John Rudzinski Leaving Air Force To Be Virginia Football’s Defensive Coordinator

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Multiple outlets report that Air Force defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach John Rudzinski has accepted the position of Virginia football defensive coordinator under Tony Elliott. ~ PHOTO CREDIT: BRENT BRIGGEMAN, THE GAZETTE (COLORADO SPRINGS)

University of Virginia football head coach Tony Elliott has his defensive coordinator. John Rudzinski, who has served as defensive coordinator at the Air Force Academy for the past four seasons, has accepted the same role in Charlottesville.

The news was first reported by Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports and was been confirmed by Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. Coach Elliott subsequently announced Rudzinski’s hiring in this press release.

Eight assistant coaches have been officially announced by Elliott, who now has two more full-time assistant coaching positions left to fill.

Virginia Football’s Coaching Staff

– Tony Elliott, Fralin Family Head Football Coach
– Des Kitchings, Offensive Coordinator (officially announced)
– Marques Hagans, Offensive Assistant (official)
– Garett Tujague, Offensive Assistant (official)
– John Rudzinski, Defensive Coordinator (official)
– Kevin Downing, Defensive Assistant (official)
– Keith Gaither, Defensive Assistant (official)
– Clint Sintim, Defensive Assistant (official)
– Chris Slade, Defensive Assistant (official)

Rudzinski, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2005, was a standout linebacker for the Falcons. He worked as a graduate assistant coach in 2005-2006 under then-head coach Fisher DeBerry and then served as a high school assistant coach in Charleston (S.C.) while working as maintenance operations officer on the Charleston Air Force Base from 2007-2010.

In 2010, Rudzinski returned to Air Force to work as an assistant defensive coach. In addition to his work on defense, where he has coached outside linebackers and defensive backs, Rudzinski was the Falcons’ recruiting coordinator from 2012-2014. Four members of Coach Elliott’s coaching staff – Kitchings, Rudzinski, Downing and Gaither – have previous recruiting coordinator experience.

Rudzinski became Air Force’s defensive coordinator in 2017. According to his official bio from Air Force, here are some notable accomplishments from UVA’s reported new coach during his time in Colorado Springs.

– The 2020 defense was among the top units in program history, finishing third nationally in scoring defense with a 15.0 average. The 15.0 mark is the best at the Academy since 1997. The team also ranked fifth nationally in passing yards allowed (166.8) and fourth in redzone defense (.692).

– The 2019 defense ranked 17th in the FBS in total defense (319.6 yards per game) and 20th in scoring defense (19.8). The Falcons were also seventh in the FBS in rushing defense (100.5) last year. Air Force allowed a school-record 100.5 yards rushing in 2019, breaking the old mark of 109 set in 1985. Opponents were held under 100 yards rushing nine times. Air Force allowed just 319.6 total yards and 19.8 points per game while ranking among the top 10 in red zone defense.

– Leading the secondary, the defense has been among the conference’s elite. Air Force finished 22nd in the country in interceptions in 2016. He was vital in the development of All-American safety Weston Steelhammer, who finished as the career leader in interceptions with 18. Steelhammer ranks second in Mountain West history in career. Air Force’s defense was vastly improved under his leadership. The squad was second in the MW in rushing defense (116.9), sixth in scoring defense (25.8) and fourth in total defense (360.9).

– The 2015 group had two first-team all-conference honorees in Steelhammer and cornerback Roland Ladipo. The secondary also boasted three of the top four tacklers in 2015. In 2014, Steelhammer earned first-team all-conference honors, his first of a school-record three selections to the conference’s first team. Safety Christian Spears was also among the team leaders in tackles with 81.

– Rudzinski’s first two years back on staff, the Falcons won back-to-back Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in 2010-11. In 2011, he assisted the defense to finish first in the conference in passing defense with a 166.8 average. In 2010, the Falcon defense was even better, ranking second nationally by allowing just 147.8 passing yards per game. The defensive success aided Air Force to a 9-4 record, capped by a victory over Georgia Tech in the Independence Bowl.

Air Force compiled a 10-3 record in 2021. The wins included a 31-28 victory over Louisville in the ServPro First Responder Bowl. The Falcons defense finished third in the nation in first downs allowed, fourth in total defense (296.5 YPG), 16th in scoring defense (19.77 PPG), 17th in red zone defense, and 28th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. According to Air Force’s official site, the Falcons ran a 3-4 defensive set.

Coach Elliott’s remaining hires should come on the offensive side of the ball as the Hoos are lacking a quarterbacks coach and a tight ends coach. Virginia also needs a special teams coordinator.

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1 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Tony Bennett is renowned for getting a lot out of under-talented teams. Maybe he could consult as Tony E et al will not have a lot to work with aside from Armstrong alone.

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