99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff

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From the end of last season through this spring, Virginia’s defensive line was crushed by attrition.

– Juwan Moye and Steven Wright were suspended, lost their scholarships, and ultimately left school. Moye and Wright were once significant parts of Virginia’s defensive line rotation, and both had two years of eligibility remaining.

– Christian Baumgardner left the program. He had yet to breakthrough in a significant role. He had three years of eligibility remaining.

– Christian Brooks gave up football because of health concerns. Injuries kept the Centreville (Clifton, VA) product from ever making an on-field impact for the Cavaliers. He had three years of eligibility remaining.

– UVA announced on May 11 that John Kirven and James Trucilla were retiring because of health issues. Kirven showed promise as a true freshman in 2017. Trucilla contributed in a limited backup role before his retirement. He would have had two seasons of eligibility remaining.

These departures impacted UVA’s defensive line depth chart long-term and short-term. How has Coach Mendenhall responded to the attrition? That’s what we explore in this “99 Thoughts” piece.

99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff: No. 58 – Bouncing Back On The Defensive Line

The coaches certainly know more about what goes on with the team than the public. Some attrition can be surprising. At other times, it’s not. Regardless, the coaches have to find answers. How has Virginia answered the offseason defensive line losses?

Positional changes for current players

Coach Mendenhall started by making moves within the current roster, highlighted by Richard Burney’s move from tight end to defensive end before the 2017 Military Bowl. Not only does Burney appear set to stay at defensive end, he could well be a likely starter once the 2018 season arrives. The Chesapeake (VA) native flashed his potential with a nice tackle for loss in Virginia’s final spring practice of 2018.

Rising sophomore Osiris Crutchfield began his Virginia career as a defensive lineman before moving to the offensive line in the spring of 2017. He eventually moved to tight end this past season. Now, he is back with the defensive line. Rising junior Ryan Bischoff has moved from the offensive line to the defensive line.

I like Crutchfield’s tenacity, but he has only played in two games at UVA and has yet to catch on at any one position. Bischoff has barely seen the field so far in his time at UVA. The bottom line is that neither player is proven at this point, but they’ll certainly have an opportunity in the fall.

Transfers

Virginia picked up two transfers this offseason in Ohio State graduate transfer Dylan Thompson and former Michigan State defensive lineman Cassius Peat. Both players will be immediately eligible and have a great chance to be a major part of the Cavalier D-line rotation. Thompson has one year of eligibility left and Peat has two.

Recruiting

Virginia capped off its class of 2018 with Aaron Faumui, a 6’1”, 285-pound prospect out of Hawaii. He committed to Hawaii originally but signed with the Hoos during the February Signing Day. Samson Reed and Jordan Redmond signed with Virginia last December. All three are expected to enroll this month.

We’ll see if any of the three 2018 Class prospects can make an immediate and significant impact. It appears to be a good haul, though, so long term this group has potential.

After scoring a commitment from Denmark native Emil Bo Anderson in class of 2019 recruiting, Bronco Mendenhall then made the biggest recruiting splash of his time as Cavalier head coach by landing consensus 4-star rising senior defensive tackle Jowon Briggs. Briggs is a national top 100 player according to Rivals and he has the potential to be an immediate impact player in 2019. Look for Virginia to try and add at least one more defensive lineman in this class.

The Cavaliers have already scored one defensive line recruit in 2020, receiving a commitment from 3-star Maryland standout Jahmeer Carter.

So how does Virginia’s defensive line look now? Here are the projected scholarship numbers for the coming three seasons.

Scholarship Defensive Linemen In The 2018 Season – 12
Seniors – Dylan Thompson
Juniors – Ryan Bischoff, Richard Burney, Eli Hanback, Cassius Peat
Sophomores – Mandy Alonso, Osiris Crutchfield
Redshirt Freshmen – Isaac Buell, Tommy Christ
Freshmen – Aaron Faumui, Jordan Redmond, Samson Reed

Scholarship Defensive Linemen In The 2019 Season – 13
Seniors – Ryan Bischoff, Richard Burney, Eli Hanback, Cassius Peat
Juniors – Mandy Alonso, Osiris Crutchfield
Sophomores – Isaac Buell, Tommy Christ
Class of 2018 – Aaron Faumui, Jordan Redmond, Samson Reed
Class of 2019 – Emil Bo Andersen, Jowon Briggs

Scholarship Defensive Linemen In The 2020 Season – 10
Seniors – Mandy Alonso, Osiris Crutchfield
Juniors – Isaac Buell, Tommy Christ
Class of 2018 – Aaron Faumui, Jordan Redmond, Samson Reed
Class of 2019 – Emil Bo Andersen, Jowon Briggs
Class of 2020 – Jahmeer Carter

While I think the staff has done well in response to the heavy attrition, Virginia’s defensive line remains a serious question in 2018. Nose tackle Eli Hanback and end Mandy Alonso are the only proven players. There is talent with Burney, Thompson, Peat, redshirt freshmen Tommy Christ and Isaac Buell, and the incoming freshmen. None of these players, however, have assumed major roles on the collegiate level.

The future should be bright as Virginia recruited a talented group in 2018, has commitments from Briggs and Andersen in 2019, and a pledge from Carter in 2020.

The “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series has discussed much more. The previous articles are below. Click away.

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2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Chris-

    You wrote a great article but you did not give enough credit to Eli Hanback. I do not know much about Mandy Alonso but I know that Hanback is a total stud, a blue chipper and the key to Bronco’s run defense. I watched his 11 years at BYU and when he had top NT’s his defenses were top 10 in the country. This will be his third year and that was when his defense at BYU started to get great. You need to remember that he spent some off seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers gaining information about their 3-4 defense and then he set his whole staff. Toward the end of his time at BYU college coaches were coming to BYU to learn from Bronco. He is truly one of the best DC’s in the country and if he wanted (and he won’t) he could have a DC position in the NFL in a heartbeat. I expect this year’s defense to get down to the low 20’s in points per game given up.

  2. That’s how he met Ruffin McNeill who sent his entire defensive staff to BYU when he was the Head Coach at East Carolina, who was Bronco’s Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Tackles his first year at Virginia and now holds the same titles at Oklahoma.

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