Mind The Gap: Hoos Eye Better Run Fits

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Coaches Mike London and Jim Reid are trying to dial up better run defense in 2011.

One of the ugliest parts of Virginia’s transition to a 4-3 defense last season turned out to be run defense. We’re talking Quasimodo level ugly in some cases like Florida State and Virginia Tech, two teams that surpassed 200 yards rushing. Missed tackles, over pursuit, gap control, and more caused problems as the Cavaliers couldn’t consistently get teams shut down on the ground.

In the end, UVa allowed 203.7 rushing yards per game in 2010, a number that ranked 106th out of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. While games like FSU and VT mentioned above proved disappointing, things got downright frustrating in contests like Duke and Eastern Michigan, two teams that posted 230 and 290 yards rushing, respectively. Both of those teams created problems with quarterback runs or misdirection, a pair of common themes last fall.

Long story short: it was bad. So what have the Hoos been doing to remedy the issues? The answer is in the combination of pop culture phrases. Mind the gap and get in where you fit in.

Throughout the offseason, coach Mike London, defensive coordinator Jim Reid, and players have echoed the term “run fit” as a major focus of the defense. The basic idea is to know which defensive gap you’re responsible for and then get in that gap.

“Basically just knowing where everybody’s going to be. Every defense that we have we have certain forces. This camp we’ve been really stressing where to fit in for the runs, where the linebackers should be, and where the safeties should fill off of them. I feel like it’s going to help us out a lot this year,” team captain and safety Rodney McLeod said. “Everybody is responsible