Virginia Football Defensive Position Battles To Watch

Chico Bennett Jr. will be in the mix at the Bandit position for Virginia. ~ Photo courtesy of Jim Daves/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

Virginia football fall camp officially will start on Wednesday, and we have an idea as to what the offense is capable of. What held the Cavaliers back last season was the defense. With some returning faces, some youth, and new coaches, UVA is trying to shift the narrative.

New defensive coordinator John Rudzinski already started that work, but preseason practice will pick up the pace.

Let’s take a look at position battles that could shake up the defense.

What Will the Bandit Position Look Like For Virginia?

The Bandit position will be asked to do multiple jobs. Not only will these players be rushing off the edge, but they will be tasked with going back into coverage. With this new look, UVA’s defense could get consistent pressure and throw off opposing offenses. The question is who will be the main guy in that role?

Mike Green could be an answer. Green is entering his second season with Virginia and is still looking for more experience on the defense. In 2021, he recorded 4 tackles and a sack. He was a contributor in big games, such as against Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech. For a coaching staff to give a freshman playing time in crucial matchups like those, there has to be a lot to like. He made his mark in those games, and he has received heaps of praise from the new staff. He brings the size (6’4”, 233 pounds) and athleticism and should slide easily into this role.

Another player to watch in this spot will be Chico Bennett Jr. Bennett has dealt with injuries but is ready to make an impact on the field for the Hoos. Being a senior, he brings leadership qualities that coincide with Nick Jackson. In two seasons at Georgia Tech, Bennett recorded 30 tackles with half a sack. He has similar size to Green (6’4”, 242 pounds) and is hungry to make some noise.

D’Sean Perry has not been used much for the Cavaliers, but this is expected to change. In this scheme, having the versatility to rush the quarterback and step back into coverage will be necessary. Perry has those tools. He was recruited as a pass rusher in high school, and he can make big plays in coverage, as evident by his pick-six against Abilene Christian in 2020.

The Bandit role will be predominantly filled by this trio, along with potentially Jonathan Horton and some of the other youngsters. There are inexperienced linebackers on this roster, and Virginia will need some players to be impactful in this important position. The position battle to earn snaps here is possibly the biggest of the preseason.

Who Will Step Up on the Defensive Line?

With Mandy Alonso out, the defensive line needs more disruptors. Last season, Virginia was tied for No. 107 in sacks (19.0) and were in shambles against the run, as the Hoos were ranked No. 123 (225.8 yards/game). They were unable to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and this caused problems for the rest of the defense, as quarterbacks felt little pressure and the rushing attack ran through the first level with ease. The Cavaliers are hoping for a different result in 2022.

Looking at the players up front, Aaron Faumui and Jahmeer Carter have the most experience for Virginia. The duo played in all 12 games for the Cavaliers last season, so they should be the guys ahead in the battle.

Carter has the size to be a solid run stuffer (6’2”, 319 pounds) and will hopefully make strides in shedding off blockers and move quickly to the running back. He routinely faced double teams at the nose tackle position,