- - Friday, August 17, 2012

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — In absence, Steve Greer proved just how valuable he is to the Virginia defense. It was a painful lesson for the Cavaliers to learn.

A partial ACL tear kept Greer out of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, which U.Va. lost 43-24 to Auburn.

“We missed him badly at the end of the year,” defensive coordinator Jim Reid said. “Steve Greer is a real leader. He gets us lined up. He makes the calls. He makes the adjustments.”

The good news is that Greer has returned for his senior season, and once again will anchor the defense from the middle linebacker position. The job is a crucial one this year, with young players starting at several positions.

During the offseason, Greer spent extra time working with the secondary, the oldest of whom are sophomores.

He’ll give them hand signals at the line to indicate what he sees from opposing offenses, and said that through video sessions in the summer, they’ve learned to pick up on things themselves.

“I try to do the right thing and show the young guys the right way to go, what it takes to be successful,” Greer said. “We’ve got some really talented guys, we’re just going to have to raise their football IQ.”

Greer is more than just a play caller, though. He led the Wahoos with 103 tackles last season, had two sacks and a fumble recovery.

He was replaced for the bowl game by Henry Coley, a redshirt freshman who had missed six games in the middle of the season with a hamstring injury.

Being thrust into duty was a less-than-desirable situation for Coley, but the coaching staff is hoping it will be a benefit as he starts this season at outside linebacker.

“Hopefully it will pay big dividends for us,” Reid said. “He’s a smart kid, he’s tough, he’s got the athleticism, and now is the opportunity to go out and show what you’re capable of doing.”

The third linebacker spot will go to LaRoy Reynolds, a senior who finished second on the team last year in tackles.

First off the bench for the ‘Hoos will likely be DaQuan Romero.

But it’s Greer who is the heart and soul of not just the linebackers, but the rest of the defense as well. He had to miss spring practices because of ACL surgery, but Reid even found a positive in that.

“I think it really helped him understand and develop some even greater conceptual ideas of what we’re trying to do,” Reid said. “You have a guy who’s another coach on the field, that’s going to help you get lined up to play coverage, to take advantage of where we want to rush, and call defenses when they run a hurry-up offense.”

With a young defense taking the field, those skills will be particularly prized by the ‘Hoos this season.

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