Cavaliers goal: Limit "dramatic" defensive breakdowns

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CHARLOTTESVILLE – Virginia linebacker Steve Greer isn’t about to forget one video cut-up from the 2010 season.

It was handed out to all of the Cavaliers’ linebackers and included 67 plays.

It just so happened to be every run of more than 10 yards that Virginia surrendered in 12 games.

“We went through each play,” Greer said. “Each time, you cringe a little bit.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Reid offered a statistical breakdown of Virginia’s, well, breakdowns. The Cavaliers faced 480 rushing attempts over the course of the season – or 40 a game. In 13.96 percent of them (just a bit less than one in seven rushes), an opponent picked up more than 10 yards. The average yielded on those snaps: 21.6 yards.

“For 413 other plays, we knew what we were doing,” linebacker LaRoy Reynolds said. “It was just 67 plays that we gave up big plays at the wrong time, and it really cost us and really hurt us.”

To that aim, Reid said he’s worked at adding nuance and complexity to a defense he believes Virginia might have simplified to too great a degree.

But there’s also the matter of adjusting to offenses the Cavaliers don’t regularly see in practice.

“We do not run the triple option,” Reid said. “We had 16 runs [allowed] in the Georgia Tech game of 11 yards or better because we never see it and it’s hard to duplicate. ‘Oh coach, you had an extra week.’ It’s still not game speed. You take that – I’m not making any excuses for us – but then you take that and then you have a number of new players playing positions they’ve never played before and your problems are duplicated.”

The problem with new players and new positions should dissipate a bit this fall (though the week-to-week unfamiliarity with Georgia Tech’s offense could still be a concern). And as the Cavaliers move forward, the task of limiting chunk plays will be a priority.

If those woes aren’t fixed, Virginia will almost certainly wind up struggling on defense again this year.

“When we broke down, we broke down dramatically,” Reid said. “That’s what we worked on hard this spring. What we need to show is consistent improvement in the fall.”

Patrick Stevens

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