Virginia Fan Q&A: The Bandit And More Football Questions

Chico Bennett Jr. is one Virginia player that you’ll see in the Bandit position with the new defense. ~ Photo courtesy of Jim Daves/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

Hello Sabre fans! At times over the years, the site has hosted a Sabre media roundtable where different people answers questions Virginia fans might have about the Hoos. That was typically a preseason type of feature, though. It seemed like a good idea to bring in a similar concept now on a more regular basis. Plus, other sites have mailbags and fans seem to like them.

So why not us? Had you at hello?

On we go to the new mailbag Q&A feature on EDGE side. You’ve got questions. We’ll have – or find – answers.

How similar, if at all, are the Bandit/Sabre positions? ~ hoorulestheacc

With Tony Elliott and company now 2/3 of the way through his first spring practices, there are definitely some things of interest out there with Virginia football. Click here for spring practice coverage. One thing that came up recently during a Chris Slade media session was the term “Bandit” as one of the positions under his guidance. Slade described it as a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid role in the defense.

Fancy position names are nothing new in college football – here’s an ESPN article on the trend – and Bronco Mendenhall’s defense had one too called the “Sabre” in recent years. (Too bad he left or the NIL possibilities could have been easy, right?) So this question is a good one. Are the “Bandit” and the “Sabre” a different name for the same thing? No, I don’t think you can look at it that way. Other than both being hybrid roles, the responsibilities are expected to be different.

As mentioned above, the “Bandit” is a DE/OLB mash-up while the “Sabre” was more of a LB/S mash-up. Mendenhall brought the position with him through the years after working under Rocky Long at New Mexico. The “Sabre” safety often aligned in the middle of the field between the linebacker level and the safety level with varying responsibilities based on the call. The “Bandit” is an outside linebacker that can be asked to put a hand down in a 3-point stance to give the D a four-man front look or drop in coverage depending on the call. In some schemes, that spot is often (if not always) aligned on the weak side of the field.

Chico Bennett Jr. at 6’4″, 242 pounds and Mike Green at 6’4″, 233 pounds seem like the front-runners at this stage of Virginia spring practice to fill that role. Kameron Butler, an incoming grad transfer from Miami (OH) has said he is expected to be in that spot as well. He’s listed at 6’3″, 250 pounds. All three of those players appear to be able to combine some quickness and explosiveness with physicality on the edge. It will be interesting to see how their roles are similar or different to someone like Charles Snowden at different times in his career.

What should we expect from the Virginia defense with the new staff and schemes? How much improvement? ~ hoorulestheacc

With the scheme shift still in mind, a good follow-up question is how quickly can the new staff fix the defense? Let’s face it, that might THE question on everyone’s mind. New defensive coordinator