Post-Spring Analysis: The Defense

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In most years, by the end of the spring game, anyone paying attention usually has a pretty good idea of a team’s depth chart and how things are shaping up at each position. But this spring created more questions than it answered for Virginia’s defense. Thanks to injuries and academic issues, too many key players saw little or no action last month. While some younger defenders emerged as potential stars, it’s hard to say that a single spot on UVa’s defense looks like a sure thing going into the summer.

Philip Brown and Vince Redd were among many defenders out of uniform this spring.

Even if everyone had been healthy and available, there would have been no shortage of areas to address on defense. Though the Cavaliers finished among the nation’s top 20 last season in both total defense (18th) and scoring defense (17th), the pass defense proved to a be a major weakness. Virginia finished 75th in pass-efficiency defense, giving up a 60.7 completion percentage while making just nine interceptions. Both starting safeties (Marquis Weeks and Jermaine Hardy) are gone, as are both starting outside linebackers (Darryl Blackstock and Dennis Haley), nose tackle Andrew Hoffman and defensive end Chris Canty. In fact, all six are now on NFL rosters, three as draftees and three as free agents.

Replacing that talent already figured to be a major task for UVa’s coaches along with finding ways to shore up the pass defense and create more turnovers (just 16 takeaways in 12 games last year). The 2004 season also raised concerns about the overall effectiveness of the 3-4 scheme, specifically whether it suits the current personnel. Few of those doubts were quelled this spring, mainly because much of that personnel wasn’t on the field. Among the sidelined: linebackers Ahmad Brooks , Vince Redd and Bryan White, defensive end Brennan Schmidt and nose tackle Keenan Carter