The Sunday Sampler 2011 – UNC

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The defensive line needs to be more disruptive for the Cavaliers.

The numbers aren’t encouraging. Fresh off a 28-17 loss to North Carolina and another opponent with more than 200 yards rushing, Virginia’s defensive transition to the 4-3 scheme continues to be a painful process. In the 12 games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents so far in Mike London’s tenure, UVa has allowed 31.5 points per game and seven 200-yard plus rushing days.

That 31.5 ppg average would have ranked 95th nationally in 2010, among the bottom 25 teams at the FBS level. It’s not like one game is hurting the average either. In those 12 games, Virginia has held just three FBS opponents to less than 20 points.

The rushing defense has been the biggest culprit. In the 12 FBS games, seven opponents have now rushed for more than 200 yards with UNC’s effort Saturday marking the only one thus far in 2011: Georgia Tech (477), Eastern Michigan (290), Florida State (256), Duke (230), North Carolina (222), Boston College (218), and Virginia Tech (201). In the 12 FBS games, UVa has allowed an average of 218.7 rushing yards per game, a number that would have landed 115th nationally in 2010. Virginia has not held a single FBS team to less than 125 yards rushing with its new 4-3 defense; USC’s 127 rushing yards early last season is the closest game to that mark.

So if you’re looking for something that could help the Hoos find more wins and overcome the oft-mentioned small margin of error, look no further than scoring and rushing defense.

London and company envision an aggressive and disruptive defense out of the 4-3 scheme. That means flying to the ball, playing more press coverage on the outside, and crashing up the field through the offensive line gaps. The latter one-gap philosophy is a change from the 2-gap mindset frequently found with Al Groh’s 3-4 defense where the line was expected to hold-its-ground and occupy blockers while linebackers ran to the ball and made tackles.

Much of the problem in the transition seems to be up front for Virginia. The front four isn’t causing enough disruption on a consistent basis, putting