really impressive for a safety. Sanker is a well-rounded player but I think he is at his best against the run. He closes space very well and he arrives with bad intentions. He will be a player to watch with Louisville running the ball so well recently.