JHoo’s Summer Reading: Defensive Line

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Since Al Groh arrived in Charlottesville and installed his version of the 3-4 defense, I have had annual concerns about whether we had he personnel on the defensive line to properly execute the defense.

That is, until this year.

Finally, Groh and Mike London have at their disposal the talent and depth on the defensive line they need to run the frontline of the defense. Chris Long is an All-American candidate. Jeffrey Fitzgerald may be down the road. And at defensive tackle, Groh and London finally have a rotation that should be up to the task. Add to that a talented depth chart, and you can understand why the defensive staff is looking forward to rolling out this unit for the 2007 season.

The Starters

Chris Long is tough to contain along the defensive line.

Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald at defensive end; Allen Billyk (and company) at defensive tackle.

To me, if a coach wants to run a 3-4 defense, one of the essentials is a defensive end that consistently can draw – and often can beat – double teams. Chris Canty could do that, for example, and it was telling during his last year at UVa to see how the defense worked with him on the field and how it worked – or did not work – after his season-ending injury.

To tell the tale, all one has to do is look at the impact Canty’s loss had on the defensive end on the opposite side. With Canty on the field, Brennan Schmidt was a significantly more effective defensive end, a guy who could be a difficult one-on-one match-up for opposing linemen because of his level of aggression and drive off the ball. Without Canty, however, Schmidt became the focus of double teams he previously had seen only on limited occasions (and even when he had, it often had been a lineman and a back or tight end, as opposed to two linemen).

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