Virginia Football Notes: Cavalier Rushing Attack To Take On Stingy Duke D

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Thanks to improved play from the Cavalier offensive line, Virginia football quarterback Kurt Benkert and running back Jordan Ellis have turned in back-to-back standout performances..~ Photo by Kris Wright

Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert has been outstanding the past two games, passing for 455 yards and three touchdowns and 273 yards and three touchdowns in wins over UConn and Boise State. The senior’s stellar play coincides with an effective Cavalier run game that has averaged 169 yards rushing and 4.85 yards per carry the past two games. By comparison, Virginia averaged only 73.5 yards per game and 2.54 yards per carry in its first two contests, against William & Mary and Indiana.

Duke heads to Scott Stadium boasting a stingy run defense that has allowed only 80 yards rushing per game and 2.72 yards per carry through five games. Whichever unit — UVA’s rush offense or Duke’s rush defense — has the most success this Saturday could be a major factor in determining which team comes out victorious.

“We have worked really hard defensively to recruit better and better,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said of his rush defense. “That’s part of it. We’ve got experience back at linebacker. We’ve got a great leader in our front, Mike Ramsey, who is a senior, but we’ve got some young, talented defensive linemen.

“Outside of that, we do have some athletic safeties that are part of defending the run that fit. I think our defensive staff has done a tremendous job of putting us in a more aggressive mode. Hopefully we can continue on that path.”

Virginia’s offensive line seems to have clicked ever since redshirt freshman center Dillon Reinkenmeyer was inserted into the starting lineup. A starting lineup featuring Reinkensmeyer, Jake Fieler and John Montelus at right and left guard, and Brandon Pertile and Jack English at right and left tackle has been in place since UConn. In addition to paving the way for a productive run game, this unit surrendered only two sacks total against UConn and Boise State. Benkert was sacked four times total against William & Mary (3) and Indiana (1).

“They look much more comfortable. They are fit and strong and they are in sync with each other,” Cutcliffe said of the UVA offensive line.

“That’s one of the things people don’t understand about offensive line play,” he continued. “It’s not individuals. There’s five guys that have to be in sync. The more you’re in a program, the more you’re in the system, the better off you’re going to be in that regard, and they look like they are playing really well together.”

Peace Draws Praise

The Virginia football team has gotten good play from Chris Peace.
Peace at Virginia football’s 2017 Spring Game. The Newport News (VA) native has been a steady, solid performer at outside linebacker the past two seasons. ~ Photo by Kris Wright

Rated only a 2-star prospect by Rivals and 247Sports (composite ranking) coming out of Denbigh High School (Newport News, VA), Chris Peace has become a steady force at outside linebacker for head coach Bronco Mendenhall and the Virginia football program.

Peace has started the last 16 games for UVA. In that span, the 6’1”, 245-pound has accounted for 72 tackles (31 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 pass deflections and 1 interception.

“I really like Chris,” Mendenhall said. “He’s probably the very best practice player and hardest worker and most consistent worker that I’ve seen defensively, which is quite a statement. That’s translating into his play, and so he’s completely trustworthy, reliable, and he’s productive, so I like what he’s doing a lot. We’re really that lucky that he’s here. I would take as many more guys like Chris as we could find.”

Virginia Football Recruiting: Official Visit and Decommit News

A pair of class of 2018 defensive tackle targets have announced their intentions to officially visit the University of Virginia. Judson (Converse, TX) senior Darren Brown will be on Grounds this weekend while Jordan Redmond, a 6’0”, 290-pound prospect out of Osceola (Kissimmee, FL), announced that he will take an official to UVA the weekend of October 20-22.

The 6’4”, 280-pound Brown claims offers from Tulane and Virginia. If this weekend goes well, it wouldn’t surprise to see a commitment follow. Brown will be joined on Grounds by his teammate and classmate, Chris Mills. Mills, who will also be making an official visit this weekend, is a cornerback prospect.

Redmond has Virginia in his top 10 along with Duke, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi State, NC State, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.

The Cavaliers have 18 commitments in total in the class of 2018. Two players — defensive tackle Bryce Ramer and linebacker Case Gatlin – have decommitted within the past two weeks. Ramer announced his decommitment on September 26. On October 2, Gatlin announced his recruitment is now open.

The timing of these decisions is interesting in light of Mendenhall’s comments during his Monday press conference. Asked about the importance of bye week recruiting evaluations with the new recruiting calendar, he said: “We saw games Thursday, Friday and Saturday and got the majority of our 2018 kids that were already committed, we got their final evaluation and solidified all of that.”

With the coaches doing a final evaluation of each commitment, perhaps some commitments taken may be tentative based on senior season performance. Perhaps the players were simply seeking other opportunities. Gatlin didn’t offer much comment in his tweet. However, Ramer didn’t harbor any hard feelings.

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