Virginia Football Summer Reading: Bandits

Chico Bennett Jr. returns for Virginia after missing last season with an injury. ~ Photo courtesy of Jim Daves/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

With new defensive minds coming to Charlottesville, there will be some schematic changes. Defensive coordinator John Rudzinski has stated Virginia will use a 3-4 defense that can adjust to a 4-2-5 or other variations. For a 3-4 to work at its best, the defense must get pressure to the quarterback and and the linebackers take much of this responsibility. That’s true for the “Bandits” in particular.

Not only will the Bandits be looking to wreak havoc, but they will also need to play in pass coverage. With this type of versatility, the Cavaliers will look to be less vulnerable to the chunk plays that occurred frequently in 2021. Virginia finished tied for No. 107 in sacks per game (1.58), which is why the team is looking for the athletic edge rushers to explode on the outside and bring a new dynamic. The ability to adjust into a 4-2-5 gives the defense a balanced look, as it can defend against the run and pass or the RPO looks that so many modern offenses use.

The issue with this scheme is it is similar to the one used by the previous coaching staff, which obviously did not pan out. When your unit is ranked amongst the worst defenses in the country (No. 121 in total defense and No. 104 in points allowed per game), you want changes. At Air Force, however, Rudzinski did see success with the Falcons’ defense and will bring his own spin for the defense to the Cavaliers.

With players like Noah Taylor and West Weeks departing, this opens up snaps for the rest of the group. Although Virginia’s linebackers are young, they do bring a good mindset. Linebacker coach Clint Sintim believes the corps is capable of taking on a bigger role.

“They’re smart football players,” Sintim said. “They understand concepts and leveraging, and they’ve been taught pretty well. So for me, now it’s just about implementing the new defense, putting my spin on certain things and try to get them to do it at a high level. The intent is there, which is good. You got a group of guys who really, really want to be good at it. It’s just a matter of giving them the pieces to be able to do it and then doing it at a high level.”

The latest article in The Sabre Summer Reading Series looks at the Bandits.


Mike Green (6’4”, 233 pounds) might be the most intriguing player of the Bandits. Although he only played in six games as a true freshman, Green showed some flashes, especially in a crucial matchup against Pittsburgh. He recorded four tackles and a sack in 2021, but the fact that the previous coaching staff was willing to play him in a game that decided the ACC Coastal speaks for itself. He also has the eye of Tony Elliott.

“I’m excited to see where Green is going to be,” Elliott said. “I think he’s a guy that can give us some speed off the edge into the boundary, but then also the versatility to drop when you bring field pressure.”

To sum it up, Green is an ideal candidate for the Bandit role because of his versatility. He is also aided by his athleticism, as he played some wide receiver in high school. Sintim has had similar praise for Green and how he can impact a game wherever you put him on the field.

“As a staff led by Coach Rud, it’s really based upon what a player can do what and how efficient can he be at it,” Sintim said. “Mike [Green] has a lot of versatility. Obviously, in high school, he played every position; he rushed off the edge; he did a bunch of different things, so wherever we can put guys to give them an opportunity to be successful, I think that’s