Defensive line coach Vic So’oto announced Thursday evening (February 13) he is leaving the University of Virginia football program for the same role on Clay Helton’s staff at the University of Southern California. So’oto’s announcement was first reported by 247Sports early this week. The Los Angeles Times followed with confirmation on Wednesday (February 12).
Thank you President Ryan, Carla Williams, and Jim Booz for your collective vision and support.
Coach Mendenhall and my brothers on the staff, I enjoyed every moment.
To the players, I love you all… you already know. 💯
Wahoo nation!! It’s been a blast!! pic.twitter.com/WDLykqHQGO
— Vic So’oto (@Coach_Sooto) February 14, 2020
So’oto, a native of Oceanside, California, attended high school roughly 90 miles from USC. He played college football at BYU under Mendenhall and reunited with his college coach in 2015, accepting a role as BYU’s Project Coordinator. He followed Mendenhall to UVA, serving as a graduate assistant in 2016 before earning a full-time assistant position.
Under So’oto’s tutelage, the defensive line was the strength of Virginia football’s defense in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, four of UVA’s top graded defensive players last season were defensive linemen – Eli Hanback (#1), Aaron Faumui (#3), Mandy Alonso (#4) and Richard Burney (#5). Among all ACC “defensive interior” players, those four finished among the top 15 grade-wise last season.
So’oto’s enthusiasm was infectious and he connected well with players he was coaching as well as prospects he was recruiting. Under Armour All-American Jowon Briggs and class of 2020 3-star signee Nusi Malani are players he helped recruit to Charlottesville.
His wife, Ashley, was my personal assistant at BYU, so our families have very close ties. I hate to lose Vic, but #FFFLFA is one of our principles and I’m excited he will be closer to his family. Thank you for your commitment, passion and loyalty. I cherish our time together.
— Bronco Mendenhall (@UVACoachBronco) February 14, 2020
Who may be in line to replace So’oto? Former Virginia offensive lineman Jackson Matteo could be a name to remember. Matteo spent five seasons in Charlottesville as a student athlete before operating as a graduate assistant under Mendenhall the past three years. In this January article by Jeff White, Coach Mendenhall indicated Matteo could be next in line if a full-time position becomes available.
“We would gain momentum by just inserting him, which I did with Nick [Howell], which I did with Kelly [Poppinga], which I did with Vic [So’oto], which I did with Shane [Hunter], which I did with Jason [Beck],” Mendenhall said of Matteo, who called it his “dream” to coach under Mendenhall. “That’s how I do it. So he’s next in line.”